Safeguarding

An overview of Oxfam Canada's policies to protect the people we work with from abuse, exploitation and harm.

Our commitment to safeguarding

At Oxfam Canada, and confederation wide, we continue to have zero tolerance for abuse of people in any form, and we offer our support to victims of such egregious violations of our principles, values, and what we believe and hold dear.

Our policies to protect people from sexual harassment and abuse

Oxfam Canada and Oxfam globally, has a code of conduct policy that must be signed by all employees, volunteers and Board members. We have in place a No Harassment and No Violence in the Workplace policy (issued in 2010), Child Protection Policy (issued in 2012), a Whistleblower Protection Policy (issued in 2013), Sexual Diversity and Gender Identity Rights Policy, and a Gender Justice Policy (unique to Oxfam Canada and issued in 2009).

These policies are established and maintained to set the rules of behavior, and to create a positive and safe working environment. Oxfam Canada’s HR department oversees its safeguarding measures, which addresses harassment complaints, harassment prevention, prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse, sexual harassment and discrimination. 

How Oxfam works to ensure gender justice

Oxfam Canada continues to prioritize gender justice as the focus of our work. We recognize that sexual exploitation and abuse is intrinsically linked to a continued system of patriarchy and lack of gender equity in many parts of the world. This is felt heavily in the humanitarian and development sector.  Oxfam Canada feels strongly that without targeted efforts to improve gender justice in the aid sector, we will fall short of our goals to fully address safeguarding issues within our organization and with the people we serve. This includes focusing on getting more women into our organizations and in leadership roles. Oxfam Canada’s commitment to gender justice shapes every aspect of our governance, planning, staffing, and activities.

How people can safely report cases of misconduct by Oxfam Staff

Oxfam Canada’s safeguarding measures include a whistleblower protection policy and confidential whistleblowing mechanism. This allows people—including staff, volunteers, beneficiaries, and donors—to confidentially report any cases of misconduct, financial embezzlement, or violation of policy or any other practice inconsistent with our values. People can make confidential complaints by email or by phone, without any fear of reprisals.  

The details on how to access this service in Canada are publicly available on our website here. Globally, Oxfam staff in field offices and in regional offices can report to a centralized safe and confidential whistleblowing hotline or email.

Oxfam Canada offers safe and confidential reporting mechanisms so that any person can report misconduct (including sexual misconduct) by Oxfam Canada staff, volunteers, or Board members. Oxfam Canada’s practice assures confidentiality. We do not disclose a complainant's or alleged respondent’s name, or any circumstances related to a complaint to anyone except as necessary to investigate the respondent, take disciplinary action related to the complaint, as required by law or if Oxfam Canada determines that the safety of an individual or the community is at risk.

What happens once a victim reports misconduct

Oxfam Canada investigates every allegation of misconduct, discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual abuse and exploitation and we ensure that survivors are provided with support services. We treat every disclosure with high levels of care and professionalism. Oxfam Canada staff are obliged to report any suspicions of sexual exploitation, abuse or harassment of others. Failure to report is a breach of Oxfam Canada policy, and could lead to disciplinary action.

In the event a complaint is made, Oxfam Canada’s HR department investigators will commence their work immediately. A confidential report is provided to our Executive Director, who will make the final decision regarding disciplinary or other actions.

How Oxfam supports survivors of abuse, exploitation and harassment

Oxfam has a duty to provide appropriate assistance to any victims of sexual exploitation and abuse by our staff. Oxfam is committed to pursuing investigations and taking appropriate disciplinary procedures. Support will be offered to survivors and victims, regardless of whether a formal internal response is carried out (such as an internal investigation). Support can include specialist psycho-social counselling or access to Oxfam’s Employee Assistance Programmes. Survivors and victims can choose if and when they would like to take up the support options available to them.

Oxfam Canada offers safe and confidential reporting mechanisms so that any person can report misconduct (including sexual misconduct) by Oxfam Canada staff.  Globally, Oxfam staff in field offices and in regional offices can report to a centralized safe and confidential whistleblowing hotline or email.

How we work to prevent abuse and misconduct from happening in the first place

In 2017, Oxfam International created a global Safeguarding Task Force, led by Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International Executive Director. Oxfam Canada’s Executive Director, Julie Delahanty, sits on this Safeguarding Task Force and is instrumental in bringing the feminist lens that Oxfam Canada is known for.  The Safeguarding Task Force is working in three main areas:

  • Prevention: This includes training, communications and information to prevent risk of harm and abuse, a revision of staff screening processes, risk assessment and an evaluation of staff capacity to perform the work.
  • Support and care:  Entails providing resources to support and care for who have experienced sexual harassment, abuse and/or violence.  It also includes ensuring that staff have access to specialized training and experience.
  • Response: This includes strengthening and harmonizing current policies and procedures, and ensuring that these are clear and accessible to all. It also means that we are cultivating a culture where information is shared and people are held accountable.

What Oxfam is doing at the international level to put the Immediate Response Action Plan to address sexual misconduct into action

  • In order to drive transformational change, we are setting up a High Level Commission led by women’s rights experts to conduct a thorough review of Oxfam's practices and culture - the findings of which will be public, and the recommendations of which will guide further action by Oxfam.
  • We are also launching an independent investigation of past cases of sexual misconduct involving Oxfam staff.
  • We are establishing a global database of trusted referees to ensure that references for past and current staff accurately reflect their performance.
  • We are working with others across the humanitarian and development sector to prevent this from happening again, including efforts to reform recruitment and vetting processes to prevent offenders from moving between organizations
  • We are tripling Oxfam’s safeguarding budget and doubling the number of staff working to protect and respond to the needs of the most vulnerable people. We will also increase our investment in gender training and support across the confederation, including recruitment of additional gender leads in programs and humanitarian response teams.
  • We are making Oxfam's confidential whistleblower line independent to ensure all reports of sexual misconduct are independently reported and addressed in a confidential and timely way.

These are our first steps towards ensuring abuse of power and sexual exploitation do not happen under Oxfam’s watch. 

The full action plan can be found here.

Oxfam Canada seeks to learn and identify areas in which we might improve. To provide feedback or learn more about Oxfam Canada safeguarding policies, contact info@oxfam.ca