House of Commons Hansard #335 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was workplace.

Topics

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

Noon

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his passionate plea in support of victims of sexual harassment and violence in the workplace.

Listening to some of the points raised by my colleague from Jonquière, it is hard for me to understand the Liberals' position. For example, they refused to allow joint health and safety committees to exist and to allow experts from different backgrounds to represent the complainants.

As everyone knows, the majority of complainants are women of colour from vulnerable communities. Sexual harassment or violence in the workplace leaves victims shaken up. Having a trained expert by their side can often be reassuring. This is part of the trust-building process.

Doing away with joint committees means losing that expertise and training, which will cause complainants to lose faith in the process when they are being encouraged to file a complaint. More than half of abuse victims do not report their aggressors because they figure that nothing will be done.

Bill C-65 abolishes joint committees despite the fact that they provide a sense of safety, expertise and training in representing the interests of complainants and conduct investigations.

That is ridiculous, and I think those provisions should be returned to Bill C-65. That would give the bill some teeth and enable it to offer some real protection to those who are dealing with harassment and violence in the workplace.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

Noon

Liberal

Terry Duguid Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to thank the hon. member for Jonquière for her work on this particular legislation. My understanding is that she was a very strong voice around the table.

I also understand that all parties support this legislation. There was a great deal of consensus and one of the reasons for the consensus was the fact that there was wide consultation. HUMA committee listened to many stakeholders, employers and employees. We are having a great debate here in the House and in the other place. Very importantly, the committee consulted the union movement.

We on this side of the House have been listening to the union movement. Our government has repealed a couple of egregious pieces of legislation that were introduced by the previous government.

To address the hon. member's question directly, as far as workplace committees go, an important item has been added to this legislation. We eliminated the option to not have one of these workplace committees. They are going to be mandatory, not optional. They will play an important role. They will be involved in prevention policies and developing them in the workplace. These committees will have a lot to say about workplace culture.

On the issue of whether they will deal with individual complaints, there has been a great deal of emphasis in this legislation on ensuring privacy and ensuring that these committees do not deal with individual complaints.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind members that unions and even legal experts said that it was a bad idea to remove the joint workplace health and safety committees. I do not understand why the member keeps saying that it is such a good idea and that the Liberals held consultations because this was one of the things that legal experts and unions were calling for and it is not included in the Liberals' bill.

Including statistical data in the five-year review is also key to ensuring that the bill serves as an effective deterrent to harassment and abuse in federal workplaces. That would ensure that we have a detailed, ongoing report, but the Liberals are refusing to include that in Bill C-65. That is one of the tools we have to improve. It would give us feedback so that we could see what is working and what is not and what changes could be made to improve the situation. The Liberals seem to be making a habit of failing to monitor statistics.

The same goes for climate change: 14 out of 19 federal departments have no plan and no means of evaluating whether those objectives are being met. Once again, Bill C-65 contains no means of evaluating the statistical data regularly collected on how things are going in the workplace. This is a major flaw that needs to be—

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order. There is time for only one answer.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Status of Women.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Terry Duguid Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, on the issue of data, under our gender-based violence strategy, we are creating a knowledge centre. We are going to be partnering with Statistics Canada to dutifully collect data on harassment and gender-based violence in the country. We are going to be sharing best practices with groups from across the country, such as unions, employers and others. The data issue is very important to our government. We are an evidence-based government.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.

I would not say that I am pleased to rise to speak in the debate today, but I think it is an important debate we are having on a very important issue that impacts women and men throughout the world.

I will quickly go over what the bill would do and where it is at in the process, and then I would like to share some personal reflections on why the bill would be so important.

On November 7, 2017, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour introduced Bill C-65, which would amend the Labour Code on harassment and violence, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Budget Implementation Act, 2017. It has been through the process, and we are talking today about some Senate amendments.

