Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville for proposing this bill. As we know, it takes courage to approach subjects that may seem, to some people in this House, unimportant or less important than some others.
We in the Bloc Quebecois have always worked closely with the working people. The House knows that as well as I do, and I am my party's critic for labour. We have always presented bills to improve the happiness of workers in their workplaces, to see that they have more respect, and to give them the opportunity to balance work, children and family life.
All the bills the Bloc has presented here have aimed to improve the lot of workers. By improving their lives, we can ensure that they are more productive. Of course, that is more valuable to business.
Once again, I congratulate my colleague. I am very pleased to speak on this bill.
I want to mention too that my colleague also helped write a book on psychological harassment in the workplace. She did quite extensive research. Doing research in this field is not easy. Many people keep quiet or are afraid of talking for fear of losing their job. They do not have this protection. A great deal of work has to be done to try to get some statistics. So, I want to congratulate her on that as well.
That said, I will try to summarize what work has been done and give some information to the public and explain why we are introducing legislation on this.
Are members aware that 21% of federal public servants are victims of psychological harassment? In actual fact, more than 30% are. That is a lot of people. Furthermore, 52% of victims experience psychosomatic problems. After several months of psychological harassment, stress causes the victim to experience serious psychosomatic problems.
Are members aware that Canada has the fifth highest rate in the world of individuals experiencing workplace harassment, according to the International Labour Organization? We are not the ones saying this, international surveys were conducted.
Again according to the International Labour Organization, in comparison with the United States, the rate of physical and psychological abuse of women at work is 19% higher in Canada. It is high time that we think about adopting legislation to protect workers and ensure that victims of psychological harassment in the workplace have access to resources and legislation to fully protect them.
In the past and present, harassment has been extremely subtle, and even insidious. It starts with a word, with something slightly out of place, when no one is looking so that the victim feels truly awful. Later, other people in the same environment are targeted. The victim is subject to this harassment for months, perhaps even years.
Quite often, these people do not even dare speak out about what is being done. When they reach the end of their rope and finally decide to try to take action, they feel guilty. They think that since they took it for years, people will ask them why they did not do something sooner. It is a vicious circle. That is what it is called.
With a bill like the one my colleague has introduced in this House, people experiencing this problem would have something to refer to. They would be protected and not necessarily lose their jobs. They could ask to be transferred elsewhere. They would be protected by federal legislation.
It is high time we had such legislation. Here in Ottawa it does not exist. We have tried to amend the Canada Labour Code or introduce legislation on precautionary cessation of work for pregnant and nursing women. I am referring to one of my own initiatives. We have such legislation in Quebec and have been asking the federal government for it for 10 years. We have been trying to get anti-scab legislation, while in Quebec this has existed for 25 years.
The other side of the House always refuses, always says no. This is becoming unacceptable.
As for this bill, other colleagues in this House, other political parties will say that they do not agree with one thing or another in the bill. A bill is sent to committee where amendments can be introduced and things changed. We are open to that, we are ready to see what our colleagues have to propose.
What we are not prepared for is not to have the debate, not to have this discussion, not to be able to take this bill and send it to committee. Sending it to committee will allow us to hear from witnesses, people or unions, entrepreneurs and people who have been victims of harassment. These victims could share their experiences with us and tell us what we could do to help them.
This problem exists and we have to open our eyes. I get the feeling in this House that until now, we have had our eyes closed. It is high time that a solution be found.
I hope that when we vote in the House—probably next week—we will allow this bill to be referred to a committee, before saying that it is not good and rejecting it. If we succeed in agreeing on some amendments, so much the better. We will have taken a step forward. More importantly, we will have had the opportunity to hear the testimonies of victims, union leaders, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, all the unions, the FTQ, the CSN, and legal experts. Perhaps the latter will tell us that something must be changed to make the legislation truly effective.
We must be given the opportunity to discuss it in committee. If we refuse to allow this bill to be referred to a committee, it will mean that this issue is a taboo subject in the House, that we do not want to discuss it and that we do not want people to work in a better environment.
The absenteeism rate due to psychological harassment is unbelievably high. It is no fun to get up in the morning and go to work knowing that we will be subjected to harassment. The culprit may be the boss or a colleague; it is not necessarily the immediate supervisor. Imagine getting up in the morning and thinking, “Today, I will once again be subjected to harassment all day long and there is nothing I can do about it”. This is experienced on a daily basis.
Women experience it very frequently. They often hold less senior jobs than men and there are a lot of power games being played. In order not to promote a woman, people in positions of authority will very often try to subject the woman to psychological harassment. They will tell her that she is not good, that she cannot do the job and that she will fail. This undermines the person's morale and people get sick. So, the rate of absenteeism due to psychological harassment in the workplace is extremely high.
If we could have a law to protect those who are experiencing this problem, I am convinced that people would think twice before engaging in harassment. They would know that there are recourses for those who are subjected to such harassment. Currently, there is no recourse, which means that these individuals are free to do what they want.
I would have liked to elaborate further, but we will have the opportunity to do so if all parliamentarians in this House see that the bill is referred to a committee. At last, we will be able to truly hear those who are affected by this problem. Allow us to take a step forward for the cause of workers who are victims of psychological harassment.