Evidence of meeting #91 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 complaint.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jason Godin  Union Representative, Confédération des syndicats nationaux
Sandy Hershcovis  Associate Professor, University of Calgary, As an Individual
Manon Poirier  Director General, Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines agréés, Chartered Professionals in Human Resources Canada
Caroline Senneville  Vice-President, Confédération des syndicats nationaux
Catherine Ebbs  Chairperson, Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board
Virginia Adamson  Executive Director and General Counsel, Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Good afternoon, everybody.

Pursuant to the order of reference of Monday, January 29, 2018, the committee is resuming its consideration 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.

Today the committee will hear from witnesses on the subject of human resources practices and organizations dedicated to addressing sexual misconduct. I apologize in advance if I butcher any of your names. I've been practising for the first couple of minutes here, and I'm not confident I'm going to get them all right.

From the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, we have Caroline Senneville, vice-president, and Jason Godin, union representative. Jason I believe is coming to us via video conference. Can you hear me okay, Jason?

4 p.m.

Jason Godin Union Representative, Confédération des syndicats nationaux

Yes, I can.

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Excellent.

Also appearing here in Ottawa as an individual we have Sandy Hershcovis, associate professor at the University of Calgary. Thank you for joining us. How did I do with your name?

4 p.m.

Dr. Sandy Hershcovis Associate Professor, University of Calgary, As an Individual

Awesome.

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Excellent.

From the Chartered Professionals in Human Resources Canada, we have Manon Poirier, director general, Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines agréés. Welcome. I know I butchered that entirely.

4 p.m.

Manon Poirier Director General, Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines agréés, Chartered Professionals in Human Resources Canada

You did fantastic.

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you. You're so kind.

From the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board, we have Catherine Ebbs, chairperson, and Virginia Adamson, executive director and general counsel. I'm pretty sure I nailed both those names.

Thank you very much to all of you for being here.

Each organization will receive seven minutes for opening remarks, and then there will be a series of questions to round out the afternoon.

To start us off, we have the Confédération des syndicats nationaux. The next seven minutes are yours.

4 p.m.

Caroline Senneville Vice-President, Confédération des syndicats nationaux

Good afternoon.

Thank you for receiving us. We are the only union to be heard today.

The CSN represents 300,000 members, including 10,000 who are subject to federal legislation, such as Mr. Godin, who represents Canada's correctional officers.

First, we want to commend this bill, which fills a significant gap in the Canada Labour Code by finally including provisions on the prevention of harassment in its broadest sense and violence at work. The purpose of the bill is the protection of both psychological and physical health by including preventive measures, but the purpose of the act, as amended, only refers to accidents, injuries or illnesses.

We are concerned that, when the bill refers to harassment and violence, the legislation will refer only to occurrences. The fact that the vocabulary is not the same is problematic, and this is the purpose of our first recommendation: we want the concept of occurrence to be added to the purpose of the legislation.

The bill also provides that the definition of harassment and violence in the workplace will be included in a regulation, which is also a problem for us. As you know, the definition of those terms is the foundation for the legislation. Defining those words later in a regulation, which may be changed depending on the political vagaries of the lives we lead, is problematic. We believe that the definition of harassment, including sexual harassment, should really be included in the legislation, because the regulations will be based on that definition. It therefore makes more sense to include it in the legislation itself.

Furthermore, the bill removes the definition of sexual harassment because it will be included in the broader definition of harassment and violence. That's great, except that the definition will be in a regulation only later. If the legislation is repealed before the regulations or the other act are in place, there may be a legal vacuum. We think it's very important to point it out. In the current context, a legal vacuum with respect to sexual harassment in Canadian labour laws is a misstep that must be avoided at all costs. That's why we wanted to mention it.

We also have remarks to make about the internal complaint resolution. I will let Mr. Godin tell you about it.

Jason, it's up to you now. I will come back to conclude.

4:05 p.m.

Union Representative, Confédération des syndicats nationaux

Jason Godin

Thank you.

One of the major concerns we have from our perspective as well is around the internal complaints resolution issue. Internal complaint resolution is favoured in the bill; however, if a complaint related to occurrences of harassment or violence cannot be resolved between the employee and supervisor, it will be sent directly to the minister, who alone will be tasked with investigating the complaint.

