House of Commons Hansard #129 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was defence.

Topics

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has made two important points.

One is that any party which intends to oppose Bill C-25 in the end should consider seriously some of the implications of what it can do to help our environment and the military. That is certainly critical. On the other hand, if any political party in the House or any individual in the House sees flaws in the legislation, they should not allow the legislation to be rushed through the House as it is simply because it is something that is good for the country. Each one of us has a responsibility to make any change we feel is necessary to make it a better piece of legislation.

Right now the New Democratic Party is opposing the bill. The NDP members have some serious questions. They also have some questions that I am not sure are that serious. On the other hand, the government has allowed the NDP to prop up the Liberal government for almost a year. Anything negative the member would say about the New Democratic Party, he should be aware that is the party that has propped up the government day after day, week after week. I say the shame is on the government, on the member and his party, if they continue to allow that to happen.

In the military area there is no end to the possibilities. It will be useful. However, I do not want to give the impression that this legislation is primarily to deal with military activities. It is to deal with security, but certainly security also includes natural disasters and those types of thing.

It is interesting that the member asked about the defence possibilities. His government has failed our military. The government has failed this country when it comes to providing security through the military for the 12 years the Liberals have been in office. That is clear. For the member to stand up and say to support this bill because of what it will do for the military is somewhat contradictory.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Wajid Khan Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today in support of Bill C-25.

Support for Bill C-25 has been expressed in terms of different ministerial mandates. In lending support for the bill, I will primarily focus on how it promotes the foreign policy interests of the Government of Canada. I will conclude with some thoughts on why this bill is good for Canadians, good for Canada and good for our international relations.

Before I do that, let me explain how it came to pass that the Minister of Foreign Affairs became the administrator of this bill. This will link the benefits of Canada's foreign policy with the reasoning behind certain provisions of the bill.

Outer space is a domain that borders every nation. Look up from anywhere on earth and outer space is only 200 kilometres or so above our heads. That is approximately the distance between Ottawa and Montreal. Activities that occur in outer space, for good or ill, affect all nations.

It was not long after Sputnik was launched in 1957 that the international community turned its attention to outer space. United Nations resolutions soon began to express the determination that outer space would be used only for peaceful purposes. Certainly military uses of space are consistent with these principles, but not all of them.

Eventually this diplomatic activity culminated in the adoption of the 1967 outer space treaty. The outer space treaty enshrined the international responsibility of states for the activities of their nationals in outer space. States also agreed to ban weapons of mass destruction from this sphere. Canada was an original signatory to that treaty, the Magna Carta for outer space, based on the conviction that winning battles through law was superior to winning by force.

This is the approach taken in the remote sensing space systems act before us today. Reflecting its international obligations, Canada would license remote sensing space systems controlled from within Canada. We would also license the activities of Canadians and corporations in the field, no matter where they chose to establish operations.

This last requirement to cover the activity of Canadians abroad is not unusual in outer space matters, since remote sensing satellites can be operated from any place in the world. The Outer Space Act 1986 of the United Kingdom and the Land Remote Sensing Policy Act of 1992 of the United States impose licensing requirements on U.K. and U.S. citizens respectively, even when they may conduct operations from sites in other legal jurisdictions.

These requirements may, however, result in a multiplicity of states asserting jurisdiction over the same activities by the same person. To resolve such competing claims of jurisdiction requires the coordination of the foreign ministries of space-faring nations and may ultimately result in the need for formal arrangements among them. This is the responsibility of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The proposed remote sensing space systems act that is before us today asserts a broad jurisdiction. It also, however, grants the Minister of Foreign Affairs the power to resolve competing claims of jurisdiction by a ministerial order of exemption.

Under the act, the Minister of Foreign Affairs could exempt persons, systems or data if he or she was satisfied with such a step. The exemption must not be injurious to national security, to the defence of Canada, to the safety of Canadian Forces or to Canada's conduct of international relations. It must not be inconsistent with Canada's international obligations. As well, adequate provision must be made for the protection of the environment, public health, and the safety of persons and property as well as the interests of provinces.

