An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (harassment and violence), the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1


Patty Hajdu  Liberal


In committee (House), as of Jan. 29, 2018

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This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

Part 1 of this enactment amends the Canada Labour Code to strengthen the existing framework for the prevention of harassment and violence, including sexual harassment and sexual violence, in the work place.

Part 2 amends Part III of the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act with respect to the application of Part II of the Canada Labour Code to parliamentary employers and employees, without limiting in any way the powers, privileges and immunities of the Senate and the House of Commons and their members.

Part 3 amends a transitional provision in the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

January 29th, 2018 / noon
See context

Thunder Bay—Superior North Ontario


Patty Hajdu LiberalMinister of Employment

moved that Bill C-65, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (harassment and violence), the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today and speak to Bill C-65, introduced in November 2017. Bill C-65 demonstrates our government's commitment to eliminating harassment and violence in federal workplaces. We take this action because our government recognizes that safe workplaces, free of harassment and violence, are critical to the well-being of Canadian workers and critical to our agenda of a strong middle class. We have been powerfully reminded in Canada, and indeed around the world, that harassment and violence remain a common experience for people in the workplace; and Parliament Hill, our own workplace, is especially affected.

Parliament Hill features distinct power imbalances, which perpetuates a culture where people with a lot of power and prestige can use and have used that power to victimize the people who work so hard for us. It is a culture where people who are victims of harassment or sexual violence do not feel safe to bring those complaints forward. It is a place where these types of behaviours, abusive and harmful, are accepted and minimized and ignored. In fact, it is a place where often the victimized individual is blamed for the harassment that she herself has experienced. We are all familiar with this phrase: She brought it on herself. It is like many other workplaces across Canada, especially those that have distinct power imbalances and a lack of strong policy that protects employees from harm. As it stands right now, people who have been victims of harassment or violence do not have suitable options for having their complaints heard, nor do they have options for resolving these very serious and often traumatic events. If they do come forward, they are often unsupported to manage the complex or difficult situations that they face as a result of the harassment that they have experienced.

Time is up. Things need to change. It starts with saying emphatically that it is never okay. It is never okay for someone to take advantage of a position of power to victimize another person. It is never okay that victims—far too often women, or young workers, or people of colour, or people from the LGBTQ2 community—have been forced to stay silent and keep their trauma to themselves. This has to stop.

I have heard heart-breaking experiences from staff members in this workplace and across the federal sector who do not know where to go when they have been victimized; who, after having followed a process, have felt that they were not taken seriously; who were asked to try again with their abuser and to avoid being in a room alone with the offender. I have spoken with many who have said that, after complaining, they were shunned, that they did not feel safe setting boundaries for themselves, and that their job and their reputation were threatened by their abuser, often much older and certainly more powerful than they. I have, sadly, heard stories of significant trauma and anxiety and of people who have left workplaces—ours, in particular—because they were certain they would not have a resolution for the abuse they were experiencing.

In our workplace here on Parliament Hill, it is no coincidence that we have so many of these stories of harassment and violence. In fact, the volume of these stories is directly tied to the distinct power imbalances in our workplace, which I spoke of earlier. Therefore, it is clear that we need to create safe workplaces, including right here, so that everyone can thrive; and the first and most critical step we as a government and society must take is to support survivors. We need to believe the people who are coming forward. We need to demonstrate that we hear them, that we take them seriously, that we are their allies, and that we are committed to ending this behaviour.

The #MeToo and Time's Up movements have helped women and other survivors from around the world to bring their stories forward and shine a spotlight on harassment and sexual violence. It is our responsibility to ensure that the light does not fade. We have an opportunity to act and to end the need for women to say “me too” in the future. No woman or any person in Canada should ever have to say “me too” again. That is why we are taking action with legislation.

However, we also know that this problem is too large to solve with legislation alone. Creating safe workplaces, free of violence and harassment, will take all Canadians working together to ensure that we change a culture that does indeed tolerate this behaviour. To change an abusive culture, good leadership is critical. I am very proud to be part of a government that has been very clear that harassment and sexual violence will not be tolerated.

The Prime Minister has shown time and again that he is not afraid to take action when needed, and has clearly demonstrated that he is an ally to survivors. It is this kind of courageous leadership that sets expectations in workplaces and begins to shift power and balances. When leaders set the tone and the expectation that people are safe in their workplace, it empowers people to stand up and say that harassment and sexual violence is not okay. It empowers people to take action.

It is this kind of leadership that will break down the patriarchal culture in which we live; designed by men, for men. If we want more women to lead, to build, and to create in Canada, we have to ensure they are respected and safe. It is our job as a government to stand up for the rights of all Canadians, especially women, people of colour, and the LGBTQ2 community, often those people with the least power, so they can live and work free of harassment and violence.

It is for this reason that we introduced Bill C-65 last year, after consulting with Canadians from across the country. Canadians have told us that incidents are still vastly under-reported. They have told us that when incidents are reported, and if there is even a follow up, it is unacceptable, ineffective, and flawed. In fact, 41% of the respondents told us that no attempt was made to resolve an incident they reported.

We also consulted with members of Parliament and senators. They made it clear that we all wanted to stop harassment and sexual violence, and support survivors.

Therefore, I am hopeful we will have the support of the other parties on this very important bill.

After our consultations, it became very clear that what was in place right now to protect Canadians in federally regulated workplaces from harassment and violence and to deal with it when it did happen was simply not enough and that we needed to do better.

Parts II and III of the Canada Labour Code deal with occupational safety and health and employment standards within the federal jurisdiction. Currently no comprehensive system is in place for preventing and dealing with incidents of harassment and sexual violence. What we have instead is a patchwork of laws and policies that address these issues within the federal jurisdiction.

For example, violence is dealt with in part II of the code, which covers occupational health and safety, and applies to all federally regulated workplaces, including the public service. However, sexual harassment is dealt with in part III, or the labour standard section, of the code, which does not cover public servants, only the federally regulated private sector. On top of that, our parliamentary workplaces are not covered at all.

During our consultations, Canadians told us that we needed to treat incidents of harassment and violence as a continuum of inappropriate behaviour. This continuum should span all the way from teasing to physical abuse. Right now too many people are falling through the cracks. Too often, when they report harassment and sexual violence, nothing happens. These experiences end up serving as a deterrent for others who are considering whether they should come forward and report an incident. All employees need to be protected and every incident needs to be dealt with quickly and effectively and seen through to resolution.

Legislation will not solve this problem alone. We need a culture shift, and government plays a critical role in shifting culture. It starts with a comprehensive approach that focuses on preventing these behaviours before they happen, responding effectively when they do occur, and supporting survivors after the fact. We need a new approach to dealing with harassment and violence that will better protect employees at all federally regulated workplaces from these unacceptable behaviours.

Therefore, Bill C-65 proposes amending existing provisions in the Canada Labour Code by replacing the patchwork of law and policies that address these issues within the federal jurisdiction and putting into place one comprehensive approach that takes the full spectrum of harassment and violence into consideration. The legislation would expand these policies to cover parliamentary workplaces, such as the Senate, the Library of Parliament, the House of Commons, and political staff on Parliament Hill.

There are three main pillars of the legislation: first, to prevent incidents of harassment and violence from occurring; second, to respond effectively to these incidents when they do occur; and, third, to support victims, survivors, and employers through the process.

