Bill C-360 (Historical)
Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
An Act to prevent psychological harassment in the workplace and to amend the Canada Labour Code
This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.
Diane Bourgeois Bloc
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Introduction and First Reading
(This bill did not become law.)
Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business
October 5th, 2005 / 6:45 p.m.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)
The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-360 under private members' business.
(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)
Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act
October 4th, 2005 / noon
Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC
Mr. Speaker, in my opinion, this bill is a big step forward. Make no mistake, the members worked hard in order to reach agreement on this bill. Be that as it may, the fact remains that every member of every party on the committee had to be able to speak as one—particularly with regard to a bill as sensitive as this one.
In my opinion, this bill was essential. It is unfortunate that, today, we cannot predict its impact. However, I am quite hopeful that it will give public service employees who witness wrongdoing and want to disclose it the confidence to do so. We will see if this bill and its provisions are effective over time.
However, I am concerned—my colleague from Repentigny raised a point earlier. Parallel with this bill, I also introduced Bill C-360 to protect victims of psychological harassment. Despite the extensive protection we are able to offer public servants who disclose wrongdoing, psychological harassment will always be the aftermath.
This morning, I received three e-mails from former public servants who followed yesterday's debates. They congratulated me for being the only one who dared lift the veil on what would come after. I greatly appreciate the fact that my colleague from Repentigny has just revisited the aspect of protection and the legislative framework of the bill. The three e-mails I received said more or less this: “Ms. Bourgeois, after the famous 60 days of protection, what will happen if we are transferred to a new place, moved to another department? Then what will happen? Even if people do not know the name of those who make the disclosures, people will end up knowing, or thinking they know, because everything eventually becomes general knowledge. The public service is a closed microcosm.”
That reminded me of something I said here in the House yesterday. I said that the bill is a huge step forward but that there was a little something lacking, and that was iron-clad protection for public servants who make disclosures. That is something that I am proposing along with my bill, but I would also ask that this bill include someone competent who would listen to federal public servants and those covered by the Canada Labour Code. This independent commissioner could be the same one as proposed in Bill C-11, but that person would have to have a staff mandated to deal with public servants subjected to reprisals. These staff members would be able to act even 60 or 120 days after the fact. According to the bill, unless I have misunderstood—and I would like to be told so, if that is the case—the complaint may be filed after that 60-day period if the board deems this appropriate under the circumstances.
With all these “mays” and “ifs” anything is possible, but we are not necessarily resolving the problem. That is what public servants are worried about because they do not have this iron-clad protection. The workplace is merciless toward public servants who blow the whistle. A public servant might be exposing the practice of a government, or, just as likely, the actions of a superior.
I want to close by saying that there is no guarantee that the public servant disclosing wrongdoing can be protected from intimidation, abuse of power, isolation or everyone ganging up on him. I thought that was what the President of the Treasury Board realized yesterday when he nodded in agreement with me that there was a little something missing.
I am not sure there will be as many disclosures as we hope. This bill shows transparency. It goes far beyond any political party. I have heard it said the game here in this House is power. Of course there is criticism. Nonetheless, it goes beyond any political party since it will allow public servants, honest workers, to say, “I am doing this because I do not accept the situation. If I want to sleep well at night, then I will disclose this wrongdoing.” This bill is good, but it needs to go a little further and supplementary protection needs to be added to it.
I now want to ask my colleague why the Canadian Forces were excluded from this bill. He touched on this, but I would like him to elaborate. I want him to explain it again. Many disclosure, harassment and intimidation cases come from National Defence or the Canadian Forces. Of course we trust them. They have their own way of managing and processing complaints as they see fit. Nonetheless, I have some reservations.
Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act
October 4th, 2005 / 11:40 a.m.
Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to again speak on Bill C-11. When all the members of the House decide to join forces to ensure the success of a bill, we see that things can be done quickly. I last spoke on this bill less than 24 hours ago, so it is possible to move quickly when we want to.
Since people's comments and speeches often lose sight of the main objective of a bill, I will start by reading the title of Bill C-11: An Act to establish a procedure for the disclosure of wrongdoings in the public sector, including the protection of persons who disclose the wrongdoings.” The purpose of this bill is to establish a procedure for disclosure and to protect those making disclosures.
I have listened to, and read, the speech by the President of the Treasury Board. I too would like to draw attention to the invaluable work done by the members of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, including the permanent members, among them my colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, and the other members, both occasional and semi-permanent. We were always extremely glad of their helpful suggestions.
I would also like to thank certain colleagues, among them the hon. member for Mississauga South, who has shown a marked interest in Bill C-11 since yesterday, as has my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville. I also congratulate her for introducing a bill in complementarity to Bill C-11. I use that term, but I am sure there are more appropriate words in a dictionary of synonyms. The bill in question is Bill C-360, the purpose of which is to help the victims of psychological harassment and to recognize the harmful effects of such harassment on federal public servants.
My congratulations to her, and my thanks for her interest in Bill C-11, now at the third reading stage. I know that yesterday she questioned the President of the Treasury Board on the repercussions and also on the complementarity of bills C-11 and C-360. The President of the Treasury Board has shown some openness to meet with my colleague in order to see how these two could work together, how they could be dovetailed.
Many normal, relevant, important questions on Bill C-11 were raised by hon. members in this House and I am sure that those who sat on the committee on a regular basis helped us to clarify our thinking or realize that in fact we could have better defined or taken into account certain aspects of the bill, which naturally can be improved upon.
In my opinion, every bill presented in this House can be improved upon, and it is in listening to our colleagues and their suggestions that we see just how this can be done. Nonetheless, we must be careful when we consider the bill or when we make suggestions, because we must look at what is already included in the bill. I will come back to that a little later.