To ensure that Canada maintains jurisdiction over any remote sensing satellite that it has licensed, the proposed act requires that the licensee maintain direct control of the satellite from within Canada. This ensures that the government has the ability to guarantee compliance with the provisions of the licence by keeping satellite command operations within its territorial jurisdiction.

At the same time, a licence would be required for all remote sensing satellites controlled from Canada, regardless of domestic or foreign ownership, and a licensee or former licensee may not transfer control of the licensed satellite without the approval of the minister. This provision ensures that sensitive technology embodied in a remote sensing satellite, once in orbit, cannot be transferred to a foreign person at odds with Canada's security, defence and foreign policy interests. In that regard, the act before this House would be comparable to Canada's Export and Import Permits Act.

By this approach, the bill reflects a favourable attitude toward foreign investment in Canada's high technology industry as long as our security interests are protected. That in turn means jobs for Canadians and opportunities for our own businesses.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs is well positioned to help Canadians compete, prosper and make a success of the most international of all activities: outer space. The minister's mandate combines an international security responsibility on the one hand and the responsibility to promote the national prosperity of Canadians on the other.

During the debate on Bill C-25, we heard about the defence interests in regulating remote sensing space systems in Canada. We were also informed about the socio-economic benefits of regulation of the Canadian remote sensing space industry.

Let me assure my colleagues that under the proposed act it would be an important part of the Minister of Foreign Affairs' job to weigh the risks and the benefits of granting a licence, and under what conditions, with the goal of striking a right balance: to encourage Canada's technological development and economic prosperity while at the same time safeguarding our security through smart regulations.

Certain states have implemented similar legislation to regulate remote sensing systems. We propose to join the vanguard of that cause. Other nations will also be following us. With foresight, we lead others to a world view that supports the peaceful use of outer space and all its aspects, a world view that establishes the rule of law and justice on the new high frontier, a world view that permits all nations to enjoy equitably the benefits of the peaceful use of outer space, benefits for international peace and security and benefits for economic development and prosperity.

The bill is also important in terms of our relationship with the United States. Canada's decision to control its own remote sensing satellites, announced in June of 1999, enabled Canada and the U.S. to come to a common understanding concerning the operation of commercial remote sensing satellites, an understanding codified in a treaty signed in June 2000. This treaty aims to ensure that commercial remote sensing satellite systems will be controlled in each country so as to protect shared national security and foreign policy interests, while simultaneously promoting the commercial benefits to be derived from these systems.

Today we can conclude a process to honour the commitments made under that very treaty. I urge my colleagues to pass this bill at the earliest opportunity so that Canada's deeds are shown to be as good as its words.

Before closing, I want to touch on one or two additional aspects of the bill that relate directly to the Minister of Foreign Affairs' mandate. Let me begin with the minister's powers to interrupt normal commercial service.

No one wants to cause their friends and allies harm by act or omission, hence the provision in the act granting the Minister of Foreign Affairs the power to interrupt normal service, to invoke “shutter control” on a Canadian satellite to assist another state. Shutter control is a power designed for use primarily to protect our own national interests under the most serious of circumstances, but it is also an important element in protecting both valuable alliances and shared interests.

The case is similar with respect to granting the Minister of Foreign Affairs the power to order priority access service in the interests of conducting Canada's international relations. In this regard, we can, for example, foresee the need to assist another state or the United Nations urgently in dealing with a humanitarian emergency. By way of example, it is worth remembering the benefits of Canadian RADARSAT-1 technology in supporting Canada's foreign policy interests during the Rwandan crisis and in responding to the recent tsunami tragedy in South Asia.

Let me conclude by reiterating the core rationale for the bill. The House should adopt the remote sensing space systems act because it is better to provide a smart regulatory framework for these remote sensing satellite systems than to risk injury to Canada's national security, national defence or foreign policy.