Protecting employees by preventing these incidents from occurring in the first place is the foundation of this bill. The amendments we are proposing will explicitly require employers to prevent incidents of harassment and violence, and protect employees from these behaviours. It is time to treat harassment and sexual violence in the workplace the same way we treat other occupational health and safety hazards.

On this subject, I would like to note that we are also strengthening compliance and enforcement mechanisms under the Canada Labour Code, as announced in budget 2017.

The use of monetary penalties, the authority to publicly name violators, strengthened powers for inspectors, new recourse against reprisals, and improvements to the wage recovery process are just some of the changes announced to increase workplace health and safety and better protect workers' rights.

Our second pillar is focused on effectively responding to incidents if they do occur. With these proposed amendments, employers will be required to investigate, record, and report occurrences of harassment and violence.

Employees who believe they have been victims of harassment or violence or have witnessed these behaviours would be able to report the incidents to their employers and try to resolve the matters through informal means. However, if the complaint could not be resolved, the employer would be obligated to appoint a competent person to undertake an investigation. Once the competent person concluded his or her investigation and issued a report, the employer would be obligated to implement any recommendations or corrective measures set out in that report.

At any point in this process, if the employee believes that the employer has contravened any parts of the code or the regulations, he or she could file a complaint with the labour program and then labour program officials would investigate and take enforcement action if they found a contravention of the code or the regulations did occur. Details regarding the investigation would be fine tuned and set out in the regulations.

These proposed amendments will also protect the privacy of employees, encouraging those who are victimized to come forward. This is vital to the success of this bill. We know that incidents are being under-reported due to fear of reprisal and the unfair but very real stigma associated with being a victim of harassment and sexual violence.

Our third pillar would require employers to support victims who would be affected by these incidents. We would also require employers to assist those who would need help to understand the new approach. The labour program would assist with education and support for complainants.

It should be noted that the proposed legislation in no way replaces or takes precedence over the Criminal Code of Canada. Some actions and offences require law enforcement intervention, and complainants always have the right to go to the police to report incidents.

Time is up. The time for inaction is indeed over. Bill C-65 would ensure that workers in federally regulated sectors, including right here on Parliament Hill, finally have the protections they need. It would ensure that those who are in vulnerable positions have a voice. It would ensure that those who still think harassment and sexual violence are acceptable in 2018 would be held accountable.

All people deserve to work in a safe workplace and they deserve to live free from harassment or violence. I ask that all my colleagues from both sides of the aisle show their support for the bill.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

January 29th, 2018 / 12:25 p.m.
See context


Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, what happens when power collides with sex? The government's response to this question and to more sexual harassment and assault allegations against politically powerful people coming to light was to schedule Bill C-65 for debate this week. The bill seeks to impose a new framework on Canadian employers, including members of Parliament, to prevent sexual harassment and assault. I suspect the bill will garner a large amount of support in the House. Its measures are laudable and it is a positive step in the right direction.

My colleagues in this place today will likely bring up aspects of the bill that they hope to see clarified and improved upon when the bill moves to the committee stage. That said, this measure, in and of itself, will not correct all the issues associated with the current state of affairs of sexual harassment and sexism on the Hill. This is not meant to be a knock against the legislation, but rather a call to action to have a more honest look at our current state of affairs on the Hill and to place an onus on all of us to do more to change the culture that allows sexual harassment to occur.

Let me set the scene. In Ottawa, in the sense of it being a nexus of power in Canada, it is an intense place. Leaders in all three branches of government, senior public servants, military leaders, the diplomatic corps, the Parliamentary Press Gallery, highly paid lobbyists, smart political staff, civil society, and business leaders all converge in one tightly confined space. They are all trying to accomplish big things. Many are assertive and ambitious. Many are highly skilled at their crafts. Many hold privileged positions of influence, and many think very highly of themselves. It is a highly tribal environment where information is a commodity and blind partisanship, conformity, loyalty, and acquiescence are often traits significantly valued above judgment, compassion, or acting with dignity.

When this context is taken and combined with prolonged or frequent absence from spouses, young guns who are both naive to the context and hungry to advance a career or a cause, journos that are chasing a scoop, people who just want to work and be left alone, and a whole bunch of workaholics who are single, or well on their way to getting there, the issue of what constitutes appropriate sexual behaviour becomes critical. Then, mix in alcohol. It is used to cope, to fit in, and as an excuse.

Further, all of us here are in precarious positions. Every time there is an election or a cabinet shuffle, everyone, all the people here, change. More importantly, this precariousness is rooted in the fact that we exist at the pleasure of our bosses, outside of the Canada Labour Code. At any moment, everyone here weighs the opportunity cost of making a complaint or committing an non-acquiescent action with the threat of quiet dismissal, being overlooked for a promotion, being shuffled out of a spot, having a nomination candidate quietly run against us, or not having our nomination papers signed at all. This is not unique to any political party, nor is the press corps immune to this either.

To say that there is a power imbalance here is an understatement. Further, for all the talk of feminism and pursual of women's rights, there is not gender equality in the broader context of Parliament Hill. Women are still used as photo-op props, included for quotas or optics without having the authority of real decision-making automatically attached to their perceived utility. For that, women have to fight, and fight hard, and put up with being accused of not being a team player, or being an “insert choice of gender expletive here” when they do. That is only for those of us who are lucky enough to have built a platform and a profile that allows us to do that without those in the top tiers of power having to take a bit of damage in order to suppress our voices.

Women are still touched. Our hair is still stroked. Our shoulders are still rubbed. We are still given hugs and cheek kisses that linger a bit too long. To fit in, we still laugh at the lewd jokes, and maybe even tell one ourselves to be considered safe to socialize with and to be considered “one of the boys”.

Further, those who dare to raise issues of harassment are labelled as man-haters. Their sexual proclivities are questioned. Speculation abounds as to whether their sexual proclivities were even the cause of their experience. They are re-victimized over and over again. These things are used to control us, to demean us, and to silence us.

Then there are those who say, “Why don't you just stand up for yourself?” This morning, my former colleague, Megan Leslie recounted a story to me about being at an event where a senior male pulled her close to him and told a story to a group while holding her around the waist. She was asked by a reporter how she could have let this happen. She responded by saying, “There were four other men there. Why did they stay silent?” That is the problem. So many of us are bystanders to harassment, leaving a woman to, in Megan's words, “extract yourself with a laugh and some good-natured ribbing, then silently cry to yourself on your way home”.

This takes me to what we need to do to change and move forward.

First, we cannot be bystanders any longer. All of us should demand that Parliament adopt a clear definition of sexual harassment, what the workplace extends to, and what consent means in the context of our workplace. Then all of us, interns, volunteers, MPs, ministers, staff, everyone, should be required to take mandatory training on how to prevent sexual harassment and also education on what sexual consent means. This training should be required to be completed on an ongoing annual basis, at a minimum.

Women here need to stand together regardless of political stripe, support each other as these claims occur, and demand that our leadership take action when they occur. Men need to call out their peers when harassment happens. MPs need to let their staff know that they have voices and that they should use them.

Using the whisper network, the gossip chain that we use to tell each other when we see something or hear something, can no longer be seen as the main way to manage incidents of harassment. It is a privileged system that does nothing to protect victims, nothing to empower them to come forward to report abuse, nothing to prevent violence, and nothing to prevent vexatious complaints from being made.

Second, we need to dispel the myths of what consensual sex means in this environment. Is it possible for a drunk staffer to give consent for sex to a senior male within their workplace organization who aggressively propositions that staffer? Within any standard workplace code of conduct, the answer to that should be unequivocally no.

