Consent and Anti-Oppression

Guidelines for Collective Well-Being at the POPIR-Comité Logement : Anti-Oppression and Consent Policy


The POPIR-Comité Logement is a grassroots group organizing to defend tenants’ rights and the right to housing. In order to do so, it works from a social justice framework that seeks the transformation of society and centres the respect of the individual and collective rights of every person. The POPIR is therefore against all forms of oppression and discrimination, including those based on gender, race or ethnicity, religion, socio-economic position, (physical and/or mental) ability, sexuality, or degree of education, literacy, or comfort and capacity with which one expresses one’s self.

The POPIR brings together people from a variety of backgrounds with a diversity of experiences and perspectives. It recognizes that we are all, even though we’re part of a movement for social justice, susceptible to acting in oppressive ways or that make others uncomfortable. We therefore commit to taking care of one another, and to paying attention to the ways in which our presence can impact others. Each member, activist, and employee of the POPIR is mutually responsible for our collective well-being, and accountable to the collectivity.

This policy represents a few major guidelines for ensuring our collective well-being, and will always need to be updated and improved in correlation with our changing context. We are conscious that this will be a continual process, and that our work is long from being finished with the production of a simple document. In order to insure that everyone understands these Guidelines, it’s a good idea to remind ourselves of them at the beginning of our activities and different meeting spaces. This policy is not about creating “moral police” but rather making individual and collective efforts to communicate with one another in a way that respects our diversity as members of a grassroots movement and group. With the goal of constantly developing this culture of mutual respect, the POPIR will make available popular education opportunities such as discussion groups throughout the year, workshops and trainings, and reading materials. It is also instituting accountability measures in order to address together our problem-causing behaviour and to increase our collective capacity to respond to harmful actions.

Consent and communication

Oppressive attitudes are reproduced on a daily basis, and often in ways that can seem fairly banal. Interruptions, inappropriate jokes, and a lack of consciousness of the space we take up in a group are common examples of behaviours that reinforce oppressive power dynamics. Over time, these types of attitudes can become oppressive patterns of behaviour that are much more harmful than any isolated incident. Individual acts can also be of a much more serious nature, such as racist comments or physical violence.

The best way to avoid hurting others is to always ensure that one has the consent of the other person in all of one’s communications and actions. Consent can be defined, generally, as an explicit agreement that is clearly and consciously affirmed, expressed in response to a question, act, or behaviour. This concept can be applied to many situations. In the context of a POPIR party, asking someone’s permission before dancing with them is an example of consent. Another good example would be within a sexual relationship, where consent would be to seek the explicit and verbally expressed agreement of one’s partner for every action or movement. Consent can be withdrawn at any time, and must always be verified and renewed.

In order to ensure that no one is assaulted or feels isolated and vulnerable around their peers, we collectively commit to:

  • Respecting the physical and emotional limits of others, asking their permission before touching them, and paying attention to and changing our behaviour if someone mentions that it makes them feel uncomfortable;
  • Checking in with others before discussing potentially triggering topics (examples include sexual abuse, sexual experiences, physical violence or confrontations with the police, etc.);
  • Taking responsibility for our actions, and doing our utmost to be conscious of the impact we have on others, regardless of our original intentions;
  • Respecting everyone’s right to speak, and not cutting in or interrupting others;
  • Not responding defensively when we are called out for problematic attitudes: accepting that our intentions and basic decency are not being questioned but rather our behaviour;
  • Working to understand how our behaviour can play a role in the way that others experience oppression;
  • Recognizing that it can be very difficult for people to name certain experiences or dynamics, and so respecting anonymity where so desired.

We also accept the following principles:

  • In all circumstances, no form of intimidation, harassment, or physical, psychological or verbal violence will be tolerated from any individual.
  • Discriminatory or oppressive comments or behaviour will also not be tolerated.
  • The POPIR-Comité Logement commits to offering the safest space possible for all concerned, and seeks to develop a culture of consent while deconstructing rape culture. No form of sexist comment, sexual harassment or sexual assault will be tolerated. When a sexual assault is called out, we commit to believing the survivor[1] and to not questioning their word.

 Complaints process

Every member, activist and employee has the right to make sure these guidelines are being respected. In order to do so, the POPIR will create a Complaints Committee, made up of 3 people: one staff member, one member of the Board of Directors, and one person drawn from the broader membership of the organization. This latter person must be elected at the Annual General Assembly. Once formed, the Committee members must participate in anti-oppression and conflict resolution training.

If a member, activist or employee wishes to make a complaint, they may write to the Complaints Committee or ask to meet to with them. Once the complaint has been made, the process is as follows:

  • Each member of the committee must first verify that they don’t have any conflicts of interest before proceeding. If one exists, it is the obligation of that person to withdraw from the process. If more than one member of the Committee is obliged to withdraw, the Board of Directors can manage the process in its place.
  • Meet the person who is the focus of the complaint in an effort to come up with solutions.
  • If this meeting proves insufficient in resolving the problem, the Committee can recommend that the Board of Directors send a letter to the person who is the focus of the complaint, clearly explaining the problematic behaviour, the expectations of the organization, and the necessary conditions that must be respected if the person is to continue to be welcome in the membership and activities of the POPIR.
  • If the conditions set out in the letter are not respected, the Committee can recommend that the Board exclude the person from activities and suspend their membership for a period of up to six months.
  • Once the period of suspension/exclusion has expired, the Committee is responsible for meeting the person in order to make an assessment of the situation and a recommendation to the Board as to their reintegration. At this stage, the Committee can recommend: (a) the immediate reintegration of the person into the activities and membership of the POPIR; (b) the extension of the exclusion/suspension for another period of up to six months; (c) the expulsion of the of the person from the organizing and  their exclusion from all activities for an indeterminate period.

Note: In any situation where an assault is called out, the Committee, and by extension the Board, is obliged to respect the wishes of the survivor at each step of the process. It is also obliged to consider and respect the well-being and security of the movement and the membership at large.

[1] The term « survivor » is used in place of the more commonly-employed « victim » as an intentional effort to throw off the logic of victimization, in which a person who has been assaulted is disempowered and becomes passive. A survivor can continue their life, and holds onto their capacity to affirm themselves and to act autonomously.