Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to speak to Bill C-65, an important bill dealing with harassment in the federal workplace. It is important to understand that this bill did not come out when it did by pure coincidence. For context, I will recount some of the incidents that happened around the time the bill came out.
All members of the House will, I am sure, remember that the #MeToo movement touched a wide segment of society around the world last autumn. Then in January, just before the House sat, we had a number of revelations within Canadian political circles as well. One of them affected the Liberal government. Allegations about misconduct, about a decade ago, by the hon. member for Calgary Centre were made known. At that time he was the minister of sport and persons with disabilities. However, that did not continue because he was asked to leave the cabinet, and a secret investigation was launched later.
I do not cite these facts to be disrespectful or rude toward the hon. member. This is important context that will help to explain the Prime Minister's many quotable statements during this narrow window of time. For example, as news of the former minister's past actions were being reported, the Prime Minister, then at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, said:
We must each have a well-understood, established process in place to file allegations of workplace harassment. And when we receive those complaints, we must take them seriously.
As women speak up, it is our responsibility to listen, and more importantly, to believe.
Those were the Prime Minister's words. That is quite clearly the government's policy as well.
It is not just the words in the Prime Minister's speech that matter, but establishing a complaints process, including in our own offices on Parliament Hill, that is very much at the heart of Bill C-65.
Upon his return to Canada, the Prime Minister said days later to the the CBC, “The standard applies to everyone. There is no context in which someone doesn’t have responsibility for things they’ve done in the past.” Therefore, it is quite clear. As I mentioned earlier, a wave of revelations and probing questions were sweeping Parliament Hill that week. That is why it is not at all surprising that the CBC would, in that same interview with the Prime Minister, quiz him about his own past. When asked, the Prime Minister answered, “I've been very, very careful all my life to be thoughtful, to be respectful of people's space and people's headspace as well”.
Therefore, the Prime Minister laid down the law about sexual harassment and misconduct allegations when he stated that we should always: one, believe complainants; two, hear out retrospective complaints, without time limit; three, apply one standard to all; and four, do not worry, just know that he is squeaky clean, apparently.
With respect to this final point, it turns out that there were previous allegations of impropriety made against the Prime Minister that surfaced. Late this spring, copies of the Creston Valley Advance from August 2000 surfaced. An editorial, penned by a reporter on staff, informed readers, “I’m sorry. If I had known you were reporting for a national paper, I never would have been so forward.” Those were the words spoken to an Advance reporter by the son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau on August 4. He, the now prime minister, was in Creston to celebrate the Kokanee Summit festival, put on by Columbia Brewery. He apologized a day late for inappropriately handling the reporter while she was on assignment not only for the Advance, but also for the National Post and Vancouver Sun.
The editorial went on to say:
shouldn't the son of a former prime minister be aware of the rights and wrongs that go along with public socializing? ...Didn't he learn, through his vast experiences in public life, that groping a strange young woman isn't in the handbook of proper etiquette regardless of who she is, what her business is, or where they are?
“Groping” is her word not mine.
Applying the edict from the Prime Minister, I assume we are to believe her story that she was groped by the Prime Minister, disregard the date no matter how far back the complaint went, and apply the same standard that applies to the hon. members for Nunavut, Calgary Centre, and Calgary Skyview, which was removal from cabinet and/or the Liberal caucus. Is that not right?
Members will remember that things did not quite tum out as one would have expected based on the Prime Minister's own rules. Part of the problem was that the Canadian media paid virtually no attention to the groping allegations about the Prime Minister. If only they had given just a fraction of their coverage to this issue here in Canada as they did to the Kavanaugh story in the United States. However, that is wishful thinking.
Despite that, back in July, the Prime Minister went on record defending his groping by saying, “I had a good day; I don't remember any negative interactions that day at all.”
He said, “...I am confident—that I did not act inappropriately.... But part of this awakening that we're having as a society...is that it's not just one side of the story that matters”, and, “That the same interactions could be experienced very differently from one person to the next.”
The Prime Minister went on to say, “often a man experiences an interaction as being benign or not inappropriate and a woman, particularly in a professional context, can experience it differently and we have to respect that and reflect on it.”
To boil this all down, a simple phrase sums up the Prime Minister's words and deeds: Do as I say and not as I do. That catchphrase seems to describe a lot of what we see from the Liberal government. I am afraid it is playing itself out yet again in the area of sexual misconduct.
The Prime Minister, when he took the stage in Davos, said that having an established policy was crucial. His own government's legislation, which we are debating today, will entrench this expectation in federal labour law. However, we do not know what policies apply to the Prime Minister himself.
Earlier this autumn, I put some written questions on the Order Paper to get answers. Here is what I asked:
(a) what is the procedure when there is an accusation against the Prime Minister, including, (i) who decides if a complaint has merit and warrants an investigation; (ii) who conducts the investigation; (iii) does the individual conducting the investigation have the ability to recommend sanctions; (iv) are the recommended sanctions binding; (v) what is the policy regarding whether or not the reports and findings are released to the public; (vi) what mechanism, if any, exists for the temporary suspension of certain duties of the Prime Minister pending the outcome of an investigation; and (b) does the procedure...apply to incidents which occurred prior to the individual becoming Prime Minister?
Those are valid questions. Canadians deserve to know, this Parliament deserves to know, how the Prime Minister will be held accountable if there are past allegations of sexual misconduct. I have not had an answer back yet.
I would have thought that for something so near and dear to the Prime Minister's heart, the government would actually have had this already prepared and would have given me an answer immediately. Again, that was wishful thinking.
However, there is a deadline for a response to my question, so we should know, come mid-November, just what procedures are in place for Canada's Prime Minister. Maybe the government will even comply with what it expects of other Canadians in Bill C-65. This assumes, naturally, that the government actually answers the question, assuming that there is actually a policy, and assuming, of course, that Bill C-65 is not simply another case of Liberal's saying "do as I say and not as I do."
In closing, Canada's Conservatives support this legislation, as combatting harassment is a pressing need in all sectors of society, including in the Parliament of Canada. We believe that all forms of harassment, sexual violence and discrimination are unacceptable. That is why at committee, among other things, we, as Conservatives, successfully introduced an amendment to prevent political interference in political offices during harassment investigations.
We also successfully introduced amendments to ensure strict timelines for investigations into incidents of harassment to ensure that investigations are carried out in a timely manner.
I think we can all agree in this place that government policy needs to focus on supporting victims of harassment. This legislation is a positive step in that direction. We look forward to answers from the Prime Minister's Office in regard to the policies that are in place should there be allegations against the Prime Minister himself.
We support Bill C-65. We do want more answers. We expect more answers.