Today there was a report that at one critical point within my party this was a topic for debate, and that is disgusting. In that incident, media reports say that people sat around a very senior table and argued semantics around whether action in our workplace should be taken because criminal charges were not proceeded with. Those people should be ashamed of themselves and they should have no role or influence in this or in any political party, which brings me to the next point.

For the woman at the centre of this issue there was no process for anyone to file a “formal” complaint. Think about her decision-making process for a minute, weighing job security in the context of making a complaint in an ill-defined process against someone in an environment with high media scrutiny. A raised complaint like this should have been enough to effect some sort of change.

The trend in most of the allegations that have surfaced recently is that of older men preying on younger women. Age and level of experience works as another dynamic of power that is often at play. I would ask members to try to put themselves in their shoes for a moment. A person thinks she has finally gotten her foot in the door of what she hopes to be her new career only to be met with decisions she never thought she would have to make. Does she keep quiet to save her job? Will this hurt or help her career? If she tells someone, will she ever get to work in politics again? On and on it goes. It is an impossible choice that no one should have to make.

In these terrible situations we should be managing to justice, safety, and dignity, not to successful political issues management. This is why we need to build awareness of the new support system that has been put in place to allow Hill employees who experience harassment to report and seek some form of justice without fear of reprisal.

The aim here is to afford all parties involved in these incidents due process and to drive toward an end solution that appropriately responds with censure to any incident. This system should be reviewed for efficacy and improved over time. In doing so, it should be monitored to ensure that it stays arm's length from any political party influence, remains impartial, and is transparently scoped in its operation and desired outcome.

While it is very laudable, I do not think that this system will be enough. Political parties should also adopt formal codes of conduct and reporting processes regarding what they deem appropriate behaviour when it comes to sex, sexual harassment, and consent. All candidates and political staffers should be required to sign off and adhere to this code prior to being allowed to run or work for a party.

There should be consequences for breaking this code. I would go as far as saying that this should not be voluntary, that a political party should not be recognized with official party status unless it has one of these codes on its books. Having a system like this within each political party, in addition to the process that exists on the Hill, would serve as a check and balance to ensure high standards are set and followed. It would probably be helpful if the Parliamentary Press Gallery did the same thing before credentialing its reporters.

Reporting systems and codes of conduct should enable people to know that, regardless of any other factor, they have the right to speak up for themselves and to call out harassment in the moment. We should all be able to walk confident in the fact that, if that is not possible, systems exist so that we can report concerns and get assistance in dealing with those concerns without fear of reprisal.

In the development of these codes of conduct, political actors should ensure that they do not shy away from stripping the taboo from the following questions, and should force a non-dogmatic conversation on the same: Can a direct report employee or an employee writ large truly give consent to a sexual act to their boss or to someone of a higher power influence? It is the same question, but for a reporter to a source, a lobbyist to a client or a minister, or a diplomat to a deputy minister: Should sexual relations be permissible in these situations at all? How can someone tell when a person of influence is using sexual advances or innuendo to silence or demean them as opposed to when someone legitimately wants to explore the possibility of an intimate liaison? Is there a difference, and should we even be having this conversation to begin with?

Third, we need to stop making incidents of sexism and harassment partisan question period fodder. Every time a woman gets up and pretends that her party is more virtuous than the other we set the bar back. We all need to use some judgment to create a culture that would eventually render the necessity of such a system moot.

This is where the electorate comes in. We need to collectively value guiding principles when it comes to sex and power, and ensure that the people we elect reflect the same. The electorate needs to have a zero tolerance policy as well for these types of incidents.

These principles include a recognition that we all have the right to our own sexual agency. In Canada, we have the legal right to control how and when we express our sexuality, and with whom. However, this does not mean acting in a way that removes someone else's dignity, or failing to obtain consent. Rather, it is understanding that consent can be withdrawn at any point, and that at no point is non-consensual activity legal nor is assault legal. While a certain sexual encounter might not be illegal, it does not make it right in the context of a workplace.

In practice, this means adhering to codes of conduct. It means constantly asking oneself about whether it is right to proposition someone, and question the appropriateness of the method by which it is done prior to doing so. It means seeking consent for this type of attention in and of itself. It means accepting rebukes with grace, deep respect, and love. It means accepting rebukes not with a way of seeing it as a challenge to try again.

Conversely, we need to show an understanding that consensual sexual activity does not absolve us of the societal, emotional, physical health, or financial consequences that might occur when engaging in consensual sexual behaviour. Regret for a consensual sexual liaison that occurs within the boundaries of legality and established codes of conduct does not constitute harassment or assault, and should not be used to make vexatious complaints that diminish the legitimacy of other survivors, backlog complaint systems, and unduly destroy the reputation of others.

This is yet another point that underscores the need to have functional codes of conduct with clear definitions of harassment and consent, clear reporting systems that undertake due process free of partisanship, with clear and measurable consequences that fit the severity of the incident. There are many models of best practice for these types of codes of practice in corporate Canada and in civil society. The fact that we are only starting to implement them shows how deeply entrenched the power imbalance on the Hill has been.

I cannot believe that we are having this conversation; I really cannot. Given the number of times in my career in the last six years that the number one media request in my inbox has been about someone committing some sort of indecency, or somebody trying to get a partisan comment on which party is more virtuous in terms of this, or how I feel about sexism, I am starting to say, why does just my voice have to be used on this? Why all of a sudden am I the key issue bearer? Why does every single one of my colleagues and the minister of labour have to stand up and talk about this when there are so many other issues? This should be common sense decency that we treat each other with.

We are spending the first day back on this issue. It is an important debate and I am not trying to diminish it; however, that we have to legislate this behaviour actually takes my voice away. It takes away my ability to talk about the economy or foreign affairs, or any other issue today.

The fact that there are people who feel it is within their purview to act badly, to use their power imbalance to silence and demean others is disgusting. The fact that there are people today who still look at women and the first thing they think of is political issues management is disgusting.

I do not want to make this a gender or heterosexual conversation because that would be completely misconstruing the context here. The fact that people feel they cannot report abuse or that they have to work and live with abuse says that we have not achieved gender equality, that we have not achieved some sort of utopia on feminism. Worst of all, we are sitting here with the privilege of having certain rights that other people in the world do not. I cannot imagine some woman, for example, a Yazidi sex slave survivor, watching this debate and saying, “Oh my God, are they really talking about this?”

This bill is not enough. It is a good step in the right direction, but we cannot legislate against bad behaviour. We cannot legislate against someone choosing to use their influence or power imbalance to diminish someone else. At the end of the day, we probably have to have more severe codes of conduct. It cannot just be within political parties here either. We all know that the #MeToo movement is going to head up to the press gallery, the lobbyist community, and the diplomatic corps. We have all sat here and watched these things happen. If we do not have that more difficult conversation, if we do not strip away the taboo from doing this, we are not going to fix this problem and we will be here for more years talking about what else needs to change, and I am tired of it. I do not want to sit in this place and have this conversation again. I do not want another woman coming into my office on this. This needs to stop and it needs to stop now. It is the job of every person here and every person who is listening to take on that personal responsibility of putting dignity and human rights ahead of abuse or sexual desire.

