House of Commons Hansard #293 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

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, I would draw back to some points that I made in my speech. One is certainly policy, and putting policies in place even within our offices. As an employer, it is my responsibility to talk to my staff with respect to what my expectations are, and what is appropriate and not appropriate. It is my responsibility as an employer to talk to my employees if I notice anything that is out of line. It is my responsibility to hold myself accountable and to make sure I am treating my employees with the utmost respect and honour, and that I am functioning with the greatest amount of integrity possible. Those are the sorts of decisions that we as MPs within this place have to make on a daily basis.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith, Fisheries and Oceans; the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, Employment Insurance; and the hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London, Employment.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Lethbridge, who does excellent work at the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.

I am pleased to take part in today's debate in the House to speak to and support Bill C-65. I commend the hon. Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour on introducing this bill to amend the Canada Labour Code on harassment and violence, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, and the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1.

I am also proud to see the members' commitment to find solutions to this sad reality. The non-partisan discussions that took place following the introduction and first reading of this bill last November and at second reading in January were constructive. A number of amendments were proposed. I am pleased to note that committee members from all parties respected each other's representations and successfully worked together. A number of amendments were presented to improve the bill.

Part 1 of Bill C-65 amends the Canada 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 amends 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. The stage is set. That is what the bill says. Now let us talk about what it means.

Sexual misconduct and sexual harassment have no place in Canadian society. Most of us have to work for a living, and we spend many hours at work. People should be able to live and work safely, but that is clearly not always the case. Unfortunately, this is also a problem in the public service and on Parliament Hill. It is therefore the government's responsibility to protect victims' rights. The government must also focus on helping victims and making sure the process is fair and impartial. It must ensure that sexual harassers suffer the consequences because a symbolic, toothless law will do very little to tackle the problem.

Since the victims are generally women, and since it is not easy for a man to put himself in the shoes of the victims, I want to share part of a speech that my colleague from Calgary Nose Hill gave on January 29, 2018, regarding the dynamic here, in Ottawa, and on the Hill:

In Ottawa, in the sense of it being a nexus of power in Canada, it is an intense place. Leaders in all three branches of government, senior public servants, military leaders, the diplomatic corps, the Parliamentary Press Gallery, highly paid lobbyists, smart political staff, civil society, and business leaders all converge in one tightly confined space. They are all trying to accomplish big things. Many are assertive and ambitious. Many are highly skilled at their crafts. Many hold privileged positions of influence, and many think very highly of themselves. It is a highly tribal environment where information is a commodity and blind partisanship, conformity, loyalty, and acquiescence are often traits significantly valued above judgment, compassion, or acting with dignity.

As soon as there is a hierarchy with subordinates, there is a risk that some people will become more vulnerable. It is up to the government to protect the public and to create recourse mechanisms. Try to imagine what happens when the harasser is an employer, a supervisor, or a work colleague. Even if the actions are not necessarily as extreme as those that make the headlines, we have to remember that a victim must spend five days a week, for eight hours a day or more, in close proximity to their harasser. How uncomfortable and terrifying it must be to experience that every day. Everyone should be able to be safe and comfortable at work.

Victims subjected to this behaviour become fragile, and no one in Canada should have their safety compromised when they are just trying to do their job. This means that it is very important that the law clearly set out and explain all available recourse.

We Conservatives want to make sure that the government focuses on help for victims, as it promised to do. To do so, the systems created to support victims also need to be solid, well established, and safe for victims. They also must be accessible and well known. Information must be shared in a way that reaches everyone.

Here is an idea off the top of my head. We could have a government-led hotline that victims could reach easily without the risk of consequences, rather than having to go through their supervisor, who might unfortunately be complicit or could even be the harasser.

As legislators, we have a duty to make the information accessible and to facilitate reporting based on the fundamental principle of always protecting victims.

The committee team introduced and supported mandatory sexual harassment training as an essential component of this bill. I think that is an extremely important aspect of this bill. I would even go so far as to say that mandatory training on this subject should, if possible, be incorporated into the orientation training given to new employees in all contexts. We have a responsibility to raise awareness up front, before this kind of behaviour becomes entrenched in our culture.

This is because I sincerely believe part of the problem stems from ignorance. There are people who simply are not aware that certain behaviours are unacceptable and should never occur, least of all in the workplace. I think there is a certain naivety at work here as well. We also need to think about the complexities of life in our modern society. We have only to think of typical messages like “real men don't cry, real men are strong, real men are in control, real men fight”. It is sad, but these message are still around today. That is why mandatory training gets a resounding yes. We should try to reach as many people as possible and repeat this message regularly on multiple platforms.

I want to emphasize one last very important point. The problem of harassment could evolve again, in the context of cyberbullying, for example. Consequently, the committee's Conservative members also proposed and supported a mandatory review of the legislation after five years. I am pleased that a five-year review is one of the amendments presented by the committee.

To return to what my colleague from Calgary Nose Hill told us in January, judgment, compassion, or acting with dignity are not often highly valued. We must work to change that on Parliament Hill and throughout Canada.

