Radio host Jian Ghomeshi is shown in a handout photo.

CBC offers counselling to employees in wake of Jian Ghomeshi affair

The CBC offered counselling to its employees Thursday as more women stepped forward to allege “abusive behaviour” by Jian Ghomeshi, and announced it is hiring a third-party company to conduct an investigation into accusations against the former “Q” radio host.

TORONTO — The CBC offered counselling to its employees Thursday as more women stepped forward to allege “abusive behaviour” by Jian Ghomeshi, and announced it is hiring a third-party company to conduct an investigation into accusations against the former “Q” radio host.

In a Facebook post, Ghomeshi vowed to fight accusations against him head-on.

In a memo to staff issued Thursday afternoon, CBC’s Heather Conway called CBC and Toronto Star reports “extremely disturbing.”

“Given the serious nature of what has been reported, we are currently in the process of selecting a third-party company who will conduct a rigorous, independent investigation beyond what’s already been done,” Conway said in the memo.

She also said the public broadcaster is making on-site or telephone counselling available to employees, adding she was proud of the “professionalism” staffers have shown as they face “difficult and disturbing” news.

Earlier Thursday, Ghomeshi issued the Facebook post promising to fight the claims: “I want to thank you for your support and assure you that I intend to meet these allegations directly.”

He added: “I don’t intend to discuss this matter any further with the media.”

Thursday’s Toronto Star story said eight women are now accusing Ghomeshi of abusive behaviour.

The names of the complainants have not been published, except for that of actor Lucy DeCoutere, who spoke to the Star and also detailed her allegations in an interview that aired Thursday on CBC’s “The Current.”

DeCoutere — who is also a captain in the Royal Canadian Air Force in New Brunswick — said she went public because she wants to help other women who are levelling more serious accusations against Ghomeshi.

The Star said Ghomeshi, his lawyers and public relations staff have not responded to allegations in their latest report, which includes accusations from DeCoutere and other accusers who are not named. A spokeswoman for Ghomeshi did not respond to a request from The Canadian Press for comment.

Ghomeshi has said previously that he has engaged in rough sex, but that it was always consensual.

Asked by “The Current” host Anna Maria Tremonti why she was willing to go on the record, DeCoutere said her story is not as disturbing to discuss as some that have been detailed in anonymous accounts.

“My story, (for) me to talk about it is a little upsetting but it’s not traumatic. I wasn’t terribly hurt by him,” she said. “It’s the women who are talking about this (and) won’t come forward with their names. They’re obviously feeling like they will be targeted in some way and that their lives will be impacted negatively. I’m OK with that.”

Some of the other alleged victims told the Toronto Star that they feared repercussions online if they allowed the newspaper to publish their names.

While chuckling that she might be “naive,” DeCoutere said she’s not concerned about such a backlash.

“I’m sure there’s a chance that there will be attacks online, but I don’t care,” she told “The Current.” “I mean, people who know me know that I’m not a bad person and people who don’t know me are not part of my life.”

She added: “I will take it if that means somebody doesn’t have to because they’re dealing with something a bit bigger.”

DeCoutere said she didn’t go to police after the date with Ghomeshi, explaining she was left confused and puzzled.

Ghomeshi is suing the CBC for $55 million for defamation and breach of trust. The corporation has said it will “vigorously” defend itself against Ghomeshi’s lawsuit.

On Sunday night, after the CBC announced it was severing ties with him, Ghomeshi issued a lengthy Facebook post alleging that he’d been fired for his sexual behaviour.

He said he engaged in adventurous forms of sex that included role-play, dominance and submission, along with “rough sex (forms of BDSM)” but that the activities were consensual and he and his partner used safe words to signal when to stop the activity.

DeCoutere’s accusations come after the Star carried allegations Monday from three women who said he was physically violent to them without their consent during sexual encounters or in the run-up to such encounters. Ghomeshi — through his lawyer — responded that he “does not engage in non-consensual role play or sex and any suggestion of the contrary is defamatory.”

The Star also reported in that story earlier this week that a fourth woman who worked at the CBC alleged that Ghomeshi “approached her from behind and cupped her rear end in the Q studio” and made a sexually obscene comment to her during a story meeting. The Star reported that Ghomeshi told the newspaper that he did not understand why it was continuing to pursue allegations when “my lawyers have already told you it is untrue.”

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