Part 1 of the bill would amend the Labour Code to strengthen the existing framework for the prevention of harassment and violence, including sexual harassment and sexual violence, in the workplace. Part 2 would amend part III of the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act with respect to the application of part II of the Canada Labour Code to parliamentary employers and employees, without limiting in any way powers and privileges. Part III looks at a transitional budget.

For those who are watching who do not think Parliament comes together to try to do things that are important, this is an example of where all parties participated thoughtfully in the debate on this bill. They knew it was important. The Senate amendments were proposed in the House and were accepted. Amendments were proposed in the Senate, and the vast majority were accepted. When they were not accepted, there was a reasonable rationale provided as to why those particular amendments were not seen as helpful for this legislation.

I think we have agreement here that the bill is important and that we need to move forward with it. It really is a bit of an awakening, which perhaps has taken too long.

It is interesting, as we are debating the bill here today, that yesterday there was an important report released in the British Parliament on sexual harassment in the workplace. Some of the things said there, as my colleague referenced earlier, are important, because the same thoughts apply here.

There have been disturbing cases that have been tolerated and concealed for too long. Certainly when we look at what has been happening since I have been here, which is 10 years, cases have become more public. We have struggled with how we deal with them. However, do not for a minute think that there were no issues prior to those 10 years. These issues have been here as long as the House has been meeting.

The British Parliament's response was to apologize for the past failings and to commit to change the culture. Hopefully, not only would we pass this piece of proposed legislation, we would also recognize and make a commitment to change.

The British Parliament described a culture of “deference, subservience, acquiescence and silence”. Those are very disturbing words, but they relate to what the impact was of that attitude of deference, subservience, acquiescence and silence on the people or the victims who were impacted. It was hugely distressing and long-lasting, and in many cases, had a devastating impact on people's lives. This is a serious issue that we are coming to a point of awareness on.

Of course, as we enter into these debates, we always look into our past and reflect on our own careers and experiences.

As I was considering this piece of legislation and how I felt about it, I reflected back to my first role in a management position. This was back in the 1980s. I was thrilled to be given an opportunity to have a pretty important job for someone in her late 20s. I answered to a board of directors. The chairman of the board of directors would come to the office to visit quite regularly, and it quickly became apparent that when this chair of the board of directors was coming to the office, we either wanted someone else in the office with us or we needed to be out and about, because he thought nothing of grabbing a person and trying to sit her on his lap. It was the chairman of the board. As members can imagine, it was creepy, and it was highly inappropriate and uncomfortable, but what was at play here was that he was the chairman of the board, and I was in my late 20s. Acquiescence, silence, and just trying to avoid the situation was how one dealt with it. That was the example I should have brought. It was something that was sort of personal. As a nurse, I have certainly dealt with some very horrific abuses, but this was creepy and uncomfortable, and it was wrong.

This brings me to another issue I found very disturbing this year. As we are coming to an awareness of this issue, we are starting to talk about it, and we are trying to put policies in place. That was the story this summer in terms of the issue of the person in the highest office in this country and an incident many years ago, from his past, at a music festival, where there was an inappropriate interaction with a journalist. I have to give the journalist credit. She was very uncomfortable with the situation, and she acted on it. Unlike what I had done many years ago, when I just tried to avoid the situation, she acted on it. She wrote an editorial, at which time the response of the Prime Minister was quite telling: Had he known that she worked for a national newspaper, he might not have done it. Perhaps he thought that she worked for a small-town newspaper, and it was okay. Sometimes, for people who have famous names and are handsome, those sorts of advances are welcome, but clearly they are not always welcome.

In Canada, most people would say that this was a lot of years ago, it was an incident that was not too terrible, that we can see, so let us just move on, or he should make the appropriate comments and move on.

What happened next, though, is what was the most offensive to me. Instead of just saying, “It was a long time ago. I apologize. Obviously, there was something that was very uncomfortable, and I will endeavour to never let that sort of thing happen again,” or, “It was related to a time in my past when I was having a difficult time,” he did not say that. We did not get that message. At first he remembered being in Creston but did not think he had any negative interactions.

