House of Commons Hansard #107 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ei.

Topics

Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

Madam Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and I believe you would find unanimous consent to see the clock as 5:30 p.m.

Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Is that agreed?

Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

moved that Bill C-360, an act to prevent psychological harassment in the workplace and to amend the Canada Labour Codebe read the second time and referred to a committee.

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Before beginning private members' business, I have a short statement to make with regard to the provisions of Bill C-360, an act to prevent psychological harassment in the workplace and to amend the Canada Labour Code

As with all private members' bills, the Chair has examined this bill to determine whether its provisions would require a royal recommendation and thus prevent the Chair from putting the question to a vote at third reading.

It has been the practice to raise such concerns about private members' bills before the House and before the House takes a decision at second reading.

Bill C-360 proposes to provide protection from psychological harassment in the workplace by instituting a procedure whereby employees are given recourse to having their cases investigated and dealt with through remedial or disciplinary action.

This bill contains a provision which appears to propose spending that only the Crown can recommend under our system of parliamentary government.

Clause 8 creates a psychological harassment complaints committee, consisting of five members appointed by the commissioner, to hold office at pleasure for a period of three years, with the possibility of renewed terms. This clearly involves new spending for a distinct purpose.

Thus, in its current form, I could not agree to put the question at third reading of the bill, unless it were given royal recommendation.

Today, however, the debate continues on the motion for second reading as scheduled, and the motion shall be put to a vote at the close of this second reading debate.

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to your caveat on this bill. However, we could look at the Labour Relations Board, which already has commissioners who could be given the mandate proposed in the bill. As for the representatives of the employees and the employers, in its process, the commission already calls on their services. I just wanted to remind you of that. It might not involve any spending.

Although a policy already exists in the federal public service to address psychological harassment in the workplace, the fact is its application is inconsistent, or inadequate. As a result, there is serious harm and injustice done to employees or managers who, through no fault of their own, are victims of harassment.

There are many examples of these victims who, for lack of specific measures that should be introduced by the employer, or out of fear, have not reported the harassment they have suffered and end up unjustly punished. There are also many examples of victims who have filed a complaint and had it ignored or mishandled, or have lost their job as a result.

In recent years, I have met a number of these victims and tried to help them. Having studied their cases, as well as the numerous other cases that are not yet settled, I am presenting this bill.

The present policy has been in place since 1994. There have been a few changes, but it still continues to allow unacceptable behaviour, because of incorrect enforcement and the fact that it does not ensure objectivity in handling complaints. The process is left to managers, and these are often the ones who abuse the power of their position or are unaware of what harassment really is.

At the present time, this is the process: there is a policy in place and the employee who has been harassed contacts his or her immediate superior, in order to have the complaint handled, a complaint filed in writing and in the prescribed form. But then it is that immediate superior who decides whether or not there has been harassment.

If that superior was the one guilty of the harassment, he will decide there is no case. The person then has to move up to the regional level. What does that level do to find out what happened? Contacts the immediate superior, the one who has decided the complaint of harassment was unfounded. Then the person can move on to the third level, which is the deputy minister or the department. Once again, the immediate superior will be consulted.

If the immediate superior decides that the complaint is justified, does he have the necessary expertise to handle it? Not likely.

At the present time, 40% of departments have adopted the Treasury Board policy in its entirety, in June 2001. Approximately 15% have opted for appending the policy to a document which explains the position of the department and its process for handling complaints. Only 45% of departments have chosen to distribute a distinct policy to their employees.

I am aware of some psychological harassment cases that have been dragging on for four or five years at the departments of Justice, Citizenship and Immigration, Correctional Services, National Defence, Transport, Health, Environment and Industry.

Crown corporations are also subject to the Canada Labour Code and their employees are also victims of psychological harassment, for example, Bell Canada, Canada Post, Statistics Canada, the National Capital Commission, and NAV CANADA, a former division of Air Canada.

Already here, we have an initial example of the cause of the problem: Treasury Board has set a policy that is not being applied properly. Furthermore, there is no obligation to act, no guarantee that the departments will correctly and adequately apply such a policy and that the complaint resolution process will be in the victim's best interests.