Some aspects of the bill also deserve to be acknowledged and repeated, even if hon. members have already repeated them. In my opinion, it is highly important to repeat them for the public servants watching us, those who worked on developing the bill, and also to respond to clause 4 of the bill, which stipulates:
The Minister must promote ethical practices in the public sector and a positive environment for disclosing wrongdoings by disseminating knowledge of this Act and information about its purposes and processes and by any other means that he or she considers appropriate.
Yesterday, I ran out of time to finish my speech. I will spend more time today talking about raising awareness and disseminating information.
The hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent pointed out earlier that this bill is not a panacea. We will not fix every problem in the federal public service or in Canada with this bill. Nonetheless, this bill is certainly a step in the right direction for improving working conditions and relations and ultimately for moving toward sound management of public funds.
When this bill is given royal assent, it will be highly important for the government, through the Treasury Board, to run an awareness campaign to inform public servants covered under the legislation of the important tool parliamentarians will have given them.
I have been entrusted with multiple mandates here in the House, and if there is any bill that I am proud to see become law, it is this one. I talk about it in my riding whenever I can—as well as about my role as a member of the opposition. I had the opportunity to do so recently at my nomination. If any bill makes me proud of the work we can accomplish, together and with rigour, in this House, particularly under a minority government, it is Bill C-11. I know that it will protect public servants, ensure they benefit from healthier working conditions and encourage disclosure whenever wrongdoing occurs within their working group or their immediate work environment.
I hope that the President of the Treasury Board and the government will be able to provide adequate information so that public servants can be made aware of the important tool they currently have at their disposal, a tool that will ensure they benefit from better working conditions.
Further down in the bill, subclause 5(1) indicates that “The Treasury Board must establish a code of conduct applicable to the public sector”. Then, in subclause 5(3), we read, “Before the code of conduct is established, the Minister must consult with the employee organizations certified as bargaining agents in the public sector”.
During discussions and comments on how to improve this bill, Nycole Turmel, representing the public service union, was consulted and worked closely with parliamentarians in order to have a bill that takes public servants into consideration and best meets their expectations.
A code of conduct must, then, be tabled by the President of the Treasury Board. However, this code of conduct must be established in cooperation with the public service union. Obtaining this degree of collaboration was extremely important to us. The collaboration that existed within the committee is now needed to develop the bill.
I repeat that we also defined wrongdoing. One of the questions that we were asked yesterday was extremely relevant. Paragraph 8( c ) mentions “a gross mismanagement in the public sector”. I had asked the question in committee as to why use the word “gross”, when it could have simply read “a mismanagement in the public sector”. This gives public servants and the integrity commissioner the freedom to determine what constitutes gross mismanagement.
I am convinced that others share my view that the integrity commissioner must not be inundated with trivial matters. Granted, each dollar paid in taxes by Canadian citizens has to be administered in a serious and rigorous manner. But in any business, be it a corner store, a general store or a pharmacy, man will do what man will do, as the saying goes. Unfortunately, there are dishonest individuals who doctor inventories or numbers. The whole government, with a budget of hundreds of billions of dollars, cannot therefore be expected to ever be made 100% perfect.
On the subject of trivial matters, for our listeners, $1,000 or $5,000 do not represent trivial amounts of money; these are large amounts. In other cases, other realities, other places, employees who observe mismanagement in their immediate work surroundings may complain to their union steward or immediate supervisor. In reference to relatively small but nevertheless significant amounts, instead of describing them as “trivial”, it would be more appropriate to talk about relatively small but nevertheless significant amounts.
When a really significant situation arises, however, employees ask themselves if it constitutes gross mismanagement in the public service. They determine on their own whether there was indeed gross mismanagement, in which case they make a disclosure, a complaint, to the integrity commissioner, who may agree that there was gross mismanagement. They get to exercise their freedom of choice and think for themselves. Rightly or wrongly, we have agreed in committee that this was one way of handling or dealing with this kind of wrongdoing and its definition.
Further on in the bill, the text addresses the protection of those making disclosures. Clause 19 reads: “No person shall take any reprisal against a public servant.” Further on, there is mention of the person's horizontal transfer without loss of benefits or seniority.
I have listened carefully to the comments, criticisms and suggested improvements to the bill, and find them overall totally legitimate. For that reason, we have included a five-year review in the bill, somewhat along the lines of the one in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. I feel there ought to be similar provisions in the Official Languages Act as well. Unfortunately, there has been no review of that act and it is beginning to collect cobwebs. I do not know whether Official Languages Commissioner Dyane Adam would agree with me, but I feel that legislation dating back to 1968, with a revision in 1988 and nothing since, might well be expected to need reviewing, considering the way society has changed. That is what Bill C-11 does.
Bill C-11 gives the government the benefit of the doubt. Initially, there will be an integrity commissioner appointed. We know how well known the Auditor General and the Commissioner of Official Languages are today for their exemplary and rigorous work. We can only hope that the man or woman appointed as public sector integrity commissioner will be equally well known, but not for having brought major scandals to light. We hope there will be no such scandals. We hope that the management of public funds and the working people's money will be done efficiently.
Should there be a sufficiently high number of complaints requiring public servants to meet with the commissioner, as my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent has just said, there ought to be a climate of trust in place.
Certainly the first two or three people to disclose will be afraid, as they are today, of being identified, of being the victims of reprisals, of being involved in the trial runs of a new system. The commissioner and his or her staff will have to ensure that the first complaints set an example to other public servants who see wrongdoing taking place, so that they will also feel free to disclose.
Between the first and second draft, we included RCMP officers and we have now excluded various positions, such as positions with the Canadian Forces. I am also thinking of CSIS, in terms of telecommunications.
These groups have been excluded for reasons related to national security. They appeared before the committee and told us that, for national security reasons, they did not want this bill to apply to them.
These groups told us that they agreed, on the condition that these institutions have a similar measure allowing employees of these institutions to lay a complaint. In five years, or even earlier, we will be able to see if those who asked for protection for national security reasons kept their promise to comply with these conditions.