The next comments we got directly from the Prime Minister were, “We've all been reflecting on past behaviours. There is a collective awakening going on and we need to take opportunities to reflect on it”.

He went on to say, “often a man experiences an interaction as being benign or not inappropriate and a woman, particularly in a professional context, can experience it differently”.

I remember being in a professional context and having something happen that was incredibly inappropriate, and those comments were insulting. It should have been very easy for the Prime Minister to say, “I was young. I had had too many beers, I did something that was foolish, and I am sorry”. Instead, he gave us this kind of nonsense. It was so offensive.

It was not about awareness. It was not about moving on. It was something that was terribly troubling, and I wish he could make it better. I wish he could make it right.

In closing, this is an important piece of legislation. It is incumbent on people that when they set a standard, they reflect on their past and are honest and do not try to say that they would have seen things differently and as a benign, professional interaction.

I will be happy to support this legislation, but there are many things that we in this House need to continue to reflect upon.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments the member across the way made in addressing this important, and as I argued earlier, somewhat historic legislation before us. From a national perspective, the government is demonstrating leadership by trying to deal with the issue.

The member reflected on her own personal experience. I have been a parliamentarian for many years, close to 30, and I have found that in the last number of years, such as with the #MeToo movement, many individuals have been brave enough to come forward and share their experiences. It has heightened the level of importance of this issue. It is encouraging to see all-party support and Senate support.

I am wondering if my colleague can provide her thoughts on why we have seen a significant change over time in dealing with this issue. In the first 10 years of my political career, it was never really talked about.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I agree that we have made tremendous progress and are actually talking about this issue, but there is a lot more we need to do.

I have to go back to the comment of the Prime Minister that he was a feminist prime minister, and then he said, “often a man experiences an interaction as being benign or not inappropriate and a woman, particularly in a professional context, can experience it differently”. It shows me that we have a lot more to do.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an unusual occasion when the NDP and the Conservatives have substantially the same position on Bill C-65. Both parties are looking for definitions and clarity within the act.

The Conservatives, we know, are primarily focused on psychological abuses. Will the Conservatives support the NDP's call for amendments to clarify the terms and objectives of Bill C-65, and do our colleagues in the opposition also believe that workers and employers need clear definitions of harassment, violence and psychological harassment?

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is one of those bills on which there was substantial work done at committee. I was not on the committee, but I understand that amendments were accepted by parties on all sides of the House, and a number of Senate amendments were also accepted. Where amendments were not accepted, the government gave a reasonable rationale. No bill is ever perfect, but we are certainly in a very good place to start.

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12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary and our hon. colleagues have said how far we have come with respect to the #MeToo movement. Perhaps we have come far, but the Prime Minister missed a very real opportunity to stand up and be a leader this summer, instead of deflecting and denying in his answer about the serious allegation of groping.

I am wondering if my hon. colleague feels that the Prime Minister had a real opportunity to come forward and show true leadership and right a past wrong.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, when that story first came out, I asked myself who has not done something in the past that was perhaps wrong and that the person feels uncomfortable about. What does one do when one recognizes something? Yes, it was 18 years ago, but the Prime Minister himself has said that there is no timeline on being held accountable. An acceptable answer would have been, “It happened a long time ago. I was young, it was wrong, I am so sorry I made this young journalist feel uncomfortable, and I apologize.” Instead, we get that the rules apply to everyone else, but they do not apply to Liberals.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

October 16th, 2018 / 12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to debate Bill C-65 in the House today. This bill represents a major step forward in enhancing the rights of victims of sexual harassment and violence.

I would like to begin my thanking my Conservative colleagues who sit on the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities for their excellent work on this bill. They successfully brought in a number of changes to the bill. For instance, they proposed a change aimed at transferring certain powers from the Minister of Labour to the deputy minister, a non-partisan civil servant. This change ensures that there can be no appearance of political interference in an investigation into complaints of sexual harassment committed by a member of the House.