In recent years, there have been a number of studies on the impact of and harm done by psychological violence. The study by the International Labour Office is the most indepth one on the subject. It describes vertical violence, which is when a person in authority is abusive or bullies a subordinate or a peer. Such an individual, through vindictive, cruel, malicious or humiliating behaviour, seeks to belittle one or more employees. For example, bullies make life difficult for anyone able to do their job better than they can; they yell at their employees; they insist that their way is the only way; they refuse to delegate work and they take away responsibilities on the pretext that the employee is incompetent. And the list goes on.

There is also horizontal violence, which is psychological harassment by a group of an individual. As a result, a number of people join forces to persecute a specific employee by constantly criticizing them, isolating them, and spreading all kinds of rumours about them.

Managers may face horizontal harassment when they transfer to a given service or department and the employees decide that they do not want the new manager. Just like employees, managers can be victims of psychological harassment by their peers.

In the bill I introduced, psychological harassment is defined in clause 2. It means any behaviour that affects a person's dignity, is vexatious, discredits, humiliates or intimidates the person, interferes with their work, or takes the form of abuse or threats. It also includes any instance where a person feels mistreated, threatened, intimidated or abused in their work environment by vicious rumours, swear words or abusive language.

Such violence in the workplace is due to a combination of factors, including the individual in question, of course, the work environment and work organization. In talking about psychological violence, we are dealing with human beings whose behaviour and reactions are affected by changes and the work climate. Globalization, with all the changes it is bringing about, is coming really close to constituting psychological violence. It is creating added stress, with everyone trying to hold on to their jobs, going as far as discrediting someone else, if need be.

There is a thin line between management and harassment. It is difficult to know whether there is intimidation or violence in the workplace. Numerous studies show that the difference between efficient management and psychological violence is extremely subtle.

However, objective comments designed to provide constructive feedback are generally not considered as psychological violence or intimidation, but rather as tools to help employees improve their performance.

In light of this, it is essential that any harassment complaint be processed expeditiously by a qualified person.

The bill essentially draws on the existing policy. I repeat, the bill essentially draws on the existing policy. It is not that we or I oppose the policy, but it is full of holes, like Swiss cheese. It has no teeth and does not provide victims with any protection.

The bill draws on the policy, adding, in subclause 4 of clause 3, the requirement of due diligence, so that complaints are dealt with quickly. Likewise, clause 5 provides that a person will act as commissioner for the prevention of harassment in the workplace. This person should be disinterested and neutral, someone, who, because of his or her expertise and experience, knowledge of psychological harassment, may appoint, as indicated in clause 8, persons knowledgeable about this problem, to a psychological harassment complaints committee. He or she can deal with complaints, decide and order action so justice may be served. Corrective measures must be taken, and various forms of compensation put forward to ensure the victims receive justice. Subclause 2 of clause 17 gives the commissioner this latitude.

In order to ensure the impartiality of the process, the bill includes in the committee a representative of the union and of the employer. They are included because they are required under existing labour legislation to represent the victim employee. I refer here to the union. They are also included because they have a responsibility to provide employees with a workplace free of harassment. I refer to the employer.

Furthermore, as both are responsible in part for the climate of work in an organization, it is a good idea to include both in the committee. Clause 18 of the bill requires the commissioner to report to Parliament his or her activities arising from the application of this legislation. It is vital to have this independent official report to Parliament. His or her credibility and effectiveness depend on it.

It must be remembered too that parliamentarians are accountable for government's management to the public. So they should know what goes on and how employees are treated.

The bill will also help employees who are victims of harassment by enabling them to protect their health as well as their rights. While awaiting acknowledgement of the merits of their complaint by the committee, employees will be able to file a grievance or take any other recourse provided by federal statute or other legislation in effect in Canada.

Thus, any other employee witnessing a situation of psychological harassment will be required to report the situation so as not to be an accomplice to it.

Psychological harassment is a moral destruction process that can lead to mental illness or suicide. It is a serious behaviour that needs to be dealt with very quickly and cannot be ignored. This is why, under clauses 3(4) and 3(5) of the bill, any manager or supervisor who is aware of such behaviour and does not take appropriate action is liable to criminal prosecution and to a fine.

Finally, the bill amends section 15.1 of the Canada Labour Code to prohibit acts of psychological harassment and thus protect all Canadian workers employed by Crown corporations or Canadian businesses and governed by the Code.

