Mr. Speaker, sharing stories cannot be where this ends. It is time for us to take action, and we are. According to an Angus Reid poll, 52% of Canadian women say that they have been subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace and 28% report having experienced non-consensual sexual touching in the workplace, and 72% of respondents who experienced harassment never reported it. In fact, these behaviours have become so normalized that the discomfort women feel is normalized. Women tell us that they do not come forward because it is easier not to, because it often is not worth it. They feel embarrassed, and many fear reprisal, up to even losing their jobs. Most disappointing is that most women simply do not believe that coming forward will make any difference whatsoever in their situation or for others.
It is time for a change. All Canadians deserve a workplace that is free of harassment and violence and where unacceptable behaviour is no longer tolerated. Bill would be a tool to help achieve that goal. It is how we would send the message that unacceptable behaviour in the workplace will not be tolerated. It would move us, as a society, from outrage to action. Bill would address all types of harassment and violence. It would strengthen the Canada Labour Code to complement existing laws and policies. It would broaden the scope of legislation to include staff working right here and in constituency offices, both in this House and in the other chamber.
There are three main elements to Bill : the prevention of incidents, a timely and effective response to incidents, and support for affected employees.
This is a progressive and revolutionary bill that all Canadians can be proud of. However, I am well aware that Bill applies only to federally regulated employers and employees.
My hope is that the legislation would set the example and the standard for fairness and harmony in all workplaces in Canada.
I wish to thank the other chamber for its careful study. I also thank the witnesses who shared their expertise and their experiences, many of them deeply personal, which helped inform the committee's study. The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights took to heart the messages heard from these witnesses and proposed amendments to echo those voices and stories.
Many of these amendments are supported by our government. For example, we are supporting the removal of the terms “trivial”, “frivolous” and “vexatious” to describe complaints that could be refused for investigation. While these terms are commonly used in law, there is no denying that they have powerful negative connotations.
There are some amendments we are unable to support, despite the fact that we understand their intent. These concerns did not go unheard. It is the government's perspective that the amendments have already been addressed through other legislation. My hon. colleagues will speak in more detail about each of the amendments.
Rest assured that this legislation would be meaningful for Canadians. It would create better protections, safer workplaces and swifter action for employees covered by this legislation. It would also start a cultural shift that would affect all workplaces and our society. In fact, I believe that it already has.
For example, during our consultations on the regulations, the majority of stakeholders we met recognized the need to change the status quo, and most expressed their willingness to help make that happen. It is important that as a government, we lead the way, that we provide an example, and that we take our responsibility to our workers seriously. We need this legislation simply because what is in place right now is not doing the job.
Let me tell members a bit about Hilary Beaumont, a VICE News reporter. Ms. Beaumont conducted some very interesting research. She interviewed more than 40 women who work right here on the Hill, including former and current members of Parliament, lobbyists, journalists, employees and trainees. In her presentation to committee, Ms. Beaumont said that she quickly realized that female employees were much more vulnerable to harassment than their male counterparts.
The women she interviewed reported personal stories of sexist comments and touching and even sexual assault. Some women said they had been fired or had lost job opportunities after trying to report the abuses they had suffered at work, in this workplace. Some currently employed on the Hill are not even aware of how to manage and report incidents.
Ms. Beaumont discovered that existing measures are not protecting employees from harassment and violence. However, if Bill had been in place, these women would have had better support and justice, and even better, these incidents could have been prevented. That is why this bill is so important.
From the outset, each member of this House agreed on its importance, and this was apparent during the meetings of the committee of this House, which worked very hard to strengthen the bill. Out of those meetings came important amendments: adding the definition of harassment and violence to the Canada Labour Code; adding a clause that required that the provisions on harassment and violence established in Bill be re-examined every five years; requiring the minister of labour to produce, each year, a report on harassment and violence in all workplaces under federal regulation; and for the application of part 3 of the law in Parliament, providing the deputy minister with powers normally attributed to the minister to avoid any potential conflict of interest.
These changes, which have already been adopted, along with the amendments from the other chamber that we propose to accept, have created a piece of exceptionally strong legislation that we can all be sure would reach its intended goal.
I firmly believe that Bill , as amended, will really change the lives of thousands of Canadians.
It would ensure better protection for employees in the public service and in federal Crown corporations.
This applies to people working for federal banks, railroads, marine transportation services and ferries, airlines and airports, and radio and television broadcasting.
Bill would also, importantly, protect political staff in this chamber and in the other one, where all too often we have heard of, and may have even witnessed, inappropriate behaviour, often to humiliate or belittle or to use power as a way to pursue intentions of assault.
I ask my hon. colleagues to support the advancement of this important bill; in fact, this historic bill. For every person who has come forward, for those who have felt that they could not come forward, let us stand up and declare together that we will not accept the status quo and that we will be responsible employers in this place. Let us be an example for Canada and for the rest of the world. We owe it to our citizens, and we owe it to the incredibly hard-working staff who serve us all, to take action now.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the minister's work on this matter, and I very much appreciate all the work that our shadow minister also accomplished in this matter.
I am very happy to announce that we will be supporting the government's response, predominantly because the amendments will strengthen the legislation to prevent workplace violence or harassment. Combatting harassment is a pressing need in our Parliament today. Sexual misconduct and sexual harassment have no place in Canadian society, especially within our political system.
In January of this year, when introducing the legislation, the minister herself said:
Parliament Hill features distinct power imbalances, which perpetuates a culture where people with a lot of power and prestige can use and have used that power to victimize the people who work so hard for us. It is a culture where people who are victims of harassment or sexual violence do not feel safe to bring those complaints forward. It is a place where these types of behaviours, abusive and harmful, are accepted and minimized and ignored.
I take it that that is the motivation and the reasoning for the legislation to be introduced and where we are today in finalizing the legislation.
Those are incredibly profound words. They are incredibly disturbing words to be said by a minister, because it is talking about our workplace as members of Parliament. When I reflect on it, the fact is that it can be so easy for many of us as members to initially recoil from the language, saying that we are not all like that, and I do believe that.
At the very beginning, I do think it is important to remember that the collective reputation of all of us becomes damaged when we allow this kind of unacceptable behaviour and the allegations to be made without procedures in place for the complaints to be dealt with.
Not all of us are partaking in the actions that have been alleged against many of the members. Indeed, for the most part, we all do our work, and we all respect and truly appreciate the work that our staff members do for us. However, it has come to our attention through a series of incidents that this needed to be looked at.
I am going to take the House through a little retrospective about my experience with respect the issues surrounding sexual harassment, sexual violence and bullying in the workplace over the next couple of minutes. I hope to inform the House that this is not a unique issue. This is not something we have not tackled before in other industries. This is something that is timely now. However, we can take lessons from other places in order to ensure that we get to the right end result. I will conclude by talking about relevant recent examples, which I believe put in jeopardy the actual implementation of this act in a fair and fulsome way.
I have been working in male-dominated fields for most of my life. What I understand and what I have seen in each of these fields is a similar evolution when it comes to bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct in the workplace.
First of all, we need a simple awareness that certain language and actions are unacceptable. Sometimes people think that they are just telling a joke or are just saying something funny. Sometimes they are saying, “Well, I thought she was appreciative of what I was saying to her, or him.”
The reality is that there has to be an awareness made that not everybody thinks the same way and not everybody takes actions in the same way. That is the first step: awareness.