Earlier, I was talking to a Radio-Canada host. I told him that Radio-Canada is not subject to Bill C-11. However, the committee learned that Radio-Canada already has a similar tool in place for its employees. As a result, this crown corporation is excluded from Bill C-11, because it has an equivalent measure in place for its employees.
So, the entire public service benefits from adequate, professional and rigorous protection. Those who do not must have a similar and comparable measure that shall be subject to the approval of the Standing Committee on Governmental Operations and Estimates. Those who are not protected by Bill C-11, but who already have a similar measure in place, will have to test how well it works with regard to any future complaints.
The integrity commissioner will now be an independent officer, which was not the case in the initial version of the bill. We think the definition of wrongdoing will not leave any room for a series of frivolous and vexatious complaints. I believe the terms “frivolous” and “vexatious” were dropped from the initial version—I will have to verify that—to prevent the bill from being used as a pressure tactic during the negotiation of collective agreements. Public servants must not use Bill C-11 to go against its philosophy, its intent and its initial purpose, which is to protect public servants and provide them with a legal framework.
All these corrections were made to the bill in light of comments by witnesses, including Mr. Keyserlingk, who was the integrity officer for a while and who asked the government to give the rules or existing policy a legal framework. The existing policy was inadequate and did not have the necessary authority or tools to defend public servants properly. All this work was accomplished because of everyone's cooperation and good will.
We in the Bloc Québécois, like my colleagues from the Conservative party and all the other parties, believe we have come up with a bill that, although imperfect in some parts, responds to the expectations resulting from the sponsorship scandal, the goings-on of the privacy commissioner, Mr. Radwanski, and the current case involving Mr. Dingwall at the Royal Canadian Mint. Just this morning the papers reported that some ministers in this government, including the former president of the Treasury Board, broke Treasury Board rules and travelled on private jets instead of taking commercial flights, which would promote sound management of public funds.
Public servants who witness such wrongdoings could disclose them. Certainly, ministers and deputy ministers will be more careful. Exemplary public servants could disclose wrongdoings in the same way Allan Cutler disclosed the sponsorship scandal, despite the enormous pressure dissuading him from doing so. According to comments made in committee, this public servant would have been a little more comfortable had the bill been in place, although he still would have been afraid.
Time will tell whether the bill will meet all its objectives.
It would be my pleasure to answer any questions.
Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business
September 30th, 2005 / 2:20 p.m.
Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to participate in this debate on Bill C-360. I will be brief, but a few words are better than nothing at all. This bill introduced by my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville is called an act to prevent psychological harassment in the workplace. Like my colleague from Drummond, I would like to congratulate her, not only for her initiative in terms of the legislation, but also for all her political and social animation work in this area.
We have seen this phenomenon develop in the province of Quebec in the last years, but the world of work has not completely accepted these new provisions for the fight against psychological harassment in the workplace. We know that some complaints have been made. However, Quebec's National Assembly has already showed Canada the way.
My colleague is echoing the efforts made in Quebec to ensure that the Canada Labour Code, where the federal laws apply, including in the federal Public Service, contains provisions against psychological harassment. It is extremely important that we see this debate in the present context, which is two-fold: on one side the positive and negative effects of globalization and on the other side the trivialization of the ideas now in circulation, making us think that all opinions are equal.
I cannot help but mention the horrifying remarks the pseudo-doctor Mailloux made last Sunday on the show Tout le monde en parle . He made statements that have now achieved scientific notoriety. However, we thought that such rhetoric had disappeared over 50 years ago. He said that blacks and aboriginals in Canada had a lower IQ than everyone else. We are familiar with pseudo-professor Mailloux; he has been poisoning the airwaves at CKAC for years. So his comments came as no surprise. However, I still cannot believe that Guy A. Lepage, the host and producer, and Mario Clément, programming director of Radio-Canada, have trivialized his comments.
Imagine an employer who is already prejudiced against one of his employees, who is black or aboriginal, or even co-workers who already hold such prejudices. We know that they are minorities. This is also true in English Canada. I know that people are prejudiced against Quebeckers, who have also been the subject of similar remarks by commentators in Canada. I am thinking in particular of the English version of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada , where one such commentator has been spreading poison for many years. In passing, we have spoken out against him numerous times here.
If the employee is already the victim of prejudice, the attitude of his harassers will be reinforced on a much-watched program like that one, by Guy A. Lepage, whom many of our young people look up to. There must be a counter-balance to this. When something like that happens during a program and the interviewer has no legislated counter-balance, an extremely difficult situation ensues.
The bill before us is intended as that counter-balance. It would not have prevented what happened last Sunday. It is too late for that, anyway. They will try to remedy things on the next program, but the harm is done, and the way they reacted made things worse. A counter-balance like this bill on psychological harassment in the workplace is therefore necessary so that the individual, who has already been victimized and then sees credibility lent to his harassers by the reaction of someone like Guy A. Lepage, will have some recourse.
I spoke of globalization. Interestingly, on that level we are seeing polarization. On the one hand, some jobs require a new way of organizing one's work. That is why there is increasing discussion of psychological harassment in the workplace taking place in symposiums on work organization .
Smart employers—which most of them are, but not all—are well aware that psychological harassment not only has economic costs related to health—as my colleague from Drummond has so aptly pointed out—but also affects productivity. The ones responsible are not the victims of the harassment but the perpetrators of it.
Smart employers, often those in developing new sectors of the economy, want to effectively counteract psychological harassment. This bill will help them do so. Economic activity will benefit as a result.
On the other hand, in all sectors where jobs are becoming more precarious and their quality is deteriorating: declining sectors of service and activity getting very little government assistance—I am referring here of course to the industrial sector—psychological harassment is constantly on the rise.
This bill is needed in order to improve the quality of working life and our collective well-being, as well as to counteract complacency toward racist and prejudiced comments, which are unfortunately still far too common, even on our state-owned television network.
Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business
September 30th, 2005 / 2:10 p.m.