We should pass this bill to fulfill Canada's international obligations to regulate the outer space activities of its nationals.

We should pass this bill to ensure that Canadian companies can lead in the provision of remote sensing space technology and services through the establishment of a clear regulatory framework that can attract investment, technology and markets.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville has raised a number of important issues in a very lengthy speech. He has detailed far more than I could have detailed in my speech. There is a lot to say on this issue. Given that the hour is now 1:29 and a half and I have a couple of questions I would like to ask of this member but they will take a lot longer and we will probably be thrown into next week, I wonder if I could seek the consent of the House to have the clock seen as 1:30. I believe it is now 1:30 at this point.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Whether the member has unanimous consent or not, his point of order is a bit irrelevant at this point because it is now 1:30. He has been successful in indirectly taking up the time he wanted to take up.

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business, as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from June 2 consideration of the motion that Bill C-360, An Act to prevent psychological harassment in the workplace and to amend the Canada Labour Code, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to this private member's bill.

First I would like to inform the House that I feel very strongly that psychological harassment anywhere, in the workplace or at home, is harmful and should not be tolerated.

Parliament has a duty to identify weaknesses, cracks in our various systems, debate the options to plug those cracks, shore up those weak areas and find protection for all Canadians. In that, I support the intent of the bill, but I cannot support the bill in its present state. To be effective in protecting workers, the bill requires further amendment, I believe, and far more study. As it is, it falls short of what I believe is ultimately a very worthy objective for us in the House to achieve. We are not there yet with this bill.

As well, I cannot support the bill at this time. The bill is virtually a carbon copy, a cut and paste piece of legislation, of what has been implemented in the province of Quebec. That legislation is young. As such, there has not been sufficient time for full input. Further, I am concerned by the idea that a piece of legislation which may or may not be working for a province would, by simple extension, work for a nation.

This private member's bill needs more time for input. In fact, I have a concern that the entire issue of psychological harassment is a much more complex issue than private member's legislation can deal with.

Stress and harassment are difficult to define. Many would agree that they have wide-ranging definitions and can be subject to individual personalities. What is harassment to one person may be jovial play to another. What causes one person stress in the workplace may not for another. Even timing or a particular day can influence one's interpretation.

In fact, stress can be both positive and negative. This fact alone suggests that the issue needs substantial debate from a variety of stakeholders before it should be ruled into law. I do not believe this can happen in the context of a private member's bill. This issue is a valuable one and a worthy one and, as such, we are obligated to address it here in the House formally and fully.

With respect to the issue of what defines harassment, my son and I have a unique and genuine relationship. We have built decks together, we have renovated and landscaped and have done many other work-related projects together. My son continually poking me or tough-talking me while I work is fun; in fact, on some level it is relationship building. Yet an hour later, it may not be that much fun. For me, the same act with the same intent can be received differently simply due to the passage of time or another circumstance, perhaps the pressing nature of my work that day or that particular evening.

How do we define or identify stress? Violence is a physical stress. That of course is a form of harassment that is reasonably easy to identify. If we hit someone or bruise them or cause them to bleed, that is reasonably easy to identify and quantify and, as such, it reasonably easy to teach people to stop it. Chemical stress, which is the exposure to negative agents, is also easy to identify, with respect, of course, to which agents one would be exposed to. As such, we can teach employers and employees to protect each other against exposure.

Stress in the form of sexual harassment or on a broader but no less serious front is much harder to identify, much more difficult to quantify and, as such, much more difficult to teach how to avoid. If we cannot offer employers and employees, and of course our courts, better parameters—and we cannot do that at this point in time—then we risk causing more harm than good.

There are obvious kinds of psychological harassment, such as yelling, swearing, teasing someone or criticizing them with respect to their appearance or dress. Of course these are obvious, but what about the less obvious forms of so-called psychological harassment?