The second step is training and education, where we go beyond the awareness of the issue and the need to amend behaviour to being shown the way, through training and education, of how one should behave appropriately. I am very pleased to report that we have done that collectively as Parliament. We have done that as members. We all sat through appropriate training and education. I commend the committee and the House of Commons for ensuring that we did all do this, because I believe that took us to the next step.
What we see today in the government legislation is a process. What many will say is that in order for complaints to come forward, in order to make sure that the most egregious issues are being dealt with, there needs to be a structure in place, a place where individuals could go and feel comfortable and confident in being able to enumerate their complaints, with the hope of getting some kind of action.
The final and most important part is that justice is seen to be delivered either in the case where an application or a complaint is shown not to be valid or, where a complaint is shown to be valid, that there is some kind of punishment, that there is some kind of activity that discourages this going to the future.
In order for this legislation to truly be accepted and believed as something that is going to be helpful in our culture, justice has to be seen to be delivered in the implementation. While we are talking about one part of it today in the process, we should always be mindful as members of Parliament that the work has not been finished by any means. This is not a time for a victory lap and I would not assume that things will go smoothly, but I know from all sides of the House that we will be definitely working to ensure that justice will be seen to be delivered in the cases that come forward.
In the 1980s, I was in the field of chemistry. My undergraduate degree was from St. Francis Xavier University. I did an honours degree in physical chemistry, which is not an area where there would be a lot of women. Ironically enough, we were fifty-fifty. It was a small class of six, three men and three women, but we were fifty-fifty in terms of gender balance. While in the eighties StFX was known as a great partying school and it is very proud of that, we did not oftentimes discuss or we were not even aware of the difficulties around sexual harassment and sexual violence.
I often wonder whether the issue did not come home to us in our small faculty because of the gender balance in the faculty. We had no discussion of the concepts. We had no issues that I knew of and we kind of blindly went through and went off to our next levels in life. After graduation, the six of us ended up going into different fields. Some of us continued in grad studies and some of us went to professional school. I went on to grad school to study biochemical toxicology at the University of Guelph and the University of Waterloo, where my eyes were opened to the fact that with gender disparity did come unique difficulties.
I noticed very clearly that women who were faculty were ignored in the mailroom. They were looked down upon for their academic abilities, they were overlooked and shouted down at faculty meetings, and they were not necessarily given their space to come up with their ideas in the field of chemistry. I took all that to heart in the back of my mind determining whether this was a field I wanted to pursue. The reality is that what we see really does impact what we believe and what our decisions are going to be. There were not very many women in the faculty of chemistry at the time and very few role models to look up to, and very few shows of success that we could aspire to in terms of staying in that chosen field.
The good part about it that I was a terrible chemist, so it is not a great loss to the field of chemistry that I ended up not pursuing that field. Academically, it may have been made apparent to me that I was not going to continue to my Ph.D. but certainly in the back of my mind it did come into play, whether it was going to be a place where I would feel validated and listened to. It was not necessarily about wanting to not be harassed; it was about not being overlooked, bullied or put down, all of those insidious things that can happen.
Maybe more women in grad school in the sciences will make a difference, but putting the pressure on women in science all the time that we have to go into science and do better because if we do better then everything will be better is a complete fallacy. What women who choose to go into science need is good structure and to see that results are delivered when they have the right structure.
A lot of times when we see someone touting gender parity within this committee or that committee, or this faculty or that faculty, it is of interest, but that is not the point. The point of it all is whether or not there is a real institutional structure to recognize the value of each individual within that faculty regardless of their gender, taking the gender outside of the box in terms of academic abilities.
Therefore, I am not here to say today that if we have more women in politics it is going to get better, because I am not convinced it will. That is a nice marketing phrase, but I do not believe it is a solution to the real situations and issues that we have in different fields where women may not feel they are welcome and where they may not feel they can have a career.
Not having had enough of a male-dominated area, I decided to go to law school. Law school is very different. It was very gender balanced. Indeed, in my first year at law school, in the incoming class at Osgoode, there were more women than men. We were definitely moving the dial in terms of the people studying there. Again, it was a wonderful facility, a wonderful space, where we did not feel there were any differences with respect to gender. We had a female dean who was extremely effective, and wonderful courses taught by both men and women. We were able to choose which direction we wanted to go in. In that space and time, I did not feel there were any difficulties around gender-based violence or gender-based discrimination, although there was, at the time, definitely a debate and discussion about whether a member of the faculty had been overlooked. Therefore, it was an issue that was circulating, but it certainly did not percolate to where our class was.
However, law firms are different. In 1998, after being called to the bar and doing some time at another summer job, I ended up articling and being placed at law firms. There, one could see that there was a real difference. That is where the stratification started to happen and where one could see that power imbalance that I spoke of in my opening remarks.
In 2000, there was an absolutely outrageous event in downtown Toronto of alleged sexual misconduct that really brought the issue of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct in the legal field in Toronto to the fore. Without getting into all of the gory details at the time, a senior partner was accused of sexual misconduct toward several female lawyers in a public bar. It was something that could not be swept under the rug because so many people were involved, so many people saw what happened and so many people reported what had happened. Therefore, it was an issue that the law firm of the time had to deal with, and it dealt with it very strongly. It removed the partner from that firm and made sure from that point forward there was serious education, awareness, and training within the company. I bring that up because I believe, in part, that it created a greater awareness among many of the downtown companies that perhaps had not gotten on the earlier bandwagon of dealing with sexual harassment or sexual violence in the workplace.
I was working at the Toronto port authority at the time. I was its general counsel, and I decided to try to distinguish where we lacked policies in the workplace with respect to women and men and power. The organization had been around for about 75 years by that time, and it had no maternity leave policy. I guess no women worked at the port authority for 75 years. One of my first jobs was to draft the policy, which I drafted so that it was gender neutral. We became one of the first places where our male firefighters were grateful to take some parental leave as well when their partner was pregnant and after giving birth. After what had happened with the alleged misconduct in Toronto, it became almost imperative at that point in time that boards made sure they had appropriate policies in place to deal with issues that could come up in the workplace. With 100 employees, 90% of them men, we undertook the process of bringing people to an awareness of the issues, educating and training them, setting up a process, and finally showing that, if complaints came forward, there would be justice. I wish I could say it was easy, because it really was not easy.
When people start talking about something like sexual violence, sexual misconduct, harassment and bullying in the workplace, initially there is a great tendency for people to say, “That is not me; I am not like that; why are you accusing; why do I have to go through this process?” Those are all good questions. However, it is up to the management, up to the collective group putting the policies forward and in place, to assure everyone that this is not about seeking out and trying to find people who are to blame, but rather to put in place a system to allow people to come forward so that the bad apples within the mix of 100 are sought out, and not the entire reputation of the organization being questioned.
At the end of the day, I have had 20 years in this space of trying to bring policies into play to deal with these issues. I know I have said it before, but I want to say it again, because if we underpin everything that we are attempting to do within Parliament to try to protect everyone here, if we say that we are doing it, first, to raise awareness, second, to train and educate, third, to have a solid process in place and to have justice be seen to be done, then we are on the right path.
There are some high-profile cases that took place within our parliamentary family in 2018, as well as in the legal community in Toronto in 2000, that have brought us to this place today where we are discussing this legislation. The United Kingdom had the same issue. A study was prompted by a BBC investigative report about bullying and harassment in the U.K. House of Commons. As luck would have it, that report was released yesterday at their House of Commons. How they have approached their issues are different from how we have approached ours. We have approached this by jumping right into the legislative side of it and trying to figure out the best process, because we think that if we put that process in place, it is going to fix everything. A different approach was taken by the U.K. House of Commons. It set up an independent inquiry, run by a separate person, who then had permission to interview widely the people who had complaints, to talk to all MPs, and to develop recommendations. One of the recommendations was that they needed to take the time to get it right. It is a long report, over 155 pages long. However, it is well worth reading, not for the salacious details of what happened to certain individuals or the claims made against others, but to give us more colour to the point of what could have happened or what could be happening if we do not deal with our culture in the appropriate way.