I am proud that I live in the most beautiful country in the world and that I represent the people of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier. Even though there is always something that can be improved, it is important that the government tackle the problems that affect Canadians. It must take concrete action to improve the lives of our fellow Canadians and always consider the victims, who deserve all the attention they need. Bill C-65 is a step forward for our society. My colleagues can be proud because we worked together, without partisanship, all the while keeping in mind the main goal of protecting victims. I say it very humbly, it is a credit to us all as members of the House of Commons.

The Conservative Party will be supporting Bill C-65.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

May 7th, 2018 / 4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague opposite for his speech on this bill and I would like to ask him some questions.

All political parties put partisanship aside and agreed on the amendments in committee. Everyone agrees that this bill will result in major changes. Of course, there is much work to be done, but it is a good start.

Can the member explain how this bill will bring about a change in the culture with respect to sexual harassment and violence here on the Hill and across the country?

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Vimy. This is a worthwhile bill. It is not perfect, much like most of the bills that are introduced here, and then passed and implemented. We are taking an important step today. I think this sends a clear message that elected officials in the House of Commons are aware of this situation. These things do not happen only to celebrities. These types of situations obviously sell papers, but they have also led us to discuss this societal problem and implement measures to improve the quality of life of our constituents.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Madam Speaker, indeed, the committee that studied this bill was truly a non-partisan committee. There are some flaws in the bill, and I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts.

Some young women, my age or younger, are working in precarious situations. These women do not necessarily have access to joint health and safety committees. Under this bill, joint health and safety committees will not be allowed to receive complaints and investigate. They were previously allowed to do so.

All of the unions recommended that this remain a practice, since there are many experts on these joint committees and training is provided. There is a wide range of experts who can investigate issues related to culture, language, gender, or age. This would give victims and survivors a sense of trust and enable them to come forward with confidence.

However, the Liberals voted against this amendment and they did not explain why. This would actually enable women to come forward.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the fine member for Salaberry—Suroît for her question. She does excellent work and is a member of the young parliamentarians network of the APF. I thank her for being part of the APF.

As I mentioned in my speech, the bill is not perfect. It is just a step forward. Like her, I am disappointed that some measures were not put forward because the Liberals have a majority on the committee.

I would like to remind members of another amendment that was rejected. That amendment sought to allow employees of companies with 20 or fewer employees to have access to confidential reporting in order to protect victims. The idea is always to protect victims. Whether the victim works in an institution with 150,000 employees or a small business with five employees, it is just as important that he or she be protected. An employee might be vulnerable in a small business because of proximity. Everyone knows each other. I think that victims should have access to a confidential reporting process.

I share my colleague's concern. Once again, let us believe in the future. By taking one small step at a time, we will do what needs to be done to improve our society. I hope that common sense will prevail and that we can fix things in the future.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith.

I am very pleased to speak to this bill, which underwent a non-partisan study. All of the members worked on it together for the benefit of survivors of workplace harassment and violence. We have taken a big step forward in that regard. The NDP will support this bill so that it can become a reality.

We are on the cusp of major changes, not only in labour relations, but also in matters of gender equality. Some courageous voices have been raised in every sector against sexist acts, harassment, and assault. We have only to look at the #MeToo movement, which was launched the United States to speak out about assault and, in some cases, about allegations of rape made by actresses. In France, a wave of naming and shaming of abusers started with the hashtag #BalanceTonPorc, which also involved Quebec. In our province, we also remember the hashtag #AgressionNonDénoncée, about unreported rapes, that was launched on social media by the Fédération des femmes du Québec in 2014.

The purpose of these citizen-led movements is not only to change the culture, but also to call on the government and parliamentarians to take action. Bill C-65 emerged from these movements, and I must commend this first step. I urge my colleagues to vote in favour of this bill. Although some aspects are incomplete, it is a starting point to allow federal workers in sectors like transport, banking, or telecommunications to be able to benefit from protection from harassment, sexual harassment, bullying, and violence.

Half of all Canadian women say that they have experienced unwanted sexual pressure. Nearly half of all Canadian women have suffered from some form of sexual harassment at the workplace. For a young woman my age or younger, that figure rises to nearly 66%. We can no longer hide this basic reality in our society. There is no more room for “but”, for “it has always been like that”, or for other such language to deny any progress. A number of female MPs and former MPs have experienced sexist or sexual violence or harassment. Many of our staffers, male and female alike, have suffered this type of violence in our offices, at receptions, or elsewhere on Parliament Hill.

We are now all aware that this problem happens everywhere, no matter our party, our religion, or our philosophy. Bill C-65 lets us take a step forward by putting an end to this outdated form of patriarchal behaviour that affects many women, especially those from cultural communities or those earning minimum wage.

Other groups, such as rape crisis centres, explain how violence affects mainly women, especially those already experiencing discrimination based on skin colour, disability, sexuality, or mental health issues. Women are also more affected because of gender inequality.

The first version of Bill C-65 did not have a definition. Martine Faille, executive director of Centre D'Main de Femmes, which is located in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield in my riding, explained to my office staff how important the definition is and how unacceptable such actions and attitudes are in the work environment.