The bill prohibits policy committees, workplace committees, and health and safety representatives from participating in investigations of occurrences of harassment and violence. Neither the minister nor the employer can provide these committees and representatives with information likely to reveal the identity of a person involved in the complaint. Furthermore, the minister can decide not to investigate if it is the minister's opinion that the complaint is “trivial, frivolous or vexatious”. The minister may also combine ongoing investigations of harassment or violence that relate to the same employer and involve essentially the same issues and then issue a single decision.

We have noticed that there is no mechanism provided to denounce a situation of violence or harassment that involves a supervisor. Parity committees are excluded from all investigations related to occurrences of harassment and violence and may not obtain information likely to reveal the identity of a person involved in the complaint. Therefore, employees are not called on to become involved in investigations or potential solutions after a harassment or violence complaint is made. This sends the message that violence and harassment are not matters that involve all stakeholders in a workplace.

We understand that this exclusion aims to allow employees who are victims of such behaviour to file complaints with confidence that their complaint will be handled with the strictest confidentiality. In our opinion, if parity committees, including health and safety representatives, are regulated in a better manner by a code of ethics, rules of practice, and training, which can be part of a subsequent body of regulations, this goal could also be achieved.

With regard to the possibility of combining investigations, we have our reservations. Risks of contamination of evidence from one complaint to another must be eliminated. Maintaining confidentiality may be more difficult when combining complaints.

We offer the following recommendations.

First, provide a manner for employees to make complaints denouncing the occurrence of violence and harassment related to their supervisors based on the concept of “competent person”, as found in the regulation. Policy committees, workplace committees, or health and safety representatives could have an additional duty to name a competent person to handle complaints of this nature.

Second, maintain the contributions of policy committees, workplace committees, and health and safety representatives to the investigation process. These parity committees should receive information on the investigation from the competent person and participate in the investigations based on the current manner set out in the code when the complaint involves the regular process, that is, when the complaint is first made directly to the supervisor.

Third, as was the case for complaints made about supervisors, a manner must be provided for employees to make complaints about members of policy committees and workplace committees, as well as health and safety representatives. Complaints must be made directly to the competent person who would carry out the investigation.

Fourth, policy committees, workplace committees, and health and safety representatives should be regulated in a better manner through training on violence and harassment and by the rules of practice and a code of ethics that would guarantee confidentiality with regard to the information received during the investigations.

Fifth, the minister should continue to hold separate investigations for each complaint received.

Last, I would add from a correctional officer's perspective that often in the workplace we are harassed by inmates as well, and it's another issue that needs to be addressed. It has been addressed in some other committees.

Thank you.

4:10 p.m.

Vice-President, Confédération des syndicats nationaux

Caroline Senneville

The last part of the bill deals with pilot projects. Although the pilot projects are not uninteresting or bad as such, this is problematic in this context. As we said at the beginning, the Canada Labour Code is lagging behind other labour codes and the situation prevailing everywhere in terms of preventing all forms of harassment and violence. Having pilot projects could delay the adoption of regulations that would put in place protection measures. Since we are already behind schedule, we should ensure that the pilot projects do not prevent us from moving forward on the legislative and regulatory front. So we should not have pilot projects, because we urgently need a bill.

In conclusion, we would like to say that the bill is welcome in that it is aimed at integrating provisions into Part II of the code that would prevent and allow for intervention in situations of violence or harassment. However, we must insist on the importance of including provisions that define rights and obligations with regard to harassment and violence in the code, instead of in the body of regulations. As I said earlier, this is all the more true for the definitions of these concepts.

Moreover—of course, we are a union—we believe that preventing and protecting against violence and harassment in the workplace cannot be done effectively without employee participation through policy committees, workplace committees, and health and safety representatives. This is a workplace issue.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Now we have Sandy Hershcovis, associate professor, University of Calgary. The next seven minutes are yours.

4:10 p.m.

Associate Professor, University of Calgary, As an Individual

Dr. Sandy Hershcovis

Thank you.