Returning to Bill C-65, the Conservative Party supports this bill and will commit to carefully analyzing it in order to provide suggestions on areas where there needs to be improvement. Sexual misconduct and sexual harassment have no place in Canadian society, especially within our political system. As Conservatives, we want to ensure that the government focuses on supporting victims, as it has pledged to do. For example, there is a concern about the option of mediation as an avenue to solve harassment complaints. The government needs to be clear about the implications of the bill in such areas of concern. We want the government to be clear on questions of funding. For example, what will the budget be on the government's campaign to raise awareness on sexual harassment? We want an effective awareness campaign and we need to know how much and where we will spend this money.

I am sure this bill will be vigorously debated at committee. I am sure many experts will come forward to talk about why this bill is important or how it does not address all the gaps. But at the end of the day, what is not going to be discussed at committee, and I am sure we will talk about this again, is the individual responsibility of all us to stop being bystanders, to stop the whisper network, to be accountable for our actions, and when we see our colleagues or someone else behaving badly, to intervene. It means that we empower our staff, that we have their backs, that they do not have to put up with this garbage anymore. It means fundamentally changing the culture on the Hill. It means the organizers of Politics and the Pen, the parliamentary press gallery dinner, and the cocktail circuit all understand that this is the breeding ground for where this stuff happens and we need to rip the band-aid off of it. We need to stop pretending that somehow this legislation is going to magically fix bad behaviour.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

January 29th, 2018 / 12:55 p.m.
See context


Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-65 to prevent harassment and violence in the workplace was introduced for first reading on November 7, 2017.

This is an extremely important piece of legislation, and we see this as a step in the right direction with respect to these crucial issues. As the new labour critic for the NDP, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-65 to address harassment and violence in the workplace.

This bill was developed in response to the many highly publicized cases of sexual assault that have occurred around the world. In the present context and in the wake of the global #MeToo and Time's Up movements, now more than ever, Canada must be a champion and a leader in ensuring that our workplaces are safe and free from harassment and violence.

Canada already has some of the best legislation in the world against sexual violence. Still, comprehensive legislation is needed to further enhance protections for workers against physical, sexual, and psychological violence in the workplace.

Psychological harassment deserves special attention. According to the International Labour Organization, psychological harassment is an increasingly common form of workplace violence. Universities and unions such as Teamsters have also spoken out against it.

Just three months ago in my riding in the Saguenay, a scandal broke at the Centre de formation professionnelle de Jonquière. Six instructors and former instructors spoke to the media about how the work environment at that teaching institution had been intolerable for over a decade. Cases of harassment and exclusion are no longer rare; they are becoming more and more common.

We know this is due to profound changes in how we organize work, in working conditions, and in management styles in recent decades. The rules governing a labour market that is now more demanding in terms of flexibility and productivity make workers more vulnerable and, in recent years, have helped enable cases of psychological harassment.

Unfortunately, Machiavelli's famous maxim “divide and conquer” seems to be the order of the day in a context where professional burnout and workplace stress and hardship have been normalized. Asking for respect and dignity at work is not a luxury, it is a fundamental right.

In addition to psychological harassment, workplace violence and harassment also merit our attention. According to the president of the Canadian Labour Congress, workplace violence and harassment, whether psychological, physical, or sexual, have become an epidemic and the impact on the daily lives and mental health of workers across the country is quite clear.

An Abacus Data survey released in November shows that close to half of Canadian women say they have experienced some form of sexual harassment at work. One in ten Canadians report that this type of harassment is quite common at their workplace and nearly half of them say they have been harassed by a person in a position of authority. Not surprisingly, low-income workers in precarious jobs, as well as racialized and queer women are more likely to be harassed at work.

Still today, those who engage in workplace harassment rarely suffer the consequences of their behaviour. For example, the director of the women's department at Unifor, Lisa Kelly, recently indicated that all too often those who point out problems and seek help continue to suffer reprisals.

That is unacceptable. Sexual, physical, psychological, or emotional harassment or violence in the workplace must not be tolerated. Our leader, Jagmeet Singh, took the same firm stand on this issue a few weeks ago when he announced his zero tolerance policy for such behaviour.

The NDP wants all working men and women in Canada to feel safe and protected from sexual, physical, and psychological violence or harassment in their workplace. That is why we support the global initiative to enhance protections against harassment and violence in the workplace. That is also why we are working with women's rights and social justice organizations to ensure that the policies that are put in place have a real impact and make the safety of all workers a priority.

Bill C-65 seeks to establish an investigative process that would allow workers and employers to better address allegations of bullying, harassment, and sexual harassment. The bill sets out two similar approaches for parliamentary and government workplaces. Once passed, this bill will apply to all federally regulated workplaces, including the banking, telecommunications, and transport sectors, which account for nearly 8% of the Canadian workforce. Whereas the Canada Labour Code currently provides for separate frameworks for dealing with workplace violence and sexual harassment, Bill C-65 would merge those labour standards. Bill C-65 would also implement strict rules to protect the privacy of victims of harassment or violence. These rules would also apply to parliamentarians, their employees, and other staff on Parliament Hill.

The NDP has always fought for better protections for workers. That is why we strongly support expanding legal provisions to reduce workplace violence and harassment, which should not be tolerated under any circumstances. Although we agree with the intent of Bill C-65, we feel it has some flaws and does not go far enough. It would require many amendments to achieve the desired results and offer the kind of protection that Canadian workers expect.

We still do not know exactly how this bill will improve the process for reporting harassment, how it will minimize harm, how it will interact with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, or how it will protect the anonymity of victims of workplace harassment or violence.

It is also unclear how the implementation of Bill C-65 will be properly funded. That is why some of the bill's provisions should be studied further.

First of all, even though this bill claims to tackle harassment and violence, those terms are not defined anywhere in Bill C-65, the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, or the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1. Only sexual harassment is defined in the Canada Labour Code.

A long list of steps and processes to combat certain inappropriate behaviours is being put forward. However, there is no definition of this behaviour anywhere, which does not bode well for the government's objective of creating a model policy to deal with sexual harassment.

If the government really wants to eradicate violence and harassment, why would it rely on the regulatory process to produce these definitions instead of introducing a clear bill?

What hope does the government have of eliminating harassment and violence from the workplace if it does not clearly define the behaviour to be eliminated?

By not providing an explicit definition, the government is asking us to blindly vote for an important and yet extremely vague bill that could be subsequently amended without consultation. That is not what we want. These terms must be clearly defined for both the employer and the employees to ensure that these measures can be be implemented effectively.

Sure, definitions in bills narrow the interpretations of a particular word or anticipate potential interpretations. Sure, if we add definitions, this means that other potential or future circumstances may not be included in the bill. However, though it may be wise, in some circumstances, not to provide too many definitions, in this case, it is not legally binding if we leave the definitions of harassment and violence up to to the regulations. These definitions would ultimately be set through jurisprudence or, in some cases, by tribunals responsible for workplaces under the Canada Labour Code.

I want to bring up a second major problem. In the past, the federal government has missed—and yes, I said “missed”—opportunities to ensure that victims of physical, sexual, or psychological violence have access to leave after the incident.

Why does the government not create a 10-day paid leave for victims of workplace harassment? The government should take this opportunity to integrate a 10-day paid leave into the bill, as suggested by the majority of organizations working to end gender-based violence.

Also, will there be the necessary personnel and training to go along with the legislation?

Ten days of paid leave is not very much. Anyone who is the victim of psychological harassment, violence, or sexual harassment is affected for life. The bill should include leave for victims in order to help them in the immediate aftermath of the incident.

