Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles.
I am very honoured to have the opportunity to talk today about Bill C-65. Our government ran on a commitment to take action on workplace harassment and violence, and I am extremely proud of this first step we are taking in the House today.
All of us here in the House, no matter our political allegiances, have a unique opportunity. Today we can join forces and take a stand together. We can send a strong message to all Canadians that workplace harassment and sexual violence is unacceptable, period, and that it will not be tolerated any longer.
Sexual harassment and violence in the workplace is nothing new. Certainly in my career I have experienced sexual harassment and bullying. I think it would be difficult to find a woman who has not, to one degree or another.
I am particularly pleased that this proposed legislation would also include MP staff, which is a group I feel is particularly vulnerable because of the nature of their work on the Hill. I certainly experienced it. My first job after university was right here in this place working for a true gentleman, London West MP John Burghardt. I recall one incident in particular when, after an evening reception, a male MP made completely inappropriate sexual advances toward me. I walked out and never told anyone, including my boss, because I was fearful of the consequences to my career and to my reputation.
Sadly, little has changed since the early 1980s. The power dynamic that exists on the Hill makes it a workplace that is a perfect storm for harassment and bullying. I worry about our staff, in particular our female staff, and I echo the comments made by my colleague from Milton. If staff members have an issue, regardless of party, they should not hesitate to come to me to talk about it.
High-profile cases are dominating the headlines day after day. The problem is both pervasive and far-reaching. In fact, just more than one in 10 Canadians say that sexual harassment is “really quite common” in their workplace. Another 44% say that, while it is infrequent, it does happen. I suspect those statistics are quite low.
The hashtag movements, #MeToo, #AfterMeToo, and Time’s Up, are the result of people, women and men, who thought it was important to show the world how pervasive and common harassment and sexual violence are in our lives, and they found the courage and strength to speak up.
Make no mistake; workplace harassment and sexual violence exist not only in high-profile professions but everywhere around us. The reality is that it has always been everywhere. We just ignored it or simply looked the other way, because of fear of reprisals or being labelled a troublemaker, or because norms in the industry made us feel we had no choice.
We know that harassers and abusers have used their power and influence to indulge in behaviours that were not only thinly veiled but generally accepted by their colleagues. The difference now is that not only are survivors speaking up but we are opening our eyes and paying attention. We are talking about just how pervasive harassment and sexual violence really is, and how important it is that we do everything we can to eliminate it.
There is momentum right now, and we must take advantage of it because it gives us a unique opportunity. Our government is taking action to do just that. In November, our government released a report on what we heard during consultations on workplace harassment and sexual violence. With Bill C-65, we would take strong action to ensure that federal workplaces are free from these unacceptable behaviours.
Our government is seeking unanimous consent on this bill, and I am hopeful that this proposed legislation will be endorsed by all members. I am also hopeful that we can join forces to send a clear message to Canadians that harassment and sexual violence in the workplace or anywhere are intolerable and unacceptable. This message should come not from one political party but from all parties. We can show Canadians that we are united in our intention to put a stop to workplace harassment and violence.
When people come forward, they need to know that they will be protected and supported through strong measures and that their careers will not suffer as a result. It is our responsibility as parliamentarians to put these measures in place. Canadians need to feel safe at work, regardless of where they work and for whom they work, and that applies to employers and workplaces across Canada, including the federal public service and right here on Parliament Hill.
Recently I had the privilege of visiting five corrections facilities in Edmonton and speaking with the dedicated staff who work there. The situation at Edmonton Institution for men was a cesspool of bullying, violence, and sexual harassment—an environment so toxic that the independent report said that there would be great challenges in changing the culture there. Significant steps have been taken, but the road to recovery will be challenging.
I had the opportunity to speak to some of those who had worked throughout the years in this toxic workplace. When I asked one female parole officer if she had hope that the situation would improve, she looked at me and said that I was it. As federal corrections officers, these staff would be covered by Bill C-65, and they deserve our support. We owe it to them and to employees across Canada to ensure they can go to work every day and know they will be safe from a culture of bullying and sexual harassment.
Bill C-65 would give employers the tools they need to adequately address and deal with harassment and violence, including sexual violence, in the workplace. We are also strengthening compliance and enforcement mechanisms under the Canada Labour Code in order to increase workplace health and safety, and better protect workers' rights. The use of monetary penalties and the authority to publicly name violators are just some of the changes announced to make workplaces healthy, safe, and productive places.
Bill C-65 is based on our research, on our consultation, and on what Canadians have said they need when it comes to preventing and dealing with harassment and sexual violence in the workplace.
Last year, we released the report “Harassment and Sexual Violence: What We Heard”, which summarizes a series of engagement activities we undertook with the Canadian public, unions, employers, non-governmental organizations, academics, and other experts. We made sure that a wide range of voices were heard to support evidence-based policy development and implementation, and held online public consultations as well as a series of round tables with stakeholders and experts.
Some of the findings were striking. Of the more than 1,300 people who responded to our online survey, a full 60% reported having experienced harassment, 30% said they experienced sexual harassment, 21% reported experiencing violence, and three per cent said they had experienced sexual violence. Incidents are under-reported, often due to fear of retaliation. When they are reported, incidents are not dealt with effectively. Some 41% of survey respondents stated that no attempt was made to resolve an incident they reported. Women are more likely than men to experience sexual harassment, and people with disabilities and members of visible minority groups are more likely to experience harassment than other groups.
It comes down to this: workplace harassment and sexual violence are unacceptable behaviours that have been going on for too long. Canadians want and need their government to do something about it and to lead the way. That is exactly what we are doing in Bill C-65. I am asking each of the members of Parliament in this place to rise to the occasion being presented to us today. Take a stand and show constituents that we care about making workplaces safer for everyone.
While this issue continues to make headlines, we must ensure it is not a popular movement that will fade away before any real changes are made. We need to do something now to correct the course we have been on for too long. I recently read a comment by former journalist Jennifer Mossop who stated that it is time. It is time for mutual respect and genuine and sincere public discourse to take us to the next level.
This needs to end now. Bill C-65 is going to help make that happen. Let us all support it together. It is time.