Let me offer a very simple example of just how harassment and stress can cause completely different reactions and yet come from exactly the same stimulus. Let us picture a doctor who walks into each of three treatment rooms and says exactly the same thing to three separate patients.

In room one is a 14 year old female whose father, a hard-working construction man, waits in the waiting room for his daughter. In room two is a 28 year old female who has been married for just three years. Her young husband waits anxiously with the girl's father. In room three is a 78 year old female diabetic who is without a father or a husband.

The doctor walks in and says, “Congratulations, you're pregnant”. The 14 year old bursts into tears and, knowing she will have to tell her father, her anxiety peaks. The 28 year old jumps for joy at the news, runs into the waiting room and tells her waiting husband. The poor woman in room three falls off the table and succumbs to a heart attack.

I do not mean to make light of a very serious issue. I only give a light-hearted example of how difficult it is to identify what constitutes stress and, by extension, what will constitute harassment. It would be very difficult to assign parameters without full, complete and certainly further study. If we do not do our jobs here in the House, we risk adding to the problem.

Let us imagine for a moment—

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville on a point of order.

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I introduced a bill on psychological harassment and not on stress. I would appreciate if, out of respect for me, members could stay on the subject of psychological harassment—

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The hon. member for Cambridge.

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would inform the hon. member that my background is in health care. I can assure the hon. member that stress and harassment are one and the same.

If we do not do our jobs here in the House, we risk adding to the problem. Let us imagine for a moment the psychological stress, the harassment that causes stress, that we would cause for an accused individual, who may or may not be justifiably accused of psychological harassment, if we do not identify the clear and objective parameters that define psychological harassment. In an attempt to protect one worker from being harassed, we cannot permit the risk of another worker being harassed simply because we failed to do our full job.

I admire the member's efforts. I support the work of the member in attempting to improve the protection of Canadian workers, but I regret that until we are fully able to study this abstract issue, to fully understand the effect of such legislation on a national level, I cannot in good conscience leave employers and fellow employees open for target practice simply because we did not take the time to do the job we were elected to do.

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Russ Powers Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have a policy to prevent harassment in the Public Service of Canada. It defines harassment as any improper conduct by an individual that is directed at and offensive to another person or persons in the workplace and that the individual knew or ought reasonably to have known would cause offence or harm. It comprises any objectionable act, comment or display that demeans, belittles or causes personal humiliation or embarrassment and any act of intimidation or threat. It includes harassment within the meaning of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Our goal is to eliminate harassment from the workplace. There is no place at all for harassment of any type in any work setting, period. The key to achieving this is the creation of a positive working environment where any interpersonal conflict is managed early and well. The Public Service of Canada has been successful in reducing sexual harassment significantly and our efforts to eliminate other forms of harassment will be equally fruitful.

We take the problem very seriously and we are trying to deal with it from every possible angle. Harassment cases are often very complex and not easy to identify and solve. Our approach aims not only at helping employees who are victims of harassment, but creating a healthy working environment for everybody.

In fact, through the Public Service Modernization Act and our other important initiatives, the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada aims to provide the leadership and the focus needed to foster and sustain modern, effective, results-driven people management and leadership across the public service. Through excellence in HR management, the agency's ultimate goal is to enable public service organizations to deliver quality services to Canadians while upholding the values of integrity, transparency and accountability.

A fundamental component of this broad agenda is the development of government-wide leadership to support a strong culture of public service values and ethics. The Office of Public Service Values and Ethics was created to provide authoritative, high level leadership to the public service on values and ethics at a critical time.

In our responsibilities for dealing with harassment, we have focused on prevention and early resolution, and we have taken steps to increase awareness of harassment dynamics. Among other things, we continue to hold workshops in conjunction with the unions and we regularly meet with departmental coordinators for the prevention and resolution of harassment.

As well, we designed a practical online course on the prevention and resolution of harassment. This online course is accessible and free to all public servants. It is based on the key people and ethical values conveyed in the new Values and Ethics Code for the Public Service that came into effect September 1, 2003. Respect, diversity, integrity and responsibility are the key elements of that code.