I would also like to add that if workplace inspectors are called upon in the process, we need to ensure that enough inspectors are available and that they receive the specialized training needed to enforce the new measures. Since they would have to lead investigations, it is important that these individuals be properly trained and capable of leading them. Since many of these cases involve prejudice, people who are not properly trained could negatively affect the investigation and cause long-term harmful effects for the victims.

Details are also needed regarding the availability and source of new funding in order to ensure that workplaces have the resources they need to provide the necessary support and investigate all allegations of sexual harassment.

Without that, the bill's effectiveness could be seriously undermined. Declaring new rights without providing resources to enforce them does absolutely nothing to enhance the protection of workers and ensure safe workplaces. The government therefore still needs to tell us how much money will be allocated to implementing these measures, especially since they will be combined with an extensive awareness campaign to challenge misconceptions and stereotypes.

Harassment and violence in the workplace must never be tolerated, but when it does occur, the process must be transparent for all parties and recourse must be clear. The legislation must give everyone involved the right to be informed of the status of their complaint. In addition, the individuals involved must be given sufficient representation, as noted by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.

The current bill does not elaborate on any of that, which leaves us with some questions. What real recourse does Bill C-65 offer to victims of harassment or assault? Will workers have the right to access information about their complaint? As the national vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada said in November, in the context of allegations of sexual harassment in Hollywood and around the world, it is disappointing to see a bill on sexual harassment and violence which fails to provide a remedy for victims.

It is also not clear to us how the government plans to implement strict privacy rules while also allowing federally regulated workplaces, including Parliament, to rely on qualified persons from the same work environment to help resolve the situation. It seems obvious that the privacy of the complainant cannot be guaranteed if the so-called qualified person selected to play the role of mediator can be a colleague.

The final concern I want to raise is about how this legislation will affect the role of the Canadian Human Rights Commission with respect to the solutions it provides and the resolution of complaints that are not covered under the Canada Labour Code but are dealt with by the commission or in collective agreements. How will Bill C-65 interact with the Canadian Human Rights Act or existing collective agreement provisions such as those relating to third-party arbitration? Bill C-65 would have more teeth if it guaranteed all workers in this country the same level of protection.

I have much more to say about Bill C-65, but I see that I am running out of time. Considering everything members said at second reading, I would like to conclude by saying that, despite the many recent global initiatives encouraging people to come forward about sexual harassment, some women and men still find it difficult to speak up. The words seem to get stuck in their throats, something prevents them from reporting what they have buried so deeply inside themselves. Words, deeds, emotions, held captive. Why do so many hold back? Lack of faith in our legal system and confusion about how various types of harassment are defined have a lot to do with it. If this bill is to succeed at curbing these behaviours, it is crucial, as I said, tjat we define them.

It is up to the government to answer all of these questions quickly and find real solutions so that all Canadians can finally get the safe work environment they deserve and are entitled to.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

January 29th, 2018 / 1:20 p.m.
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Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will use the opportunity given to me today to commend the Et Maintenant movement.

It is a very good initiative. People are asked to wear a yellow heart as a reminder of what needs to change and what we need to do. It is a good way to break the ice and engage in the conversation. The drive and enthusiasm of these women and their initiative reflect the desire to see a cultural shift and to prevent further complaints and court appearances. I am talking about men and women because men are also victims of psychological and sexual violence. It is important to make that clear. The Et Maintenant movement is for everyone and is a good way to initiate a change in culture.

Whenever someone wears a yellow heart, it might remind people to pay attention, to be aware, and to abide by the saying that you must know where you are coming from to know where you are going. That is also an important element of the yellow heart, which I believe is a good symbol. I hope that the movement will grow right across Canada. This is just the beginning.

With regard to Bill C-65, I want to stress that training is crucial. We must provide the information, but also train employers and employees. By talking and working together we will really make this culture shift happen.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

January 29th, 2018 / 1:20 p.m.
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Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, sometimes these discussions can make us feel as though we are chatting in the lobby.

I thank my colleague for her very insightful comments. It bothers me as well, and I think this will have to be discussed in committee. The NDP has a number of amendments to make to Bill C-65. This is not about scoring points. This is about teamwork and commitments. I urge the government to work together to ensure that the NDP's proposed amendments are recognized and accepted. Often, committee members want to make amendments and work, in good faith, as a team. However, this is not what happens.

Today's discussion is quite passionate. Everyone has good intentions, but this needs to carry over into committee so that we can actually get things done. Members are talking about making commitments. I think this will be the right approach. Once again, I urge the government to consider the amendments that the NDP is going to propose, to work as a team, and then to take action.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

January 29th, 2018 / 1:25 p.m.
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Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles.

I am very honoured to have the opportunity to talk today about Bill C-65. Our government ran on a commitment to take action on workplace harassment and violence, and I am extremely proud of this first step we are taking in the House today.

All of us here in the House, no matter our political allegiances, have a unique opportunity. Today we can join forces and take a stand together. We can send a strong message to all Canadians that workplace harassment and sexual violence is unacceptable, period, and that it will not be tolerated any longer.

Sexual harassment and violence in the workplace is nothing new. Certainly in my career I have experienced sexual harassment and bullying. I think it would be difficult to find a woman who has not, to one degree or another.

I am particularly pleased that this proposed legislation would also include MP staff, which is a group I feel is particularly vulnerable because of the nature of their work on the Hill. I certainly experienced it. My first job after university was right here in this place working for a true gentleman, London West MP John Burghardt. I recall one incident in particular when, after an evening reception, a male MP made completely inappropriate sexual advances toward me. I walked out and never told anyone, including my boss, because I was fearful of the consequences to my career and to my reputation.

Sadly, little has changed since the early 1980s. The power dynamic that exists on the Hill makes it a workplace that is a perfect storm for harassment and bullying. I worry about our staff, in particular our female staff, and I echo the comments made by my colleague from Milton. If staff members have an issue, regardless of party, they should not hesitate to come to me to talk about it.

High-profile cases are dominating the headlines day after day. The problem is both pervasive and far-reaching. In fact, just more than one in 10 Canadians say that sexual harassment is “really quite common” in their workplace. Another 44% say that, while it is infrequent, it does happen. I suspect those statistics are quite low.

The hashtag movements, #MeToo, #AfterMeToo, and Time’s Up, are the result of people, women and men, who thought it was important to show the world how pervasive and common harassment and sexual violence are in our lives, and they found the courage and strength to speak up.

Make no mistake; workplace harassment and sexual violence exist not only in high-profile professions but everywhere around us. The reality is that it has always been everywhere. We just ignored it or simply looked the other way, because of fear of reprisals or being labelled a troublemaker, or because norms in the industry made us feel we had no choice.

We know that harassers and abusers have used their power and influence to indulge in behaviours that were not only thinly veiled but generally accepted by their colleagues. The difference now is that not only are survivors speaking up but we are opening our eyes and paying attention. We are talking about just how pervasive harassment and sexual violence really is, and how important it is that we do everything we can to eliminate it.

There is momentum right now, and we must take advantage of it because it gives us a unique opportunity. Our government is taking action to do just that. In November, our government released a report on what we heard during consultations on workplace harassment and sexual violence. With Bill C-65, we would take strong action to ensure that federal workplaces are free from these unacceptable behaviours.

Our government is seeking unanimous consent on this bill, and I am hopeful that this proposed legislation will be endorsed by all members. I am also hopeful that we can join forces to send a clear message to Canadians that harassment and sexual violence in the workplace or anywhere are intolerable and unacceptable. This message should come not from one political party but from all parties. We can show Canadians that we are united in our intention to put a stop to workplace harassment and violence.