Recently, at the prompting of experts and advocacy groups in committee, an amendment to add a definition to the bill was accepted. It states:

[H]arassment and violence means any action, conduct or comment, including of a sexual nature, that can reasonably be expected to cause offence, humiliation or other physical or psychological injury or illness to an employee, including any prescribed action, conduct or comment.

That is a step forward.

Another amendment proposed in committee now allows for a five-year review of the act and its effectiveness. This is an extremely important exercise, because it allows us to verify and ensure that the act is being enforced and to identify any new needs or deficiencies that need to be addressed. However, there is still one problem with the amendment on the five-year review, namely that there is not enough statistical data.

We need data in order to see the big picture and know where we are going, what is not working, what the best practices are, and what is missing. However, we do not have that data, because even the bill itself contains no requirement for employers to track and log incidents that occur in their workplaces. If employers are not required to track incidents, how will we get a continuous stream of data coming in?

This is a flaw in the bill, and we would like it to be corrected.

Unfortunately, my colleagues across the aisle voted against certain amendments proposed by my colleague from Jonquière, an NDP member who has been working on this bill in committee since the beginning. She also worked on the clause-by-clause study of the report. She proposed 17 amendments, but only 3 amendments were adopted.

The existing joint health and safety committees, especially in unionized workplaces, are currently authorized to receive and investigate complaints. The interesting thing is that joint committees have become expert resources, because they have been around for decades. They know the culture of the workplace, because their members come from that workplace. Employers are represented, but employees are too. There is also a diversity of experts who can meet the needs of the victim or the person who needs help. They are diverse in terms of age, sex, religion, and culture. This makes it easier for the person to feel at ease and report wrongdoing. That helps ensure that reports stay confidential.

The Liberals decided to exclude joint committees from receiving complaints and conducting investigations. That is a problem. All of the witnesses said that the contribution of these committees needed to be incorporated into the act, but the Liberals decided not to do that. We do not know why because they did not give any explanations.

Joint committees are a functional mechanism for dealing with harassment. As I was saying, joint committees have a lot of experience and a diverse group of investigators. These committees offer a lot of training and do a lot in the way of prevention. The government is saying that we need to change workplace culture, and these committees are part of that. The different points of view of these investigators are necessary in order to better understand the victim's living conditions both at work and outside of work. Finally, these committees will not be able to receive complaints. As I was saying, the government can remedy this situation by implementing regulations that would allow these joint committees to receive complaints. I sincerely hope that the government will do that. If the government really wants to provide all the necessary tools to make victims feel comfortable in a situation where their voices are heard and what they say is kept confidential, it needs to include these mechanisms in the bill. Employees need to have the opportunity to turn to joint committees or have access to other resources. That is a choice that helps victims decide which approach is best for them.

Another flaw I could talk about is the lack of assistance regarding internal policies. Employers should have to develop an internal policy. This should be part of the Canada Labour Code. The Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities heard from a number of employers, who asked for assistance and clearer guidelines. Some workers even suggested creating a code of conduct, because the notion of immediate assistance is not clear, nor is it clear how to handle cases and ensure confidentiality of private information. If employers do not know how, an internal policy in the Canada Labour Code would really help employers and employees feel respected.

In conclusion, I want to say that without codes of conduct and without financing, women who do not have the resources to follow up on their complaints could continue to experience harassment and violence.

Karine Gagné, the coordinator of C.A.L.A.C.S. in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, supports women as they go through their legal processes and psychological recoveries every day.

She and her team helped more than 500 women last year. Victims of harassment and violence know that complaints will, unfortunately, be mismanaged if there is no joint committee or clear internal policy.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Order. I am sure the member will have a chance to say more during questions and comments.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, one of the things we have heard a great deal about today is the fact that this is a social issue which all Canadians are very concerned about and want to see government not only bring in legislation such as this bill, but also to do more by communicating and working with other stakeholders, such as provincial entities or other forms of government.

One of the discussions I had over the weekend was about the importance of making sure the next generation is educated about the issue of harassment. It raises the flag for me in terms of what I might be able to do and I would put the challenge out to all members. What can we do individually and possibly collectively to ensure information is being passed on? For example, I will look at school divisions and how the issue of harassment can be part of a curriculum. If we can get younger people more aware of the importance of the issue, we can prevent a lot of the harassment in the future.

I put the challenge to my friend and colleague across the way. What does she think we can do in addition to passing good legislation like we are doing today?

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. We could certainly do a lot when it comes to prevention in schools. I am a teacher by training, so this is close to my heart. Today, however, we are talking about a government bill aimed at preventing harassment and violence in workplaces, and we want to improve this bill before it becomes law.

As I said in my speech, if my colleague was listening carefully, at least three major aspects need improvement. We need to strengthen joint health and safety committees, not limit them, so that they can receive and investigate complaints. As for the five-year review of the legislation's effectiveness, we need to make sure that employers are required to register incidents so that up-to-date statics are available. Lastly, we need to ensure that employers' internal policies are integrated into the Canada Labour Code, which is not the case under this bill. We can certainly continue to improve it by doing other things too. There were 17 amendments that were rejected in committee. I believe that this Parliament still has work to do on this bill.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Ken McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL

Madam Speaker, it is my understanding if someone sees something inappropriate, whether it be physical harassment or sexual harassment, that unless the person it is happening to is willing to make the complaint, it is no good for anyone else to report it. How do we encourage people to make a complaint when they see what is happening, yet the victim is not prepared to report it?

