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

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Madam Speaker, certainly the issue of mental health and the psychological effects of harassment are significant issues. As a former president of the firefighters union in my local municipality, we pushed the municipality to better understand the impacts on mental health and the psychological effects. More important, it was to provide that harassment-free workplace. That is not to say there were not issues of harassment, there certainly were. At the time, the victims of the harassment could come forward and feel like they were being dealt with in a proper manner.

However, it speaks generally to the issue of mental health across the country. I am of the personal belief that mental health needs to be treated as equally as physical health and the effects it has in all aspects. In Ontario, we know that 10% of the health care cases are mental health cases, yet only receives 7% of the funding, for example. Therefore, much more can be done with respect to mental and psychological health.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Madam Speaker, when the bill was last read in the House of Commons, I spoke very strongly in favour of it, with some suggestions for committee to look at. It is very important for us to have a framework by which we combat harassment. It is certainly a pressing need in Parliament.

I continue to take that position. For members in this place, I would like to offer some thoughts on how the bill could continue to be improved. For colleagues in the other place, should the bill be passed there, perhaps its committee could look at these.

This is a difficult topic to talk about, but the whole concept of what happens with a vexatious complaint is not adequately dealt with in the bill. Many private sector companies or organizations that the bill would not cover will have policies on disciplinary action if somebody makes a complaint and it is found to be vexatious. This is a very difficult conversation to have because I in no way want to make it seem as though people who make complaints through this process do so for anything other than to protect their rights.

However, given the atmosphere that we work in, and there is a political element to this, in order to protect people and encourage people to stand up for their rights, there also has to be a framework in which people understand the gravity of making such a complaint, especially if they do it for vexatious purposes. There is nothing in the bill right now that talks about what happens should a complaint be found to be vexatious, and that concerns me. It is also difficult to train people on what that means if we have not discussed that at the committee stage.

I am trying to present this concept in a way that acknowledges that oftentimes when victims report sexual harassment, they will be accused of making it as a vexatious complaint. It is this double-edged sword that I do not think we have quite gotten right. Indeed, we have seen incidences recently of colleagues who have cases litigated in the media and that concerns me. It concerns me for people who might say they do not want to get involved in this because they do not want to have to go through the process, that it seems away too stressful. I also am concerned about colleagues, of all political stripes, who perhaps are being targeted unjustly. I do not think that is yet in the bill and I hope that either this place or the other place considers that as we go forward.

The other thing I am not clear on, even with the amendments, is what defines “consent” in this situation. The bill talks about the definitions of “harassment” and “violence”, but it does not really address what consensual activity is, especially when it comes to sexual activity, in the context of our workplace. That lack of a definition will make it difficult for trainers to say that these are situations the code suggests are improper and these are situations by which they can make the situation proper.

Again, I want to qualify my comments by saying I am in no way, in any shape or form, saying that harassment should be tolerated in any situation. However, in my training, I found that the situations that were given based on this definition were very vague and subjective and could be interpreted differently based on different cultural backgrounds or if people had worked in different workplaces.

This is the beauty of the House of Commons. We do have different backgrounds and situations here, and that diversity should reflect better legislation. However, especially given that if I am speaking specifically to Parliament, our workplace turns over, at a minimum, every four years. Therefore, if we do not have a framework that talks about consent, it will be very difficult, both for investigators and for trainers, to have a quantitative, definable way to discern what is appropriate and what is not appropriate behaviour in here. I wonder if that notion could have been expanded a bit more in the bill. I know it is difficult, but is worth talking about that.

The other thing that I wanted to mention was that we talk about harassment and the bill talks about punishment for that, but it does not really talk about the fact that what somebody might consider harassment, another person might consider typical workplace behaviour, depending on where they come from.

Again, I do not want to make excuses for somebody who is a harasser—that is the last thing I want to do—but what I would like to say is that perhaps all of us, our political parties, and Parliament itself need to think about providing management and leadership training to people who have not been in that situation before. Somebody who has worked in a very small, highly stressful group situation might think that communicating in certain way to team members is appropriate, but if they are ported here or to another organization, that behaviour is not going to translate.

When we come here as new members, we are kind of given O'Brien and Bosc and are told to be on our way. I often wonder if there is something that we could do or put in place to give people who have never managed staff before a bit of a leg up on understanding what is common practice.

