Of course, we are very concerned that Bill C-65 prohibits the participation of health and safety committees in the investigation process, and prevents them from receiving information. We fully understand the need for confidentiality in order to encourage workers to report problems, but we think it needs to be balanced with the need for unions to properly represent their members and receive at least some of the information, to enable them to contribute to the change of culture in the workplace.
We play an important role and we want to ensure that investigations are conducted fairly, equitably and, above all, impartially. I want to reiterate the importance of the competent investigator principle described in Part XX of the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, entitled “Violence Prevention in the Work Place”: this person has the experience and the skills required to do the job, but they must also be seen as being impartial by both parties, which is very important. It is important to ensure that employers do not conduct their own investigations. This can be problematic in many cases, especially when it comes to sexual harassment and things like that. It is imperative that the person conducting the investigation be impartial.
We have recently found that competent investigators had circulated their reports in health and safety, human resources and labour relations services before making their findings public; those reports had therefore been amended. That's not impartiality.
Confidentiality should exist to protect the victim, not to allow the abuser to hide or to circumvent the bargaining agent or the health and safety committees. This argument is used against us in the workplace, which is very problematic for us.
We are also concerned about the interaction of clauses in the collective agreement with the provisions of Bill C-65. We have an obligation to represent our members. This may include providing support to those who want to complain, or representing someone who is part of the investigative process, as Part XX of the regulations allows. We must also represent people who have been disciplined. There is ample case law on the obligation of unions to represent their members, as well as on the right of unions to have information. If there are no clarifications on this, we wonder what position we are going to be in and what kind of legal debate that will cause.
The bill should also provide more detail on the investigation process. In particular, will the results of the minister's investigation be made public? Can we access it during the grievance process, for example? This concerns us.
We are also concerned about the definitions. We think this is a fundamental aspect that should be reflected in the bill. I have heard arguments that it is easier to change the definitions in a regulation than in a law, and I agree. The important thing is to have clear and precise definitions. Would it be sufficient to include them in the regulations? Possibly. However, if that is really the intent, why not include clear and precise definitions in the bill so that we know exactly what is intended?