I have spoken before in this House about the #MeToo movement in general and its importance. It is a movement that has had a powerful impact. It has helped women who are survivors to see that they are not alone. It has helped many men who were previously unaware to gain a greater understanding of the all too common experience of harassment and violence that has affected the lives of many women. I have always believed that men need to seek to engage these conversations in a supportive way, especially in terms of talking to and challenging other men about their behaviour. We all need to be part of the solution.

Before getting elected, I had the honour of serving on the board of a local organization called Saffron, which provides public education programs aimed at prevention, as well as counselling and support to survivors. Saffron was obviously engaged with these issues long before the #MeToo movement but it has found a significant increase in the number of people coming to it for counselling ever since the movement began. This growth is the result of people coming forward to talk about historic trauma, events that have happened in their past, maybe even decades ago, that they had not felt ready or empowered to speak about even in private until the current moment. It is certainly positive that people are now feeling able to come forward and discuss things that have happened to them in the past.

There is one particular issue, perhaps challenge, that I want to discuss today with respect to the #MeToo movement. I read with interest some discussion in the news recently revisiting the actions of former U.S. president Bill Clinton with a former White House intern. Hillary Clinton told a CBS correspondent that the relationship between the most powerful person in the world and an intern did not constitute an abuse of power because the 22-year-old intern was an adult.

About the interaction itself, that intern, Monica Lewinsky, recently wrote an essay in Vanity Fair, and I want to quote a passage from it. She wrote:

Just four years ago, in an essay for this magazine, I wrote the following: “Sure, my boss took advantage of me, but I will always remain firm on this point: it was a consensual relationship. Any ‘abuse’ came in the aftermath, when I was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position.” I now see how problematic it was that the two of us even got to a place where there was a question of consent. Instead, the road that led there was littered with inappropriate abuse of authority, station, and privilege. (Full stop.)

Now, at 44, I’m beginning (just beginning) to consider the implications of the power differentials that were so vast between a president and a White House intern. I’m beginning to entertain the notion that in such a circumstance the idea of consent might well be rendered moot. (Although power imbalances—and the ability to abuse them—do exist even when the sex has been consensual.)

But it’s also complicated. Very, very complicated. The dictionary definition of “consent”? “To give permission for something to happen.” And yet what did the “something” mean in this instance, given the power dynamics, his position, and my age? Was the “something” just about crossing a line of sexual (and later emotional) intimacy? (An intimacy I wanted—with a 22-year-old’s limited understanding of the consequences.) He was my boss. He was the most powerful man on the planet. He was 27 years my senior, with enough life experience to know better. He was, at the time, at the pinnacle of his career, while I was in my first job out of college.

I think this episode from American politics and the striking contrast between Hillary Clinton's words and Monica Lewinsky's words are important for our understanding of the #MeToo movement and the dynamics around harassment which can exist in the workplace. The continuing way in which this episode is regarded by many partisan Liberal progressives is, I think, important as well.

The #MeToo movement calls on us to set a new standard for behaviour, to demand women be treated with respect, and to hold those responsible for violence and/or harassment accountable. That standard of behaviour and the appropriate standard of evidence associated with accountability must be set in a consistent way. There ought not to be a Republican standard and a Democrat standard, a Conservative standard and a Liberal standard. There ought not to be a difference between a prime minister of Canada standard and a leader of the Ontario PC Party standard. There must be a human standard enforced in the same way in all cases.

Failure to apply an equivalent standard across parties allows any perpetrator to use political divisions and inconsistent application of standards as an excuse to avoid accountability. The infection of partisanship into the evaluation of cases very clearly risks weakening the universality of condemnation that should be associated with these kinds of abuses of power.