David Anderson Victoria, BC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Terrebonne—Blainville for her bill, Bill C-360, An Act to prevent psychological harassment in the workplace and to amend the Canada Labour Code.
Having said that, I have some reservations concerning this bill that I want to talk about today.
This is an issue which is of considerable importance to everyone in this chamber and I do appreciate the opportunity to say a few words on it.
I certainly share, as have other speakers this afternoon, the concerns of the hon. member for Terrebonne--Blainville, but the approach of this bill, in my mind, has certain questionable aspects. Let me explain.
The target group of Bill C-360 is the federal public service. Treasury Board already has in place policies and programs which address the issue of psychological harassment in the workplace. That aspect of the bill has been discussed this afternoon at some length by hon. members who have preceded me. At this stage of the debate I will address the element of the bill that would modify part III of the Canada Labour Code.
First, bringing forward new legislation on psychological harassment at this time would conflict with other major policy work that is already well under way with respect to the Canada Labour Code. As members know, part III of the code deals with employment standards, such as family benefits, parental leave, vacation entitlements and also issues such as sexual harassment. Part III governs workplace standards in the federal labour jurisdiction that comprise sectors of key importance to the Canadian economy, such as international and interprovincial railways, shipping, trucking, airlines, airports, telecommunications, broadcasting, banking, port operations and federal crown corporations. It does not extend, of course, into the provincial jurisdiction, which is by far the greatest area of labour responsibility jurisdiction in this country. This leads me to the key point that I want to underline today.
As referred to earlier, the target group of Bill C-360, the Public Service of Canada, is not in actuality covered under part III of the Canada Labour Code. Instead, it is regulated by Treasury Board policies. Let us have a look at those Treasury Board policies.
Twenty years ago Treasury Board implemented a policy regarding workplace harassment. The policy included personal harassment and abuse of authority in its definition. Similar policies exist within other organizations in the public sector to address this issue.
I said that there was policy work going on, so let me describe what that is.
Part III of the Canada Labour Code is a complex piece of legislation. We have to consider all elements of it and how they work together before making any significant changes to it. It is also very important when proposing changes to this legislation to consider the concerns of employers, unions and workers that would be affected by any such changes.
That is why the Minister of Labour announced a complete and holistic review of part III of the Canada Labour Code in December 2004. At that time he named Professor Harry Arthurs, who is an eminent labour expert, to be the commissioner of the review. Professor Arthurs will be assisted by a panel of experts and representatives of business and labour at the same time. Professor Arthurs has a very broad mandate and will be able to address the whole array of issues that are impacting or affecting the Canadian workplace. He will consider the issue of psychological harassment in that wide-ranging review.
The commission was set up by the Minister of Labour to examine the current labour standards as described in part III of the labour code. Labour standards are a key tool to ensure fairness in the workplace, to protect employees and to provide them with satisfactory conditions of work. This review will cover such issues as the changing nature of work, the growth of the knowledge based economy, competition in the global marketplace, and increased work life pressures referred to earlier by my colleagues.
Part III of the Canada Labour Code has not been reviewed for the past 40 years and this review will take into account the issues that I just mentioned and other factors, and it will lead to recommendations for legislative change with a view to modernizing and improving the relevance and effectiveness of federal labour standards.
The review will take in such things as changing demographics, including the aging workforce, increasing diversity as well as new forms of workplace structures and employment relationships. Included in this last point are issues such as work-life balance and evolving family structures. To broaden our understanding of these issues, research projects have been launched by the commission which are wide ranging and will be made public in order for appropriate comment to be made on them by Canadians who are interested or affected.
An important aspect of Professor Arthurs' work will be consensus building among the stakeholders who will be affected by any changes to Part III of the Canada Labour Code. It is through consultation, discussion and debate among those affected and the stakeholders and government that effective legislation will be developed but that process is lacking in the proposed bill. Therefore I do not feel that it is appropriate at this time for Bill C-360 to be accepted by the House because I believe it might in fact undermine the collaborative process already underway.
I suggest instead that we allow the process already underway, the collaborative and consultative process, to work its way through and in this way we will continue to move forward with the development and improvement of the systemic ways to address the important issue of harassment in the workplace.
Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business
September 30th, 2005 / 2 p.m.
Pauline Picard Drummond, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the last hour of this debate at second reading stage of Bill C-360, An Act to prevent psychological harassment in the workplace.
First, allow me to congratulate my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville on her initiative. She has invested a great deal of time and energy in this topic, in which she has long had an interest. She has met with victims of psychological harassment, with unions and with other groups on numerous occasions in order to prepare this bill with its important impact on the health of these victims.
She has also published and co-signed a book on this topic in which she talks about psychological harassment cases in the Public Service. She is currently working on a new book that should be out in the next two weeks, in which she presents cases in the national defence department.
Psychological harassment is not a new phenomenon in our society. It has always existed. In our new work climate, people have to be effective and efficient and to adapt quickly.
How can one tell that one has been a victim of psychological harassment? Physical violence has always been easily identifiable whereas other forms of violence, although they have always been around, have been more difficult to recognize. These forms of violence now have a name: psychological harassment in the workplace.
If you have ever felt excluded, shunned, ridiculed by colleagues or by your boss on numerous occasions; if you have tried by every mean possible to put a stop to demeaning jokes directed at you, but to no avail; if you have felt that your dignity and your integrity, what is most precious to you, were being attacked; if you have experienced any of these situations, you may have been a victim of psychological harassment in the workplace.
Any strategy can destroy someone. However, the strategies used to put a stop to these types of behaviour are often ineffective because the silence, the denial and the tendency to play down what is happening allow psychological harassment to go on.
Again, Quebec has played a leading role in the fight against harassment. The Government of Quebec decided to add a few provisions to its Labour Standards Act. These provisions, which were adopted on June 1, 2004, apply to all employees, whether or not they belong to a union. These new provisions require employers to take measures to prevent psychological harassment and provide a healthy workplace for their employees.