The Values and Ethics Code sets forth the values and ethics of public service, to guide and support public servants in all their professional activities. Of the four families of values in public service, the cornerstone is people values; that public servants demonstrate respect, fairness and courtesy in their dealings with both citizens and their fellow public servants. We believe that respect for human dignity and the value of every person should always inspire the exercise of authority and responsibilities, and that people's values reinforce the wider range of public service values. Those who are treated with fairness and civility will be motivated to display these values in their own conduct and in return.

Adherence to the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Service is a condition of a public servant's employment. There are various ways in which a public servant can bring forward complaints about breaches of the code and many avenues for these situations to be resolved. They have the support of their unions through grievance processes. Concerns about wrongdoings can be made to either their internal disclosure office or to the public service integrity officer. Harassment complaints are managed through departmental specialists. Those who are found to be in breach of the code, to have committed a wrongdoing or to have committed harassment are subject to discipline up to and including the termination of employment.

We are aware of the critical role that managers and leaders play in developing harassment-free workplaces. We offer expert advice to managers at all levels on how to address difficult and problem situations before they escalate into harassment situations. Further, we are working to continuously improve the harassment policy and, most critically, its implementation in the departments.

The last policy update goes back to 2001.

It is now the subject of a major review in cooperation with employees, managers, experts and bargaining officers. The objective is to better understand and deal with the circumstances leading to harassment so that we can improve the success of our prevention efforts and so that we can resolve harassment cases more efficiently and more rapidly when they arise.

One new and successful method for leading improvements in departments is the management accountability framework, MAF, which sets out the expectations for sound management in the public service. Expectations are framed in relation to, among other things, people values. With the use of clear indicators, the MAF provides public service managers with a comprehensive and integrated model for assessing process and progress, and measuring results in departments and agencies, as well as strengthening accountability at all levels across government. In other words, not only is creating a healthy workplace for all an established goal, we will measure our progress toward achieving it.

In addition, each department and agency is now required to establish systems to ensure that employees at all levels have access to informal conflict management, ICM, assistance. The mandatory requirement for ICM represents an integral part of the new labour relations regime and a public service-wide availability. The use of ICM is expected to revolutionize the manner in which complaints are dealt with in most organizations. ICM is seen as the driver of cultural change in the workplace.

Informal conflict resolution is a vital method for bringing about the desired new HR management culture, ensuring departments or agencies in the core public administration will have a tailored system in place that enables and supports the informal resolution of workplace conflict rather than strictly adhering to formal redress mechanisms.

In short, we are working to ensure that managers are better equipped with people management skills, such as conflict resolution, facilitation, mediation, conciliation and coaching skills and that employees benefit from access to a wide range of options for dealing with workplace conflict.

We believe that the elimination of harassment depends on the commitment and cooperation of everybody in the workplace. We want our employees to feel free to raise issues without fear of harassment so that the problems can be resolved inside the organization. That objective is also in line with the professional and democratic values enunciated in the Code.

I am proud of the quality of service our employees provide to Canadians. Our public service is a dynamic organization that is continually renewing itself to maintain those high standards of service. It is understood that we can never take our achievements for granted. In this broader context we are placing a greater emphasis on accountability. Senior managers of some departments are being assessed on the basis of our new management accountability framework which is designed to enhance general management performance, including reduction of harassment in the workplace.

In conclusion, our commitment to values and ethics in support of respectful workplaces has been shaping our overall approach. We intend to build our capacity to make ethical decisions in everyday dealings and transactions. We have a new code and a lot of work is being done in departments to weave values and ethics into every aspect of work reality.

Departments are also reviewing their harassment prevention and resolution processes to improve rigour and credibility. We are confident that we are making progress and the numbers will show this progress in the future.

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

September 30th, 2005 / 1:50 p.m.

NDP

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

2 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Drummond.

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Bloc

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

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

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.