As an avowed partisan, I do understand the temptation to stand by one's man while firing arrows across the aisle. Standing with one's team is the instinctive human response, further enforced by the norms of our political system.

The #MeToo movement undoubtedly provides political parties with an opportunity to accuse their opponents and perhaps also even an excuse to purge unpopular people from their own ranks. We see elements of this as well of someone possibly being purged on the basis of allegations but also the same person having substantial policy disagreements with the leadership of the party.

Those of us who believe in the importance of this movement must ensure we resist the temptation to evaluate allegations through a partisan lens. This movement is too important for its impact to be lost in partisan rancour. That is true on either side of the border.

As with Bill Clinton, we also had a case here in Canada where a powerful self-identified progressive and feminist leader faced serious allegations of sexual misconduct. It has been alleged, and we have talked about this in the House, that the Prime Minister was involved in the past in a “groping” incident. This allegation was made against the Prime Minister before he had entered politics. Those who talk about believing women and believing these allegations need to consider it seriously and seek to put aside their partisan hats when they make those evaluations.

In response to these allegations, the Prime Minister has said that people can experience things differently. That is perplexing, in so far as it is true people can have a different response to the same events, but events are events. In the question of appropriate behaviour, there is a subjective as well as an objective element in harassment. Certainly, the word “groping” being used in the editorial implies very strongly the crossing of an objective line.

I do wonder parenthetically what the response of my friends on the left would have been if Justice Brett Kavanaugh had said in response to allegations against him that people experience things differently. As well, the response from members of this House is interesting. The minister responsible for bringing forward this legislation, the former minister for the status of women, had the following to say about the Prime Minister's response to these events:

I'm actually proud of a prime minister that understands that you can believe that you didn't have negative interactions with someone—I think we can think about this in all kinds of different situations—and find out later that someone perceived that interaction in a completely different way, and reflect on how our behaviour and the way that we make our way in the world impacts other people.

Of course, we should consider how certain things can affect the subjective experience of others, but there is an objective element to inappropriate behaviour. There are things a person ought not do to another person and ought to know, and yet we have the former status of women minister standing up for the Prime Minister in this context. I would have thought that the role of the minister for the status of women would be to speak to the Prime Minister and cabinet on behalf of women, not to be defending the Prime Minister's action in every case, including in allegations of inappropriate action toward women.

The #MeToo movement responds to a reality that some men, who have often enjoyed disproportionate power and prestige in the workplace, take advantage of their position at the expense of women. It should trouble us then if the way in which the adjudication and debate about #MeToo allegations works out in practice is to make examples of some men while still allowing some of the most privileged and self-identified progressives to escape being held accountable. These are serious challenges that we must face up to as we go forward.

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12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Rémi Massé Liberal Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

As everyone knows, for our government, harassment and sexual violence of any kind are clearly unacceptable, period. I heard the criticisms advanced by the member opposite, but I would be curious to know what mechanisms his party has put in place specifically to ensure that harassment and violence against women are not tolerated.

What concrete action has his party taken?

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12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, certainly every time there have been cases of this, and I can think of some not impacting our caucus in particular but affecting our sister parties at other levels, there has been a very strong and very swift response. People within our political movement have not tolerated the kinds of alleged actions we have seen presented against people who have been involved across the political spectrum. If we see the responses that have happened in various provinces, we have seen the strong response, the way in which people within our party and our movement in particular view these things, that it is completely unacceptable that people would abuse their position in the ways that we talked about.

Again, the proof is in the pudding in terms of our response. We encourage other parties to be engaged with a similar level of seriousness.

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12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, every time my colleague speaks, I listen with rapt attention and again, the member's speech was an amazing one.

One of the things he touched on briefly that I would like him to flesh out a little more was the media complicity in some of these scenarios. I noticed that the Canadian media was enthralled with the Kavanaugh case. From my perspective, it looked like we spent two weeks on that set of allegations and yet when our own Prime Minister is faced with allegations, we seem to spend about two minutes on it. I wonder if my colleague has any comments regarding that.