Since that time, numerous complaints have been filed and they are being examined by the Commission des normes du travail. Jean-Pierre Brun, professor and director of the Chaire en gestion de la santé et de la sécurité du travail dans les organisations at Laval University, recognizes also that some complaints stem from a very serious work conflict rather than from a legitimate grievance. He has undertaken a study of 300 complaints to explore this further. His first reading of the situation led him to the conclusion that, despite its flaws, the system that was put in place was necessary.
Let me say to hon. members that more information on this topic is available in a book entitled Politiques contre le harcèlement au travail et réflexions sur le harcèlement psychologique , which I encourage all my colleagues in the House of Commons, and our colleague from the Conservative Party who gave a speech on stress in particular, to read. Psychological harassment leads to stress and affects health; psychological harassment in the workplace must not be denied.
I was saying that the authors, Isabelle and Jean-Maurice Cantin, wrote one of the 56 books nominated for the 2005 Prix du livre d'affaires, an award recognizing the talent of those who write management books in French which are published in Quebec. I should point out that the Prix du livre d'affaires is one of the most significant awards in Canadian literature. The prized book is a serious reference tool for those of us who may want to know more about psychological harassment in the workplace.
Many are faced on a daily basis at their workplace with verbal intimidation, blackmail, exaggerated criticism and abusive comments. Even young school children, children in first, second or third grade, are being taxed by others, and this continues in high school. They are subject to psychological harassment. The book by Isabelle and Jean-Maurice Cantin addresses management approaches and practices used by various businesses and organizations in the private, public and para-public sectors to counter harassment in general and psychological harassment at the workplace in particular. It contains practical advice and models of policies to deal with harassment at the workplace, addresses issues related to the handling of complaints and points to a number of useful references.
The authors dedicated an entire chapter to the consideration of the new psychological harassment provisions that came into force on June 1, 2004, in Quebec. In that chapter, they comment the rights and obligations as well as the remedies that have been included in the Act respecting labour standards, and compare summarily these provisions to those on emotional harassment that continue to be much publicized in France. This is a book for anyone who is interested in learning about harassment at the workplace and steps to prevent it or put an end to it, as the case may be.
On May 19, the Colloque de gestion des ressources humaines took place in the Saguenay; this year it chose to examine the issue of psychological harassment. This issue affects both employers and employees. The chairman of the organizing committee, Sylvain Bouchard, a lawyer, said that Quebec's implementation of the policy against psychological harassment on June 1, 2004, was a great change.
Currently, section 14(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act prohibits harassment in the provision of services and facilities in the public federal service and in the federally controlled private sector. But there is no legislation that would make it possible to protect employees in the public service and those governed by the Canada Labour Code. Principles are fine, but we need legislation.
There are several complaints of harassment before the Canadian Human Rights Commission. In May 2001, the Treasury Board implemented a policy protecting against psychological harassment, but it is only a policy, and we believe that it is not enough. A law would have more teeth and more weight. Let it be very clear that we do not want a policy or principles; we want legislation.
This is why I invite all my colleagues in the House to reflect on the cases of victims of harassment in the workplace, in the Canadian public service, and to support this bill so that we finally have legislation to deal with harassment in the workplace.
Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business
September 30th, 2005 / 1:50 p.m.
Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Mr. Speaker, this is an important piece of public business, particularly when we consider the changing nature of the workplace, both within government and in the private sector.
On a regular basis I talk to people who come to my office, or who meet me on the street or mall. They talk about the nature of the workplaces in which they have worked for a huge part of their lives. They talk about the types of pressure put on them to perform, which I think borders on, if not gets into, the area of psychological harassment. It seems it is a new way of employers to create what they call more efficiencies in the workplace. The government needs to consider that and put in place frameworks to protect our workers who experience this kind of new behaviour. For some, it is totally foreign from anything they have experienced before.
The relationship between a worker and his or her employer used to be black and white, cut and dry. A worker would go to work, put in a good eight hours, would get paid for those hours and everybody was happy. However, with the corporate structure we have in place and the ever increasing pressure on companies to make more money, that does not seem to be the way it is now. As long as they made a profit in a year, they were successful and happy. Now they have to make more than the profit they made the year before. That means companies and employers are forced to create what is referred to as efficiencies, which sounds more humane, in the workforce. That means pressure is put on employees to produce more, to work harder, to work faster and to stay at their jobs longer even when at times, emotionally, psychologically and physically they can no longer do that. They need to move around or have a break, but they are not getting that any more. In my view that can be classified under the heading of psychological harassment. We need to protect people from that.
We have the emergence of more and more individuals, young men and women, experiencing mental health issues. We really do not know much about the area of mental health as compared to what we know about physical health. We need to look at the cause of this. What brings it on? What is behind this growing epidemic of people struggling to keep their heads on straight, to get work in the morning, to work at home, to look after their families and themselves and to participate in their communities. There has to be something out there that is causing this. From some of the conversations I have had with people in my community in particular, a lot of it goes back to the changing nature of the workplace and what happens on a daily basis.
Many people in my community used to work in the steel, paper and wood industries. With new technology and other pressures, those enterprises are changing the way they do business and are employing fewer and fewer people. Those people now find themselves in call centres, for example, where it is all about productivity, how many phone calls they can make or take, how long they can stay on the phone to get their companies' messages through to the people to whom they are speaking.
These people are trying, as they have always done, to work as best as they can, to make the employer happy and to feel good about their work. However, by the end of the day they collapse. At the end of a year they wonder if it is worth it any more, particularly when they consider the level of wages they receive for that kind of work they do. It is difficult and strenuous and they work under pressure.
This is not just happening in the private sector, but also within government. Government is moving more into that kind of workplace as offices that used to provide face to face service in communities like Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, and other places across Canada are no longer providing that kind of service. We either have to access information on a computer or phone a 1-800 number. At the end of that phone line somebody has been pressured to respond to the significantly increased number of people who call and that individual cannot feel the anxiety or the sense of emergency in the voice of the person calling.