The bill I put forward today is not a partisan bill. I want to make it clear that it is the product of consultations with a wide group of employees who have been victims of psychological harassment, whom I met on several occasions and who helped me draft it with House staff, as well as unions that want to improve the work environment within organizations.

In closing, I will say that, according to the International Labour Office, Canada is fifth among countries where psychological harassment in the workplace is most frequent. Only France and Belgium have dared propose legislation in that regard. If this bill were adopted, we would be the third country in the world to have such legislation. We would be a leader in the protection of workers' rights. Canadian workers would be guaranteed fair and equitable treatment.

What I am asking my colleagues in the House is to pass the bill at second reading so it can be considered in committee and so I can call as witnesses all the employees from all the departments who have to deal with psychological harassment.

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I congratulate the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville, who worked really hard to come up with Bill C-360, which is now before us. I also invite hon. members to read the report that she produced. It is very interesting. It explains what psychological harassment is about, and what its consequences are on the health of the victim and on his or her environment.

My colleague is very determined to defend this bill, and I support her initiative. I also congratulate her, because it is very important to pass this kind of legislation to help victims of psychological harassment. Psychological harassment is bad, insidious, and it often leads to physical harassment when women are victims of spousal abuse. This cycle often begins with psychological harassment. Consequently, there is no place for this type of harassment, particularly in those institutions that are governed by the Canada Labour Code.

I have a question for my colleague. Earlier, she told us about the federal policy that currently exists and that should deal with psychological harassment. She said that this policy is like Swiss cheese, in that it is full of holes.

I wonder if she could elaborate on that policy. How is it flawed and why are we not able to prevent psychological harassment in federal institutions?

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Drummond. She is right. Since the year 2000, when I became a member of Parliament, people have come to me to report cases of psychological harassment. I have several federal institutions in my area. Obviously, it was through the people who work there that I got interested in this issue of psychological harassment. I have used all the means I could to uphold the rights of the victims whose harassment has been recognized by the institution, but who have yet to win their case.

As I said, the policy is as full of holes as a Swiss cheese. The Treasury Board has used it as an incentive to encourage federal managers to try to prevent psychological harassment. This is not a bad idea. It has many positive aspects. But the managers use it however they please.

Earlier, I provided figures on the departments that do or do not implement this policy and on those that have their own. This does not make sense. There is a lack of consistency. The manager is the one who decides whether there is psychological harassment. In all the cases I mentioned earlier, and in all departments, it turned out that it was the manager who was guilty of harassment.

That being said, there is no other legislation to help people who have been waiting for a decision for five or six years. Only one aggrieved employee, Joanna Gualtieri, has received compensation of $8 million from the government, once her complaint was recognized. But the others cannot fend for themselves. With legislation, though, we could help them, and justice could be done.

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to join in the debate today on Bill C-360, which is an act to prevent psychological harassment in the workplace and to amend the Canada Labour Code.

The member opposite has identified an issue that is also of concern to us on this side of the House. The government and other stakeholders in federal jurisdictions have increasingly focused attention on issues surrounding the workplace environment, both physical and psychological.

Harassment in the workplace, how to identify it, how to control it and how to respond when it does occur, is an issue that officials in the labour program of the ministry take very seriously and it is something the government monitors closely. We have always been firmly committed to creating work environments where all employees are treated with respect and dignity all the time. We are working on a number of fronts to meet those objectives.

I will begin with some background.

As members of the House will recall, there are three parts of the Canada Labour Code. Part I deals with industrial relations matters such as union organizing, collective bargaining, mediation, conciliation, and so on. Part II deals with health and safety. Part III deals with employment standards, such as vacation entitlements, family benefits like parental leave, and also deals with the subject of sexual harassment.

Bill C-360 proposes some changes to part III of the Canada Labour Code. As I mentioned, part III already has provisions concerning sexual harassment. Employers are required to ensure that employees are not subject to sexual harassment. They are also required, after consultation with employees or their representatives, to issue and post a policy statement concerning sexual harassment. Bill C-360 would add psychological harassment to these requirements. However, this proposal may be premature.

Part III of the code is currently the subject of a comprehensive independent review. In addition, the bill is put forward as an attempt to deal with psychological harassment for federal civil servants, but part III of the code does not apply to the public service and is therefore not an appropriate instrument to respond to this issue.