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12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do not have much experience personally in the media business. It is not really my area of expertise, the editorial decisions they choose to make and not make.

It does seem in general that in Canada we have a great deal of interest in what happens in the United States. Sometimes the dynamics are very engaging to watch, but at the same time, judicial legislative processes in the United States are not things that we have any kind of direct control over. Our focus should probably be on asking how we respond to these issues and hold people accountable in the Canadian context.

During the summer there was a very serious allegation. There was some coverage about the issue in the media in terms of the Prime Minister's alleged action, the allegations that came out involving groping a number of years ago. There has been some discussion of this in the media. It is a question of the response that has come from people at the political level. I mentioned the words of the former status of women minister, the minister responsible for bringing this forward and her decision about how to communicate about that issue. We have not heard any criticism from members of the government on the way the Prime Minister handled this or the words that he spoke.

My contention is that we need to respond to these issues in a way that sets a human standard for behaviour, not a this is the position for this party and this is the standard for someone else.

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12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Mona Fortier Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have a chance to speak to the proposed amendments to Bill C-65, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code regarding harassment and violence, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the members of the other place for the effort they put into studying Bill C-65 and proposing the amendments we are considering and debating today. The government believes that their work strengthened this bill.

I know that members of the other place heard testimony that impacted them, as our committee did as well. Hearing the experiences of those working with victims of workplace harassment and violence sent a very strong message to all of us as parliamentarians that we must act and work quickly, but also deliberately, to ensure that the bill works to protect victims and prevent any form of workplace harassment or violence in the first place, because we can all agree that harassment and sexual violence of any kind is unacceptable.

I would like to thank all members of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons With Disabilities who extended the sittings and came back early from their constituency week to hear important testimony. As well, I extend the thanks of the House to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour and the department for evaluating and providing guidance to our committee as we evaluated each clause and section. I also thank the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso for his work in support of our committee evaluating Bill C-65 effectively.

The committee heard from witnesses, all whom spoke with passion about the urgency with which harassment and violence in the workplace need to be addressed. While everyone in the House agreed to the urgency of the bill, we understood the complexities of ensuring that employees are protected from workplace harassment and violence.

The last time I rose in the House, I spoke of the Vice News journalist Hilary Beaumont, author of an investigation into workplace harassment. As I cited then, Mrs. Beaumont interviewed more than 40 women who work on Parliament Hill, including current and former MPs, as well as lobbyists, journalists, staff and interns. Mrs. Beaumont stated at committee that it quickly became apparent that female employees were more vulnerable to harassment than their male colleagues. The women she spoke with told her their stories and experiences, including sexist comments, touching and even sexual assault. Some women said they had been dismissed or had lost job opportunities after trying to report workplace abuse. Some of the women who currently work on the Hill said they would not even know how to report harassment if they had to. Harassment such as this and sexual violence have absolutely no place in any workplace. They are not okay.

With that in mind, we agree with the principles underlying some of the amendments proposed by the other place. I would like to focus specifically on those concerning the recourse available to victims of violence and harassment. During its study of Bill C-65, the committee raised several valid concerns.

An employee of any gender who feels their rights have been violated may be unaware that they have two options for recourse. The employee can file a complaint under the Canadian Human Rights Act, or they can file a complaint with the employer under Bill C-65.

A member of the other place said that “we must ensure that women who are victims of sexual harassment can still choose the type of recourse, including a complaint under the Canadian Human Rights Act”. She went on to say that she thinks it is important to clarify that the new framework will not preclude a discrimination complaint for sexual harassment from being filed because that could end up trivializing the harassment and violence that women are subjected to in the workplace and could take away these women's hard-won avenues of recourse.

Bill C-65 is not at all intended to replace the Canadian Human Rights Act. On the contrary, the bill complements it by laying out a clear procedure for preventing and dealing with incidents of harassment and violence in the workplace. However, we do see the need for absolute clarity on this issue.