Good afternoon. It's an honour to be here today to speak to you about Bill C-65. I've specialized in the scientific study of workplace harassment, including workplace bullying, incivility, and sexual harassment, since 2004. My specific expertise lies in the consequences of these forms of harassment for employees and organizations as well as coping strategies that employees use. Most recently, I have begun to focus on witness reactions to these forms of harassment.

I commend this committee for working to introduce a bill that will help victims and employers create a more respectful work environment.

In my comments, I will focus on four main points: definitions, language in the Canada Labour Code, reporting processes, and mandated training. I have also submitted a brief that provides specific recommendations for this committee to consider.

Bill C-65 aims to cover all forms of workplace harassment, including sexual and non-sexual harassment.

In the February 12 meeting in which Minister Hajdu answered questions about Bill C-65, there were a number of questions pertaining to the definition. I agree with the minister that the definition needs to be broad enough to capture workplace harassment in all its forms. I also agree with the concerns that without a clear definition that explains what constitutes workplace harassment, it will be difficult for organizations to develop policies and properly train employees.

As my first point, I will begin with sexual harassment. In the social sciences, sexual harassment is defined in three categories: sexual coercion, unwanted sexual attention, and gender harassment. The current definition in the Canada Labour Code, which is being repealed, covers only the first two categories. I would like to encourage the committee to develop a definition that covers all three.

Sexual coercion is defined as actions that make the victim's employment or advancement contingent on sexual favours. Unwanted sexual attention includes expressions of unwanted sexual interest. Gender harassment includes verbal and non-verbal behaviours that convey insulting, hostile, or degrading attitudes toward one's gender.

A recent example reported in Science magazine described women on a geological expedition to Antarctica who 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.

Sexual coercion and unwanted sexual attention are traditional sexual behaviours or come-ons, while gender harassment is not sexual. It's a put-down that focuses on gender.

Research shows that 89% of harassed women report gender harassment with no unwanted sexual attention or sexual coercion, and that gender harassment has similar negative consequences for victims as the other two forms of sexual harassment, so exclusion of this form of harassment from the sexual harassment definition misses the majority of cases of sexual harassment.

In non-sexual workplace harassment, researchers found that all forms of psychological harassment, from minor slights to threats and physical abuse, have significant negative effects on the well-being of employees as well as their job attitudes and work performance. I agree with the minister that the language needs to be broad enough to encompass all harassment, including those that span traditional workplace space and time boundaries. In my brief I suggest working definitions for both sexual and non-sexual workplace harassment for you to consider.

My second point focuses on language in the Canada Labour Code. Bill C-65 attempts to inject harassment and violence into an existing health and safety labour code. From a layperson's perspective, reading through the code it appears to focus mostly on physical safety, which of course is very important, but I think workplace respect is equally important. More fully integrating harassment and violence language into the Canada Labour Code would send a message to federal organizations and employees that harassment prevention is a Canadian priority. To that end, I suggest the committee replace the term “health and safety” with something like “health, safety, and respectful treatment” wherever it makes sense to do so.

My third point pertains to reporting. Minister Hajdu correctly explained that a key driver of workplace harassment is power. Harassment in all its forms is much more likely to come from a person in a position of power. When harassment comes from someone in a position of power, it has significantly stronger negative effects on victims than when it comes from a co-worker. Also, witnesses are less likely to intervene on harassment from a powerful perpetrator. Because of the power differential, reporting harassment is a big problem. Victims fear reprisal, disbelief, and inaction. This bill addresses perceptions of disbelief and inaction by requiring an investigation, but I'm concerned that fear of reprisal may still prevent reporting.

Research shows that those who voice complaints of workplace harassment experience considerable counter-retaliation, and that retaliation is more likely from a powerful perpetrator. Proposed subsection 127.1 requires that employees make a complaint to the supervisor as a first course of action. Since harassment often comes from the supervisor, I think the bill needs to clearly state that where the supervisor is the source of the complaint, employees may take their complaint directly to the labour board.

Finally, I want to briefly mention that for repeat offences, it would help if the Canada Labour Code were to mandate respectful workplace training. Since workplace harassment is often driven by cultural norms, organizations that are found to be in violation of the Canada Labour Code on more than one occasion would benefit from civility training. I think the Canada Labour Code should specify mandated training in these circumstances.