The number one issue that arose out of it was that there were obviously ineffective mechanisms for dealing with what was happening in the United Kingdom House of Commons. They focused on bullying, harassment and sexual harassment. However, what is very interesting is that they are calling for a fundamental change to rebuild trust and restore confidence, the point being that both men and women are making allegations of bullying and harassment within the U.K. House of Commons and that it should be taken seriously and dealt with in the most substantive way possible.
The most controversial part of the report, which is being covered by the U.K. media, is the last three paragraphs, which talk about who can best effect change. I am going to read them into the record because I think they give us a lot to think about.
This is how she concluded her report. She states:
If approached for advice by a constituent who was the victim of bullying or sexual harassment in their own workplace, I am confident that they would not hesitate in assisting them to take forward their complaints. I therefore hope that the recommendations I have made will receive the active support of those elected Members who will be appalled by the abusive conduct alleged against some of their number, but who will also be anxious to ensure that any process for determining disputed allegations is independent, effective and fair to both sides.
I have also referred throughout this report to systemic or institutional failings and to a collective ethos in the House that has, over the years, enabled the underlying culture to develop and to persist. Within this culture, there are a number of individuals who are regarded as bearing some personal responsibility for the criticisms made, and whose continued presence is viewed as unlikely to facilitate the necessary changes, but whom it would also be wrong for me to name, having regard to the terms of reference for this inquiry. I hope, however, that the findings in this report will enable a period of reflection in that respect in addition.
In considering how best to progress the change in culture that is accepted as essential, and how best to take forward the recommendations in this report, it may be that some individuals will want to think very carefully about whether they are the right people to press the reset button and to do what is required to deliver that change in the best interests of the House, having regard both to its reputation and its role as an employer of those who are rightly regarded as its most important resource.
It was heavy for the author of this report to come out swinging, as it were, against their House of Commons' management, but it was necessary that it be said.
One of the issues that I found very interesting when they were talked about why their culture has happened in the way it has was when they noted that it was “a culture, cascading from the top down, of deference, subservience, acquiescence and silence, in which bullying, harassment and sexual harassment have been able to thrive and have long been tolerated and concealed.” Those are all very important words that we should reflect on to ensure that we are not promoting that here.
The executive board of the U.K. House of Commons responded by saying that the report “makes difficult reading for all of us. Bullying and harassment have no place in the House of Commons and the Parliamentary Digital Service. We fully accept the need for change and, as a leadership team, are determined to learn lessons from the report. We apologize for past failings and are committed to changing our culture for the better.” That is by far the best response an executive board could possibly give to such a report, by apologizing for what has happened and vowing to move forward to do better.
As I said many times in my speech, legislation is not the end of the situation. Justice has to be seen to be done with a process that is working. Further, building on what the report said, we have to make sure that the people who will implement this are above reproach, that they absolutely do have the ability to say that they have clean hands and can help foster this changing culture.
How issues are dealt with and what is said will be watched carefully given the amount of press that we have received in the past about conduct in the House of Commons. This brings me to the uncomfortable position of talking about an incident that happened this summer.
This summer it came to the attention of the media through an online blogger that an editorial had indicated many years ago that the was guilty of inappropriate conduct. The writer in question wrote this many years ago. She was young; he was younger. In it she questioned whether or not it was appropriate for someone with that balance of power and fame to come in and be, in her view, inappropriate.
What I find interesting about this incident and why I talk about the culture of acquiescence and deference and subservience is the fact that this story had been around for months. Many people knew about the story but no one had a response or an answer to what actually happened. So, the story grew in strength and in importance, and the question then becomes, are there more rumours around? That does not do anything to help us determine whether or not the appropriate process is in place to deal with these kinds of allegations and that justice will be seen to be done.
The media was well aware of the incident. It knew what the editorial said. It refused to run with it. The over a series of many weeks ended up coming out with a final statement saying that the individual in response did not remember the situation as he remembered it, and that in these situations everyone remembers things differently. It was an unfortunate response and I will tell the House why.
It was not at all the full-throated apology made by the leadership team at the U.K. House of Commons. It was an explanation and an excuse. The difficulty with that is that in the midst of our introducing this legislation and debating and voting on it, and knowing the importance of showing an example to the rest of the country in dealing with these matters, the individual with the most power in the country did not do what would be expected, which was to apologize and move on. For me, that is an unravelling in the most basic form of what we can expect for this legislation to do for us going forward.
The difficulty as well is that I am protected in the House of Commons for saying things like this. I do not know if anybody is watching this speech right now, but I will definitely be noted in social media for once again bringing up this allegation of the and his groping that had been discussed all summer. I hope the House understands that what I am trying to convey in more than a 30-second sound bite is the fact that it does matter. It is not about a victim and it is not about whether or not something did happen; it is an inappropriate response to a real allegation that should show a path forward for other people to feel that they would get justice if they came forward with a complaint in a process against somebody of high power.
We lost an opportunity for the to show a path to making sure that we would have teeth and some kind of truth behind this legislation. It is a missed opportunity. I dwell on it a lot because, at the end of the day, as a woman of 30 years in this field, it does make me sad that a simple apology and acknowledgement would have gone a longer way.
We have not talked a lot about bullying. Bullying is a great difficulty as well within the House of Commons. It is a great difficulty in the workplace. For a period of time, I enjoyed being the minister of labour and we saw very clearly that sometimes overt bullying leads to violent conclusions, and we would never want that to happen. I am not suggesting that would happen here, but I am suggesting that bullying really does not have a place in any forum of discourse, including in this chamber. I would submit it is recognized in the Westminster model that bullying is not accepted, because we have this notion of unparliamentary language. In this space and this time, every member is honourable, and it is not allowed to besmirch the honour of a member. We are all equal and we are treated as such, and it is very important to ensure that we show our honourability at all times. However, this is a protected space for that. This is where this can happen.
I want to bring up two incidents in the past eight months which show to me that, again, a government that seeks to implement this legislation does not walk the talk. As a result, I have a very difficult time having confidence that the Liberals are going to be able to implement this legislation so that people have confidence in it.
Earlier in the year, I was at a committee meeting, and in that committee meeting I was testing and prodding the , as is my role as a deputy leader. I made sure that I was testing him on some of the underpinnings of his budget. They had to do with gender and whether or not certain things were taken into consideration. In response, the minister grew frustrated and at some point in discussing it, at the very end of our time, he indicated basically that people like me who are putting these questions towards him were neanderthals that would have to be dragged along.
First of all, it is laughable. I have been called far worse in my life. It was not a moment that I lost all of my self-esteem. It would take a lot for me to lose my self-esteem; I am a good politician. Nonetheless, knowing that he had no problem utilizing that word not only in reference to me tangentially but to my party as well shows us that the respect and honourability was not present in that moment. It is an important concept. It is an important issue for us to discuss.
The response from the media was that it was not that bad. It does not matter how bad it was. In that moment, in that time, instead of dealing with the issue and answering the question, the minister chose to use a personal slur in order to answer what was a substantive policy question. That is unacceptable. Again, can the government truly implement legislation that is dependent upon people being able to understand the importance of justice to be seen?
