Mr. Speaker, it is great to be up on a Monday morning, starting the parliamentary week off with a bill that has received so much support and agreement from a number of members from all parties in the House. As we wind down the parliamentary calendar, getting this level of agreement on a piece of legislation is rare, so I am going to enjoy that for the next 20 minutes.
Off the top, I want to recognize the government members on the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities and the contribution they have made to this particular piece of legislation. Their efforts are always appreciated and welcomed, and they are very productive. The members for Toronto—Danforth and Oakville North—Burlington went above and beyond. Aside from their own committee duties, they pitched in on the HUMA committee and made huge contributions. There were a number of other members as well, but these members were there for pretty much all of the meetings. I want to recognize that.
I am pleased to participate in third reading of Bill C-65. As I said before, all parties think Bill C-65 is critical at this point in time in our country. No one can argue against the fact that harassment and violence, including sexual harassment and sexual violence, have no place in the workplace or, for that matter, anywhere at all. We have all heard stories that demonstrate just how detrimental and pervasive these behaviours really are. These stories have dominated the media for some time now, and many more were heard during the meetings of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities on Bill C-65.
There is a sort of strange story, a little weird, but it really stuck with me. It was testimony given by Dr. Sandy Hershcovis, associate professor at the University of Calgary. Dr. Hershcovis cited a recent Science magazine article describing “women on a geological expedition to Antarctica...reported that they were pelted with rocks by male colleagues, called names, had volcanic ash blown in their eyes, and were told that women should not be field geologists.” It is strange, but that one stuck with me. Many members also heard from former Parliament Hill staffer Beisan Zubi, who described the outrageously inappropriate behaviour she witnessed and in some cases was subject to herself right here on Parliament Hill. The testimony was very compelling.
What these and other stories demonstrate is that we live in a culture that tolerates workplace harassment and violence, accepts power imbalances and gender norms, and creates and reinforces inappropriate behaviours. For too long, these behaviours have been widely accepted in our society. These experiences are still too common and continue to take place in all types of workplaces. Many Canadians are still suffering because they feel they cannot speak out on this issue. They are staying silent because they feel their complaints will not be treated seriously or swept under the rug, or perhaps they fear repercussions from their employers—maybe even the loss of their jobs.
Many are in that position right now, and it is unacceptable. According to a recent Angus Reid study, 52% of Canadian women experienced workplace sexual harassment, 28% were subject to non-consensual sexual touching, and 89% took steps to avoid unwanted sexual advances. These all-too-common occurrences have had devastating and far-reaching effects.
For victims, the effects may include, among other things, an increase in stress and anxiety and a reduction in engagement and job satisfaction.
For employers, the negative effects of workplace harassment and violence can include a reduction in productivity, increased absenteeism and sick leave costs, higher turnover and legal costs, and in some cases, unwanted publicity. The bottom line is that these behaviours are bad for employees and employers, and at the end of the day, they are bad for the Canadian economy.
Our government has carried the messages of inclusiveness and fairness since we were first elected. We are committed to the fact that everyone deserves respect and dignity. All of our actions, including our policies and legislative initiatives, have those principles as a backdrop. We have made it clear from the outset that we will stand up for the rights of all Canadians, including women, people of colour, those with disabilities, and the LGBTQ2 community, as these are often the people with the least power and who are the most vulnerable in our society.
Our Prime Minister has been at the forefront of this issue, with strong and definite positions on fairness and the principle of opportunity for all, as well as on his determination to take strong action on harassment and violence. This is at the core of our values and principles in Canada. After all, we are people of diversity, but that diversity has not always been matched with compassion and consideration for others in the workplace or, for that matter, in our society. Now is the time to effect real and lasting cultural change. We are resolute in creating a social climate where people can live in an environment free of harassment and violence, and where unacceptable behaviour is denounced and condemned.
This is the backdrop to Bill C-65.
I would like to point out that our actions started well before the #MeToo movement. In 2016 and early 2017, we consulted with employers, employees, various stakeholder groups, experts, academics, and Canadians from across the country. We previously had some data on the issue. However, it was clear we needed deeper insight, not only on the extent of the problem but also on current reporting and actions taken following workplace incidents. Canadians told us that incidents were largely under-reported, and that when incidents were reported, the follow-up action was inadequate and ineffective.
Here are a few statistics I would like to share: 60% of those who responded to the online survey said that they personally had experienced harassment at their place of work, 30% said that they had experienced sexual harassment in their place of work, 21% reported that they had experienced violence in their place of work; and 3% of those who responded said that they had experienced sexual violence in their workplace. We can all agree in the House that this is unacceptable. We can, and we must, do better.
We consulted with members of Parliament and senators. They were unanimous in the belief that strong action on harassment and sexual violence should be taken and that victims should be heard and helped. That is exactly what we are aiming to achieve with this historic bill, Bill C-65. Using the most effective legislative and policy levers to address the problem, Bill C-65 would put an end to workplace harassment and violence and its consequences in federally regulated and parliamentary workplaces.