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Madam Speaker, that is a very good question. Clear internal policies are crucial to ensuring that people feel safe in healthy workplaces. That is what employers want, and it is what workers and union representatives want, but Bill C-65 is silent on the subject.

There is no clear internal policy to help employers introduce codes of conduct for handling complaints, protecting information, and providing immediate assistance to their employees. They even proposed a code of ethics, which the Liberals rejected. Joint health and safety committees that include people within the organization who know the workplace and its culture and are made up of people of different ages, genders, cultures, and religions would have helped victims feel safe. None of that is in the bill as written.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, we are at quite a time in our country. I am honoured to be representing Nanaimo—Ladysmith at this time.

First, we have an unprecedented opportunity for gender equality around the world. At the same time, I would argue that we have an unprecedented awareness of the impact that sexual harassment and workplace violence, and harassment, period, can have on workers and the fact that harassment should never be part of any job.

I think of my grandfather, John Osler, who was a lawyer for labour when there were not any in Canada, and the recognition of the violence done physically to people in the workplace and the importance of putting in place laws and frameworks to protect workers' physical safety. We now know our responsibility in this day and age is to have the same level of protection for people's workplace environment as it relates to harassment and sexual harassment. Therefore, we cannot pretend we do not know.

I am very aware of the media investigation this weekend about the threats against the life of New Democrat Premier Rachel Notley. I know she is not alone. Women in this House have been profiled as having received sexual harassment and threats of physical violence against them. Harassment is not part of a politician's job, so I am sorry for Rachel Notley.

While watching some of the media this weekend with my mom and dad, they observed that there was a great deal of hand-wringing but very little concrete action. What are we actually going to do? Talking about it or reporting on it is not enough.

I was reminded of two years ago when the status of women committee, in its 2016 all-party consensus report, made recommendations to the government, to this Parliament, in particular recommendation 18. This is in the context of its study on ending violence against young women and girls, but, inevitably, there was a great deal of testimony that we heard about online harassment and cyberbullying. Young women, like Rehtaeh Parsons and Amanda Todd, were harassed to the point that they took their own lives. There are horrible stories with which no family should ever have to contend.

When we asked the witnesses for remedies, they said that the previous Conservative government had removed part of the Canadian Human Rights Act, maybe for reasons of freedom of speech, which turned out leaving a very serious hole in our human rights legislation that we needed fixed immediately. Therefore, our recommendation was:

That the Government of Canada introduce legislation to restore Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act which permitted rights complaints to the federal Canadian Human Rights Commission for the communication of hate messages by telephone or on the Internet.

However, here it sits two years later. The government received an all-party recommendation to repair the damage the Conservative government did in the Harper era.

While we are talking about harassment in the workplace and while our attention is focused on the death threats that Premier Notley received, as reported last week, let us remember there are actions that we can take, and I urge that we take them. We need a little less conversation and a little more action.

Bill C-65 is an example of action, which the New Democrats welcome. We welcome anything that makes workplaces freer from harassment and creates a clearer path for employees. For employees on the Hill, there is this strange kind of cone of no-rules land somehow around the Labour Code, especially as it relates to harassment and sexual harassment. Therefore, we are glad to see the bill here. We are also glad that all parties have been able to work together, especially with the labour movement, which has very good advice on this file to try to bring changes to the bill.

We know the need is real. Fifty-three per cent of Canadian women have experienced unwanted sexual pressure. Fifty per cent of Canadian women have experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace. Sixty per cent of respondents experienced some form of harassment in the workplace, with nearly half of those from people with authority over them. Therefore, power is a big part of this dynamic. Women who are racialized, queer or indigenous and women living with disabilities all have a much harder time and receive a disproportionate amount of harassment and violence in the workplace. Therefore, the work needs to be done.

This legislation is mostly procedural. It sets up an investigatory process through which issues of violence or harassment in the workplace could be investigated fully and without prejudice. That is the intention. It follows two similar streams through both Parliament and government-regulated workplaces and industries such as telecommunications, transport, and banks, which is about 8% of the national workforce, as well as the people that work here with us in Ottawa and in our constituency offices to provide us with vital support, as well as federally regulated workers across the country. The rules apply to parliamentarians and everybody.

We are glad to see the bill before the House. However—and there is always a “however”—there are some gaps, and we worked quite hard to try to fill them. I salute my friend to my left, the member for Saskatoon West, who is our former labour critic, and my colleague to my right, the member for Jonquière, both of whom led the charge in committee to try to bring many amendments forward and perfect the bill as much as we could.

Our strong disappointment remains that the joint health and safety committees have basically been removed from the process. These committees have worked for years, and it is a great disappointment that this legislation would remove them from doing their effective work. Every labour ally who came to committee asked for these committees to be returned to their roles. We proposed amendments, but they were not accepted by the Liberal-dominated committee. That continues to be a great disappointment. In the words of CUPE, the union that represents 650,000 workers in this country, limiting the role of the health and safety committees will have “a chilling effect” on workers' willingness to come forward and participate in the process.