The last time it happened was in this chamber. It is still under consideration by the Speaker of the House, so I will say at the very beginning that, of course, we are awaiting the decision of the Speaker with respect to the use of unparliamentary language by the .
It was, again, on very difficult questioning, which was on the question of whether or not the had the power to move or cause to be moved a prisoner, Terri-Lynne McClintic, from one institution to another. The was asked many questions, first by my hon. colleague for and then by me. Instead of answering the issue, the became frustrated and annoyed and ended up calling me and the rest of our caucus ambulance chasers. An ambulance chaser is an unethical lawyer. The speaker before me was a lawyer and I was a lawyer. These things actually matter to us.
What matters more at the end of the day is the fact that the once again thought it was absolutely acceptable to go from discussing policy to throwing a personal slur across the floor.
One thing I will say is that those two incidents were not made in humour. Nobody was trying to be funny. These were directed. If I were a younger member of Parliament asking that question for the first time on my feet, the message I would receive is, “Be careful in asking that question because I am going to call you a name. I am going to embarrass you on television. You are going to be embarrassed in front of your constituents.” That is the impact and effect of allowing this.
I have been here for 10 years. I just celebrated my 10th anniversary with some of my other colleagues and I have grown a skin thick enough to deal with those kinds of things, but I am absolutely appalled that they would think it is acceptable to do that kind of thing.
Notice that in all of this discussion, not once have I mentioned the fact that I am a female member of Parliament, because it does not matter. Male or female, name calling in this place is recognized in our rules of procedure as being unparliamentary and it should also be held to account on the government side as much as it is on the opposition side. When we do not see laws being applied fairly, we lose our ability to believe that the law and the process will work for us.
That is the danger in this piece of legislation, that while we can have the best process in the world and we can have fantastic outlets for people to discuss, for people to have counselling, for people to go through hearings and have support, the reality at the end of the day is if justice is not seen to be done, everything we have done is for nothing. It is only through the conduct of the government that we can determine from the outside whether or not it will actually do what it set out to do.
Mr. Speaker, as I have said several times in the House today, my thoughts are with all the victims. To all those going through a tough time or who wonder what to do, hang on. There are people who can help you. This bill is a step in the right direction. It will not end bullying, harassment, sexual or other violence, but we are here today to improve legislation. My thoughts are with these people.
Every member of the House should have respect for the victims and I know that to be true. More often than not, victims of an unfortunate incident tend to feel very isolated. I believe I speak for all my colleagues when I say that we all stand with the victims.
I also want to acknowledge the important work done by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights, and both chambers on Bill , which seeks to prevent harassment and violence in the work place. This bill is of general interest and this is a non-partisan issue, as I keep saying.
Harassment and violence, especially sexual harassment and violence, are too important an issue to allow partisan politics and bickering to hamstring our efforts. On the contrary, this bill needs to free up speech once and for all and empower victims to speak out about sexual harassment, because workplace harassment and violence are still widespread today, even here in Parliament.
That is why the NDP supports the principle and spirit of Bill . However, in its current form, the bill is not perfect. Sadly, I think Bill only partially meets its goal of strengthening the harassment and violence prevention regime. Bill C-65 falls well short of addressing all of our concerns or those of the many witnesses who came to testify before the Senate or House committees.
The Senate proposed some good amendments. Some were similar to what I had presented to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, although once again, the government rejected more than half of my amendments. At any rate, those amendments would have improved Bill and helped us address the concerns raised by many witnesses who appeared before the House and Senate committees.
The suggestions were for simple things, such as recognizing that every employee has the right to employment that is free from harassment and violence, advancing gender equality, addressing issues of racism, and ensuring that the rights of women workers, including those who face intersectional forms of discrimination, are respected, protected and fulfilled. There was nothing particularly radical about these proposed amendments, but they were rejected nonetheless.
On April 26, the national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees contacted me to discuss the bill. Here is what he said to me:
I am writing to you today about two serious flaws in Bill C-65 that will undermine the rights of workers affected by violence and harassment in the workplace.
What flaws could be so worrisome that the union felt compelled to urge the minister to correct them immediately?
That would be the exclusion of health and safety committees from both the complaint and the investigation processes. The process for filing harassment and violence complaints and the investigation process must both continue to benefit from the expertise of these committees. Excluding them makes no sense to me.
The surprising reason given by the Liberals to justify their measures was the purported breach of victims' confidentiality, were they to take part in the investigations by these committees. This is barely credible for many reasons, which I would like to outline.
First of all, the decision to bring these committees into the process was made by the victims themselves. The bill eliminates without a valid reason some options available to victims. It was an additional choice available to the victim, not a constraint that was imposed.
Second, to date, these joint health and safety committees have always received these complaints and successfully carried out the harassment investigations. Their modern investigative methods have always emphasized respect for victims' privacy. By excluding these committees from the investigative process, Bill is about to eliminate decades of experience, training and work, to say the least.
That is not all. If the Liberals truly wanted to protect victims' privacy and confidentiality, then why did they oppose several of the amendments I put forward at the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, and why did they oppose Senate amendment 7(b)? I had the pleasure of proposing some twenty amendments to the committee, but the Liberals allowed only three of them. Many of the other amendments were not even discussed. The Liberals chose to go straight to a vote and would not even explain why they were rejecting the amendments.
One of the amendments that was voted down without any explanation was a simple proposal from the Confederation of National Trade Unions. Under Bill , joint health and safety committees would not be subject to investigations for privacy reasons. The problem is that such committees still provide a wealth of expertise to victims. Witnesses suggested a logical solution: give the committees codes of practice and a code of ethics that would ensure victims' privacy.
The government opposed this recommendation without any explanation out of stubbornness or because they did not understand it. It seems to me that excluding these committees from the investigation process is a serious decision. There was certainly no shortage of witnesses who supported the amendment. Unions, associations, and law firms were all in favour, and there are more.
My speech may not be interesting to some of my colleagues, but I think that the nature of Bill C-65 calls for a little order. If those who want to talk could do so outside or in the lobby, I think my colleagues who want to listen to my speech would appreciate it. I do not think my message was heard.
I will pick up where I left off and perhaps members in the House will keep it down. The expertise of the joint health and safety committees spans decades, but that alone does not explain why witnesses adamantly defended keeping them in the investigative process. The other reason, which is rather important, is the exceptional diversity of the investigators who make up the joint committees tasked with investigating harassment cases. The right of joint committees to conduct investigations has until now made it possible for victims to benefit from an incredible diversity of investigators in terms of colour, religion, age and sex. Such diversity in the profile of investigators is invaluable in a workplace.
Unfortunately, it is clear that this aspect has been removed from Bill C-65, against the recommendations of the International Labour Office.
In investigations into sexual harassment, the victims will no longer be able to benefit from the expertise or the extreme diversity within the joint health and safety committees.
It was still possible, at the committee stage, to include a provision in the bill to ensure the diversity of investigators, similar to that made possible by joint committees, that would have applied to all investigators.
That is exactly what one of my amendments proposed. It stated that the choice of investigators, although no longer the purview of the joint committees, must reflect the diversity of Canadian society. Thus, the diversity of investigators, which until now was made possible by the joint committees, would be perpetuated even though the committees were excluded from the investigation.
A balanced representation of Canadian diversity would be assured. Apparently, the recommendation made by the UN Secretariat on labour was not good enough for the government, because it did not let Canada adopt legislation to guarantee equality and non-discrimination in the investigators' profile.
