Police looking for man who hurled vulgarities at on-air CBC reporter

The CBC's Charlsie Agro filed report with police over phrase being used to heckle female reporters

TORONTO – Toronto police are working to identify a man heard hurling vulgarities at a CBC reporter moments after the end of the closing ceremonies of the Pan Am Games.

Charlsie Agro was live on air Sunday night recapping the impressive performance of Canada’s female Pan Am athletes when a man shouted an obscenity that’s frequently directed at female reporters on the job.

Agro says she tried to chase the man down to confront him, but lost him in the crowd.

She wound up filing a report with Toronto police, who say they’re investigating the incident and trying to identify the culprit.

Const. Scott Mills says it’s too early to determine whether any charges could be laid.

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Agro says the timing of this particular incident prompted her to join the ranks of reporters challenging the vulgar trend, which has been in force across Canada and the United States for months.

Earlier this year, Agro’s Montreal-based CBC colleague Jaela Bernstien and Shauna Hunt of Toronto’s CityNews both made headlines by confronting men who shouted the insult during their live coverage. One of Hunt’s hecklers wound up losing his job over the incident.

CBC Calgary reporter Meghan Grant managed to get one of her hecklers charged with stunting, an offense under Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act.

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Agro said those confrontations have obviously failed to send the message that such behaviour is unacceptable, adding the location and context of this latest incident was particularly striking.

“On the last night of the Games, to have this sort of unfortunate experience . . . I just don’t think it’s right that people leave thinking that something bad would happen at a time when we’re celebrating all that Toronto’s accomplished,” Agro said in a telephone interview.

In her discussions with city police, Agro said she obtained permission to share photos of the alleged culprit on social media.

Const. Scott Mills said the exposure on Twitter has led to several tips, but said the investigation is still in its early stages.

Mills said investigators will have to determine what, if any, criminal charges would apply. Such incidents could theoretically be treated as mischief offences under the Criminal Code, but some jurisdictions choose to pursue charges through civil legislation or municipal bylaws. Others may opt not to take any action at all.

“It’s safe to say that we’re on it, we care, and we’re trying to figure out how we’re going to go about this,” Mills said.

Lawyers have previously said that such heckling incidents generally fall outside the purview of workplace sexual harassment laws, since they involve third parties who are not directly connected to the women’s employers.

Agro said the explicit remarks, however, are threatening no matter where they’re made and should not be dismissed as a mere prank.

“If this happened to a woman who was sitting at her desk at a workplace and someone said it, I don’t think anyone would question it as being inappropriate or wrong.”

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