When we published our first story last spring regarding issues of harassment and workplace culture at Sun Peaks Resort LLP (SPR), we knew it would likely have a strong response from the community. We received many positive messages of appreciation, both publicly and privately, for bringing an important issue to light.
We were also approached by almost a dozen past and present employees with their related stories and experiences, indicating a potentially serious and persistent problem.
As reporters who pride ourselves on representing the voice of the community, we had a duty to continue investigating this topic. Although this issue is uncomfortable, messy and potentially risky to tackle, we felt we owed it to the people who trusted us with their stories and also to the community at large.
Over the last eight months, we have diligently researched, edited and discussed various angles of this story, and considered the ethical implications of this type of reporting. While everyone may not agree with what we’ve chosen to include or exclude, please know everything about this story was carefully considered and we’ve made every effort to be fair and accurate while protecting those who came forward.
While some of the situations brought forward occurred in the past, our reporting shows that staff concerns about how issues like these are handled are ongoing.
For example, at a SPR town hall heading into this winter season, staff raised serious concerns regarding a lack of trust in leadership and what they saw as a toxic workplace culture. Despite ongoing work and training by SPR to address these issues, staff have told us these problems persist. By publishing this story, we aim to contribute to real change in the community so everyone can feel safe and respected while working here.
Another reason we decided to pursue this story is that we know this issue is not limited to Sun Peaks. Despite the best efforts of many people, systemic and cultural issues within the resort industry can continue to have negative impacts on its employees. While I applaud Sun Peaks Resort for the work it is doing in this area, I also think it’s important that we acknowledge and critically examine the deeper issues.
While skiing and tourism bring joy to so many folks, it’s also true that many aspects of the industry can leave staff vulnerable to exploitation.
We see this in the short-term and temporary nature of many of these positions. Many employees are also young, international and potentially lacking in experience and understanding of their workplace rights. In addition, there can be a lot of pressure to contribute to the positive resort atmosphere, which can deter staff from speaking up.
I hope that by shining a light on this issue in Sun Peaks, other resort communities in B.C. will also look internally and make changes to support their workers and communities.
The B.C. ski and tourism industries are very tight-knit. It’s troubling that people with serious allegations against them are able to successfully continue in the industry and hold positions where they have similar power over women and other employees.
The women who bravely came forward have to continually risk interactions with alleged harassers at other resorts or industry functions. These people also potentially continue to pose a risk to others. The situation where one person was able to return to the resort in another capacity illustrates an obvious failure in the system and policies.
Many people who live and work here may not relate to the types of experiences outlined to us by our sources. However, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t accept these women’s testimonies as legitimate and valid. If this is the case for you, I invite you to reflect on how the positions you hold, or how you identify, might allow you to move through our community spaces in a different way than they do.
I hope everyone can think of changes they can make in their own circles of influence to better support every type of community member here in Sun Peaks.
Finally, writing about heavy subjects such as this in a small town is difficult and we appreciate everyone who has supported us throughout this process. My hat goes off to our small editorial team, especially our former reporter Kayla Empey, who didn’t shy away from this challenging story despite it being her first year working in journalism.
I would also like to thank our members and contributors, whose ongoing financial support increases our confidence in our editorial work and independence.
To learn about SPIN’s investigation into allegations of harassment and toxicity at Sun Peaks Resort, read our latest article by Kayla Empey.
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