I'll stop there and welcome any questions from the committee. Thank you once again for your important work.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you very much.

Coming to us from the Chartered Professionals in Human Resources Canada, Manon Poirier, the next seven minutes are yours.

4:15 p.m.

Director General, Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines agréés, Chartered Professionals in Human Resources Canada

Manon Poirier

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

We at CPHR Canada are honoured to appear before your committee for the study of Bill C-65. CPHR Canada is a group of human resources associations across Canada. CPHR Canada is the national voice on the enhancement and promotion of the human resources profession. With an established and credible designation, CPHR Canada works on national issues related to the profession and is proactively positioning the national human resources agenda on the international stage.

In October 2016, the Canadian Council of Human Resources Associations, its nine provincial associations and three affiliated territorial associations chose a new name and introduced a new Canadian designation, Chartered Professionals in Human Resources, or CPHR. Only one designation—CPHR—is used for the standard of quality, in line with the model adopted by many other professions and professional designations in human resources around the world.

Our 27,000 members ensure the integration, development and well-being of workers, and help employers of all sizes meet the challenges of today's and tomorrow's labour market, challenges such as an aging workforce and the need to attract skilled workers, significant technological changes and an increasing regulatory burden. We are on the front lines of dealing with complaints of harassment and violence in the workplace. As such, we are ideally placed to assist parliamentarians on many strategic issues, including employment insurance reform, access to high-quality job training for all Canadian workers, pay equity, and of course, the features of Bill C-65.

Bullying, harassment, and sexual violence have no place in today's workplace, yet according to a survey conducted for the federal government, 10% of respondents said that harassment is common in the workplace, and 44% said that while it is not frequent, it happens. Most respondents agreed that incidents are under-reported and often dealt with ineffectively. According to our own data collected in my own province of Quebec, 60% of organizations surveyed reported receiving complaints related to harassment.

Obviously, this cannot continue. The issues underlying bullying, harassment, and violence in the workplace, including challenges faced by victims in the complaint process, have a direct impact on mental health, absenteeism, and loss of productivity. Bill C-65 is long overdue. In our submission, we will address three main issues: definition and implications for performance management, investigation of complaints, and prevention of harassment and violence through culture change.

We would like first to address the definition of bullying, harassment, and violence. We also believe that Bill C-65 should define workplace bullying, harassment, and violence, and we are pleased to learn that the minister is open to amendments in this respect. Definitions would provide clarity and direction to employers, employees, and the courts in understanding the legislator's intent. There are examples in provincial legislation that could guide the legislators for the federal sector. Recommendations from the standing committee would be invaluable in this respect, and we would be pleased to review them prior to their adoption.

One aspect that is of concern to members of CPHR Canada relates to issues surrounding performance management. Any definition must recognize that reasonable performance management is not harassment. An employee may feel anxious and stressed when receiving performance feedback or a written warning, a performance improvement plan, or progressive discipline. Anxiety and stress can obviously lead to illness, but it would be a tremendous burden on employers should they face harassment and bullying claims because they are properly managing performance. In that respect, we recommend that reasonable performance management be explicitly recognized in defining harassment, and that reference to illness be more clearly linked with events related to harassment, violence, and workplace safety.

Other key aspects of the bill of particular interest to HR professionals are the provisions relating to the investigation.

We are particularly concerned about the complaint process when complaints are filed against supervisors. Right now, the bill does not clearly set out whether an alternative will be available to someone who would like to make a complaint when the alleged harasser is their supervisor. This mechanism must absolutely be included if the intent of the legislation is to make reporting easier. When someone wants to make a complaint, if the first step is to go to their supervisor when the supervisor or the supervisor's supervisor is the subject of the complaint, it is highly likely that the complaint mechanism will not be effective. This is especially true for small organizations.

We urge you to clarify this aspect and provide an alternative for cases where the complaint is directed to the supervisor or the employer. Any disclosure process must be clear, simple and impartial, and include people working for small organizations.