Given that the target group of Bill C-360 is the federal public service, it is important to note that the Treasury Board already has policies in place regarding workplace harassment. In fact the Treasury Board introduced a policy to protect its employees from harassment more than 20 years ago. At that time it was the first employer in Canada to include personal harassment and abuse of authority as forms of harassment in its policies.

Beyond the central agencies, crown corporations are able to introduce their own programs on workplace harassment. The fact is that Canada's public sector is already doing a great deal to prevent and to protect its employees from workplace harassment. My colleagues will provide more information on measures that the Government of Canada has in place to ensure its workplaces are free of harassment. That will happen perhaps later in this debate, but let me return to the Canada Labour Code.

We believe the proper way to amend a complex piece of legislation such as that is through a comprehensive and holistic review with careful, extensive consultations with representatives of employers and employees. The Canada Labour Code is an important piece of legislation. Part III establishes basic working conditions and promotes fair, stable and cooperative workplaces while maintaining workplace flexibility.

If members recall, last December the Minister of Labour announced a major review of part III of the code through an independent commission led by Harry W. Arthurs. This review, which follows earlier reviews of parts I and II of the code, is now under way. Since the review is expected to produce proposals for legislative changes to part III, it would not be timely to move ahead with ad hoc changes as Bill C-360 proposes. Conversely, there are many reasons why it was timely to undertake a review of part III. In fact this section of the code has not had a comprehensive review for nearly 40 years.

The current review of part III will deal with the changing nature of work, the knowledge based economy and the need for extensive learning in the workplace. It recognizes the intensity of competition in the global marketplace with increased pressures on workplace productivity and responsiveness.

The review will also look at new forms of workplace structures and new forms of employment relationships, including work-life balance and the need to accommodate evolving family structures. Demographic issues like the aging of the workforce and increasing diversity will also be addressed.

In order to understand this broad context, Commissioner Arthurs has launched a very wide-ranging series of research projects, which will be made public.

Commissioner Arthurs wants to hear what Canadians have to say. They are invited to present their views on these issues as well as any other relevant issue. Persons making submissions are encouraged to take into account the impact of their recommendations on workers and their families, employers, communities and the Canadian economy as well.

It is expected that Commissioner Arthurs will present his report to the minister by early 2006. Assisting the commissioner is a panel of experts and special representatives of business and labour. We have asked Commissioner Arthurs to work toward a consensus on recommendations to the extent possible. I view the consultations and consensus building dimension of the commissioner's work to be extremely important.

Let us not forget that in other jurisdictions there is similar concern for the well-being of workers. As the member opposite has stated, legislation on psychological harassment was brought into effect in Quebec in June 2004. This was the first such legislation enacted in North America. The new legislation is being reviewed and an evaluation report is due to be published in 2006. We will review the report for information and monitor the Quebec experience closely.

The government is engaged on a number of fronts to address the kind of issues that Bill C-360 raises. Those of us on this side of the House are concerned about the implications of these developments as anyone else.

We on this side of the House commend the member opposite for bringing this matter to the House. We are equally interested in addressing these issues. However, because of the current review of Commissioner Arthurs and the other technical circumstances I outlined earlier, the bill may have difficulty securing sufficient support among members of the House.

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

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.

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

NDP

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 / 6:10 p.m.

Bloc

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

6:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped from the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Adjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Madam Speaker, I wish to avail myself of this opportunity to reiterate my position toward the standpoint of the British Crown in relation to the deportation of the Acadians, which happened in the middle of the 18th century, as well as the apparent laissez-faire of the current Canadian government on this issue.

At the outset, I would like to state, just as the Minister of Canadian Heritage did, that the Royal Proclamation of December 9, 2003 is a historical gesture that was welcome. However, whereas the government seems to feel that it is sufficient, that it is now time to turn the page, to take the next call, I am with those who argue otherwise. Although I have said so many times in this House, allow me to state it again.

It is not incumbent on Canada, nor even on the Canadian crown, to apologize or, simply, to acknowledge the harm inflicted on the Acadian people due to the deportation, as Canada as we know it today did not yet exist when the horrors the Acadians had to endure were perpetrated.

It is the authority on behalf of which these reprehensible acts were perpetrated, namely the British Crown—this same authority that must at least accept the moral responsibility for these tragic events—that has to do what needs to be done in these circumstances. This solemn act must not be performed by the Governor General of Canada, but by the Queen herself.