I know this might sound like really common sense stuff to the average Canadian, who might ask, “Don't you know how to treat somebody appropriately?”, but the way I take harassment as it is defined in the bill is that it is in the eye of the beholder, and then we need to have that level of training, as my colleague said about the importance of education.

I also think that a more difficult conversation to have is that of resiliency. This is a highly stressful workplace where we are making decisions on the fly and emotions get tense. I realize it is incumbent upon each of us to treat one another like human beings, but at the same time, there are going to be situations in which we have to make decisions quickly and somebody might not be consulted. There is this intensity to our work here.

For these reasons, we also have to have a conversation about what resiliency looks like in that situation, so that time after time we could have a common understanding on what the culture of this place looks like that could be turned over to new people.

I think that true cultural change is only going to happen if we talk about these very difficult and sort of intangible things. Right now we have a good start on a framework in this place, but there is a lot of subjectivity to how it is being applied. I just worry that we are going to have a lack of consistency. I worry about the ability of people to use it functionally. I certainly hope my colleagues will consider this as we go forward.

The last thing I want to speak about is that broader cultural change. As I am sure happens with other colleagues here, especially female colleagues, once a week I will get a call from media asking if I would like to comment on something. This week, for example, it was on the Premier of Alberta receiving death threats, which is completely wrong and completely disgusting. I condemn that.

However, there needs to be a broader cultural change in our country to not accept this type of behaviour within the political discourse writ large. I think we are all guilty of it from time to time, but certainly when it comes to violence and threats of rape, I am just tired of talking about that. I said that in my first speech. I have a lot of things that I want to talk about, that I want to use my voice for, and I find that week after week it is media request after media request to talk about how I feel as a woman in politics about this or how I feel about that.

I am just so tired of how we are not talking about the issues. Certainly I have a role and we all have a role to ensure that we have a healthy work environment here, but there needs to be a broader cultural change. This bill will not fix all of that. I think it will provide a framework in which we will operate, but I want to impart to colleagues that this bill is not the be-all and end-all. Yes, we had to start somewhere, but I think there are going to be some bumps along the road, as we have seen with colleagues in this place over the last couple of months, to be perfectly frank.

Those are my thoughts. I do not think we have adequately addressed the vexatious complaints issue, I do not think we have talked about consent, and I do not think we have talked about training, either in terms of how to be a good manager or in terms of how to ensure that we have resiliency when we are here.

To me, that would be the next iteration of this conversation. It would be to ensure that we are creating a broader cultural change as we move forward.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Linda Lapointe Liberal Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech. Yes, we must put an end to sexual harassment.

Under Bill C-65, employers have three obligations: prevent harassment and violence, respond to occurrences of harassment or violence, and support employees affected by harassment and violence. These three elements are part of the bill. There will also be an annual report and a five-year review of the legislation.

Can my colleague speak to those points?

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Madam Speaker, five years is a long time. I appreciate my colleague's comments, but I am concerned that the reality of this place is that things are litigated in the media that perhaps should not be, and that process undermines legitimate victims who come forward and makes the process more difficult for them because they understand that they might have to discuss the harassment they went through in the media, even when it is a very private, personal thing that they perhaps just do not want to talk about. I would be an example of that.

On the other hand, five years is a long time for us, when many colleagues in this place have had complaints against them that are currently being litigated in the media. I worry that the only recourse for them is libel litigation, and that is just not productive for anybody, so I do not know what the answer is. How do we remove the political aspect of this while maintaining the integrity of this framework? It is something we should get some more expert testimony on, and we should ensure that this bill deals with it sooner than five years from now.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member mentioned that there should be consequences when somebody makes a false accusation. I find that a little bit difficult, because for years victims have obviously had a lot of difficulty in coming forward because it is very difficult to prove these types of accusations. I would like to hear from the member what she believes would be a way to handle the situation of women and men victims of this type of issue having a lot of difficulty coming forward.

Would it not stop them from coming forward if the consequences were too tough, and would it not raise fear in victims?

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

May 7th, 2018 / 4 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

As I said in my speech, Madam Speaker, it is the exact opposite. I want there to be a place where people can come forward. I worry, though, that there will be situations in which vexatious complaints will be made. We know this to be the case, and it is difficult to talk about, and I in no way want to cast aspersions on people who are finally coming forward when there has not been this kind of culture for many years.