We strongly support that any investigation relating to a complaint of harassment or violence must be assigned to an individual who is competent to do so. It is our recommendation that regulations need to be prescriptive in defining who is authorized to conduct investigations. Issues such as fairness, impartiality, and privacy are crucial components. Done badly, investigations can cause even greater damage to workplace relations.

Investigations must be performed by trained professionals who are subject to a code of ethics and rules of professional conduct and, in some instances, bound by professional secrecy.

A final word on investigations is that we strongly urge that regulations provide for what might be included in an investigator's report. Beyond a finding of whether there was bullying, harassment, or violence in the workplace, the investigator could, or actually should, make recommendations on practices that need to change or be initiated within the organization. The report should also create an obligation to abide by the recommendations within a set time frame. This approach would send a very clear signal that the federal government is serious about addressing bullying, harassment, and violence in the workplace.

I would like to turn to our third and final point, which is the issue of prevention.

The #MeToo movement has created a widespread public conversation on bullying, harassment, and violence. The movement has created an environment where individuals feel safer to lodge complaints and expect these complaints to be dealt with, but each time this happens, high personal and business costs result and productivity suffers. We need to do better.

Culture change is required in Canadian workplaces to prevent bullying, harassment, and violence. The government has committed to put in place supports such as awareness-building on harassment and violence, education and training tools for employees and employers, and direct support to help employees navigate the process and support employers in putting in place policies and processes. We look forward to hearing further details. We submit that support for training, especially in small and medium-sized organizations, is necessary.

Our members, the professionals who are responsible for policies, training, and prevention of bullying, harassment, and violence in the workplace, are keenly aware that culture change is required. The following key aspects, we believe, are necessary in every workplace to drive a change of culture: communicating regularly with employees; ensuring supervisors and managers apply policy; disciplinary management, if necessary, to correct wrongdoing; education and training workshops to facilitate changing attitudes and behaviour; and finally, support and training for managers.

In closing, we would like to reiterate our appreciation for the opportunity to participate in these hearings. We look forward to working with you on the next steps.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you very much.

From the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board, we have Catherine Ebbs and Virginia Adamson. You have seven minutes, please.

February 28th, 2018 / 4:25 p.m.

Catherine Ebbs Chairperson, Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

The Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board is an independent quasi-judicial statutory tribunal with the unique expertise required to deliver on its two key services, adjudication and mediation.

The FPSLREB was created on November 1, 2014, from the merger of the former Public Service Labour Relations Board and the Public Service Staffing Tribunal, bringing staffing and labour relations under one umbrella. The board and its predecessors have been responsible for administering public sector labour relations for 50 years, and for resolving public sector staffing questions for over 10 years. With public service modernization in 2005, the board gained jurisdiction in the human rights area, both in staffing and labour relations.

At its foundation, the board's purpose is bringing the highest values of Canadian justice to bear on labour relations, grievance adjudication, and employment and staffing issues in the federal public sector. It is committed to resolving those issues impartially and fairly. This contributes to a productive and efficient workplace and helps to achieve harmonious labour relations and a fair employment environment for public sector employers, employees and their bargaining agents.

The FPSLREB operates with neutral and impartial board members. Most board members come with deep expertise and experience gained by working either on the management or the bargaining agent side of labour relations and staffing. As prescribed by the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board Act, their appointment is made in recognition of that expertise with, to the extent possible, an equal number appointed from among persons recommended by the employer and from among persons recommended by the bargaining agents. However, despite being recommended by the employer or the bargaining agents, they do not sit on the board as representatives of the viewpoints or interests of either side.

At present, the FPSLREB's composition consists of one chairperson, two vice-chairpersons, and seven full-time members, as well as one part-time member. The board is currently working with the government to fill board member vacancies. A selection process is under way to appoint full-time and part-time members.

The FPSLREB has jurisdiction over several areas of federal public sector labour relations and staffing matters. Specifically, the board administers the public sector collective bargaining and grievance adjudication systems for the federal public service as well as for the institutions of Parliament. It resolves complaints related to internal appointments, appointment revocations, and layoffs in the federal public service. It resolves human rights issues in grievances and complaints that are already within its jurisdiction, as well as pay equity complaints in the federal public service. It also administers reprisal complaints of public servants under the Canada Labour Code.