When people come forward, they need to know that they will be protected and supported through strong measures and that their careers will not suffer as a result. It is our responsibility as parliamentarians to put these measures in place. Canadians need to feel safe at work, regardless of where they work and for whom they work, and that applies to employers and workplaces across Canada, including the federal public service and right here on Parliament Hill.

Recently I had the privilege of visiting five corrections facilities in Edmonton and speaking with the dedicated staff who work there. The situation at Edmonton Institution for men was a cesspool of bullying, violence, and sexual harassment—an environment so toxic that the independent report said that there would be great challenges in changing the culture there. Significant steps have been taken, but the road to recovery will be challenging.

I had the opportunity to speak to some of those who had worked throughout the years in this toxic workplace. When I asked one female parole officer if she had hope that the situation would improve, she looked at me and said that I was it. As federal corrections officers, these staff would be covered by Bill C-65, and they deserve our support. We owe it to them and to employees across Canada to ensure they can go to work every day and know they will be safe from a culture of bullying and sexual harassment.

Bill C-65 would give employers the tools they need to adequately address and deal with harassment and violence, including sexual violence, in the workplace. We are also strengthening compliance and enforcement mechanisms under the Canada Labour Code in order to increase workplace health and safety, and better protect workers' rights. The use of monetary penalties and the authority to publicly name violators are just some of the changes announced to make workplaces healthy, safe, and productive places.

Bill C-65 is based on our research, on our consultation, and on what Canadians have said they need when it comes to preventing and dealing with harassment and sexual violence in the workplace.

Last year, we released the report “Harassment and Sexual Violence: What We Heard”, which summarizes a series of engagement activities we undertook with the Canadian public, unions, employers, non-governmental organizations, academics, and other experts. We made sure that a wide range of voices were heard to support evidence-based policy development and implementation, and held online public consultations as well as a series of round tables with stakeholders and experts.

Some of the findings were striking. Of the more than 1,300 people who responded to our online survey, a full 60% reported having experienced harassment, 30% said they experienced sexual harassment, 21% reported experiencing violence, and three per cent said they had experienced sexual violence. Incidents are under-reported, often due to fear of retaliation. When they are reported, incidents are not dealt with effectively. Some 41% of survey respondents stated that no attempt was made to resolve an incident they reported. Women are more likely than men to experience sexual harassment, and people with disabilities and members of visible minority groups are more likely to experience harassment than other groups.

It comes down to this: workplace harassment and sexual violence are unacceptable behaviours that have been going on for too long. Canadians want and need their government to do something about it and to lead the way. That is exactly what we are doing in Bill C-65. I am asking each of the members of Parliament in this place to rise to the occasion being presented to us today. Take a stand and show constituents that we care about making workplaces safer for everyone.

While this issue continues to make headlines, we must ensure it is not a popular movement that will fade away before any real changes are made. We need to do something now to correct the course we have been on for too long. I recently read a comment by former journalist Jennifer Mossop who stated that it is time. It is time for mutual respect and genuine and sincere public discourse to take us to the next level.

This needs to end now. Bill C-65 is going to help make that happen. Let us all support it together. It is time.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

January 29th, 2018 / 1:35 p.m.
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Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

The member is absolutely correct, Mr. Speaker. I am heartened when I come into this place, listen to the debate, and recognize that all parties, regardless of the differences we may hold on other policies, are united on this item in particular.

This reverberates far beyond the walls of the House. When members of Parliament talk about bringing forward legislation on harassment and bullying, we are sending a message to all Canadians, to all businesses, to all workplaces that it is simply unacceptable and the culture needs to change.

By having these conversations, we will start to move the needle. It will not be easy and it will not be this one conversation that will make change. This needs to continue beyond Bill C-65. It needs to continue with respect to how we conduct ourselves both in public and with our staff. It needs to be top of mind in our conversations with constituents. We can have a strong leadership role to play across the country.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

January 29th, 2018 / 1:35 p.m.
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Linda Lapointe Liberal Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am immensely pleased and honoured to rise today, and, since this is the first time I am speaking in 2018, I would like to extend greetings to my hon. colleagues who are now back in the House.

I am very enthusiastic about speaking today in support of Bill C-65.

I am deeply convinced that all Canadians breathed a sigh of relief when they learned that this bill was being introduced. Clearly, sexual harassment and violence in the workplace must end now.

Today, our government is taking the necessary steps to do just that by setting an example. I would also like to point out that all parties support this bill. There is no room for partisanship when it comes to Canadians’ fundamental rights.

In my humble opinion, this is an historic moment for Parliament. Not only will this bill govern these matters for workers under federal jurisdiction, but, more importantly, it will also send a clear message throughout the country that there is no place for such behaviour in Canada. End of story. The time has come to speak strongly and clearly, and to take action. In this respect, Bill C-65 is clearly a big step in the right direction.

The news stories of the past few weeks are a stark reminder that workplaces are still not free from sexual harassment and violence. Social media has given us a clearer idea of the scope of the problem. It is high time that we introduced legislation that will protect federal workers. The bill is intended for workers in banks, communications companies, and the air, rail and marine transportation sectors, as well as federal government employees, of course.

Studies by Abacus Data revealed that more than one in 10 Canadians say that sexual harassment in the workplace is quite common, while 44% of Canadians report it does happen, although infrequently.

Our government pledged to solve the problem, and we are now fulfilling our promise. Bill C-65 allows us to send a clear and strong message as members of Parliament.

It enables us to take a stand and say that this has to stop. Employers must clearly understand their responsibilities and take the necessary measures to eliminate this scourge on society. Sexual harassment and violence in the workplace hinder economic development and affect Canadians who are trying to join the middle class.

Although women are more likely than men to be victimized by such behaviour, visible minorities, low-income individuals, people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ+ community are also targeted and remain more vulnerable.

Victims and their families suffer major repercussions, but so do their employers. Victims can experience stress, depression, or anxiety, and employers must manage this situation in their place of business, a situation that leads to absences, sick leave, decreased motivation, and high employee turnover. Our country really has no room for this type of behaviour. Our economy and our international reputation would gain considerably from the enactment of this bill. It is time that we took a stand once and for all.

We all know someone who has been the victim of sexual harassment or violence at work. It could be a sister, a brother, a co-worker, or a friend. It is our responsibility to take the necessary measures to eliminate this problem. Bill C-65 is certainly a key measure. It will bring about a radical change in the way we perceive employer-employee relations. I therefore ask all of my hon. colleagues to support this bill, which will usher in a new era of labour relations in Canada, and even here in Parliament.

By amending the Canada Labour Code and the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, we will be joining forces to prevent harassment and violence, respond more effectively to complaints, and provide better support for victims and employers.

In conclusion, not only is this bill a good thing for society, it is indispensable.

Everyone wins with this bill, including victims, families, co-workers, and, of course, employers.

As I mentioned earlier, this bill is a huge step forward for the cause, and we may soon see a truly equitable working environment for all Canadians.

This is a necessary change in culture, and I am proud to be supporting this bill today.

LabourOral Questions

January 29th, 2018 / 2:30 p.m.
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Papineau Québec


Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for her question, her statement, and her hard work on this file.

It is important that women and men break the taboo of silence and become allies and supporters in standing up against gender violence, standing up against sexual harassment and sexual assault in workplaces, in homes, and in communities right across this country.

