Evidence of meeting #85 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was workplace.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Don Graham  Executive Director, Compensation and Labour Relations Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat
Marc Thibodeau  Director General, Labour Relations and Compensation, Canada Border Services Agency
Commissioner Stephen White  Acting Chief Human Resources Officer, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Nathalie Dufresne-Meek  Director General, Labour Relations and Workplace Management, Correctional Service of Canada
Kathleen Clarkin  Director, Workplace Policies, Programs, Engagement and Ethics , Treasury Board Secretariat
Superintendent Jasmin Breton  Director General, Workplace Responsibility, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

4:05 p.m.

Director General, Labour Relations and Workplace Management, Correctional Service of Canada

Nathalie Dufresne-Meek

The tip line has been promoted through the organization via our intranet and social media. It's also been promoted through word of mouth, management meetings, employee meetings, etc. Essentially, the employee who wants to report an area of concern, whether it's misconduct or harassment, and is not feeling comfortable going to their supervisor, manager, or through the harassment prevention coordinator, can pick up the phone. The phone is handled by our national monitoring centre in Ottawa. We have agents who take calls. They take the information and then they will make an assessment as to who is best positioned in the organization to receive that tip, if you will, in order to provide support to that individual. For example, is it more of a systemic issue or an issue specific to that individual? Then it is managed by the delegated manager for that particular institution or region.

The email essentially works the same way. It's also managed out of the national monitoring centre. It provides some assurance to folks that they're not necessarily reporting up through their chain of command. It's someone else who is receiving the information, someone who is objective and is not linked to the supervisor or manager.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

It's not necessarily the individual. It could be somebody who's witnessed—

4:10 p.m.

Director General, Labour Relations and Workplace Management, Correctional Service of Canada

Nathalie Dufresne-Meek

Exactly. In fact, we've received tips from folks who witnessed perhaps harassment or misconduct toward someone else, toward a colleague, and called in.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

In terms of the training, the people who are monitoring this line are highly trained and they understand the different avenues that people can go to?

4:10 p.m.

Director General, Labour Relations and Workplace Management, Correctional Service of Canada

Nathalie Dufresne-Meek

The folks who are currently receiving the calls receive them for a variety of reasons. It could be something happening at an institution. The assessment they make is simply the assessment of who will get that tip, what region it will go to. In terms of actually accessing the process that will take place, it's not that person, because they're not trained for that.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Finally, I think all of you mentioned in some way that there are people who are trained, that there's training for all staff.

Each of you? Yes?

Okay. Thank you.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Now we'll go to MP Harder, please, for five minutes.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you so much for being with us.

First, to the Treasury Board, you mentioned that the definition of harassment and those complaints seems to be quite broad. Is there a need to define that within this legislation?

4:10 p.m.

Executive Director, Compensation and Labour Relations Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Don Graham

I think the plan as it's been presented, or as I understand the legislation, is that definitions would be dealt with through the regulatory process. Personally, I think that's not a bad idea, because I think the definitions will be difficult to sort out. As we mentioned before, there will be a lot of different perceptions about what things are. We've had experience where there's some question about whether the definition of harassment is actually violence or whether violence is actually harassment, about whether they're the same things or whether they're distinct. It will be critical to sort these things out.

It's probably less critical if we have one route that's in the legislation, which is the key part, so that at least we're not talking about two different definitions that could determine that you take one route versus another, but I think having those things determined through the regulatory process will allow everybody to weigh in on them. The key will be that everybody walks out of there with the same understanding of what those things are.

February 21st, 2018 / 4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Okay. Thank you.

My next question is for the RCMP, CBSA, and Correctional Services. I'd like each of you to answer it separately.

The question is this. If I'm understanding correctly, each of you does your own internal investigations when a complaint comes forward. Bill C-65 will now allow people to report directly to the minister and then go from there. The first step, technically, is to report to your employer, and then, if that doesn't go so well, to the minister.

I'm wondering what your thoughts are on this. Is this the best reporting mechanism, or could we strengthen this further and make it better?

4:10 p.m.

A/Commr Stephen White

I would think that we, as an organization and a department, would be able to receive those complaints and investigate them effectively. Is there value in having more than one mechanism to submit a complaint? I would say there is absolutely.

For a complaint of harassment, for example, right now a complainant in a division can submit it directly to Ottawa through the Office for the Coordination of Harassment Complaints. We have an online reporting system, and they can go through that gateway as well. There are multiple mechanisms to report a complaint, and I think there would be some value in having a mechanism such as that.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Do you feel that the minister is the best person to report to, or do you feel that there could perhaps be a different third party there?

4:15 p.m.