We need to remember that minorities are disproportionately affected by workplace harassment and violence. By "minority", I mean members of an ethnic or religious minority as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex workers, and migrant workers.
That is why the profile of individuals responsible for the investigation must at all costs reflect diversity. However, it seems that our legislation will not take into account national diversity in the selection of investigators, and I find that very unfortunate.
Those are some of the aspects that were especially important to me, after spending all those hours listening to and reading the recommendations made by witnesses when they appeared before the committee and in their briefs.
In order to respond to their concerns and correct the deficiencies in Bill , I drafted amendments that were not even debated. There has been nothing but radio silence from the Liberal members.
I would like to now move on to other aspects of the bill that the NDP is also concerned about. There are many of them and they have to do with the development of employer policies on harassment and violence, for example.
Some employers said on several occasions that they did not understand exactly what was expected of them when it comes to workplace policies. They need guidance on writing and implementing their anti-harassment policies.
Since the primary purpose of Bill is to bring about a major change in political and corporate culture when it comes to harassment, we had hoped for more from the government in this regard.
When the witnesses appeared before the committee, they expressed their concerns about the effectiveness of employer anti-harassment policies. The witnesses came up with one solution.
In order to give employers guidance and enhance protection for employees, the witnesses recommended that the Canada Labour Code set out guidelines for what is expected of a corporate policy on harassment in the workplace.
The guidelines should include information about the process for getting immediate assistance in the case of harassment and about the fundamental principles of privacy protection and the processing of complaints.
The NDP's amendment would kill two birds with one stone. It would help guide employers in developing their internal policies and also enhance protection for employees, who would now be covered by effective prevention policies.
That amendment also would have prevented potentially ill-intentioned employers from shirking their basic harassment prevention obligations through the use of deliberately complex anti-harassment policies that ultimately end up disincentivizing victims.
Unfortunately, it seems the Liberals would rather leave employers guessing about how to write their internal policies, since not one Liberal bothered to say anything about this measure, let alone come out in favour of it.
Over the course of our deliberations today and tomorrow, I hope to find out what prompted the government to oppose this measure, which witnesses offered up on a silver platter in committee. I hope to get some answers in the next few hours in the House.
Would it not make sense for expectations around policies, specifically anti-harassment policies, to be included in the Canada Labour Code? That is another thing that is conspicuously absent from Bill .
Once again, there were certainly plenty of opportunities to address the problem, and plenty of witnesses who spoke in favour of such a measure. All our efforts to strengthen the prevention aspect of Bill were apparently for naught.
The Liberals put forward an amendment to include a five-year review, which was not at all objectionable and was in fact more than welcome. We all recognized the importance of including a provision to review the legislation over the years. Reviewing workplace violence and harassment provisions every five years is a perfectly justifiable improvement. What is less justifiable is that Liberals refused to support one of my amendments to make the five-year review more effective.
I will give a quick explanation. The Liberals proposed that the department publish statistics on workplace harassment and violence every five years. This is good. It complies with almost all of the recommendations of their own report published by Employment and Social Development Canada in March 2017. Almost.
In this report, the government lamented the “insufficient data on workplace harassment and violence“, in particular regarding sexual harassment.
The report also pointed out the need for ongoing data collection in order to address this lack of data.
The Liberals remedied part of the problem by proposing that the department publish a statistical report every five years. However, the reality is that we lack data. This lack of data in the statistical report is rather problematic because we will not have the information required to assess the evolution of Bill .
I will stop here, but I have a lot more to say about Bill . I will have the opportunity to answer questions here in the House and to participate in several more hours of debate.
The NDP supports the principle and the spirit of Bill but still finds the legislation lacking. We will therefore support the bill on division.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill .
The main goal of Bill is to ensure that all employees under federal jurisdiction, including those in federal workplaces and in federally regulated industries, are treated fairly and are protected from harmful behaviours such as harassment and sexual violence. The bill underscores our government's strong commitment to taking action that will help create healthy, respectful workplaces.
Harassment, sexism and any type of sexual violence are wrong and completely unacceptable. The tragic reality is that despite our country's progress toward a modern and respectful society, we know that harassment and violence are persistent and pervasive in Canadian workplaces and that incidents often go unreported because people fear retaliation.
These behaviours can have long-term negative effects, not just for people who experience them and their families but for employers as well through lost productivity, absenteeism and employee turnover. Underpinning these realities are the many power imbalances and gender norms still in our culture that have led to unacceptable tolerance of these behaviours for far too long and it is time they stopped.
One of the key building blocks leading up to this proposed legislation was listening to Canadians. The engaged Canadian stakeholders and experts to gather their experiences and perspectives on these issues. Members of Parliament and senators were also consulted to ensure the government could fulfill its commitment to making Parliament a workplace free from harassment and sexual violence.
This engagement of Canadians resulted in the report released last November, entitled “Harassment and sexual violence in the workplace public consultations--what we heard”. In this report, Canadians indicated that incidents of harassment and sexual violence in the workplace were not only under-reported, but also they were often dealt with ineffectively when they were reported. The report found that women reported more sexual harassment and violence than men and that people with disabilities and visible minorities reported more harassment than other groups.
These discussions with stakeholders and experts provided insight on how to address these and other issues and helped inform the bill we are discussing today.
Bill would strengthen provisions in the Labour Code by putting into place one comprehensive approach that would take the full spectrum of harassment and violence into consideration and would expand the coverage to cover parliamentary workplaces, including the staff of Parliament Hill.
Simply said, the bill would prevent incidents of harassment and violence, respond effectively to these incidents when they would occur and support victims, survivors and employers.
The legislation we are discussing today also aligns with “It’s Time”, Canada’s strategy to prevent and address gender-based violence, which I was privileged to help the launch last year. The title, “It's Time”, was selected because it was time to learn more about the pervasiveness of this problem. It was time to believe survivors. It was time to invest in effective solutions.
Developing this strategy was a key priority of this government upon taking office. Listening to Canadians was a critical first step. As part of this engagement, approximately 300 individuals from over 175 organizations shared their views during meetings held across Canada. The Canadian public was also invited to provide comments via emails and through an online survey in which over 7,500 Canadians participated.
In addition, the created an advisory council of experts on gender-based violence and engaged with provincial and territorial colleagues to receive additional feedback to further inform the strategy.
Our government has invested nearly $200 million in this first-ever federal strategy to prevent and address gender-based violence. The strategy takes important steps to prevent gender-based violence, support survivors and their families and promote a responsive legal and justice system. The strategy will fill important gaps in support for diverse groups, such as indigenous women, LGBTQ2 people, women with disabilities and other populations.
Moreover, it takes a whole-of-government approach that engages a range of key stakeholders and partners across government, including Status of Women Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Public Safety Canada, the RCMP, the Department of National Defence and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
As the #MeToo and “Times Up” movements have made clear, gender-based violence is not isolated to the private or domestic sphere. It can take place in workplaces, online, on university campuses and in public environments, places where everyone has the right to feel safe. That is why legislation such as Bill is critical in making federally regulated workplaces safer for everyone by ensuring they are free from harassment and violence.
I would now like to recognize the excellent work of those in the other chamber. Following their careful study of this important bill, they proposed a number of amendments aimed at making Bill as strong as possible. Let me go into a little more detail about these proposed amendments.
The members proposed a revision of certain terminology, terminology that they felt could have an adverse effect on the very people we were trying to protect if left unchanged. Currently, the words “trivial”, “frivolous” and “vexatious” are used to describe the basis upon which a complaint can be dismissed. While these terms are generally understood in law and appear throughout the Canada Labour Code, they are, as a member of the other place so rightly pointed out, rooted in prejudice and pose a risk for a survivor's claim to be mollified on a whim. Our government understands the power of language and we fully support the replacement of these terms with the more neutral term “abuse of process”.