The point I am trying to make is that there will be situations in which vexatious complaints will be made. Rather than a discussion in the media or in public, this perpetuated myth that my colleague talked about—with which I agree—is that oftentimes people say victims are just making it up. If complaints are found to be vexatious through a proper system, with an arm's-length decision and no political interference, there needs to be some sort of recourse for people who have gone through that process. Yes, it is a really tough thing to talk about, but this process is completely devoid of that, whereas most harassment policies in other spheres of influence have that type of process implemented directly within them.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles.

I am extremely proud to speak today about Bill C-65, which is important legislation to address harassment and violence in federally regulated and parliamentary workplaces. Through this bill, our government is taking an important step toward building a country where Canadians are better protected from inappropriate behaviours, including sexual harassment and sexual violence, and where those who have experienced such abuse receive the support they need.

I was proud to sit on the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities for the duration of its study of Bill C-65 and was privileged to have the opportunity to propose amendments to this bill.

Legislation alone will not solve the problem of harassment and violence.

We know that a cultural shift is also needed.

Sadly, we live in a society that has tolerated workplace harassment and violence, that accepts power imbalances and gender norms and creates and reinforces these behaviours.

However, it is our view that Bill C-65 will go a long way in supporting a much-needed and long-overdue cultural shift. With this legislation, the government is sending a clear message that harassment and violence in the workplace, including parliamentary workplaces, is entirely unacceptable. The negative impact of these toxic behaviours on the individuals who experience them, as well as on their families and co-workers, is enormous.

During a visit to Edmonton earlier this year, I met with members of the Union of Safety and Justice Employees who worked in the extremely toxic environment that had developed at the Edmonton maximum security prison. I hope they are watching today as the bill moves through the House, knowing the information that they shared with me helped to frame my work on committee as we studied the bill.

Over the course of the committee hearings, we heard from many witnesses who described situations and incidents that no one should have to endure. We heard from Beisan Zubi, a former Parliament Hill staffer, who described some of the sexual harassment she witnessed and in some cases was subjected to herself during her time on the Hill. These experiences included touching, groping, comments and come-ons, and older men telling stories to a table of young staffers about their sexual encounters with young staffers. Ms. Zubi recounted how at one point her body was being discussed by others right in front of her.

As a young Parliament Hill staffer many years ago, I too experienced and witnessed this type of behaviour, which was tolerated and accepted then and continues to be tolerated in some circles today.

The unfortunate reality is that many people who are harassed have felt as though they had no choice but to leave. They felt fundamentally unsafe and unsupported, or they stayed because they had no other option for financial reasons or out of fear for their colleagues whom they would leave behind. I was told by one staff member at Edmonton Max that she could not leave the good ones behind to suffer the abuse on their own.

One of the issues that has come up over and over again, especially on Parliament Hill, has to do with defining harassment and violence. Since the #MeToo movement and the important discussion that followed, I have noticed that there is a lot of confusion about what is and is not appropriate behaviour.

That is why the committee introduced a definition of harassment into Bill C-65. It will help employees and supervisors understand how to conduct themselves in a respectful and appropriate manner in the workplace and learn what behaviours might be unwelcome or inadvertently harmful.

Many have stayed silent because they knew their complaints would not be treated seriously and that bringing a complaint forward might even result in negative repercussions from their employer. In many cases, supervisors themselves are the perpetrators. That is why we made an amendment to the bill at committee stage to allow employees to come forward to someone other than their direct supervisor, which would give them more options to report.

Many Canadians continue to work every day knowing they will be subjected to inappropriate behaviour from their co-workers or supervisors. This mentality is still deeply ingrained in our culture. These experiences are all too common and take place in all types of workplaces. Many women nod in recognition when I ask how many of them have taken a different route to get to their desk in the morning to avoid that one person.

There needs to be an understanding that this behaviour cannot and will not be tolerated and that this is a country where no one should have to endure harassment or violence of any kind.

To this end, we are putting into place a comprehensive approach that takes the full spectrum of harassment and violence in the workplace into consideration, and we are expanding coverage to parliamentary workplaces for the first time. This approach focuses on preventing these behaviours before they happen; responding effectively when they do occur; and supporting victims, survivors, and employees throughout the process.