A/Commr Stephen White

Well, I guess in terms of the minister it would be the ministry. I'm not sure where they envisioned it would actually get reported. I'm assuming it would be potentially delegated down. That's why it's important that we start being consulted on what the regulations to go with this legislation will be, because that really is where all the rules will be mapped out. Whether it's through the minister or whether there is some other independent entity that complaints could go to, I think there is merit in that as well.

4:15 p.m.

Director General, Labour Relations and Workplace Management, Correctional Service of Canada

Nathalie Dufresne-Meek

I support what my colleague has just said.

In addition, we actually have a mix of investigators. We usually use external investigators, but we do, in some regions, use some internal investigators depending on the nature of the issue.

What we find currently is that it's difficult to find a good, significant pool of investigators. There are some out there, but they're very busy, and it's difficult to find a competent investigator, certainly for part XX currently. That's certainly something I think we need to turn our minds.

4:15 p.m.

Director General, Labour Relations and Compensation, Canada Border Services Agency

Marc Thibodeau

We have the option of both. We do most of our investigations internally, but we have an avenue whereby we can go outside and hire independent investigators.

I think the accountability to provide a workplace free of harassment rests with the deputy head, and I join that with the fact that the best resolution of any conflict in the workplace is the one reached closest to the workplace.

I welcome the opportunity to go to a third party when the internal mechanism is not working, but I think that having the possibility of going internally to your supervisors, generally speaking, is definitely a good thing. I can see some situations where that could be problematic or bring the impression that it will not be fairly addressed, so I think going outside is also desirable. Given that we're enshrining this into the code will Bill C-65 and that the ministry is the place that administers the code, it would make sense that it go there.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you.

MP Trudel, go ahead for for three minutes.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Thank you.

Much has been said about monitoring criteria and support services. My first question is for Mr. White and Mr. Breton. You could comment afterwards. However, I have only three minutes.

My question is mainly about the submission of complaints during investigations. Even once an investigation is completed, if it is determined that workplace harassment or violence took place—or not, which can happen in some cases—what happens to the survivors, to the employees? Are they kept in their unit? If not, do you have procedures to direct them to another workplace? What happens to those employees?

4:15 p.m.

A/Commr Stephen White

We do the investigation. If it's a harassment complaint, the decision-maker also makes the decision on the harassment complaint. If there's a finding of harassment, that decision-maker, as I mentioned in my opening comments, would also be the conduct authority in administering conduct measures against the individual against whom the harassment is founded.

There are a number of conduct measures that can be taken, depending on the severity and the nature of the harassment. Some of those measures can be to recommend the transfer of the individual responsible for the harassment. Collectively, we would look at the workplace environment, we would look at the impact on the victim of the harassment, and we would try to come up with a solution. Our focus would be on protecting the victim of harassment in that case.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

You may answer, Ms. Dufresne-Meek.

4:15 p.m.

Director General, Labour Relations and Workplace Management, Correctional Service of Canada

Nathalie Dufresne-Meek

We try to work with victims and survivors by asking them what they prefer.

In our organization, when harassment occurs, the victims often want to stay in their unit, because they have established interpersonal relations with their colleagues, and they really enjoy their work. Therefore, they don't want to leave their workplace because they have been harassed there. Rather, they prefer to see the person who has harassed them leave. We talk with the victims.

It also depends on their health. Events like these are hard to live through, and can lead to medical problems that require accommodation. We work with the unions and treating physicians to find the best solution for victims. It really depends on what kind of situations employers are presented with.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you.

We have time for a third round. We're going to go to MP Blaney to start us off.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Great.

Most of you work with unions. My question is on the current situation and our recommendations to unions, as referred to in Bill C-65.

I'll start with you, Mr. Thibodeau. Do unions currently support victims of harassment? If so, do you view Bill C-65 as a step in the right direction?

4:20 p.m.

Director General, Labour Relations and Compensation, Canada Border Services Agency

Marc Thibodeau

Currently, respondents and complainants decide whether or not they want support from their unions.

Union involvement can have positive impacts on some levels, and negative impacts on others. If we believe that unions must play a role, this role will have to be well defined. We need to clearly define the roles, responsibilities and mandates of everyone involved.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

That is quite a clever answer.

Bill C-65 is unclear on this issue. Still, we must address this reality, because most workplaces in the public sector and federal government are unionized.

Ms. Dufresne-Meek, are you of the same opinion?

4:20 p.m.

Director General, Labour Relations and Workplace Management, Correctional Service of Canada

Nathalie Dufresne-Meek

I would say, yes. Victims of one-time or ongoing harassment often need support. It can sometimes be hard for union people to see themselves as supporters, and not representatives. They will often want to speak on behalf of victims in order to protect their members, which is clearly very honourable. However, we want to hear from victims, because they are the ones who have experienced harassment, and they are up to the task of relating the facts.

In summary, I believe that we do need to define the role of union representatives.