However, there were a number of additional amendments, which our government respectfully does not support. For example, members from the other chamber proposed an amendment to the purpose clause. This is an important clause as it sets the context for all other provisions in the bill. They suggested to include two additional elements, which would:
...recognize that every employee has the right to employment that is free from harassment and violence; and...advance gender equality, address issues of racism and ensure that the rights of women workers, including those who face intersectional forms of discrimination, are respected, protected and fulfilled.
While we agree these are laudable goals, it is important to remember that part II of the Labour Code is about occupational health and safety. Adding a specific reference to harassment and violence in the purpose clause, in addition to the reference that was already added during the HUMA process, would have the effect of creating an imbalance in the code, focusing more on harassment and violence relative to other rights under part II, such as the ability to refuse dangerous work.
We must ensure that the bill balances all workers' rights as they pertain to health and safety without favouring one over the other.
Since the purpose of the code is already clearly stated, which is to create fair and safe workplaces, which by implication includes freedom from sexual harassment, violence and discrimination, our government does not believe this clause needs to be amended.
The second proposed addition to the purpose clause would add a reference to gender equality, racism and the rights of women workers. This is also an important goal. However, it does not belong in this legislation. This amendment would create new expectations under the Canada Labour Code regarding discrimination, gender equality and human rights. Such amendments would simply be inappropriately placed in a code that does not currently address these issues in a fulsome enough manner. Furthermore, it does not include all grounds, for example, LGBTQ2, which is covered by existing legislation.
The intent of this clause is to clearly and succinctly explain the purpose of the Canada Labour Code. Adding these new expectations and additional elements would result in a lack of clarity regarding what would be expected of workplace parties in relation to these matters. More important, these issues are already addressed in numerous pieces of existing legislation, such as the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Employment Equity Act.
The code, which is not meant to address these issues, does not supersede these laws. Indeed, their inclusion in the code could potentially have the unintended effect of lessening these rights through the confusion that could arise around who would be responsible for enforcing them and how.
Another proposed amendment that our government believes would have a similar effect of introducing lack of clarity is modifying the definition of harassment and violence. This was added during the committee process in this House, and currently reads as follows:
harassment 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.
Members of the other chamber proposed replacing the word “means” with “includes”. This change would render the definition significantly more open-ended and result in a lack of clarity for both employees and employers, as it is essentially limitless. For example, appropriate performance management actions could possibly be captured under this revised definition. The term is far too open-ended and potentially all-encompassing.
What we consistently heard through our consultations with stakeholders was the need for clarity to the greatest extent possible. Employers in particular have consistently strongly opposed the inclusion of any definition. They believed it was already too broad without this proposal, which would make it even broader.
While all of the proposed amendments from the other chamber are noble in principle, we believe that some would be ineffective in practice. At this time, more than anything, we need clarity. If we want to create legislation that protects workers and gives them effective recourse, we cannot distort the purpose of the bill nor create open-ended and overly broad provisions. I know that protecting workers is the goal we all share.
In conclusion, the bottom line for Canadians is that harassment and sexual violence are unacceptable anywhere, including in the workplace. This proposed legislation sends a strong message that the federal government is prepared to take bold action and be part of the solution on this critical issue. The bill also aligns with the whole-of-government approach we are taking to prevent and address gender-based violence in all its forms, yet even with the important step forward this bill represents, we know that government cannot do it alone. It is going to take all of us, employers, employees, stakeholders and Canadians, to help end workplace harassment and sexual violence.
Where do we hope our collective work leads us? To a place where violence of any kind, including gender-based violence, is never tolerated, where everyone is a part of the solution, including men and boys, and where everyone enjoys their right to live a life free of violence.
Finally, making Canada a safer, more inclusive place to live and work will not be easy, and it will not happen overnight. However, we can make it a reality if we work together.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I would not say that I am pleased to rise to speak in the debate today, but I think it is an important debate we are having on a very important issue that impacts women and men throughout the world.
I will quickly go over what the bill would do and where it is at in the process, and then I would like to share some personal reflections on why the bill would be so important.
On November 7, 2017, the introduced Bill , which would amend the Labour Code on harassment and violence, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Budget Implementation Act, 2017. It has been through the process, and we are talking today about some Senate amendments.
Part 1 of the bill would amend the Labour Code to strengthen the existing framework for the prevention of harassment and violence, including sexual harassment and sexual violence, in the workplace. Part 2 would amend part III of the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act with respect to the application of part II of the Canada Labour Code to parliamentary employers and employees, without limiting in any way powers and privileges. Part III looks at a transitional budget.
For those who are watching who do not think Parliament comes together to try to do things that are important, this is an example of where all parties participated thoughtfully in the debate on this bill. They knew it was important. The Senate amendments were proposed in the House and were accepted. Amendments were proposed in the Senate, and the vast majority were accepted. When they were not accepted, there was a reasonable rationale provided as to why those particular amendments were not seen as helpful for this legislation.
I think we have agreement here that the bill is important and that we need to move forward with it. It really is a bit of an awakening, which perhaps has taken too long.
It is interesting, as we are debating the bill here today, that yesterday there was an important report released in the British Parliament on sexual harassment in the workplace. Some of the things said there, as my colleague referenced earlier, are important, because the same thoughts apply here.
There have been disturbing cases that have been tolerated and concealed for too long. Certainly when we look at what has been happening since I have been here, which is 10 years, cases have become more public. We have struggled with how we deal with them. However, do not for a minute think that there were no issues prior to those 10 years. These issues have been here as long as the House has been meeting.
The British Parliament's response was to apologize for the past failings and to commit to change the culture. Hopefully, not only would we pass this piece of proposed legislation, we would also recognize and make a commitment to change.
The British Parliament described a culture of “deference, subservience, acquiescence and silence”. Those are very disturbing words, but they relate to what the impact was of that attitude of deference, subservience, acquiescence and silence on the people or the victims who were impacted. It was hugely distressing and long-lasting, and in many cases, had a devastating impact on people's lives. This is a serious issue that we are coming to a point of awareness on.
Of course, as we enter into these debates, we always look into our past and reflect on our own careers and experiences.
As I was considering this piece of legislation and how I felt about it, I reflected back to my first role in a management position. This was back in the 1980s. I was thrilled to be given an opportunity to have a pretty important job for someone in her late 20s. I answered to a board of directors. The chairman of the board of directors would come to the office to visit quite regularly, and it quickly became apparent that when this chair of the board of directors was coming to the office, we either wanted someone else in the office with us or we needed to be out and about, because he thought nothing of grabbing a person and trying to sit her on his lap. It was the chairman of the board. As members can imagine, it was creepy, and it was highly inappropriate and uncomfortable, but what was at play here was that he was the chairman of the board, and I was in my late 20s. Acquiescence, silence, and just trying to avoid the situation was how one dealt with it. That was the example I should have brought. It was something that was sort of personal. As a nurse, I have certainly dealt with some very horrific abuses, but this was creepy and uncomfortable, and it was wrong.
