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

5:05 p.m.

Vice-President, Confédération des syndicats nationaux

Caroline Senneville

That's why you need a working committee where the employees and the employer are present. The work does not just involve saying that there is harassment, a little, a lot, or passionately. It involves saying that we have a problem and that, even if the complaint is unfounded, we must work to solve the problem. In this way, we are working much more on prevention, which may mean that there will be fewer complaints.

There is also the fact that it is relatively new, even in the other provinces. It may be around ten years ago. The workplace needs to take ownership of these definitions and learn how to navigate them. When there were the first laws against sexual harassment, people said it was the end, and you couldn't flirt at work. Yet we continued to reproduce, there was no problem. So it's important to get used to these ideas, which takes a while too. People have to be able to live their lives.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

I only have about three minutes left, and I did have a question for you, Jason, because you touched on the fact that issues go to supervisors.

I want to thank you for providing James to accompany me when we went through Edmonton max—

5:05 p.m.

Union Representative, Confédération des syndicats nationaux

Jason Godin

A pleasure.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

—which I've brought up a few times, because you are working with the other unions and with management to try to resolve the situation there.

How do you see the unions fitting into the process? If it's the health and safety committee, how do we incorporate that into our legislation to ensure that there is involvement from the health and safety committee? Also, do you see a role for someone independent in that as well? I've heard that in particular with the situation you're involved with, there's some desire for some independents outside of Corrections Canada to be involved in resolving those situations.

5:05 p.m.

Union Representative, Confédération des syndicats nationaux

Jason Godin

I'll answer your question about the involvement of the health and safety committees. First of all, sometimes we'll see a complaint go in, and it could even be a violent harassment complaint. What's the plan if the individual ends up coming back to the institution? This is why we have to be involved. The complaint goes in. Nobody hears anything. All of a sudden, somebody disappears for a while, and then they end up coming back, but nobody's talked to. This is pretty damning for the victim who may still be at that particular site. This is why we have to have some involvement.

I know my colleague also referred to sifting through what constitutes harassment as well. If a supervisor tells me to do something, that's not necessarily harassment. This is why we need to have some engagement from a health and safety perspective for a safety issue. We had, as an example, one supervisor actually push her chest up against an individual and nothing was really done. It was clearly harassment, and all of a sudden a month later the manager disappeared, and then ended up coming back with no explanation to the victim. We need to know, as a health and safety committee, if this manager comes back, if it is safe for our member. I just use that as a particular example.

I think the second part of your question was around impartiality. Part of the problem we have with the organization is that obviously the independent firms that come in and investigate are paid by the department, by the government, so how do we get around ensuring that it's really impartial? Sometimes we feel, as correctional officers, when a harassment complaint is put in, that it can be swayed one way or the other.

Also, the investigations take way too long. That's another issue we're faced with.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Yes. We've heard that a lot in terms of paid leave and the length of time investigations take.

I don't have any time left, do I?

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

You have about 10 seconds.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Okay, thank you.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

MP Warawa, you have six minutes, please.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Jason Godin, you're in Abbotsford, so you're working at Matsqui Institution or near there.

5:05 p.m.

Union Representative, Confédération des syndicats nationaux

Jason Godin

I'm from Ontario, Millhaven, but I'm the national union president for the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers.

February 28th, 2018 / 5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Okay.

During your presentation, you had talked about the environment that some of the employees are working at dealing with inmates. At Monday's meeting, I asked a question of, I don't know if they worked at Matsqui or where, but you work in a different environment than what most federal environments look like. I think it was yourself or Caroline had mentioned that if there's a complaint, that the workplace environment is already damaged and you need to deal with that. But workplace is a very different type of environment than what we would expect where there's an adversarial climate between your clients and your employees and the management overseeing that. Could you elaborate on some of the unique challenges that you would face? Harassment is still harassment. Your employees that you're representing are probably facing harassment on a regular basis as a norm. Does that affect how they may respond to one another or how they would respond to inmates in a form of showing strength?

5:10 p.m.

Union Representative, Confédération des syndicats nationaux

Jason Godin

Certainly I know we've testified in previous committees about harassment from our clients or the inmates we're in charge of in care in custody. That presents a different element of harassment within the workplace. Aside from harassment occurring with supervisors or even among colleagues where we try to intervene in various ways through mediation, we're faced with harassment from the very people we're managing. This definitely has an immediate impact on the workplace. You're right that often, sexual harassment by inmates particularly is often overlooked, and it's not dealt with very swiftly.

We've testified in other committees, as an example, the status of women committee, where we've raised this issue time and time again that it's not necessarily harassment from colleagues, that it's harassment from the inmates. That's where the environment becomes poisonous. It becomes stressful. It becomes all those things for the people working inside. It's a completely different form of harassment, and it's very difficult to manage. How do we manage that inside? Swift action has to be taken with the inmates who choose to sexually harass or make sexual comments. Often I'm referring mostly to sexual harassment because often our female officers get harassed by inmates in a male facility, and equally, male officers often get harassed by female inmates.