There is pressure now on our civil servants in what is really a call service approach to delivering public services in Canada, and this has created a whole new atmosphere. We need to be doing things to prepare those workplaces to deal more humanely and fairly with workers. We need to put laws in place such as reflected in this legislation before us today to protect those workers if they find themselves being psychologically harassed to perform in a way they are not meant to perform. We are faced with this in the private sector and we are now seeing it more in the public sector.
The other thing that concerns me is the fact that our public servants are providing public services, but a lot of these services are now being contracted out in the interest of efficiency. That efficiency is delivered oftentimes on the backs of and at the expense of these well meaning and hardworking individuals who are not prepared for this new way of being supervised and they are finding it difficult.
We really do need to be shedding some light on this new reality. As members of the House we need to sit down with the people who work for us as civil servants and who work in our communities in workplaces that are evermore crowded and efficiency driven. We need to get a handle on the nature of this new pressure.
We need to know why the spectre of psychological harassment is becoming more of a concern and why it is being brought forward at employee-management committees. We need to know why it is sometimes not even brought forward. People are afraid to report psychological harassment, but Bill C-360 goes a long way toward covering some of that concern as well.
We have heard in this place and in other legislatures across this country the need these days to put whistleblower legislation in place. We need to take this more seriously. We talk about it but never do anything about it. We do not provide the kind of support that needs to be available to these people. We need to send a message to employers or bosses who use this kind of pressure and make people work in a way that is not in keeping with their best mental health.
The New Democratic Party is very interested in this legislation. I am personally interested because I have heard from a number of my constituents over the last few years as a member of a provincial Parliament and as a federal member of Parliament. The call centre industry is growing rapidly in my own community.
There are people working in those centres who are finding it very difficult. They want to work. They want to provide for themselves and their families. They want to be recognized and rewarded for their work. They are finding it difficult because of the workplace environment and the psychological harassment that often goes on in the name of efficiency. We need to recognize that it is a reality which is growing.
I have been approached in my office on Parliament Hill. I have been approached—
Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business
June 2nd, 2005 / 6:10 p.m.
Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC
Madam Speaker, first I want to congratulate my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville for the excellent work she has done on this bill. The work put into drafting this bill and seeing it through required good analysis of the subject matter, judicious consultations, determination, a lot of energy and resources, but mostly a lot of heart. When a bill has all these ingredients, it is a good bill and can only be successful. The hon. member's presentation was also very judicious and very enlightening. I thank my colleague for all those reasons.
Psychological harassment is a difficult subject that we have been talking about for far too long. It is not unlike sexual harassment. We talked about that for a very long time before creating legislation to put an end to it, and it worked. The same will be true for psychological harassment. It is a concern in our society.
The Government of Quebec introduced a bill on this exactly one year ago. This bill became law. I will talk about it later. Psychological harassment does not necessarily need to be punished. It needs to be banished and eliminated. That is the direction any bill should take. Any bill on this issue should have a more convincing effect than a simple policy or the goodwill of managers or other colleagues. There absolutely needs to be legislation.
Marie-France Hirigoyen, psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, defined psychological harassment very well. I will read her definition:
Moral harassment at work is defined as any abusive conduct (action, word, behaviour, attitude, etc.) that adversely affects, through its repetition or systematization, the psychic or physical dignity or integrity of a person, compromising that person's employment or the work environment.
Bill C-360 really meets the objective to prevent psychological harassment, under this definition. This bill seeks to prevent psychological harassment, as I said earlier. It is applicable not only to the entire public service, but also to all employees subject to the Canada Labour Code, such as radio and television, bank, grain company, port and airport employees.
This has created two categories of workers in Quebec, which has excellent legislation, as we know, to prevent psychological harassment. This legislation came into force exactly one year ago June 1. A symposium is being held on June 10 to evaluate the results. However, some results are already clear.
In short, there are two categories of workers in Quebec. There are those, approximately 3 million in total, who are subject to the Canada Labour Code. They are entitled, for example, to a precautionary cessation of work. They benefit from anti-scab legislation and also legislation against psychological harassment. Furthermore, 10% of workers—8% of whom come under the Canada Labour Code—are not covered by such protections.
Two sisters or brothers living under the same roof might have very different working conditions. People whose jobs fall under the Canada Labour Code are at a clear disadvantage. In Quebec, there must no longer be two categories of workers.
We in the Bloc Québécois have a good solution for this. That solution is sovereignty. We will get back to that later.
Until Quebec achieves sovereignty, the Canada Labour Code must contain the same provisions as the Quebec code. One of the ways this uniformity can be achieved would be to pass this bill on psychological harassment.
The Quebec legislation came into effect on June 1, 2004. It is an innovative piece of legislation, a first in North America. Everyone agrees on that. Its first performance report has just been released. At the time it came out, that is May 28, there had been close to 2,300 complaints of psychological harassment, 2,266 to be exact. Most of these were justified, and very few were frivolous. Today, 45% of them have been settled, and the complainants have been able to enjoy a healthier working environment. It is important to point that out, because it is the reason for having a bill such as this.
Obviously, this means 27% of complainants did not proceed. When there is a new bill in place, some people do not really understand how it works.
Do they fit within the definition of psychological harassment? Indeed, 27% of files ended up not proceeding, and that is fine.
As I said earlier, a symposium will be held on June 10 and the legislation will be examined there. It will also be a good time to discuss it here.
I would mention in passing that two thirds of the SMEs in Quebec with 50 employees or more have adopted measures to prevent psychological harassment. While it was feared that more and more labour disputes would involve legal action, the effect has been the opposite, one of promoting improved labour relations.
