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.