This is a problem that has gone on for far too long, and it is time we dealt with it, particularly here in Parliament, where we set an example for the rest of the country. That is why, with Bill C-65, we are committed to taking an important step towards improving workplaces in federally regulated industries and on Parliament Hill. I look forward to working with members of all parties on improving this legislation and ensuring that it moves forward.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

January 29th, 2018 / 3:15 p.m.
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Berthier—Maskinongé Québec


Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDPHouse Leader of the New Democratic Party

Mr. Speaker, in a moment, I will ask for the unanimous consent of the House to move a motion.

First, I would like to say how proud I am to rise in the House as member of Parliament for Berthier—Maskinongé and as NDP House leader.

This is my first day in this new role, and it is even more meaningful because the House leaders of all of the recognized parties are currently women. This is a historic moment, and I really look forward to working with my colleagues.

Of course, we know that today there remains still much to be done for the fight for equality, the fight against gender-based violence, and the fight for a workplace that is free from harassment and violence, in all its forms.

Today we are debating a bill that addresses harassment in our own workplace here in the House of Commons, which is in acute need of a culture overhaul from all sides. It is clear that all parties agree that the bill is a positive step in the right direction.

The motion I would like to move would send the bill directly to committee at the conclusion of today's debate. Following conversations I have had with my counterparts from all parties in the House, I believe, Mr. Speaker, you will find unanimous consent for the following motion.

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, when no Member rises to speak on the second reading motion of Bill C-65, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (harassment and violence), the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1, or at the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders today, whichever comes earlier, the Bill be deemed read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

January 29th, 2018 / 4:35 p.m.
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Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is rare to have the opportunity to support a bill that deals with an issue that affects so many people across the country and throughout the world. That is why I am proud to rise today to speak to Bill C-65.

As a feminist government and one that cares deeply about Canadians, we are committed to taking action on workplace harassment and sexual violence in Parliament and in federally regulated workplaces. This bill underscores the Government of Canada's strong commitment to taking action that would help create healthy, respectful workplaces for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression—heterosexual, homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, or two spirit.

The tragic reality is that, despite our country's progress toward a modern, respectful society, we know that harassment and violence are persistent and pervasive in Canadian workplaces and that incidents often go unreported because employees fear retaliation. These behaviours can have long-term negative effects, not just for those who have experienced them but also for their families and employers as well, through lost productivity, absenteeism, and employee turnover.

Last fall, Abacus Data published a study on harassment and sexual violence in the workplace. It showed that over 10% of Canadians believe that sexual harassment is quite common in their workplace. Another 44% said that while it is not frequent, it does happen.

The recent #MeToo hashtag campaign on Twitter confirms these statistics and clearly shows how pervasive and far-reaching this problem is.

Underpinning these realities are the many power imbalances and gender norms still in our culture that have led to unacceptable tolerance of these behaviours for far too long. It is time they stopped. One of the key building blocks leading up to the tabling of this proposed legislation was listening to Canadians. The Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour engaged Canadians, stakeholders, and experts to gather their experiences and perspectives on these very issues. Members of Parliament and senators also consulted to ensure the government could fulfill its commitment to making Parliament a workplace free from harassment and sexual violence. This engagement of Canadians resulted in the report released last November, entitled “Harassment and sexual violence in the workplace public consultations: What We Heard”. In this report, Canadians indicated that incidents of harassment and sexual violence in the workplace are not only under-reported but also often dealt with ineffectively when they are reported.

Statistics show that approximately 80% of victims do not feel like they can report what happened, so what choice do they have?

The report found that women reported more sexual harassment and violence than men, and that visible minorities and people with disabilities reported more harassment. These discussions with stakeholders and experts provided insight on how to address these and other issues, and they informed the bill we are discussing today.

Bill C-65 proposes to amend existing provisions in the Canada Labour Code and replace the existing patchwork of laws and policies with one comprehensive approach that takes into consideration the full spectrum of harassment and violence that can occur. It would also expand the coverage to parliamentary workplaces, such as the Senate, House of Commons, and Library of Parliament. This would include political staff on Parliament Hill. Our staff right now are subject to some of the most antiquated provisions, where they exist, in the modern world. It is time that staff get the protection they deserve, and that is why this bill is so important.

The changes being proposed to the Canada Labour Code include expanding the current violence-prevention requirements to ensure that employers take the necessary steps to prevent and protect against both harassment and violence in the workplace; repealing less-effective sexual harassment provisions currently found in the code; ensuring that employers are required to investigate, record, and report occurrences of harassment and violence—employers would also be required to take steps to prevent and protect against occurrences of harassment of violence as well as respond to them when they occur and to offer support to employees affected by them; protecting the privacy of employees coming forward to report harassment and violence; and extending occupational health and safety coverage to exempt ministerial staff. I welcome these changes. I welcome the discipline and the responsibility and the important protections that these would afford to political staff.

As part of the new approach announced by the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, our government also intends to launch an awareness campaign and to provide support to employees and employers.

This support will help them navigate the incident prevention and resolution processes and direct victims to services. We are committed to this work because, at the end of the day, this is about ensuring equal access to and enjoyment of fundamental human rights for all Canadians.

Human rights are not pieces of pie. We do not run out of human rights by serving them to everyone equally. We do not run out of human rights when they are extended to all and enjoyed by everyone. In fact, they are strengthened for all. Human rights are fundamental, inalienable, indivisible, and universal. That means they apply to everyone equally.

When people have been made vulnerable and fearful, that is when we can and must shine light on these fellow human beings, that is when we must lead to make things better, that is when we must stand up and be counted, that is when we must support each other, and that is what is at the core of this legislation. It is together that we demonstrate our solidarity and support for Canadian women, the LGBTQ2 community, and their family members and friends.

Research indicates higher rates of violent victimization and an elevated risk of harassment and sexual violence for sexual minorities, including individuals who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirited, and this includes queer people of colour. The intersectionality of gender and sexual violence must be understood. No one should face such acts of aggression and unwanted attention in the workplace or, in fact, anywhere.

That is why our government is taking a clear stand on the issue. Workplace sexual harassment and violence of any kind are unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated. We must work together to eliminate such behaviours from our workplaces. No government can do that alone.

The legislation we are discussing today also aligns with the plan announced earlier this year by the Minister of Status of Women, entitled “It's Time: Canada's Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence”. The title, “It's Time”, was selected because it is time to learn more about the pervasiveness of this problem, it is time to believe survivors, and it is time to invest in effective solutions. After many years of neglect, there is a lot of work to do.

Developing this strategy was a key priority for our feminist government upon taking office, and listening to Canadians was a critical first step. As part of this engagement, approximately 300 individuals from more than 175 organizations shared their views during meetings held across Canada. The Canadian public was also invited to provide comments via email and through an online survey, in which more than 7,500 Canadians participated. In addition, the federal government created an advisory council of experts on gender-based violence and engaged with provincial and territorial colleagues to receive additional feedback to further inform the strategy. The strategy has three pillars: prevention, support for survivors and their families, and promoting responsive legal and justice systems.

Budget 2017 allotted $100.9 million over five years to implement this strategy. To support this strategy, Status of Women Canada is creating a gender-based violence knowledge centre to better align Government of Canada resources, fill gaps in evidence and data, support federal coordination and accountability on key federal actions, connect service providers with researchers and policy-makers, and lay the foundation for future action on gender-based violence. The LGBTQ2 secretariat is fully behind and proud to support this important work to combat gender and sexual-based violence.