The Liberal bill is an employer-driven process. If an employer is harassing an employee or if an employer has failed to create a safe workplace and regulate the other employees, then quite reasonably the person experiencing the harassment may not want to participate fully in a process that is dominated and controlled by his or her employer.

The health and safety committees have doing all kinds of good work in different areas of the Labour Code for all this time. If they had been used, an existing tool would have been used and an impediment to complaints would have been removed.

CUPE has deep experience in federally regulated industries. It has 650,000 members across the country, many of whom work in rail, ports, communications, and energy, all places that would be protected by this legislation.

We tried to bring forward a number of other amendments. Fortunately, three of them were taken up, including one with respect to the definition of “harassment” in the legislation, which all of our labour allies had called for. Certainly those of us who are employers want to have that clarity. I am glad that our perseverance resulted in that definition being brought in.

We also had input from the teamsters union, which wanted changes made to the Labour Code. It was pushing the government to clarify that mental health was included as part of this legislation. The Canadian Labour Congress very strongly voiced its concerns about a lack of capacity for labour investigators. PIPSC, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, was well represented. Workers at the DFO biological station in my riding are members of PIPSC. It is a very strong advocate. It wants to see Bill C-65 guarantee adequate representation for those involved.

In closing, I would like to thank the government for bringing this legislation forward. I would also like to thank Conservative and New Democrat members for being able to advance some of the changes that we wanted to see, but I continue to urge the government to draw on the deep experience of the labour movement, which has been doing this hard work for many years. Let us not leave to regulation what we could transparently include in legislation right now.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up on my colleague's comments in regard to our labour movement. The labour movement as a whole has done a phenomenal job of protecting the rights of workers, and in good part probably has the experience that is necessary for us to move forward. To recognize the important role that our unions have played over the years, I look at this legislation as a step forward, which unions, management, and companies will be able to utilize into the future, hopefully with the idea of preventing harassment, but also to deal with the harassment taking place in our workforce today. It is one of the reasons why it is very important that we pass the legislation. I recognize that there are many different types of tools, and this is but one tool that I believe would be well utilized in the years ahead. I wonder if the member might want to provide some comments in regard to whether it is this or other aspects that unions in particular have been so supportive of and effective at in terms of advancing the issue of social justice on harassment issues.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, being unable to discern what that question was, I will take the opportunity to run through a list of the amendments that my colleague presented at the committee that were rejected. We have already talked about the role of the public safety and national security committee's motion that was moved, which, despite many witnesses calling for it, was not taken up by the government. We also proposed strengthening the prevention of mental illness in the Labour Code. Something that teamsters urged us to do was to have a very strong intervention on mental health. That was a motion that was rejected. There was a proposal that the fundamental corporate policies be listed in the Canada Labour Code so that this be fully transparent. Another idea was to schedule mandatory training sessions on sexual harassment so employers are fully aware of their responsibilities. I have another list twice as long, but I will leave it there.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I agree entirely with my friend from Nanaimo—Ladysmith and share her concerns that Premier Rachel Notley experiences death threats. I have already said in the media recently that I do as well. I want to hone in on one area where the comments are the most vile and are not really touched on by Bill C-65. Forgive me for going a bit outside the scope of this act. Does my friend from Nanaimo—Ladysmith not agree that we need to find a way to police the comments of social media, things that are essentially published? In the old days, by which I mean not that long ago, with anything that was published in a newspaper, the editors would make sure they knew the identity of the person posting a comment, and a comment could not be an incitement to hatred or violence. However, on Twitter and Facebook, we do not control those spaces. I wonder if my friend from Nanaimo—Ladysmith has any thoughts on that.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

I welcome the question, Mr. Speaker.

It is true. At a time when threats of violence were phoned in or mailed in, that was one thing. The rest of the world did not see them in the way that people do on social media. Either way, I want to give deep thanks to all of the workers who support us as parliamentarians. They screen us from some of the most difficult comments, but they themselves take the brunt of that. That is a workplace issue, and I thank them for protecting us so well.

The thing I am concerned about, though, is that the sexual, misogynistic, hateful things that are said online are for everybody to see. I am concerned that others watching, especially women and marginalized groups, who have a hard time getting into places like this anyway because of the barriers they face, look at those comments online and think, “Do I want to subject my family to that?” We should not be doing anything that turns people off.

Therefore, the very first and best remedy that we have is to restore to the Canadian Human Rights Act the protections removed by the Conservative government—the Liberal government should have done this already—and to make online threats and comments subject to complaint in the same way that phone calls and letters are.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate. I will share my time with the excellent member for Louis-Saint-Laurent.

This is certainly an important issue, and it is a pleasure for me to rise to debate Bill C-65 at third reading. At second reading, when I spoke to this bill, I spoke in detail about the #MeToo movement, the practical and philosophical issues raised by that important movement, and the progress in terms of public awareness and public will to respond we have seen coming out of that discussion.

I will revisit some of those arguments later on, if time allows, but I want to begin by talking a little more about some of the practical issues around Bill C-65 and how those practical issues have been worked out through the legislative process. This bill is aimed at combatting harassment, specifically in the parliamentary precinct, but as well, more broadly, within the federally regulated workplace.

