Ending boycott, Queen’s Engineers Without Borders remains defiant

Chapter to meet with organization’s CEO to discuss demands

Queen’s Engineers Without Borders ends its boycott.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

Ending a five-month boycott, Queen’s Chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) published an open letter to the group’s National Office on Jan. 13, saying the decision to re-engage came after “extensive discussions.”

The letter details the club’s decision—made originally on Sept. 15—to end its official boycott of the National Office (NO) of Engineers Without Canada, which began in May, when Queen’s EWB made several demands to the NO.

The group demanded that the NO investigate several cases of harassment, and publicly apologize for its alleged failure to deal with “situations involving sexual harassment and discrimination,” the list of demands read.

The demands also include the creation of counselling services for those impacted by the cases outlined in the letter and a reporting mechanism to better sound the alarm about cases impacting members.

“The decision for Queen’s EWB to end our boycott came following extensive discussion by the Executive Team,” the letter read. The decision was spurred by an email from the EWB Community Team that informed the Queen’s EWB executive team of the consequences of continuing the boycott.

The letter says the Queen’s Chapter of EWB hasn’t been actively involved with the NO in recent years, and haven’t sent a junior fellow to Toronto for a second year in a row, due to uncertainty about the benefits and level of safety for the fellow.

“Our Chapter works hard to operate in such a way that embodies EWB’s core values, striving for humility, asking tough questions, and courageously committing. Put simply, we feel that National Office no longer exhibits these values,” the letter said.

Queen’s EWB accused the NO of a “lack of transparency, an unwillingness to acknowledge failure, and cowardly resolution tactics that directly contradict these values.”

The demands that Queen’s EWB called for in May have mostly not been fulfilled.

They called for an external and independent investigation into five cases. Two investigations have been completed and three have not been started. However, the open letter alleged that, in one case, “an investigation occurred but does not appear to have been independent or unbiased.”

Queen’s EWB called for the NO to “lift all existing NDAs between EWB and survivors in relation to sexual harassment or discrimination and ban their use in future.” This demand has been met.

Another demand not met was for a public apology on behalf of the entire organization for how it handled sexual harassment and discrimination.

“While we acknowledge that pursuing a boycott has the ability to send a strong message to NO about our serious disagreement with the culture at NO, we believe leaving the organization would completely remove our voice from the conversation,” the chapter wrote in the letter. “Exerting our influence as one of Canada’s largest chapters would be most easily done from within the organization.”

However, they don’t discount the possibility of leaving the organization entirely. “We will assess the response of NO throughout the winter semester, and prepare an exit strategy for the incoming executives should they and we agree that NO has not adequately addressed our demands,” Queen’s EWB wrote in a statement to The Journal.

In the same statement, they said they have received a reply from Boris Martin, the CEO of EWB Canada. They plan to meet with him to advocate for the meeting of the demands detailed in their open letter.

Ultimately, the club wants to emphasize that the ending of the boycott isn’t the end of the fight. “We wish to make it known, consistently, that we do not accept or support NO’s actions.”

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