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Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (YCSRR) Official Statement

October 6th, 2020.

Recently, the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (YCSRR) has been asked about sexual harassment allegations against Prateek Awasthi, former Executive Director at the Green Party of Canada, that occurred during his time as a YCSRR member. Prateek was a YCSRR member from 2005-2012.

The YCSRR is an international youth-led organization, committed to promoting adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive rights at the national, regional and international levels.  Pursuant to our mandate and in line with our principles and values, we have taken all the appropriate steps to address this situation in a matter that offers support to the survivors.

The Green Party of Canada reached out to our Executive Director to enquire about Prateek’s time as a member of the YCSRR. In 2012, the YCSRR Board of Directors received a formal complaint under its Harassment Policy, regarding Prateek Awasthi’s conduct, which led to an investigation. During the investigation, a second formal complaint was made to the Board of Directors. Allegations broadly covered intimidation, bullying, and hostile and inappropriate behaviour- some allegations were of a sexual nature against younger female colleagues.[1] 

The YCSRR Board’s investigation concluded that the allegations were founded. Centred in the needs, wishes and demands of the complainants, and in line with the YCSRR’s organizational policy and procedures, Prateek was informed by private communication of the Board’s decision to terminate his membership in keeping with the Harassment Policy. Without responding to the Board’s private communication, Prateek resigned from the YCSRR via an open email to the whole membership.

We willingly agreed to cooperate with the Green Party of Canada and had an initial conversation in which we provided verbal confirmation regarding the two allegations of sexual harassment arising when Prateek was a YCSRR member, the conclusion of the YCSRR Board’s investigation, and the decision to terminate Prateek’s membership in the YCSRR. The Green Party asked us to submit our records of this incident. While we were not able to reach an agreement on the terms on which those records would be shared, we confirmed to the Green Party that the YCSRR was open to supporting their investigation in other ways. We did not receive any follow-up communications.

As a result of media coverage, our Executive Director received an email from Chelsey Rhodes, a previous employee with Engineers Without Borders (EWB), informing us for the first time of allegations of harassment incidents involving Prateek. In addition, the media contacted our Executive Director regarding allegations related to Prateek’s time as a YCSRR member, as did former members of the YCSRR. Finally, our Executive Director received a cease and desist letter from Prateek.

Given these inquiries, the YCSRR’s Secretariat, Board of Directors and Membership held a meeting to define our plan of action from a survivor-centred approach, independent of the internal investigation initiated by the Green Party.

For one of our first points of action, we facilitated a dialogue process between some members of the former Board of Directors, who were in place at the YC in 2012, when these allegations arose, and our current Board and Executive Director. 

It has always been our intention to support survivors of sexual harassment and put a halt to perpetuation of these unacceptable acts in any and all working environments. After our meetings between the former and current Board members, we have agreed to publish this communiqué.

The Youth Coalition does not tolerate any form of harassment and, as Feminists and Sexual and Reproductive Rights Activists, we are committed to confront and address sexual harassment and all other forms of harassment, and to believe and support the survivors of sexual harassment. We will not be bullied or intimidated not to share the truth of Prateek’s past with the YCSRR. 

Our actions in 2012 were consistent with the complainants’ wishes and the protection of members at that moment. Today, we hope that the alleged survivors can find the justice they deserve.

Chelsey Rhodes, we see you and we stand in solidarity with you and with any other survivors of Gender-Based Violence seeking justice.

[1] To protect the identity and confidentiality of the complainants, we have chosen to not share any further information as to the nature of these complaints.

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