We are continuing to see the profound impact on politics, and certainly in other sectors of society, of the #MeToo movement, which has invited women to bring to light instances of previously undiscussed sexual harassment and assault. It has significantly increased awareness among men of the issues women face that we, as men, may not have been as aware of previously. It is important that we continue to encourage people to come forward to bring everyone's attention to this issue and to seek to strengthen the processes that protect victims and ensure more effective due process.

What this bill intends to do is very laudable, and that is to further develop a strong, fair, and reliable process. Indeed, a clear, fair, reliable process is the best way to ensure that victims are heard, that perpetrators are punished, and that potential perpetrators are deterred. We can show that there is a clear process in place that confronts these issues that is objective, that is impartial, and that ensures that victims have their fundamental rights protected. This bill would strengthen the processes and mechanisms that are in place, again as I said, to combat harassment on Parliament Hill as well as in federally regulated workplaces.

Conservatives support this bill. I am pleased that our caucus, and in particular, our team on the committee, have engaged constructively with this process to propose and see the passage of amendments that have improved and strengthened the bill and strengthened the process and what will be its ultimate effectiveness.

I recall, during second reading debate, that my colleague from Lethbridge, our shadow minister for the Status of Women, gave an impassioned speech, working through some of the areas where the previous draft of the bill was flawed and needed to be improved. I recall that at the time, some members of the government were critical of her for criticizing the bill, for violating what was allegedly supposed to be the non-partisan tone of the discussion, because this is, after all, something we all agree is so important.

I would argue that precisely the importance of this issue is why we should dig deeper. We should ask questions. We should analyze the text and its practical implications to see if it would do the kinds of things we wish it to do. Despite some of the criticism across the way, that is precisely what the member for Lethbridge and other members of our caucus were doing. They were trying to advance the underlying objectives by asking hard questions about what would be the most effective way of achieving those objectives.

Despite some of the criticisms Conservative members received for challenging aspects of the bill at second reading, I am pleased to see that the government did, in fact, see fit to accept amendments proposed by Conservatives that substantially improved the bill. I will mention a number of the issues where the mechanisms in place were improved.

The previous version of the bill would have created a situation where harassment complaints that involved MPs' offices would have been investigated under the direction of the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour. The obvious problem is that the minister is a member of Parliament and a member of a political party, so there would be, if not a lack of good intentions on the part of the minister, at least a potential perception of political bias. There would be a perception, perhaps, that a complaint by a member of the government's office might be treated differently from a potential complaint from within the office of a member of the opposition. We would not want to have either a taint in reality or a taint in terms of the perception of the credibility of that process.

That is why an amendment was proposed and successfully advanced at the committee stage that handed over that investigation to the deputy minister, a non-partisan civil servant. It ensured that the investigations of harassment complaints involving the offices of members of Parliament would be under the authority of a non-partisan public servant, as opposed to taking place under the direction of the office of the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour.

That was a very important constructive change the Conservatives were able to put forward to make this bill more effective. Fortunately in this case, we saw the process working as it should, and that amendment was accepted.

Another priority for Conservatives on the committee was ensuring a discussion of incorporating mandatory sexual harassment training. That training is critical, and it has been available to MPs. I know many MPs in our caucus have taken advantage of the opportunity to go through that training process as well. That training is important. It is something that we saw needed to be emphasized in the bill, and it was added.

We also put forward an amendment to have a mandatory review of the bill after five years. There has been some discussion in this House around social media and technology, and how that is a new platform on which harassment can take place. Obviously this illustrates the need for periodic reviews and updates, because technology changes. There may be new avenues or new platforms on which harassment takes place, and that may raise new issues in terms of the kind of legislative framework we are going to need going forward.

We have also seen, even over the last five years, increasing awareness and recognition of problems that previously were perhaps not identified and recognized appropriately. We could hope for that continuing process of greater recognition to ensure that everybody in the workplace is properly protected. That update provision was proposed and added and accepted by other members of the committee, and it is very important.

We see the legislative process working well here. Concerns were raised at second reading. We, as a caucus, have done our job. We have put forward constructive improvements to Bill C-65, and many of those have been incorporated.

We will continue to ask questions about ways in which the bill can be improved. Not all of the proposals we put forward were adopted. For example, we had a proposal around clear timelines over which an investigation would take place to ensure that an investigation would not not drag out indefinitely and that there would be a process in place to ensure closure for the victim and that these questions are ultimately answered and resolved in a timely manner. Unfortunately, the government members on the committee did not accept that proposal. Recognizing, though, that every proposal we put forward was not incorporated, we still see Bill C-65 as a step in the right direction, a positive step. I am pleased to be supporting it at this stage. It needs to continue to go through the process and hopefully be adopted.

As we work through discussions about processes, we should also acknowledge that changes to processes are not going to solve the whole problem. No matter how many processes and training opportunities are in place, there are always going to be people who will refuse to listen and who are going to think they can get away with it. Sometimes a sense of personal impunity can be a hazard associated with some people in positions of power.

