Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to rise today to speak to Bill C-65. I will be sharing my time with the member for Calgary Nose Hill.
At the outset, I would like to say that the opposition party is in agreement with the bill, the harassment act for federally regulated workplaces, including this parliamentary precinct and indeed Parliament Hill. Several amendments were made at committee, and I will be speaking to those amendments specifically.
There are current critical movements and campaigns to empower victims of harassment, and those campaigns very sincerely reminded the world that harassment is intolerable in any circumstance.
Canada's Conservatives are proud to support Bill C-65 as it comes to the House at report stage, with our proposed amendments to ensure that complaints of harassment are dealt with in a non-partisan and timely manner. I will outline some of those amendments in a few minutes.
As representatives and leaders for Canada, it is our job to be proactive in our approach to standing against workplace harassment. I speak for myself and for members on this side of the House when I say that it is something we take very seriously within our own workplaces, because we are employers. We are employers of parliamentary staff who work not just in our Hill offices, but in our constituency offices. It is very important for us to set an example, and I believe Bill C-65 sets that example and sets a standard that all employers should follow with respect to federally regulated workplaces.
The bill focuses on three areas: preventing workplace harassment, responding to it, and supporting those who feel they have been harassed. There has been a tremendous amount of support shown for victims of harassment and bullying.
Bill C-65 went to committee, and there was a tremendous amount of work done by the committee. From speaking to our members, I know there were some issues with the bill as it came to committee, but all committee members came together to propose amendments to the bill that put a little more meat on it, considering some of the concerns that were first introduced.
I will read a quote from Manon Poirier, of the Chartered Professionals in Human Resources Canada. At committee, she said:
Bullying, harassment, and sexual violence have no place in today's workplace, yet according to a survey conducted for the federal government, 10% of respondents said that harassment is common in the workplace, and 44% said that while it is not frequent, it happens. Most respondents agreed that incidents are under-reported and often dealt with ineffectively.
According to a report of the Human Resources Professionals Association, one third of women and over 10% of men have been sexually harassed at work. I think all members of the House would agree that this statistic is unacceptable and cannot stand to reflect the future of Canadian workplaces. It is our intent to create and set that example.
The Conservative Party introduced an amendment to avoid political interference in political offices during harassment investigations. That was a very important amendment that was put forward to make the investigation into harassment allegations free of political interference and political influence. That is one thing that I think all members would agree was very good in terms of the amendments that were proposed. It is also important that investigations not be seen to be intertwined with the perception of political interference.
The amendment transferred from the Minister of Labour to the deputy minister, a non-partisan civil servant, investigations involving the offices of members of Parliament. Again, this will preserve the integrity of the investigation process.
Another amendment ensures that strict timelines for investigations into incidents of harassment are in place to ensure investigations are carried out in a timely manner. Our committee team introduced and supported mandatory sexual harassment training as an essential part of the bill. I know several members of the House have already participated and have been engaged in the sexual harassment training. I know my mandatory session is coming up, and I look forward to participating in that.
At committee, Greg Phillips, the president of the Canadian Association of Professional Employees, summed up the importance of supporting not only those who had been harassed, but also their colleagues. He stated:
... the colleagues of an employee who receives a minimal resolution are less likely to come forward with their own cases of harassment. When someone sees a very minor penalty being implemented against the employer in a harassment complaint, nobody is going to want to file a harassment complaint...That workplace then becomes a toxic environment where nobody wants to work, and if they're working on something fundamental to the government, the most qualified employees aren't going to want to go there.
That is a very important point. It is very important that those who are dealing with issues of workplace harassment, sexual or otherwise, have their voices heard. Certainly, those situations are taken seriously by the members and by the House.
As the opposition deputy whip, I and the hon. member for Milton, whose birthday it is today, have been part of the subcommittee that has worked to ensure the code of conduct for the members of the House of Commons addresses complaints of sexual harassment. We have been working very closely. I am not in a position to discuss the details of our work because we are in the draft stage of the report , but it is very important work. It is work that has dovetailed the work of the PROC committee on harassment in the workplace among members.
The discussions at committee have progressed very well. All members have acted accordingly, with an understanding of the importance of this issue, with member-on-member complaints. I think the House, once the report comes, will be very pleased, because it was a consensus-building approach to the recommendations of this report. The expectation is that the report will be coming out very soon.
The House staff who were involved in that, namely Mr. Parent and Mr. Dufresne, were instrumental in ensuring that we, as members of the committee, were effective in our mandate from PROC in dealing with that committee.
Sexual misconduct and sexual harassment have no place in Canadian society, especially within our political system if we are to provide an example. From the experience of serving the residents of my riding as a ward and city councillor, I understand that safe workplaces entail freedom from all forms of harassment. As a proud parent of four, my hope is that their workplace is as committed to preventing and addressing harassment as the House is today. Harassment is an issue that may evolve again, considering that cyberbullying, for example, is so prevalent within our society. As such, Conservative committee members also introduced and supported a mandatory review every five years.
I appreciate the work that was done at committee by not just members on our side, but on all sides, who came together to support Bill C-65. Combatting harassment is a pressing need in Parliament. Parliament and political leaders need to set the example, need to be the high bar for safe workplaces across Canada. Let Parliament Hill be the standard by which we will measure success in stopping all forms of harassment and creating a climate of respect for all.
We want to ensure that governments today and in the future focus on supporting victims as we have pledged to do. As a father, an elected official, and an employer, it is my responsibility to lead by example and to instill the qualities of a harassment-free workplace.