Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in support of Bill C-7. Let me begin by saying that the government appreciates the thoughtful consideration given by the Senate to this historic piece of legislation that would enshrine in law the collective bargaining rights of regular RCMP members and reservists.
Our national mounted police service has been keeping peace across the land for almost a century and a half. I would like to thank members of the RCMP for their service and also for their advocacy on this legislation.
The only police force in Canada not to have the right to engage in collective bargaining has been the RCMP. The labour relations regime this bill would create would mark the beginning of a new era in the history of the RCMP.
Bill C-7 has several elements that reflect the clear preferences expressed by RCMP members during the consultations with members that occurred during the summer of 2015. Specifically, members indicated that they wanted a labour relations framework that would provide for a single national bargaining unit, a union that would primarily focus on representing RCMP members, and recourse to binding arbitration if a collective agreement could not be negotiated. Bill C-7 would create this framework.
Bill C-7 would also build on previous efforts to implement a robust labour relations regime for the RCMP, efforts that have included a number of measures to promote a healthy and respectful workplace. For example, in support of the 2014 amendments to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, several of the RCMP's human resources management processes, policies, and procedures were updated. Among these were, first, a new investigation and resolution of harassment complaints policy that provides greater clarity and a single streamlined approach for dealing with complaints; second, a process to address misconduct in a more timely and effective manner and at the lowest appropriate level; third, a new code of conduct that specifically identifies harassment as a contravention of the code; fourth, an amended training curriculum that specifically addresses respect in the workplace and harassment; and, finally, an informal conflict management program.
Moreover, in February 2016, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness asked the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission to undertake a comprehensive review of the RCMP's policies and procedures on workplace harassment and to evaluate the implementation of the recommendations the commission made in 2013. The commission reviewed the adequacy, appropriateness, sufficiency, and clarity of these policies, procedures, and guidelines for preventing and addressing allegations regarding workplace harassment in the RCMP.
Further, in July 2016, the Minister of Public Safety announced the appointment of Sheila Fraser as a special adviser. Her role was to provide advice and recommendations to the minister regarding the application of various policies and processes by the RCMP after the filing of legal proceedings against the organization in four specific cases. The recommendations made by Ms. Fraser and the commission will be carefully reviewed and will inform further work on improving the workplace of the RCMP.
While the RCMP has made strides with the initiatives, programs, and policies it has implemented, these two reviews will be useful in helping the minister fulfill the mandate the Prime Minister has given him to ensure that the RCMP is free from harassment. The government is strongly committed to whatever action is necessary to help RCMP members and employees feel safe and respected among their colleagues and supervisors.
As a member of the status of women committee, I and the other members of the committee have studied the issue of gender-based violence and harassment as well as barriers to the economic security and workplace leadership of women. We have heard that harassment in the workplace is a large barrier to women's participation in the economy, so I am very pleased to see the government taking action to ensure that female members of the RCMP can feel safe and respected at work.
Our proposed response to the amendments would strengthen the actions I have outlined by increasing the scope of what can be bargained, including harassment, an issue I brought up with the commissioner at the public safety committee. The government's proposed response meaningfully addresses the concerns with Bill C-7.
The bill we are debating today seeks to accept certain amendments and to amend or not accept others. Let me begin with the government's proposal to accept the removal of all restrictions on what may be included in collective agreements that are specific to the RCMP. As a result, matters associated with transfers, appraisals, harassment, and general aspects of workplace wellness, including the promotion of a respectful workplace and early conflict resolution, could be discussed at the bargaining table and included in the collective agreement or an arbitral award.
With this one change, we would increase the scope of what could be bargained considerably. I am pleased that the government has heard the concerns of the Senate and has acted on them, in particular on the issue of exclusions.
The proposal before us today would also amend the management rights clause adopted by the Senate. It proposes implementing a more targeted management rights clause that would focus on protecting the authorities the RCMP commissioner needs to ensure effective police operations. This approach would preserve the commissioner's authority to manage the RCMP and would ensure the operational integrity of the police service and the broader accountability of the RCMP for the safety of Canadians. The Government of Canada takes the responsibility to protect the safety and security of Canadians seriously. This clause would support that responsibility.
Let me now turn to the proposal to reject the requirement for a secret ballot vote for the certification of a bargaining agent to represent RCMP members and reservists. Our government believes that there should be a choice between a secret ballot and a card check system. A secret ballot only system is inconsistent with providing a fair and balanced process of certification and properly recognizing the role of bargaining agents in that process.
Let me now speak to our proposal to not proceed with expanding the mandate of the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board to hear grievances on a wider range of matters relating to terms and conditions of employment. Under the existing Public Service Labour Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board has jurisdiction to hear grievances related to the interpretation or application of a collective agreement. Accepting this expansion would be inconsistent with the role of the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board in relation to the rest of the federal public service. What is more, there are already specialized grievance and appeal processes established under the RCMP Act to deal with these matters. In fact, such an expansion would create two different grievance processes that would apply to RCMP members, allowing them to file identical grievances under both the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the RCMP Act. This could potentially lead to conflicting decisions and undermine the commissioner's ability to ensure effective police operations.
Instead, and consistent with the rest of the federal public service, Bill C-7 would allow represented RCMP members and reservists, with the support of their bargaining agent, to file grievances pursuant to the Public Service Labour Relations Act on the interpretation or application of a collective agreement or arbitral award. Such grievances would be adjudicated by the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board. RCMP members' right to file grievances and appeals to address workplace issues would continue to be administered pursuant to the RCMP Act.
I heard repeatedly from RCMP members about the exclusions contained in Bill C-7. I believe that the proposed response to the Senate amendments would meaningfully address the concerns with respect to Bill C-7 by increasing the scope of the issues that could be bargained. The amendments would also ensure that the employer and any future RCMP member bargaining agent could engage in meaningful discussions, in good faith, on topics of importance to RCMP members and reservists.
At the same time, the proposal would take into account the operational integrity of the RCMP as a police organization. It would ensure alignment with the labour relations regime that applies to federal public service employees. With these amendments, Bill C-7 would continue to respect the 2015 Supreme Court of Canada decision by providing RCMP members and reservists with a meaningful process for collective bargaining.
I thank the RCMP members for their patience as this bill moves through the legislative process.