Once the new process is put in place, we expect to see a better understanding of what workplace harassment and violence is and what behaviours are unacceptable, as well as more willingness among employees to speak up about this behaviour understanding that they have a right to be safe. Ultimately, we expect to see a culture change in the workplace where there is zero tolerance for harassment and violence.

We know that legislation can never be the only fix for the pervasiveness of harassment and violence in the workplace in Canada. Culture change requires work and it will take all of us, not just within government, to see that change through. Legislation is one tool our society has in its tool box and I am proud to have been part of this process to strengthen our laws around violence and harassment so that survivors have more support.

In order to drive a culture change in workplaces, we know that we need to play a more active role in raising awareness and educating workplace parties around the issue of harassment and violence in the workplace. We will work closely with employers and employees and other key stakeholders through the regulatory process to provide an opportunity for them to influence the design of the specific requirements of employers and employees.

We will also undertake extensive education and outreach to ensure that employees understand their rights and employers understand their roles and responsibilities. The good news is that a culture change is under way. The global movement against workplace harassment and violence on social media has brought a great deal of attention to the issue and has shed much-needed light on it. I am immensely impressed by the bravery of those who have shared their stories.

More and more people are having these conversations, not just in the media and in politics, but in workplaces around the world. They are more than just conversations, but transformational change in our understanding of healthy workplaces.

All members of the House agree on the importance of the bill and are committed to working together to get this important piece of legislation right. Throughout our committee hearings and during debate on the bill, there has been an unprecedented level of all-party co-operation, something that speaks to the importance of this legislation.

I am proud to speak to the bill today as I strongly believe it is a very important step forward in our efforts to improve our workplaces, one that would help create healthy, respectful environments where employees feel safe and are not afraid of reprisal, and where businesses increase their productivity and prevent losing talent and experience.

I would like to thank the departmental officials for their hard work in helping to put the bill together and also assisting us during the committee as we navigated the complex aspects of the bill. It was an honour to sit in with members of the committee as we studied the legislation. I extend a special thanks to the witnesses who shared their stories, their advice, and wisdom with the committee to inform our discussions. Finally, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all members of the House for their support in getting the bill to the next step in the parliamentary process.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, we in this place are quite united in our desire to ensure that workplace harassment, sexual harassment, these kinds of activities are no long tolerated or accepted in any part of our society, although the bill only goes to the issues surrounding work within government and particularly here in Parliament.

I also worked here many years ago when I was in the office of the minister of the environment in the 1980s and can attest to knowing exactly how much young women had to put up with. No young woman or young man should ever have to put up with the kind of cavalier attitude that boys will be boys and that we should let these things go by and not stand our ground.

I agree with the member that this is a sea change. We are seeing a transformational change that is global, in re-examining those things that were considered to be a patriarchal right to speak to women in different ways than they would speak to a male employee without giving it a second thought. Are there other places where the member thinks this Parliament could do more? The bill is a good step, but it is not going to be enough to make a society-wide transformation.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her work on this issue. She is absolutely right. Legislation can only go so far. We had a lot of conversations at committee about the regulations that will accompany the bill.

When it comes to political parties, we need a process within each party for staffers to come forward. That is not something that will be legislated within this bill, but we certainly need the opportunity for all staffers to feel safe to come forward.

In my opinion, it needs to be someone completely independent. It cannot be done within the parties. I feel that staff need to be able to come forward to someone who is independent to share their concerns. Once that has been done, the legislation can kick in, in terms of what the framework is. It is important for those processes to continue as we move forward.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Linda Lapointe Liberal Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to my hon. colleague's speech.

Under this bill, the legislation must be reviewed every five years. That is important, because our values and customs need to improve. I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on the idea of enshrining this in law. I wonder if she could talk about the benefits of this five-year review and the reports that must be submitted annually.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, the member is absolutely correct. It was something I brought up during the committee study when I asked witnesses whether the legislation should be reviewed.

It is important that we make sure legislation is working properly, and having that review in place will allow us to look back and determine which parts of the legislation were working and which parts were not. Quite honestly, if we find out within two years that a part is not working and we need to change it, we have that ability, but this will require every government in the future to make sure it is looking at the legislation to see how it can be approved.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, during discussion of this legislation at the committee stage, an amendment was brought forward by the Conservative members regarding timelines.