Therefore it is important, as we confront the issue of harassment as it happens in this environment, that powerful people understand the rules of human conduct that apply to others very much apply to them as well. This needs to be reality reflected in the structure of the system, but it also needs to be absorbed into the minds and hearts of everyone in this place.

From conversations I have had, I know that some feel there is maybe a lack of clarity around what the rules are, in terms of what constitutes harassment and what does not. What this illustrates is a certain inadequacy of a purely rules-based, as opposed to virtue-based, approach to ethics.

A rules-based approach to ethics asks us to define specific lines. When it comes to this and many other things, rigid lines cannot always be easily defined, because there is an objective component to harassment—the behaviour—but there is also a subjective component, in terms of how that behaviour impacted the particular person in light of the context, in light of their situation, in light of cues that may have been given or not, the power structure, and so forth. There is that objective component, and there is the subjective component as well.

An alternative ethical approach, one defined by virtue ethics, is to define qualities of character that should animate action and interaction: a recognition of the dignity and value of every person, a rejection of objectification and the use of people merely as a means, and a commitment to well-being and happiness for all. These are the kinds of qualities that should animate all our interactions.

I am out of time. Thus, we should pass this bill.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, it is encouraging to hear that the member will be supporting this legislation. In fact, listening to the debate throughout the day, what I heard was that it is a positive piece of legislation that was well discussed at committee, where we had a good sense of cooperation, with New Democrats and Conservatives working with the Liberal government members to try to improve the legislation. Many amendments were passed as a direct result, and today we have the legislation before us. It is, I believe, a very strong step forward on the issue of harassment.

I would ask the member to talk about the issues of privacy and confidentiality. I wonder if he would add some of his thoughts on that aspect of the legislation.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, this was a piece of legislation that was improved through amendments through a good committee process. That does not mean that it is quite as good as it could have been. There were some good amendments put forward that were rejected. I do not want to imply that we agree completely with the government, but I think this is a constructive step. There are many aspects of the bill that are constructive. There has been clarification on how investigations would take place, on the mechanism, and certainly on provisions for committees to work together to combat harassment in this environment and other environments as well.

There is a great deal here that is positive. Again, we inserted the five-year review so that, if necessary, there would be opportunities to update the legislation, with new legislation sooner than that. However, there is that automatic five-year review in there to continually update it and ensure that the legislative framework is keeping pace with changes that are happening in society and awareness of other issues involving harassment.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all my colleagues in the House today for their good work on this important bill.

The one area I would like my colleague to expand on is the one amendment that was not adopted by the committee on the timelines under which an investigation could be conducted. Could he expand on that a bit? That is a concern if this drags on and on. It certainly would put the accused in a very difficult position, as well as the victim.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, we have the principle in general, in law, of people having issues adjudicated in a timely manner. This benefits the victims so that they can have clarity and closure about the way forward. They can feel, to whatever extent it is possible, that there is some degree of justice and response in light of what has happened. It is also for the accused. They can go through and see the results of that process. If there is a restorative process that is possible and a process of education, that can begin to happen as soon as possible.

From all points of the situation, there is an interest in ensuring that these things proceed in a timely manner. That is why the Conservatives saw fit to put forward an amendment to have that timeline provision in place. Unfortunately, it was not accepted by the government. Again, we cannot win them all, especially in opposition.

However, I appreciate the opportunity our members at committee and others had to get the government to see sense in a number of areas, to see the opportunity for improvements, and to bring about those improvements to make Bill C-65 a stronger bill.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the colleague we just heard from and whose time it is my pleasure to share.

God knows that my hard-working colleague is well known in the House. He always has strong opinions about everything that goes on here in the Canadian political arena, and that is a good thing.

I am very pleased to give my full support to the bill. This is an important piece of legislation, and I am very proud to rise today and talk on behalf of my colleagues and my party to support the bill. We are talking about a very serious issue. We are talking about harassment and even violence here in our precinct, in the House of Commons and the Senate, the Parliament of Canada. If there is a place where we should respect each and every one, it is in the Parliament of Canada. We should be very good on that. We have to be very sincere. We should lead on addressing harassment and violence here in Canada.

Our party has always supported and will continue to support this bill. That is the case for the government, the second opposition party, and the people of the other parties represented in the House of Commons, and it is done in a spirit of non-partisanship. Just because we are non-partisan does not mean that we say “yes” to everything. On the contrary, our party, and others as well, made changes and proposed amendments because it is vital that this debate be devoid of any political partisanship. I am sometimes partisan. That goes with the job and there is nothing wrong with that. However, in such matters, we must say “no” to partisanship.

Our party's main concern was the protection of victims. In cases of harassment and violence, there is the aggressor and the victim, and either one can be male or female. All too often, the aggressor receives a great deal of attention. However, we must think first and foremost of the victim and of the courage it takes to testify and help ensure that this sad reality is eradicated one day. We can all have our dreams.

What is it about? Let us read the first change to the law, the first subclause of Bill C-65 on harassment and violence. It is rather important because every word matters in laws and especially when a law is on harassment and violence. We have to know the meaning of harassment and of violence. The text of the bill reads:

...means any action, conduct or comment, including of a sexual nature, that can reasonably be expected to cause offence, humiliation or other physical or psychological injury or illness to an employee, including any prescribed action, conduct or comment.