Bill C-65 would do this by requiring employers to do three things: first, prevent incidents of harassment and violence from occurring; second, respond effectively to these incidents; and third, support the victims and affected employees.
Let me take this opportunity to thank each member of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. After careful consideration of the many points raised by witnesses, members of the committee put forward important amendments to the bill, and amendments from all parties in the House were accepted.
The committee accepted the following an amendment to add clear definition of harassment and violence in the Canada Labour Code:
...any action, conduct or comment, including of a sexual nature, that can reasonably be expected to cause offence, humiliation or other physical or psychological injury or illness to an employee, including any prescribed action, conduct or comment.
Amendments also include specific reference to preventing occurrences of harassment and violence in the purpose clause of part II of the code. When it comes to training, employers would be obligated to provide it and take it.
Amendments also include more support for former employees in coming forward with complaints related to occurrences of harassment and violence, as well as provisions allowing employees to complain to someone other than their supervisor. That came out loud and clear during testimony and discussions with committee members.
The committee also sought and agreed to amendments that would ensure the harassment and violence provisions introduced in Bill C-65 would be reviewed every five years after coming into force to ensure these provisions would be current and would continue to meet the needs of workers.
To ensure the government is kept accountable and to track our progress and trends, the committee called for an annual report on harassment and violence in all federally regulated workplaces.
The committee unanimously agreed to make amendments that would give the deputy minister powers normally given to the minister to avoid the possibility of any conflict of interest when political actors were involved. This amendment in particular is a clear indicator of the collaborative efforts that went on during discussions and went into the bill before us today.
Thanks to these and other amendments, what we have before us today is a bill that we can all stand and be proud of, a historic piece of legislation that is long overdue. Our government is committed to taking action against workplace harassment and violence.
In addition to what we are doing in Canada with Bill C-65, we are also taking action against workplace harassment and violence on the international stage. We will be actively participating in the upcoming International Labour Organization, the ILO, negotiations at the international labour conference in Geneva later this month to develop new international labour standards. We will be there with our friends from the CLC, who will be making presentations at this conference as well.
These standards will help protect individuals from harassment and violence in the workplace. Canada's presidency of the 2018 G7 is an important opportunity for Canada to show global leadership and to engage our G7 counterparts on pressing global challenges, including the development and promotion of policies that prevent workplace violence and harassment.
Make no mistake, awareness is growing. We have come so far over the last year. The very fact that we are talking about it now demonstrates just how far we have come, and it is not just in Parliament.
This year's theme of the National Day of Mourning, which took place on April 28, was “Violence and Harassment - it’s not part of the job”. The National Day of Mourning is not only an opportunity for us to remember and honour all workers, men and women, who have lost their lives, been injured or fallen ill, but also an opportunity for us to renew our commitment to improving workplace health and safety to help prevent future tragedies.
More and more, people are recognizing the seriousness of the impacts of workplace harassment and violence. Many individuals are speaking out against these unacceptable behaviours and many employers are taking action as a result of the stories that are being told, but we still have a long way to go. Employers still need to do more. They need to take strong action to ensure that workplace culture does not tolerate this behaviour, respond quickly when the incidents do occur, and support the individuals affected. They must also take measures to ensure it does not happen again.
Our government is taking action for federally regulated and parliamentary workplaces, but we know the governments cannot effect change alone. We know that legislation is not enough. We have said, and my minister has been incredibly strong on this aspect, that what we need right now is a cultural shift to stop these unacceptable behaviours in the workplace. It will take us all working together to make that happen.
Changing the culture will require everyone to do their part. That means zero tolerance for inappropriate behaviour anywhere and everywhere. It means all Canadians should feel safe and empowered to speak up when they see or experience something. We know that in federally regulated and parliamentary workplaces, the measures in Bill C-65 will help make these things possible, and we hope the bill will serve as an example of what it means to foster workplaces free of harassment and violence.
What is good for Canadian workers is good for Canadian business. We know that measures to prevent and effectively deal with harassment and violence directly result in increased productivity and retention of talent. It is about creating the kinds of workplaces in which the best and the brightest can thrive. Addressing harassment and violence is a big part of that.
For these reasons, we are calling for the continued support of Bill C-65 in the House. Simply put, support for the bill is the right thing to do for Canadian workers, Canadian businesses, and Canada as a whole.
With the passage of Bill C-65, we expect to see more people come forward and speak out against harassment and violence. There is no doubt there will be some uncomfortable discussions as we re-examine our behaviours and create new policies and tools to support more inclusive, safer workplaces free from harassment and violence. In the long term, we expect to see better outcomes for all employers and Canadians alike, real change and real progress in our society. Our hope is that the law will set the example and the standard for fairness and harmony in all workplaces in Canada.
Workplace harassment and violence is an issue that crosses all party lines, and we have certainly demonstrated that with Bill C-65. We are on the right path. Harassment and violence, including sexual harassment and sexual violence, must stop in our country, and we need to prevent it from happening in the first place.
I am confident that what we have heard to date on harassment and violence in the workplace will encourage the members of the House to continue to support this important initiative.