When a victim comes forward with a complaint and it is made official, as it stands right now there is no timeline in place with regard to how much time the investigation should take. It could take one year, two years, five years, or 10 years. This seems to re-victimize the victim because it lacks due process.

I wonder if the member would like to comment on why the party opposite turned down this amendment and feels that it is in the best interest of victims to prolong these investigations.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, we listened to the testimony that we heard at committee and we asked officials about the best way to frame the legislation. We framed the legislation based on the testimony we heard at committee.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Linda Lapointe Liberal Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I am really happy to be here today to speak to this very important bill.

With Bill C-65, our government is taking an important step towards building a country where all Canadians are better protected from workplace harassment and violence, including sexual harassment and sexual violence, and where victims of such abuse receive the support they need. I am certain that all members of the House will agree that we must ensure that no one is prevented from fully participating in society as a result of bullying, harassment, hate, or violence.

As a government, it is critical that all of us understand these phenomena, so that we can determine how to stop them. Over the past two years, we have consulted a number of stakeholders, our partners, and all Canadians to understand how the problem of harassment and violence is currently being handled in federally regulated workplaces. It became essential that we look at how to strengthen our anti-harassment and anti-violence measures.

Two types of consultation took place: a public consultation through an online survey, and a series of round tables and teleconferences with stakeholders. Following those consultations, we prepared a report on our findings from the engagement activities we had held with the Canadian public, unions, employers, non-governmental organizations, academics, and other experts. The report was published in November, and I invite all members of the House and all Canadians to read it, if they have not already.

I want to spend a few minutes on our key findings. First, we noted that levels of harassment and violence remain high, even here in Canada. Although the survey was not representative, since all respondents self-selected, the results were nonetheless alarming. Harassment was the most common type of behaviour experienced by online survey respondents, 60% of whom reported having experienced it, while 30% said that they had experienced sexual harassment, 21% that they had experienced violence, and 3% that they had experienced sexual violence. Among respondents who had experienced sexual harassment, 94% were women.

The second finding from the consultations has to do with prevention measures. Although there are policies to prevent workplace harassment and violence, work must be done to raise employer and employee awareness of these issues. Awareness is part of prevention. If employers are more aware of the problem, they will be able to understand what is happening in their workplace and respond appropriately. We need to face facts. All too often, incidents are not reported, and when they are, the response is ineffective.

The third finding has to do with the measures taken in response to such incidents. Although 75% of online survey respondents who had experienced harassment or violence reported the most recent incident, 41% of them said that no attempt was made to resolve the issue. Of those respondents who did not report the most recent incident, many feared reprisals if they filed a complaint. Nevertheless, employers must ensure that their workplaces are free from harassment and violence. Despite everything, it is not always mandatory for employers to provide support mechanisms for victims.

The fourth finding of the consultations was that little support is currently available for victims of harassment and violence. Most respondents believed that employers, the government, and unions should be responsible for providing support to help victims feel safe and secure in their workplace. What is more, stakeholders told us that clear written policies are needed so that organizations know how to respond to allegations of workplace harassment and violence. It is therefore important to educate employers so that they can provide effective support for people who report acts of violence or harassment.

The last finding of the consultations has to do with under-reporting and insufficient data.

As I said earlier, people in these situations are afraid to file a complaint because they fear reprisals. Stakeholders agreed that appropriate data should be collected to track results. In the end, we concluded that the existing measures are just not good enough. There is no comprehensive system in place to prevent and address harassment and violence. Instead, we have a patchwork of federal laws and policies on these issues.

For example, violence is covered in part II of the Canada Labour Code, which applies to all federally regulated workplaces, including the public service. However, harassment is dealt with in part III of the Canada Labour Code, which does not apply to public servants, only to federally regulated private-sector employees. Moreover, neither part covers parliamentary workplaces.

During our consultations, experts told us that we should treat occurrences of harassment and violence as a continuum of inappropriate behaviours, extending from teasing, which is not always funny, to physical violence. We need a comprehensive approach. We need to be clear about the sources of those behaviours and the consequences.

