Human Rights Policies, Neoliberal Discourse, and the Neutralization of Human Rights Issues in Canadian Harassment and Discrimination Policies

By Marni Westerman.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper contemplates changes in the content of harassment and discrimination policies at Canadian universities. I argue that changes in discourse surrounding harassment and discrimination issues within institutions are more than simple adjustments to changes in case law: these changes represent a potentially problematic backgrounding of human rights issues within institutions that is fuelled by the neoliberal social and political context in which policies are developed. The changes represent a re-inscription of hegemonic discourses on anti-harassment issues because they downplay the demands of marginalized groups based on their historical oppression in favour of reprivatized and neutralized approaches to issues of ‘personal security’ and ‘respectful workplaces’. These changes are influenced by a social context that favours individual responsibility and the rejection of demands of so-called ‘special interest groups’. I argue that this represents an example of the effect of the neoliberal turn in the Canadian social and political context.

Keywords: Human Rights, Discrimination, Organisational Policy, Neoliberalism, Canada

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp.409-418. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 611.208KB).

Dr. Marni Westerman

Chair, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, Douglas College, New Westminster, BC, Canada

Marni received her doctorate from The University of British Columbia. She is currently the Chair of Anthropology and Sociology and a volunteer harassment advisor at Douglas College in New Westminster, B.C., Canada Marni also served as the Sexual Harassment Officer at the University of Regina in from 1996 to 1999. Her research interests include gender, law, and policy as well as representations of class, race, gender, and sexuality in contemporary popular culture.

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