In January, labour ministers from the provinces, including Quebec, met in Toronto. They discussed problems of health, safety, workplace well-being, work-life balance and psychological harassment. They recognized the uniqueness and merit of the Quebec legislation. They met unions, management and people from government. They looked at Quebec legislation. The minister from Ontario stated there was clearly a close link between occupational health and safety and the success of a business, because physically and mentally healthy individuals working in safe surroundings increase the productivity of companies and keep them competitive.
I will conclude on this point. It was mentioned earlier that the Arthurs commission was studying part 3 of the Canada Labour Code. However, we can chew gum and walk at the same time. We can examine this bill in committee and let Harry Arthurs do his work.
Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business
June 2nd, 2005 / 6 p.m.
Brian Masse Windsor West, ON
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this private member's bill. It concerns an important subject which does not get the due diligence and discussion it really merits.
Bill C-360 is aptly named. There seems to be a lot of spin with what is happening on the subject matter. It is important to note at the outset that the private member who has brought this bill forward is contributing to an important debate. The member is saying there is a role for Parliament to play in correcting a very serious problem in our workplaces.
I understand Commissioner Arthurs is doing a report and I understand that others in the public domain are debating the issue. We should be inviting those people to sit at the table in committee. We should move the bill ahead, vote for it and hearing from those people in committee. It is a reasonable way to make sure that we do not end up with a government report that sits on a shelf and does not see any significant life brought to it or end up with a process which leaves issues that are very important outside the purview and beyond the reach of members of Parliament.
I want to talk about the value of discussing this issue today. It ties it back to members of Parliament having an opportunity not only to raise public awareness about psychological harassment in the workplace but also to make a statement to the Canadian public that the Canada Labour Code must deal with this subject matter in a much more comprehensive way. As legislators we have a duty and responsibility to pass laws or to change laws to deal with the changing nature of the workplace.
The title of Bill C-360 is an act to prevent psychological harassment in the workplace and to amend the Canada Labour Code. It has a very good summary, which states:
This enactment defines psychological harassment and abuse of power, requires the public service of Canada to provide its employees with employment free of psychological harassment, and requires every employee of the public service of Canada to disclose behaviour that is contrary to these principles.
The enactment also provides for the exercise of recourse, the imposition of fines and the taking of remedial action when an employee who has made a disclosure is subjected to retaliation.
Lastly, the enactment amends the Canada Labour Code to prohibit acts of psychological harassment.
I am quite concerned, especially given the current climate we are in, with the cloud of suspicion hanging over Parliament relating to, for example, the sponsorship scandal, ad scam. In the past the New Democratic Party has been pushing to get whistleblower legislation passed. We have been thinking about all those public servants who have felt that their employment would be endangered, who are concerned about whether they would be able to progress through the public service if they spoke out, or if they did things that questioned their employers. They are concerned that they would face specific limitations in their occupations or that they would be put in an area where they would experience threats from managers or the people overseeing them.
It pushes toward an element of public accountability that Canadians have been asking for. They want people to feel free and clear to come forward and not to be intimidated.
Imagine if we had had that free environment prior to ad scam, and workers felt that they could come forward. I think of other issues such as the Radwanski situation where employees felt intimidated. I think of the Department of Health where heroes from the medical profession came forward. They worked for Health Canada and had been acting in the public's interest but were berated by their own department and political and bureaucratic interests that seemed to survive longer than any individual.
It is very important to deal with psychological harassment if we want true freedom for whistleblowers and others and to make sure that there is accountability in the workplace.
I want to revisit one of the preambles in the whereas clause of this bill because it is important to put it in the context of the changing Canadian workforce. In the preamble it defines the Canada Labour Code by stating:
Whereas the Canadian Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability or conviction for which a pardon has been granted....
What we are talking about is psychological harassment. I remember the days when the elements of, for example, race and gender were not considered as serious offences in the workplace. People went to work and experienced basically a glass ceiling, for example, which a lot of women faced and still face in Canadian society, but it was more overt. It is the same for people of different races and visible minorities.
On top of that, it used to be acceptable in Canadian society for people to tell jokes at the expense of someone's race, disability or sexual orientation. I know some people still feel that is appropriate.
My wife is a visible minority. Different people have approached me at times to tell me a joke thinking that because I am a white male I might be able to associate with some type of despicable put-down on some racial element and understand it. People are surprised when I tell them that it is not acceptable, that I am very insulted and that they cannot do that in the workplace. That is why laws exist.
Psychological harassment is one of the categories that I do not think we have paid enough due diligence to. Once again I go back to thinking about the freedom of expression for whistleblowers and making sure they are not going to feel berated or belittled, for example, if they bring forward a concern about something that is happening in the workplace, to the point where it is not acceptable.
Reasonable people are going to apply the law properly. Reasonable people do not want to create problems in the workplace. They want to go to work in a safe environment in the morning, which is why there are laws. We want to improve those laws so people can go to work feeling they have the freedom of expression but that they will not be discriminated against. I argue that people do not want to be belittled at work. They do not want to have their self-esteem taken away because someone does something or says something to make them feel like less of a person for apparent power, self-interest or outright bullying. I can assure everyone that it happens.
I do want to say that when serious things of that nature do occur there is a vehicle at the end of the day to which the employee can go and a process that is fair to the individuals having this cast upon them in terms of a complaint. There will be a clear definition. I believe that is a more reasoned approach of dealing with this issue as opposed to the ad hoc way it is happening now.
That protection is not only for those who are feeling harassed but also for those who have been accused of that type of harassment because there will be the due diligence of a commissioner involved. I like the element in the bill of having the commissioner. A committee structure will be set up that the commissioner has to follow, has people involved with and provides advice, including people from outside the workplace. I believe that environment is healthy, especially in making difficult decisions.
When we get to the point about decisions, if someone is found responsible there will be repercussions. I think that will stop some of the lesser types of harassment that are not necessary. People will think twice because there is a process. I have seen a lot of overt issues.