Essentially, we need a cultural shift. Grey areas are no longer good enough. We need to embrace the idea that Canada has zero tolerance for all forms of workplace harassment and violence. I am pleased to say that this bill reflects the consultations and will meet many of those needs. I am very proud of the work we have done on Bill C-65. This new legislation will initiate a cultural shift in federally regulated workplaces thanks to a new framework that will better protect employees from harassment and violence. It will go a long way toward de-normalizing harassment and violence by preventing and reducing these problems.

In closing, as I said, the results of the consultations are clear: the measures in place do not go far enough. We must make it our goal to bring about a profound cultural shift that leads us to civility and respect and puts human rights above all differences.

Let us not forget that violence is born out of inequality and that inequality is born out of discrimination against women and others who are victims of it. It is therefore of the utmost importance that acts of harassment and violence are addressed at every level so that these injustices do not go unpunished. That is the purpose of Bill C-65.

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4:20 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Rivière-des-Mille-Îles for her speech and for being one of many seeking change.

Under the Liberals' bill, employers need an internal policy to drive deep cultural change. That is what employers, women's groups, and union representatives wanted from the committee. They asked for clear guidelines in the Canada Labour Code so employers would know what constitutes an appropriate code of conduct.

A number of groups even proposed a code of ethics, but the Liberals rejected the idea for reasons known only to themselves. A code of ethics could have been added to the Canada Labour Code to help employers define their internal policies with the help of guidelines on immediate assistance, handling complaints, confidentiality, and protection of private information.

Why is none of that available to employers, who do not really know what to do in terms of prevention and enforcing a framework that applies to anything that might happen in a workplace? That is something all the parties wanted, but the Liberals refused.

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4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Linda Lapointe Liberal Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her question.

There are three very important elements of the regulatory framework that will be mandatory for employers, namely preventing harassment and violence, responding when incidents involving harassment or violence do occur, and supporting the victims of harassment and violence.

Many other things are also included in those three elements. Regarding the first one, preventing harassment and violence, employers must ensure that employees receive training and they must work with employees to put a prevention policy in place. Everyone needs to participate, employees and employers alike. As for the second element, responding to incidents involving harassment or violence, employers must respond within a specific timeframe to address the complaint and inform the complainant of the appropriate privacy safeguards in place.

There are therefore plenty of things in place to ensure that employers' obligations are taken into account.

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4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Rivière-des-Mille-Îles for her moving speech.

As a member of the status of women committee myself, I heard many witnesses, including women from indigenous, immigrant, and LGBTQ2 communities, talking about several topics we have studied. We heard from many victims who did not have the courage to report their aggressor. As a female parliamentarian, I myself have been bullied—I am not talking about sexual harassment—and I reported the people who tried to bully me.

As a fellow female parliamentarian, can my colleague explain how a few years from now, after Bill C-65 passes, the new climate on the Hill might encourage more women to get into politics? Will this bill increase women's participation?

How does she see—

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4:25 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Excuse me, I have to give the hon. member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles time to answer the question.

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4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Linda Lapointe Liberal Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, there is no doubt that the more women we have on Parliament Hill, the more the culture will change. It is a deeply entrenched culture that we have to change.

Bill C-65 will help change the culture. There are three important things, as I was saying earlier. The regulatory framework seeks to prevent incidents, intervene effectively to support the victims and survivors, and help employers.

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4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier.

I wish it were unnecessary for me to stand here today to speak to this bill. I wish that harassment and violence were actions of long ago and things of the past. I wish that discrimination were eradicated with the movement of Martin Luther King, Jr. and that when women were granted equal rights before the law, including the right to vote and own property, they were also guaranteed fair treatment at all times. I wish there were no need for Bill C-65, that it could be ruled redundant, outdated, or altogether unnecessary, but sadly, that is not the case, so here I am speaking to this piece of legislation.

“You look more beautiful than I remember,” he says, as he stares her up and down.

“Nice skirt. It shows off the best parts of you,” he says, as he leans over to get a better look.

“It's just fact. Men are better MPs than women,” he says to his colleague. “Women are too emotional to make good leaders.”

“It is really nice to see you,” he says, as he moves his hand over her knee and toward her thigh.

These are just a few examples of the comments and gestures women all too often face in this place and in other workplaces across this country. They might seem like innocent or playful comments or gestures to some, but they are, in fact, altogether inappropriate and unacceptable. While women are not the sole targets of harassment and violence, it is right to point out that women disproportionately are the recipients of unwanted gestures and comments like these.