A tremendous amount of work will be done to make sure everyone understands how to proceed if an employee believes he or she has been subjected to harassment or violence at work, but the message may not reach everyone, and that could cause confusion.

In reality, the law is often complex and difficult to grasp. During our committee discussions, we often heard differing views on the same principles from equally qualified legal experts.

The law can be even more complex and difficult to digest for someone who has just experienced a stressful, even traumatic, event at work and is trying to fully understand what remedy he or she has.

It is not hard to imagine how employees who are dealing with the consequences of such an experience may not realize right away that they are protected under both the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canada Labour Code. They may think that they have to choose one or the other when, in fact, they are and always will be covered by both. That is why we support the amendments proposed by the Senate committee, which clearly explain that employees will not waive their rights under the Canadian Human Rights Act. More specifically, senators suggested that Bill C-65 be amended by adding a clause to the section relating to the Canada Labour Code and by amending clause 21, which deals with the way in which part II of the code applies to the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act.

The additional text proposed for the two clauses specifies that it is understood that the relevant sections will not infringe on the rights provided under the Canadian Human Rights Act. We think that is an important and valuable addition to Bill C-65 because it eliminates any ambiguity regarding the relationship between the bill and the existing legislation. Senators pointed that out and proposed the addition. In order to truly achieve the kind of cultural change needed to eliminate workplace harassment and violence, we need to ensure that all legislative measures that seek to put an end to such shameful behaviour are consistent. A consistent set of laws will help us to make a profound cultural change, a change toward civility and respect, a change that ignores differences and enables human rights to take their rightful place.

It is very important to condemn the acts of violence reported by victims, at all levels, so that these injustices do not go unpunished.

This is exactly what the bill will provide for. We must create a culture of equality in our country, so that all Canadians see themselves as equals and treat each other as equal in rights, dignity and aspirations.

It is important that we create a culture of equality in our country so that all Canadians recognize each other as equals and treat each other with the respect we all deserve.

I know that today of all days, when many members of this place have young women students from the University of Toronto shadowing them, it is important that we work together to ensure that these principles are enshrined in law.

This bill is just the first step, and it is a necessary one. We urgently need to change the culture in Canadian society so that inappropriate behaviour is no longer reinforced.

While this is just a first step, it is an important and necessary first step, one that, along with the regulatory changes prescribed by Bill C-65, will work to change the culture of federally regulated work environments and demonstrate our joint commitment to ending workplace violence and harassment.

We must also teach workers about the means of recourse available to them if they are victims of harassment or violence. Bill C-65 will add to the existing recourse options, and workers must know that they are entitled to full protection guaranteed by the various legislative tools.

I therefore support the amendment to specify that employees are not renouncing their rights under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Ultimately, we support this amendment because it strengthens Bill C-65, offering more clarity and thus more protections to those employees.

We remain committed to securing the timely passage of Bill C-65. I urge all members to support the government's position.

I would like to remind my esteemed colleagues that harassment and sexual violence of any kind are unacceptable, period. Our government made a commitment to take action on harassment and sexual violence in Parliament and in federally regulated workplaces.

With Bill C-65, the Government of Canada is taking an important step toward making workplaces in federally regulated industries and on Parliament Hill free from these behaviours.

As noted in this bill, our framework will prevent incidents of harassment and violence, respond effectively to these incidents when they do occur, and support victims, survivors and employers throughout the process.

That being said, no government can fix these problems alone. We live in a culture where power imbalances and gender norms create tolerance for these kinds of unacceptable behaviours.

It will take all of us, employers, employees, colleagues, family members and friends, to do better and change this culture.

As I was saying, it is important that we realize that harassment and sexual violence of any kind are unacceptable, period.