I have worked on behalf of persons with disabilities. Because of stronger laws related to persons with disabilities, when I worked for them they could not deny them outright and say that because people are in wheelchairs they cannot get a job, whereas now we can actually provide the accommodations necessary through partnership to make sure people are employed. That alone has stopped some of that harassment.
I think the bill is worthy of pushing on to at least the committee level so we can hear the delegations that the other parties seem to be clamouring have all the solutions.
Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business
June 2nd, 2005 / 5:50 p.m.
Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK
Madam Speaker, I also wish to address Bill C-360. There is no question that prevention of psychological harassment is the best way to combat psychological harassment at work, and employers need to take the leadership role in engaging conflict.
However, conflict is not always easy to manage as it can involve the work environment, the employer, employees between employees, the physical layout of the work environment, loyalties, emotions and the general subtleties of a workplace. This is compounded by the fact that unlike physical injury which can be easily identified and in some ways measured, psychological impact is not as easy to determine or to assess. That by itself is no reason not to deal with the issue of psychological harassment in the workplace.
The definition in the proposed bill is quite wide ranging. It talks about any vexatious behaviour, which essentially means anything causing annoyance or worry, or purely to cause annoyance without sufficient grounds, or inappropriate or unwanted conduct, verbal comments, actions or gestures that affect an employee's dignity or psychological or physical integrity that results in a harmful workplace.
The legislation is very similar or close to the legislation that has been in existence in Quebec for a short period of time, and there has not been an overwhelming response or report yet to gauge the effect of that. Some of the commentary on that legislation reads as follows:
The vexatious nature is generally gauged from the standpoint of the person experiencing the situation and who is reporting it...
The hostile gestures towards the employee are not necessarily flagrant. Indeed, it is not essential that such a gesture be aggressive in nature in order for it to be considered hostile. For example, an employee could be the victim of comments, actions or gestures which, when taken on their own, may seem harmless or insignificant, but the accumulation or combination of them may be considered a harassment situation....
The term “unwanted” refers to all of the objectionable conduct. Indeed, the victim does not have to give verbal expression to his refusal of such behaviour, but the essential element leading to the ascertainment of harassment is that the behaviour itself is unwanted. It must be possible for the facts in question to be objectively perceived as unwanted.
All I am trying to suggest is that it is a subjective-objective kind of a test which makes it awfully difficult when we have all these factors in play in a workplace setting. It involves a certain measure of value judgment and the people who should have the most to say about how this should work or what the legislation should be are employers, employees, union, management and those involved in various kinds of businesses.
Therefore, it is very important that the whole issue be settled in the widest possible range after the widest possible consultation. I do not believe that could happen in the context of a private member's bill.
In addition, psychological harassment relates to the abuse of authority and it defines a number of actions, including interfering in any other way with the career of the employee.
It is wide ranging. It does set a system in place that is very comprehensive. It talks about the reporting process, the complaint process, the review process and it establishes a commissioner who is responsible to oversee this act and the working of it. It talks about a psychological harassment complaints committee composed of up to five people. It encompasses a framework for another bureaucracy to deal with an issue in the workplace when perhaps we already have the mechanisms and the items in place to deal with harassment in the workplace at present.
A review is underway at present under part II of the Canada Labour Code, dealing with occupational health and safety. That review deals with this whole issue of psychological abuse.
This regulatory review committee has a working group to review all the concerns and positions of not only labour and management, but of various employee representatives, such as the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Auto Workers, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, as well as a number of employer representatives.
It is not as though the issue of psychological harassment is unknown or foreign. It is something that has been dealt with through collective bargaining agreements. It has been dealt with through the grievance process and there have been certain rules that have been established. It is has been dealt with in the common law through the court system, through the means of constructive dismissal, et cetera. It is not something that is totally new. This group is already reviewing these very issues under the occupational health safety mechanism which has an organization and the people in place.
Part of their review of the draft regulations is to address workplace violence, which would include direct and indirect actions for employees, in the course of or as a result of employment, who are threatened or harmed or are subjected to any action that could reasonably be expected to cause them harm.
One of the other important issues that they are looking at is preventing violence in the workplace. They are coming up with a number of principles that are important, such as the provision of a safe, healthy and violence free workplace, a principle that provides attention, resources and time to control workplace violence, hazards, including but not limited to conduct such as bullying, teasing, abusive and other aggressive behaviour, and prevention and protection against violence in the workplace.
It is important that this type of abuse be prevented. It is important that we hear all the players. We have a review process in place now under part II, and we have all the stakeholders involved.
We have another review, which was mentioned a while ago, under part III of the Canada Labour Code by Professor Arthurs which is far-ranging. The bill intends to amend part III of the Canada Labour Code by adding psychological harassment to the same section that deals with sexual harassment.
That issue has already been raised before Professor Arthurs who intends to conduct a wide ranging review in various cities and communities throughout the country, in large centres and small centres. He intends to involve various stakeholders and large and small businesses. He allows for input through the Internet and through submissions. He has a panel with him designed to deal with all these kinds of issues.
For that reason it would seem to me that this bill is not timely.
One of the stakeholders said the following:
Violence in Workplace regulations, (developed by a government/employer/union committee), soon to be gazetted will deal [with] the kind of threats associated with bullying
Furthermore, he said:
But perhaps most of all, the issue has been seized by the Part III review being conducted by Harry Arthurs and clearly a private member's bill on this subject is not warranted. Arthurs will be addressing the issue in his report which has already come up in the consultations he has been conducting.
Furthermore, Bill C-360 would create a new bureaucracy that is not justified.
We do not need another bureaucracy. We already have the means and the mechanics in place to deal with this issue sufficiently. There is a balancing of interests. It is not just the employers that are affected, but it is employees between employees.
We want to be careful because the consequences are significant. The unintended consequences will be important. We must ensure that we approach this in a logical fashion, in a proper review and take sufficient time to ensure the end result is something that is acceptable both to unions and management, to employers, to employees and all affected.