That said, it is important for me to state that the issue before the House is not a male-only issue, nor is it a female-only issue, nor is it a political partisan issue. In fact, the matter before the House is largely a power issue. Specifically, in this place, it has to do with the power imbalance that exists between employees and employers. Staff find themselves at the mercy of their employers. When it comes to hiring and firing, MPs have complete freedom to do so at will. At present, there are no overarching protocols or mechanisms of accountability in place to give guidance to this structure. An MP can hire or fire someone simply because he or she wishes to do so.

For every paid staffer, there are also dozens of interns who are looking for jobs, which then leaves staff having to be very careful about whether they report an incident. After all, they might lose their jobs, or they fear some other form of reprisal.

We heard at committee that those who are mistreated by their employers are often afraid to speak out, because they fear what the repercussions might be. This imbalance of power without proper preventive measures and reporting mechanisms can create an environment that is incredibly unsafe for people to work in and can leave staff feeling as if they have no other option than to keep silent.

For these reasons, my colleagues and I welcome the initiative the government has put forward through Bill C-65. We have to work together as parliamentarians to create an environment that is free of harassment and violence, and to this end, those of us on this side of the House are committed.

As members of Canada's Parliament, we are meant to serve as role models. That is part of our job. We should strive for excellence in everything we do. We are called to function with the utmost level of integrity; to treat others with dignity, respect, and honour; to be humble; to work hard; and to serve the betterment of others. This is true public service. It is what we signed up for. That is why we are in this place.

Bill C-65 is only a first step. On its own, the document before the House is not enough to put a complete stop to harassment and violence within this workplace or any other publicly funded workplace. Instead, I would contend that a culture change is needed. It is incumbent upon each and every one of us as members, as senators, as employers, and as role models to act rightly and to be above reproach at all times. We must take personal responsibility for our actions, and we must choose to treat others well. I will comment further on this in just a moment, but first permit me to summarize what Bill C-65 would achieve.

Right now, federally regulated workplaces, including Parliament Hill, are without a streamlined approach when it comes to policies and rules on harassment and violence. Bill C-65 would actually amend the Canada Labour Code to require employers to do all they can to prevent harassment and violence from taking place in the workplace. Should a concern arise, the employer would then be required to investigate and report any incident brought to his or her attention. As part of this initiative, federally regulated employers would be required to have a sexual harassment policy in place and to report to Parliament how many complaints had been put forward over the course of time and how they had been handled.

We have always supported the intent of this bill, but before it went to committee, we had a few amendments we wanted to see made. Although we feel the legislation could be further strengthened by taking a stronger stand on behalf of victims, we are pleased with this bill overall and with where we are landing.

There were a number of Conservative amendments that were adopted. One of the biggest concerns I had when this bill was first introduced was the fact that the labour minister would have the power to investigate himself or herself if a complaint were brought against him or her by an employee. This concerned me because it would put the employees who work for the minister in a very precarious situation. If one goes to their boss to complain about their boss only to have them investigate themselves, then that is a problem. We were able to put forward an amendment to fix this, which would take the power out of the hands of the minister and instead put it with the deputy minister, thereby allowing for the protection of a victim who might come forward with a complaint.

Furthermore, my Conservative colleagues and I successfully introduced an amendment that would protect against political interference regardless of the party that might be in power at the time. Originally, the legislation would have allowed the minister to conduct the investigation into any member of Parliament in this House. It would mean that the minister of labour could investigate a Conservative one way, an NDP another way, a Bloc Québécois another way, and a Liberal member another way. It would not have set a complete streamlined fashion by which all these investigations would have to be completed. It was partisan in nature.

Therefore, it also concerned me that there could be potential for political interference given the party of the day, whichever party that might be. This problem was resolved at committee by amending the legislation, again by putting the investigative authority or power into the hands of the deputy minister and out of the hands of the partisan minister who serves as minister for labour. Ultimately, this would preserve the integrity of the investigative process. I am extremely proud of the work accomplished in committee, and the fact that it had all-party support going forward.