Through the board's dispute resolution services, expert mediators and panels of the board help parties resolve a variety of labour relations and staffing disputes and complaints coherently and consistently and reach collective agreements often without resorting to a hearing.

Through the board's adjudication services and via fair and impartial hearings, it ensures that well-reasoned decisions are produced by an expert board for the federal sector.

The decisions made by panels of the board add to its growing case law in both staffing and labour relations, which is accessible to anyone.

During a continued period of legislative change affecting its work, the board has revisited how best to ensure uninterrupted service excellence while looking toward the integration of its additional mandates. This holistic approach to the formulation and implementation of a renewed vision in the efficient delivery of its mandate encompasses the values of fairness and transparency in its proceedings and includes one-stop shopping for mediation, adjudication, arbitration, and conciliation for the federal public sector.

The board has set a clear direction on providing a fair hearing and rendering well-reasoned decisions with a dedicated focus on dispute resolution.

Now I'd like to talk about the current mandate of the board under the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act.

While the bulk of the board's caseload comes from its stakeholders who fall under the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act, the board also has significant experience with the issues of parliamentary employers and employees. It has been the board responsible for this area since parliamentary employees first attained the right to bargain collectively in 1986. The FPSLREB is the expert board with respect to parliamentary labour relations. Part I of PESRA is administered and applied by the board, which hears various kinds of labour relations disputes, including such things as applications for certification, unfair labour practice complaints, and designations of persons employed in managerial and confidential capacities. The board also adjudicates grievances referred by parliamentary employees.

Now I'd like to talk about the impact of Bill C-65 on the work of the board. The FPSLREB has significant hands-on experience and expertise with labour relations and employment matters in the federal public service and for parliamentary institutions. From 1986 to 2000, public sector employees had recourse to the board, which was called the Public Service Staff Relations Board at the time, to challenge work refusal “absence of danger” decisions. These were not called appeals at the time, but they served the same function. During this time, parliamentary employees had no recourse with respect to occupational health and safety matters under part II of the Canada Labour Code.

In 2000, recourse for both private and public sector employees was transferred to appeal officers of the Occupational Health and Safety Tribunal of Canada. Beginning in 1986, public service reprisal cases were heard by the board. This continues to the present. Reprisal complaints were not included in the transfer to the Occupational Health and Safety Tribunal that took place in 2000.

The FPSLREB also has a great deal of experience with issues of harassment. It has dealt with these issues for many years. Harassment matters have come before the board through various legislative routes, such as grievances for violation of a collective agreement, grievances against disciplinary sanctions, matters pertaining to duty of fair representation and unfair labour practices, and staffing complaints.

Under Bill C-44, which received royal assent in June 2017, parliamentary employees will have their ministerial appeals and their reprisal complaints heard by the FPSLREB. Most political staffers will be added to the parliamentary employees and will also have their appeals and reprisal complaints heard by the FPSLREB.

To summarize, the board has extensive expertise and experience with occupational health and safety reprisal claims under the Canada Labour Code. It will retain its current mandate for reprisal claims from federal public service employees, and will acquire a new mandate for parliamentary employees, including most political staffers, for appeals of ministerial work refusal decisions regarding absence of danger, appeals of ministerial directions regarding contravention complaints, and reprisal complaints.

Given the board's substantial experience with the matters I've just described, I would like to conclude by saying that the FPSLREB has the adjudication and dispute resolution expertise to deal with appeals under part II of the Canada Labour Code, as it did before 2000, and to extend its current public sector mandate for reprisal claims for the federal public service to include parliamentary employees.

Thank you very much.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you very much.

That completes the introductions. Up first we have MP Blaney for six minutes.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I learned an expression in English. I used to say “appeler un chat un chat”, but in English it's “call a spade a spade”.

We want to give the bill some teeth. We supported it at second reading and we are studying it in committee. Compared to other pieces of legislation, the bill seems to be full of good intentions, but it looks like a declawed cat.