You're right that our work environment is so challenging and that presents a whole different situation. As a union, we try to intervene and say that this is not acceptable. Especially if the comments coming from an inmate are very violent, we try to push on the administration and say they have to do something. Sometimes we'll try to have these particular harassers transferred out of the facilities, certainly for protection and certainly to try to ease the psychological stress. We talked about how it's important to have psychological harassment very much recognized and defined. This is another form of psychological harassment that is very present in our workplace, and unfortunately, it is one of those things that we're expected to do. However, when we know the very serious cases, we take the administration to task, and we have to look very carefully at different alternatives to manage those situations.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

I cannot imagine how you manage that, particularly in maximum security institutions where people have nothing to lose.

Do I have any time left?

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

You have about a minute.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Sandy, you touched on the three broad definitions of harassment: gender, sexual coercion, and non-workplace sexual harassment.

Harassment is harassment. How would you see that being handled? Sexual harassment and harassment are quite different, but gender-based as opposed to regular harassment, how would you see that being handled differently?

5:10 p.m.

Associate Professor, University of Calgary, As an Individual

Dr. Sandy Hershcovis

I don't think it would be handled differently, I just think that the definition needs to include it, so it's clear that it's a type of harassment. Also, it highlights that often, not always, but often, women are more likely to be on the receiving end of it. It highlights in the definition that it's a bigger problem for women.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you very much.

Next is MP Ruimy for six minutes.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Ruimy Liberal Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Thank you very much.

I will likely share some time with Ms. Dabrusin.

A lot of the questions I had have actually been repeated over and over again, so I want to stick to two things that have stood out to me.

With organizations such as yours, you have manpower, resources, and you have policies in place. You have a lot of these things there, yet we still have a problem.

My first question is, where is the breakdown? Is it all just because we don't have it enshrined in law? I'm struggling with that, because if you have the policies in place and you are training—and I know that organizations like yours will do the training—where is the breakdown? Is it management that is saying no? I'm just curious about that. Anybody can jump in on that.

Madame Senneville.

5:15 p.m.

Vice-President, Confédération des syndicats nationaux

Caroline Senneville

I used to be a teacher, so I think the answer lies in....

Am I speaking in English?

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Ruimy Liberal Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

You may answer in French.

5:15 p.m.

Vice-President, Confédération des syndicats nationaux

Caroline Senneville

I've been speaking both languages all day.

Part of the answer lies in education. These kinds of things are never done for always. You have to repeat them as people come in. As I said, some situations are really hard, and they impact people, and sometimes we don't have good answers for them. It's an ongoing battle, and we need to be armed for it.

For example, look at the #MeToo campaign. I'm pushing 50. I never thought it would come out as strong. I never thought that women would feel that way. We're in 2018, and it's still so hard for women, especially when they're in a male environment, where their co-workers are mostly male. It's so hard. I would have thought...I would have hoped it would have been better, but we still have to battle this.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Ruimy Liberal Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

What do you think, Mrs. Poirier?

5:15 p.m.

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

Manon Poirier

There is no doubt that this kind of behavioural change takes place over. We know that when we work on human behaviour, it takes a lot of time. It's true that we had policies, and we offered training. In terms of results, compared to the situation 15 years ago, I daresay there has been an improvement.

Often, policies and frameworks existed, but what was clearly evident with the #MeToo movement was that the whistleblowing process did not have the desired quality, rigour, impartiality or neutrality. We had a policy, and we were told to share it with someone in an organization, but I do not think we made sure that these processes were rigorous and hermetic. The fear of complaint and reprisal in an environment is not always easy to overcome. This is evident in small settings, but this can also be the case in large organizations. It shows that we may have taken steps, but we need to go further.

Take the example of Quebec. Quebec, in 2004, gave employers an obligation of means. It was not an obligation of results. It sought to ensure that the environment was free of harassment. However, we never defined what the employer's expectations were for that. We realize today that we need to be very specific about the expectations of employers. So you have to have a policy, and it has to contain different options depending on the person against whom the complaint is made. We must also ensure that the person conducting the investigation is truly independent and competent.

I have seen poorly done investigations cause more problems than the initial situation itself. A smaller problem became very large because the investigator did not do his homework properly. We all want to talk about prevention, but when we get to the investigation stage, it's a bit late, something has already happened. However, if we have clear mechanisms and rigorous investigations, I bet that there will be fewer and fewer cases of inappropriate behaviour, because the signal will be clear and because employers will take it seriously and will take the necessary steps.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Ruimy Liberal Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Not only are you recommending that a broad definition get into the legislation, but that the process needs to be very clear.