Our government ran on a commitment to take action on workplace harassment and sexual violence in Parliament and in federally regulated workplaces. With Bill C-65, we are taking an important and necessary step toward making workplaces in federally regulated industries and on Parliament Hill free from these behaviours. This framework will prevent incidents of harassment and violence. It will respond effectively to these incidents when they occur. It will support victims, survivors and employers.

However, no government can fix this alone. We live in a culture where power imbalances and gender norms create tolerance for these kinds of unacceptable behaviours. It will take all of us, employers, employees, colleagues, family members and friends, to do better and to change this culture.

The members of the committee worked very hard during those months to make sure that we would strengthen the legislation. Today we received suggestions and amendments from the Senate, and we believe that some of them need to be integrated to strengthen this legislation. I hope the members of this House will make sure we pass these suggested amendments, which we think can help strengthen the legislation, so we can move on and change the situation that exists in our government and in the workplace.

I will now answer questions.

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12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a lot of respect for our hon. colleague. I listened intently to her speech. I have a very simple question.

In the member's opinion, do victims of harassment and violence experience such violations differently from the perpetrators?

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12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mona Fortier Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, during the committee's work, many examples and stories were shared. I believe that women and men who live with harassment or sexual violence in the workplace need to have a space to be able to say no, and to get help, making sure they have the possibility of being supported by their employer.

This legislation is very strong, and it will give us the tools to change the culture in our current system.

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12:55 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, when Bill C-65 was at committee, there were repeated requests from the labour movement, from the NDP and from my colleague, the member for Parliament for Jonquière and NDP labour critic, to keep alive the role of occupational health and safety committees.

They have been extremely important, being made up of both employer and employee representatives, with a great diversity of representation, whether gender, indigenous or racialized. It is something that has worked very well for decades, supporting complaints and investigations under the labour code.

All of those witnesses, including the Public Service Alliance of Canada and others I mentioned, asked that the role of those occupational health and safety committees be maintained. In the case of workplace or sexual harassment, they asked that the complainant have the option to turn to these committees and all the experience they have garnered. The NDP's amendment to have that included in Bill C-65 was rejected by the government side. The Senate proposed the same amendment, and that was also rejected by the government side.

Is it my colleague's view that these occupational health and safety committees truly have no utility here?

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12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mona Fortier Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, we had that conversation, and a decision was made to ensure that the privacy of the person was protected.

I truly believe the occupational health and safety committees play a role in helping to make this change in the current culture. It is crucial that we use them in this role and make sure we move forward to change and transform the culture in the workplace.

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12:55 p.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have some concerns with the bill. I agree with my colleague, and I commend the committee for its work in accepting amendments from various parties.

Looking through the bill, though, I believe there are still some gaps in terms of ensuring that we take politics out of the decision-making. In one aspect, there is a portion of the bill that states that no complaint can come forward after an employee has been out of that employment for three months. However, the minister of labour has the authority to extend or offer an exemption to that timeline, in perpetuity. I am concerned that this introduces politics into this legislation, which we worked very hard to eliminate.

I would like the member's opinion. Are there some opportunities to work further to improve this bill and remove any options or any optics of political influence in this legislation?

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1 p.m.

Liberal

Mona Fortier Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will answer this question in French because that is easier for me. I am sure my hon. colleague can hear my answer through the interpreter.

I know we had this conversation in committee. After reviewing all the options, we realized that it was really up to the employer to carefully examine the problems identified in its workplace following the investigation.

There will be a whole process, and some measures will be taken in the regulations to ensure that the process is fair and is followed properly.

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1 p.m.

Cape Breton—Canso Nova Scotia

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment

Mr. Speaker, I had the great pleasure to work alongside the member for Ottawa—Vanier, and I attended many of the meetings when the committee brought witnesses to deal with the legislation.

I would like the member to share with the House just some of the people who came and presented testimony. I was taken by how well prepared they were and the consistency of what was heard through that testimony. Could she share with the House and put on the record those groups that had an opportunity to present, both at the committee and through a number of written submissions as well?