My first question is for you, Mrs. Poirier. You mentioned small businesses. I’m bringing it up because we’re going to propose an amendment. In the case you raised, the supervisor is the subject of the complaint. The employee may not want to tell their supervisor that they feel they are being assaulted and harassed and that things are not right. Who could they turn to? That is the question we are asking ourselves, and we would like to clarify it in our amendment. Will they have to turn, for example, to the Ministry of Labour or the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board, as they can, at the provincial level, in non-unionized environments, where the employees turn to the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail?

I would like to hear what you have to say about that, please.

4:35 p.m.

Director General, Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines agréés, Chartered Professionals in Human Resources Canada

Manon Poirier

I am sure you know which is the best organization to direct the employee to. I do not know all the mechanisms at federal level. But it is important to direct the person to an organization that is impartial. The process also has to be simple.

As I understand the situation in Quebec, the Commission des normes de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail deals with some cases. The commission hears about 4,000 complaints of psychological harassment per year. There are also mechanisms within organizations to deal with the same complaints. People subjected to psychological harassment can therefore choose the channels provided by their own organizations, or they can turn to the commission.

At federal level, I cannot tell you the best equivalent to the commission because I do not know all the organizations. However, is it possible, in those very organizations, to find an impartial process and neutral people who will listen to the employees? Employees do not want to go to their boss if the boss is doing the harassing.

The experience in Quebec is good, but more time for processing complaints is needed, so the situation persists. We have to find quicker ways to respond than through a more bureaucratic process.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Thank you.

Let me turn to the vice-president of the CSN.

We are comrades in arms, Ms. Senneville. I would like to have seen confirmation in the federal budget of the plan to refit four ice-breakers. Let us hope we will see it soon. It was a commitment by the Prime Minister. I can assure you that we are expecting him to keep his word on it, because it is important both for the Coast Guard and for the workers in the Davie shipyard.

Let us now turn to the employees in the Correctional Service. I would like to discuss one of your recommendations further. Still with the objective of giving this bill a little substance, you mention setting out the employers’ obligations in the body of the bill.

Once again, an independent investigator can issue recommendations, but what are the employers’ obligations? Could you expand on your idea here a little?

4:35 p.m.

Vice-President, Confédération des syndicats nationaux

Caroline Senneville

Certainly.

You have to understand that Part II of the Canada Labour Code deals with prevention. Should employers or companies have a policy against harassment? Usually, it is one of the obligations that the legislation could require.

It could indicate in part whom to turn to if our problem comes from our superior or—I like this idea too—from our superior’s superior. For us, in situations where it is possible, you can go to a parity committee. Again, Part II deals with prevention. Once a complaint has been made, it is often too late. The workplace is already affected. The person making the complaint is affected, as is the person complained about. So the workplace needs to come to grips with it.

Often, in cases of harassment, violence or difficulty, people start to psychologize, to say that the person is bad and behaves badly. However, any reasonable person placed in an unhealthy climate, in a company where there is too much pressure, has the potential to develop unwelcome behaviour. So who is in a position to say so? The people in the situation, and they have to have a voice. Even in small companies, you know, there can be union-management committees, and, where there is no union, there can be employer-employee committees, company committees. That is our proposal.

We believe that they should also be dealing with any problems. The more prevention, the fewer complaints, the less clogged-up the process and, most importantly in my view, the fewer undesirable effects on the workplace.

This is perhaps less a prevention issue, but there is also the whole matter of dealing with complaints. Once the superiors have received a complaint, or the parity committee, if that is where they go, their obligations could also be specified in the legislation to an extent.

We talked about reprisals. It should be clearly indicated that one of the duties of an employer is to not issue reprisals against people exercising their rights, even, I would add, if the complaint is not necessarily well-founded.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Thank you very much.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

MP Fortier, please.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Mona Fortier Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I am going to share my time with my colleague Ms. Dabrusin.

First, I want to thank you for being here. We are all trying to improve this bill, because it is time to do so and to highlight the culture change in workplaces. I feel that we are all on the same wavelength.

Mrs. Poirier, you mentioned the definitions in provincial legislation. Can you specify the provinces you were talking about?

4:40 p.m.

Director General, Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines agréés, Chartered Professionals in Human Resources Canada

Manon Poirier

Ontario and Quebec, actually. I have not looked at all the rest of the country; perhaps you can tell me that these things exist in all provinces.