Nevertheless, there is one amendment I feel very strongly should have made its way into this legislation, and unfortunately it did not. As Conservatives, we always take a stand for the victim—always. To this end, we introduced an amendment that would implement strict timelines for investigations into incidents of harassment to make sure that a victim's concern would be dealt with in a timely manner. Unfortunately, this amendment was voted down by the Liberals. As a result, an employee could effectively make an official complaint and the investigation could take one year, five years, or 10 years without there being any sort of recourse for that complainant. This concerns me, because that means the victim would be tied up in this process of a long investigation, perhaps could be re-victimized in that process, and there would be nothing that he or she could do about it. There needs to be a timeline placed on this in order to protect those coming forward with their vulnerable stories.

While this legislation would help create a more wholesome work environment, I believe more is required than just policy. As stated earlier, I believe it is incumbent upon each one of us in parliamentary roles to ensure we are doing all we can to prevent harassment and violence, including sexual harassment and violence, from becoming an issue in the first place. We can do this in a few ways. We can have clear, comprehensive policies in place, and make our expectations very well known within our offices. Furthermore, we can participate in sensitivity training and ask our staff to do the same.

When we witness inappropriate conduct, we can also call it out for what it is. It is not okay to make sexual jokes, touch without consent, intimidate others, use rude or insulting language or gestures, use derogatory language or name-calling, make sex-related comments about a person's physical characteristics or actions, and it is certainly not okay to share intimate photos. These are the types of behaviour that we can start to call out in this place, thereby allowing ourselves to participate as a collective in creating an environment where everyone gets to thrive.

To see lasting change, I believe a cultural change is necessary. This is a matter of the human heart, and we will need to work together in order to achieve the culture we desire in this place. This policy before the House is one good step in that direction. It is incumbent upon all of us to make a personal choice to participate in the lasting changes.

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4:35 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, it is encouraging when we see members from all sides of the House coming together and recognizing a very important social issue, and then contributing in a positive way, whether during second reading or at committee stage. From what I understand, there was a great deal of dialogue and a lot of passion with respect to the presentations that were made, and a number of amendments were built through consensus and then passed. It is a given that not everything was resolved. However, it was quite encouraging to see that sense of co-operation in recognizing the importance of the issue we are debating today.

I wonder if my colleague from across the way can provide her thoughts with respect to the degree to which it is better legislation today because of the amendments that were brought forward in such a consensus fashion.

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4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, I would agree with the hon. member. As I said throughout my speech, during the committee stage, when we were discussing this piece of legislation and bringing forward amendments, I would draw some attention to the one that I was most passionate about, which was taking the power out of the hands of the labour minister and putting it into the hands of the deputy minister. In doing so, we make it non-partisan. We make it so that an investigation is an investigation is an investigation. There is a proper procedure that is followed, no matter the party being investigated or the party that the member belongs to. That was a good example of where the committee was able to come together. The members were able to discuss it and come to a consensus on an item that I believe very strongly strengthens this bill.

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4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I would like to address a couple of the concerns that the member has raised. With respect to a timeline, it should be noted we have added that, in the regulatory process, employers will have to act as quickly as possible. Not all investigations are the same; in other words, the cookie-cutter timelines do not necessarily work. This is about good investigations, which is what needs to be highlighted, not fast investigations.

I should also note that part II of the Canada Labour Code protects employees from reprisals.

Perhaps the member would like to add some of her thoughts with respect to that, or provide additional comment.

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4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, I understand that pulling off an investigation and having it done well can take some time, and that not every investigation is the same. That is certainly true. Therefore, I want to account for that.

At the same time, one of the things we heard from witnesses who came before the committee was the incredible fear they had of coming forward with their stories and asking for action to be taken on their behalf. These individuals certainly did not want the process to last years on end without any sort of wrap-up process, declaration, or decision being reached. Therefore, it is incumbent upon this House to put regulations in place with respect to that timeline in order to make sure that a victim's needs are met, that the investigation is carried out in a timely fashion, and that she or he is not revictimized by the process itself, as there could be some exploitation that takes place in an extended timeframe.

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4:40 p.m.

NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Madam Speaker, I would like to reiterate the fact that many of the speakers this afternoon have talked about legislation and regulation as important steps, but that a cultural change on Parliament Hill, within our workplaces, is the work that we all still need to be doing. I wonder if my hon. colleague would like to comment on some of the things she would like to see us do immediately. We know that prevention and intervention are not enough and that we have to change the culture.