This brings me to another issue I found very disturbing this year. As we are coming to an awareness of this issue, we are starting to talk about it, and we are trying to put policies in place. That was the story this summer in terms of the issue of the person in the highest office in this country and an incident many years ago, from his past, at a music festival, where there was an inappropriate interaction with a journalist. I have to give the journalist credit. She was very uncomfortable with the situation, and she acted on it. Unlike what I had done many years ago, when I just tried to avoid the situation, she acted on it. She wrote an editorial, at which time the response of the was quite telling: Had he known that she worked for a national newspaper, he might not have done it. Perhaps he thought that she worked for a small-town newspaper, and it was okay. Sometimes, for people who have famous names and are handsome, those sorts of advances are welcome, but clearly they are not always welcome.
In Canada, most people would say that this was a lot of years ago, it was an incident that was not too terrible, that we can see, so let us just move on, or he should make the appropriate comments and move on.
What happened next, though, is what was the most offensive to me. Instead of just saying, “It was a long time ago. I apologize. Obviously, there was something that was very uncomfortable, and I will endeavour to never let that sort of thing happen again,” or, “It was related to a time in my past when I was having a difficult time,” he did not say that. We did not get that message. At first he remembered being in Creston but did not think he had any negative interactions.
The next comments we got directly from the were, “We've all been reflecting on past behaviours. There is a collective awakening going on and we need to take opportunities to reflect on it”.
He went on to say, “often a man experiences an interaction as being benign or not inappropriate and a woman, particularly in a professional context, can experience it differently”.
I remember being in a professional context and having something happen that was incredibly inappropriate, and those comments were insulting. It should have been very easy for the to say, “I was young. I had had too many beers, I did something that was foolish, and I am sorry”. Instead, he gave us this kind of nonsense. It was so offensive.
It was not about awareness. It was not about moving on. It was something that was terribly troubling, and I wish he could make it better. I wish he could make it right.
In closing, this is an important piece of legislation. It is incumbent on people that when they set a standard, they reflect on their past and are honest and do not try to say that they would have seen things differently and as a benign, professional interaction.
I will be happy to support this legislation, but there are many things that we in this House need to continue to reflect upon.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to debate Bill in the House today. This bill represents a major step forward in enhancing the rights of victims of sexual harassment and violence.
I would like to begin my thanking my Conservative colleagues who sit on the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities for their excellent work on this bill. They successfully brought in a number of changes to the bill. For instance, they proposed a change aimed at transferring certain powers from the Minister of Labour to the deputy minister, a non-partisan civil servant. This change ensures that there can be no appearance of political interference in an investigation into complaints of sexual harassment committed by a member of the House.
I have spoken before in this House about the #MeToo movement in general and its importance. It is a movement that has had a powerful impact. It has helped women who are survivors to see that they are not alone. It has helped many men who were previously unaware to gain a greater understanding of the all too common experience of harassment and violence that has affected the lives of many women. I have always believed that men need to seek to engage these conversations in a supportive way, especially in terms of talking to and challenging other men about their behaviour. We all need to be part of the solution.
Before getting elected, I had the honour of serving on the board of a local organization called Saffron, which provides public education programs aimed at prevention, as well as counselling and support to survivors. Saffron was obviously engaged with these issues long before the #MeToo movement but it has found a significant increase in the number of people coming to it for counselling ever since the movement began. This growth is the result of people coming forward to talk about historic trauma, events that have happened in their past, maybe even decades ago, that they had not felt ready or empowered to speak about even in private until the current moment. It is certainly positive that people are now feeling able to come forward and discuss things that have happened to them in the past.
There is one particular issue, perhaps challenge, that I want to discuss today with respect to the #MeToo movement. I read with interest some discussion in the news recently revisiting the actions of former U.S. president Bill Clinton with a former White House intern. Hillary Clinton told a CBS correspondent that the relationship between the most powerful person in the world and an intern did not constitute an abuse of power because the 22-year-old intern was an adult.
About the interaction itself, that intern, Monica Lewinsky, recently wrote an essay in Vanity Fair, and I want to quote a passage from it. She wrote:
Just four years ago, in an essay for this magazine, I wrote the following: “Sure, my boss took advantage of me, but I will always remain firm on this point: it was a consensual relationship. Any ‘abuse’ came in the aftermath, when I was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position.” I now see how problematic it was that the two of us even got to a place where there was a question of consent. Instead, the road that led there was littered with inappropriate abuse of authority, station, and privilege. (Full stop.)
Now, at 44, I’m beginning (just beginning) to consider the implications of the power differentials that were so vast between a president and a White House intern. I’m beginning to entertain the notion that in such a circumstance the idea of consent might well be rendered moot. (Although power imbalances—and the ability to abuse them—do exist even when the sex has been consensual.)
But it’s also complicated. Very, very complicated. The dictionary definition of “consent”? “To give permission for something to happen.” And yet what did the “something” mean in this instance, given the power dynamics, his position, and my age? Was the “something” just about crossing a line of sexual (and later emotional) intimacy? (An intimacy I wanted—with a 22-year-old’s limited understanding of the consequences.) He was my boss. He was the most powerful man on the planet. He was 27 years my senior, with enough life experience to know better. He was, at the time, at the pinnacle of his career, while I was in my first job out of college.
I think this episode from American politics and the striking contrast between Hillary Clinton's words and Monica Lewinsky's words are important for our understanding of the #MeToo movement and the dynamics around harassment which can exist in the workplace. The continuing way in which this episode is regarded by many partisan Liberal progressives is, I think, important as well.
The #MeToo movement calls on us to set a new standard for behaviour, to demand women be treated with respect, and to hold those responsible for violence and/or harassment accountable. That standard of behaviour and the appropriate standard of evidence associated with accountability must be set in a consistent way. There ought not to be a Republican standard and a Democrat standard, a Conservative standard and a Liberal standard. There ought not to be a difference between a prime minister of Canada standard and a leader of the Ontario PC Party standard. There must be a human standard enforced in the same way in all cases.
Failure to apply an equivalent standard across parties allows any perpetrator to use political divisions and inconsistent application of standards as an excuse to avoid accountability. The infection of partisanship into the evaluation of cases very clearly risks weakening the universality of condemnation that should be associated with these kinds of abuses of power.
As an avowed partisan, I do understand the temptation to stand by one's man while firing arrows across the aisle. Standing with one's team is the instinctive human response, further enforced by the norms of our political system.
The #MeToo movement undoubtedly provides political parties with an opportunity to accuse their opponents and perhaps also even an excuse to purge unpopular people from their own ranks. We see elements of this as well of someone possibly being purged on the basis of allegations but also the same person having substantial policy disagreements with the leadership of the party.
Those of us who believe in the importance of this movement must ensure we resist the temptation to evaluate allegations through a partisan lens. This movement is too important for its impact to be lost in partisan rancour. That is true on either side of the border.
As with Bill Clinton, we also had a case here in Canada where a powerful self-identified progressive and feminist leader faced serious allegations of sexual misconduct. It has been alleged, and we have talked about this in the House, that the was involved in the past in a “groping” incident. This allegation was made against the Prime Minister before he had entered politics. Those who talk about believing women and believing these allegations need to consider it seriously and seek to put aside their partisan hats when they make those evaluations.
In response to these allegations, the has said that people can experience things differently. That is perplexing, in so far as it is true people can have a different response to the same events, but events are events. In the question of appropriate behaviour, there is a subjective as well as an objective element in harassment. Certainly, the word “groping” being used in the editorial implies very strongly the crossing of an objective line.
I do wonder parenthetically what the response of my friends on the left would have been if Justice Brett Kavanaugh had said in response to allegations against him that people experience things differently. As well, the response from members of this House is interesting. The minister responsible for bringing forward this legislation, the former minister for the status of women, had the following to say about the 's response to these events:
I'm actually proud of a prime minister that understands that you can believe that you didn't have negative interactions with someone—I think we can think about this in all kinds of different situations—and find out later that someone perceived that interaction in a completely different way, and reflect on how our behaviour and the way that we make our way in the world impacts other people.