With this very clear and very specific definition of harassment and violence, we have a better sense of what we can do when this sad reality occurs in our political world. Before getting into the details of this legislation and the amendments that our colleagues proposed under the guidance of the hon. member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, who is our shadow minister for this file, I want to make a distinction.

As said earlier, it is quite important for the House of Commons to lead on addressing harassment and violence, because we can lead. Just because we are talking about it here does not mean that 500 yards from the Parliament of Canada there is no harassment and no violence. Unfortunately, this tragedy occurs in each and every part of our country. It has no language, no race, no religion, and no age. It is in each and every province. We have to address this difficult situation in every part of the country. We do not have to close our eyes to the reality because unfortunately, the stupidity of mankind has no barriers, no roots, and no language.

It is important to note that, unfortunately, a lot of emphasis, and rightly so, is being placed on the political realm. However, just because we are focusing on our political world, it does not mean that this does not happen elsewhere, and so much the better if the Canadian Parliament leads the way in the fight against harassment and violence.

Let us look at the amendments that our parliamentary group proposed to improve this legislation, which was excellent from the outset and will be even better with the approved amendments. First, we must avoid political interference. We have to understand that the world of politics is a unique place. Indeed, it can be conducive to this type of situation. Why? Because the politician is the boss.

Politicians hold all the power over their employees—professionally speaking, of course. They can fire people on the spot with very little warning. That is part of the political reality. Our schedule is also very unusual, to say the least. In fact, it is not an unusual schedule, but rather there is no schedule. In politics, we are working as soon as we open our eyes in the morning. It is as simple as that. There are not really any clear rules to properly frame the work, since in politics we work 24 hours a day, even more so with today's social media.

I have been politically active for 10 years now, and I often like saying that the thrill of politics is that there are no Mondays. As many people know, going back to work on Monday can be difficult, because everyone is fed up and not very excited about their job. We, however, work seven days a week, so we have no Mondays, and that goes for all the parties. That is a plus, and I am glad to say so. Lastly, we must not forget that these are often young employees in precarious positions. All these factors combined can lead to violence and harassment problems.

I would also like to talk about human nature, which unfortunately is not always pretty. There may be times in our political careers when we experience certain frustrations and things do not go as planned. People who are in a position of authority but are not particularly smart sometimes use that as an excuse to take it out on their staff. It is completely despicable, disgraceful, unacceptable, disgusting, and contemptuous, but it does happen. Since this is an environment where there are no protections, with unusual schedules, where people are young and in precarious situations, unfortunately, some truly reprehensible abuses can occur. However, human stupidity is not exclusively a feature of Canadian politics.

We must therefore avoid political interference and allow for reasonable time frames. It takes time for victims to find the courage, honour, and dignity to lodge a complaint and to do what is necessary. It does not happen immediately. We must understand that this is painful and stressful for these victims. This is why we believe that they should have the time to find the courage to start the process—enough time for this process to play out in a proper, positive, and smart way. This is also why we decided to extend the time limit to file a complaint. Victims cannot always do so right away; they must be given the time.

I now want to talk about mandatory training for all members of Parliament, which is extremely useful. This is a good one. Three weeks ago, I attended a training session with many of my colleagues. It was quite interesting. We were all put into situations to see how we would react. This helped us learn whether a given person would react properly to a given situation. This opened a discussion, and my colleagues shared their thoughts. Sometimes, people shared a personal experience. It caused us all to reflect.

There is no such thing as a perfect training, of course. It is not like in mathematics, when you have 1 + 1 = 2 and this never changes. It is not easy to provide training on harassment and violence, but everyone benefits from mandatory training when we all share our own experiences, and this is very good.

Given that cyberbullying exists and is evolving, whereas it did not exist 10 years ago, it is quite normal to include this sunset clause, which allows for a more in-depth analysis of the situation in five years. It is a great idea and I congratulate my colleague who thought of it. There is greater awareness of harassment over cell phones. We see it, we hear it, we observe it, and we acknowledge it. So much the better. We do not know what technology will be like in five years, but we do know that harassment and violence could still be present in our society. That is why it is important to study this again in five years.

In closing, I am very proud to support this bill and very pleased to participate in this debate. It is quite remarkable to see each and every one of us, from every party, working together to bring forward good ideas and supporting this legislation. In five years, we will have the opportunity to give it new impetus and do our best to eradicate violence and harassment here, in Parliament, and to set an example for all of Canada.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I always enjoy my colleague's comments related to different pieces of legislation. I do not necessarily agree with all of them, but in this case I do agree in many ways with what my colleague is saying. He says this is not a regionalized problem. It is in fact a national issue, and it has no borders in terms of ethnicity, faith, or any other characteristics. We believe we should be doing more in terms of providing leadership from Ottawa, and we expect other jurisdictions, private, profit, non-profit agencies, to also demonstrate leadership on issues such as this.

Five years from now, we know it will be coming back to us. This is a social issue that continues to grow as the public demand is there. How does the member see the issue continuing to develop, as the public wants us, as legislators, to do more to address this very important and sensitive issue?