The bottom line for Canadians is that harassment and sexual violence are unacceptable anywhere, including in the workplace. Bill C-65 sends a strong message that our government is prepared to take bold action and be part of the solution on this critical matter.

In the end, our government pledged to take action against harassment and sexual violence in federal workplaces, and that is exactly what we are doing. We expect the amendments to yield results in the short and the long term. In the short term, more people will feel safe and supported and will speak up. In the long term, there will be fewer incidents as the culture changes. I am asking my colleagues to support this bill, which will prevent harassment and sexual violence in the workplace, and foster workplaces where everyone has a fair chance to succeed today and in the future.

It is time to end gender-based violence and sexual violence in the workplace.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

January 29th, 2018 / 4:45 p.m.
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Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his concern on this issue and for taking his own initiative on this matter. Let me be very clear. In the work done by Status of Women Canada and by the minister responsible for Bill C-65, prevention, support, and measures to make sure that this does not happen in the workplace to start with is exactly what we are focused on.

The status of women report talks about support, prevention, and remediation. This is also addressed in Bill C-65. That is what came out of the consultations with Canadians. After the fact, it is important that we understand how to deal with it, but let us prevent it from happening.

It is also the work of our government to make sure that men understand that sexual violence is their issue. Sexual violence against women is an issue for men and boys, not simply an issue for women. Our government is committed to making sure that we get at the root of this problem and that we are upstream, in the middle of the stream, and downstream so that girls and women can be safe.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

January 29th, 2018 / 4:45 p.m.
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Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, my question for the hon. member for Edmonton Centre builds on a theme he raised about the consequences of reduced productivity and absenteeism. Obviously, creating a regime for survivors of violence and victims of harassment is essential and the right thing to do. However, one of the trends I fear is that we are losing good people altogether.

In my own office, I am very fortunate to have incredibly talented women working for me without whom I could not do this job. I want to ask the member how the regime contemplated in Bill C-65 would help create a culture change that would ensure that the talented young women who are experiencing harassment today have faith in the system and will want to stay in these jobs and will want to contribute to the good work of government and the public service and federally regulated workplaces.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

January 29th, 2018 / 5:20 p.m.
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Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am sharing my time with the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country.

If I may be permitted, I will just quickly go over the first bit of what I said. I am really pleased to see the support of all members of Parliament for this bill, despite political affiliations.

This is an issue that is of great interest to me, as a physician. The fact is that people fear reprisal, there is stigma, and there is shame with regard to violence of any kind. I am familiar with physical violence, domestic violence, and societal violence. Sometimes the only person victims feel safe to tell their stories to is their physician, because of patient-physician confidentiality. Quite often physicians cannot do very much about it because people cannot be forced to speak out or to go wherever they need to go, but we can do certain things.

We now have a culture where there is open disclosure. People are less afraid to speak out because of the number of people who are speaking out. There is safety in numbers, and people feel they are not being singled out. They feel it is safer to speak out. However, that is not enough. There is still stigma and shame attached to victims of violence. The mentality to blame the victim still goes on.

We need to take concrete steps to change workplace culture, and Bill C-65 would do that. If we pass the bill in the House and we bring in the policies and the program that would support the bill, we would see a slow but definite change in the culture of at least the House of Commons as well as federally regulated workplaces.

There are three areas we need to look at. As always, protection is the most important. As a physician, I can treat diseases. I can put on bandaids and do whatever I need to do. However, if I do not look at the cause then I am not able to give long-term help or long-term support.

We need to look at the culture. This culture of abuse of authority and of making people afraid in order to do what one wants them to do is not 150 years old. This has gone on for millennia. This culture is so deeply ingrained that it is going to be difficult to remove it, but with goodwill, we can all start to do it.

The first thing we need to do is examine ourselves. What do we do? How do we think? How do we behave? What are the thoughtless things we do to our own staff when we are angry at them or we feel they are not doing the job well? What are the things that we do, both men and women, whether physically, psychologically, or in fact sexually, that make our colleagues feel ashamed and threatened? These are the things we need to do first.

Before we can do anything, we need to take the physician health thyself approach. We have to look at our behaviour. We have to look at how we pass information on to our children. We have to look at how we bring up our children so they can learn to respect each other and understand the way to behave with each other. We have to start with these fundamental things. It begins in kindergarten.

I have heard people talking about pornography, etc. That culture starts at the beginning of one's life. That culture starts with how we deal with each other from the very beginning, with how we talk with each other at home around the dinner table, with how we shame people and how we denigrate people. These are some of the things that we have to start examining.

We need this legislation. This legislation looks at how we can protect people from workplace violence. Employers would be required to investigate, record, and report incidents. That is the first thing. Labour programs would bring in toll-free lines for employees and employers to link up with experts who can help them through conflict resolution and negotiations, as well as navigate all of the processes.

We need to look at providing educational material, which this legislation would provide. We need guidelines that would provide support services for those who are victims, keeping foremost in mind the safety of the complainant. Complainant safety is really a problem. Fear of reprisal is a big problem, as is losing one's job, being demoted, not getting the wanted promotion, or not getting that big part in a movie one wanted.

Some of these are very real, and people need to feel that they are not going to be blackballed for the rest of their lives because they spoke out. That is going to be very important as we look at the protection component.

The next one is to look at effectiveness and if we have effective ways of dealing with this: how to deal with it effectively immediately; how to deal with a problem when it occurs; and how to support the victims themselves? That is a big part of that effective response.

Even though I stand here as I woman and as a long-time feminist, I want to say that this is not only about gender harassment. Indeed, there are men who are harassed in the workplace, either psychologically or physically. In fact, men are more at risk of physical violence in the workplace. When we look at that, we see 19% of women have a tendency to seek help, fill out a report, and look for support services; yet only 7% of men do that because of the absolute shame that a man has of being in this position. Therefore, I want us to look at the broad ways in which we can deal with this problem for both genders, to look at all of the ways in which we can keep people down. If because of this bill a lot of men are going to seek help, then it will help them to get the help they need.

The third pillar is to support the employees who are affected. This legislation does not replace the Criminal Code. There are going to be times when we need to look at going to enforcement because of the criminality of an act that has occurred in the workplace. This does not replace that, but it will bring into force Part III of PESRA, which is the employer and staff relations act that would bring in health and safety precautions and protections into the workplace.

I caution everyone in this House not to think that we will turn on a dime and that we will make changes. However, by passing this legislation right now, and by the ability of all of us in this place to think that this is extremely important enough to come together and to forget our differences, then we will make it safer for people to feel they can speak out, by protecting them when they speak out. If we do that, it will be one major step in moving this agenda forward. However, we need to have clear guidelines and clear policies. This bill is going to do exactly that, so we are not just talking or just tut-tutting and saying how terrible things are; we are actually putting into place concrete processes, steps, and sanctions that will affect employers and employees in the workplace.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

January 29th, 2018 / 5:25 p.m.
See context


Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague's passionate speech. She highlighted a number of important details about the bill, but I would like to go back to the definitions, which are just as important.

There can be such a thing as too many definitions when the time comes to go to court or make legal decisions. An overabundance of definitions can be restrictive. The flip side is a legal vacuum, and definitions can vary from one country to another. When it comes to defining harassment, a person can say they have been physically harassed or even assaulted, and there is also the definition of psychological harassment. It varies from person to person.

I would like to know what my colleague thinks about the importance of including definitions in Bill C-65. Does she think the government will agree to the amendments about definitions that the NDP is going to propose in committee?