In that regard, Her Majesty made an official visit to Canada a few days ago. Since she does not come to our country very often, would it not have been possible for her to add a short stop on Acadian soil to her visits to Saskatchewan and Alberta? I am sure it would have.

However, it is obvious that the government chose to turn a deaf ear to the pressing demands from many stakeholders asking that the British Crown recognize the prejudice caused to the Acadian people during these terrible events, which destroyed the lives of thousands of innocent people. Instead, the government decided that all the focus had to be on one presumably happy chapter in Canadian history, namely the 100th anniversary of the entry of two provinces into the Canadian federation, thus avoiding subjecting the Queen to a darker, less glorious anniversary, but one just as important in the history of the peoples who built Canada and the entire American continent, namely the 250th anniversary of the deportation of Acadians by British authorities.

Interestingly enough, this anniversary seems important enough that Canadian Heritage is funding activities to recognize it, but not enough to bring it to the attention of the British Crown, on behalf of which these acts were committed, making this sad commemoration necessary today.

The minister should agree with me that it would have been logistically easy and humanly beneficial to put this side trip on Her Majesty's agenda. It would undoubtedly have been disturbing for the Crown, but so much hoped for, noble and significant for all Acadians, including for the descendants of those unfortunate people who were deported and scattered here and there around the world.

It would have been so simple for the sovereign of both Canada and the United Kingdom to espouse the terms of the Canadian royal proclamation and to recognize, in her capacity as the British Crown, that a reprehensible and highly cruel act was committed against some of the subjects of one of her predecessors, in flagrant violation of the provisions of the Magna Carta .

Let us keep in mind that those who were deprived of their property and forced into ramshackle boats, while their homes were torched before their very eyes, were essentially resourceful farmers who only wanted to live in peace in North America.

Did we just miss that long awaited historical opportunity? I am afraid so. However, I still believe that, if the Minister of Canadian Heritage and this government would put as much effort into pleading this noble cause before their sovereign as they do to clinging to power and defending their forever tainted integrity, Her Majesty, who is said to be very wise, would certainly grant this humble request from her loyal subjects.

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Adjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca
B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, it is well known that the 18th century expulsion of Acadians from their land was an extremely sad and tragic event in the history of our great country. The story of the expulsion and indeed the survival and courage shown by Acadians at that time is well known. It attests to their courage and extraordinary qualities they displayed at the time and continue to display to this day. They survived because of their perseverance against incredible odds.

It was for this very reason that the Government of Canada proceeded with the signing of a royal proclamation in December 2003, a document that quite properly and eloquently spoke of the suffering and the loss sustained by those Acadians banished from their homeland. To further honour and commemorate this event, the government also designated July 28 as the official day of commemoration.

The member from the Bloc Québécois is clearly not satisfied that the Queen did not go to the east coast. I want to draw the member's attention to the fact that it is not the Government of Canada that controls the Queen's agenda. The Queen controls her own agenda. The Government of Canada along with the provinces and territories all work together to give her the opportunity to visit places we would like her to see. She has in the past visited Atlantic Canada.

I would also like to draw to the attention of the House the fact that the Queen and His Royal Highness marked the centenary of the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. The Queen and the Duke joined western Canadians in celebrating this very important event that spoke to the spirit of the nation builders in that part of our great country: aboriginal peoples, fur traders, the Métis, the Northwest Mounted Police, railway workers, and thousands of immigrants who made the west strong and indeed Canada strong.

For the member's edification, the invitation that was forwarded to Buckingham Palace was sent in January 2000 by the Governor General at the request of the Prime Minister. Given the many demands made on the Queen's time, we should give her a great vote of thanks for taking the time to come and enjoy these celebrations that commemorated the centenary of Saskatchewan and Alberta.

The planning of the 2005 visit has been ongoing since 2003. It was only in September 2004 that the final itinerary was put together. It is important to mention something else. The Queen also visited our country during her Golden Jubilee in 2002. At that time she visited Nunavut, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick.

I do not think anything will satisfy members across the way. Rather than carping and whining about the Queen, they should be thanking the Government of Canada for what it has done to rightly honour the great sacrifices the Acadian people made historically and to honour them as being an incredible and extraordinary part of the history of our country. They should also thank the Queen for coming to Canada to celebrate the centenary of Alberta and Saskatchewan.