Of course, we should consider how certain things can affect the subjective experience of others, but there is an objective element to inappropriate behaviour. There are things a person ought not do to another person and ought to know, and yet we have the former status of women minister standing up for the in this context. I would have thought that the role of the minister for the status of women would be to speak to the Prime Minister and cabinet on behalf of women, not to be defending the Prime Minister's action in every case, including in allegations of inappropriate action toward women.
The #MeToo movement responds to a reality that some men, who have often enjoyed disproportionate power and prestige in the workplace, take advantage of their position at the expense of women. It should trouble us then if the way in which the adjudication and debate about #MeToo allegations works out in practice is to make examples of some men while still allowing some of the most privileged and self-identified progressives to escape being held accountable. These are serious challenges that we must face up to as we go forward.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have a chance to speak to the proposed amendments to Bill , an act to amend the Canada Labour Code regarding harassment and violence, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the members of the other place for the effort they put into studying Bill C-65 and proposing the amendments we are considering and debating today. The government believes that their work strengthened this bill.
I know that members of the other place heard testimony that impacted them, as our committee did as well. Hearing the experiences of those working with victims of workplace harassment and violence sent a very strong message to all of us as parliamentarians that we must act and work quickly, but also deliberately, to ensure that the bill works to protect victims and prevent any form of workplace harassment or violence in the first place, because we can all agree that harassment and sexual violence of any kind is unacceptable.
I would like to thank all members of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons With Disabilities who extended the sittings and came back early from their constituency week to hear important testimony. As well, I extend the thanks of the House to the and the department for evaluating and providing guidance to our committee as we evaluated each clause and section. I also thank the hon. member for for his work in support of our committee evaluating Bill effectively.
The committee heard from witnesses, all whom spoke with passion about the urgency with which harassment and violence in the workplace need to be addressed. While everyone in the House agreed to the urgency of the bill, we understood the complexities of ensuring that employees are protected from workplace harassment and violence.
The last time I rose in the House, I spoke of the Vice News journalist Hilary Beaumont, author of an investigation into workplace harassment. As I cited then, Mrs. Beaumont interviewed more than 40 women who work on Parliament Hill, including current and former MPs, as well as lobbyists, journalists, staff and interns. Mrs. Beaumont stated at committee that it quickly became apparent that female employees were more vulnerable to harassment than their male colleagues. The women she spoke with told her their stories and experiences, including sexist comments, touching and even sexual assault. Some women said they had been dismissed or had lost job opportunities after trying to report workplace abuse. Some of the women who currently work on the Hill said they would not even know how to report harassment if they had to. Harassment such as this and sexual violence have absolutely no place in any workplace. They are not okay.
With that in mind, we agree with the principles underlying some of the amendments proposed by the other place. I would like to focus specifically on those concerning the recourse available to victims of violence and harassment. During its study of Bill , the committee raised several valid concerns.
An employee of any gender who feels their rights have been violated may be unaware that they have two options for recourse. The employee can file a complaint under the Canadian Human Rights Act, or they can file a complaint with the employer under Bill .
A member of the other place said that “we must ensure that women who are victims of sexual harassment can still choose the type of recourse, including a complaint under the Canadian Human Rights Act”. She went on to say that she thinks it is important to clarify that the new framework will not preclude a discrimination complaint for sexual harassment from being filed because that could end up trivializing the harassment and violence that women are subjected to in the workplace and could take away these women's hard-won avenues of recourse.
Bill is not at all intended to replace the Canadian Human Rights Act. On the contrary, the bill complements it by laying out a clear procedure for preventing and dealing with incidents of harassment and violence in the workplace. However, we do see the need for absolute clarity on this issue.
A tremendous amount of work will be done to make sure everyone understands how to proceed if an employee believes he or she has been subjected to harassment or violence at work, but the message may not reach everyone, and that could cause confusion.
In reality, the law is often complex and difficult to grasp. During our committee discussions, we often heard differing views on the same principles from equally qualified legal experts.
The law can be even more complex and difficult to digest for someone who has just experienced a stressful, even traumatic, event at work and is trying to fully understand what remedy he or she has.
It is not hard to imagine how employees who are dealing with the consequences of such an experience may not realize right away that they are protected under both the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canada Labour Code. They may think that they have to choose one or the other when, in fact, they are and always will be covered by both. That is why we support the amendments proposed by the Senate committee, which clearly explain that employees will not waive their rights under the Canadian Human Rights Act. More specifically, senators suggested that Bill be amended by adding a clause to the section relating to the Canada Labour Code and by amending clause 21, which deals with the way in which part II of the code applies to the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act.
The additional text proposed for the two clauses specifies that it is understood that the relevant sections will not infringe on the rights provided under the Canadian Human Rights Act. We think that is an important and valuable addition to Bill C-65 because it eliminates any ambiguity regarding the relationship between the bill and the existing legislation. Senators pointed that out and proposed the addition. In order to truly achieve the kind of cultural change needed to eliminate workplace harassment and violence, we need to ensure that all legislative measures that seek to put an end to such shameful behaviour are consistent. A consistent set of laws will help us to make a profound cultural change, a change toward civility and respect, a change that ignores differences and enables human rights to take their rightful place.
It is very important to condemn the acts of violence reported by victims, at all levels, so that these injustices do not go unpunished.
This is exactly what the bill will provide for. We must create a culture of equality in our country, so that all Canadians see themselves as equals and treat each other as equal in rights, dignity and aspirations.
It is important that we create a culture of equality in our country so that all Canadians recognize each other as equals and treat each other with the respect we all deserve.
I know that today of all days, when many members of this place have young women students from the University of Toronto shadowing them, it is important that we work together to ensure that these principles are enshrined in law.
This bill is just the first step, and it is a necessary one. We urgently need to change the culture in Canadian society so that inappropriate behaviour is no longer reinforced.
While this is just a first step, it is an important and necessary first step, one that, along with the regulatory changes prescribed by Bill , will work to change the culture of federally regulated work environments and demonstrate our joint commitment to ending workplace violence and harassment.
We must also teach workers about the means of recourse available to them if they are victims of harassment or violence. Bill will add to the existing recourse options, and workers must know that they are entitled to full protection guaranteed by the various legislative tools.
I therefore support the amendment to specify that employees are not renouncing their rights under the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Ultimately, we support this amendment because it strengthens Bill , offering more clarity and thus more protections to those employees.
We remain committed to securing the timely passage of Bill . I urge all members to support the government's position.
I would like to remind my esteemed colleagues that harassment and sexual violence of any kind are unacceptable, period. Our government made a commitment to take action on harassment and sexual violence in Parliament and in federally regulated workplaces.
With Bill , the Government of Canada is taking an important step toward making workplaces in federally regulated industries and on Parliament Hill free from these behaviours.
As noted in this bill, our framework will prevent incidents of harassment and violence, respond effectively to these incidents when they do occur, and support victims, survivors and employers throughout the process.
That being said, no government can fix these problems alone. We live in a culture where power imbalances and gender norms create tolerance for these kinds of unacceptable behaviours.
It will take all of us, employers, employees, colleagues, family members and friends, to do better and change this culture.
As I was saying, it is important that we realize that harassment and sexual violence of any kind are unacceptable, period.
Our government ran on a commitment to take action on workplace harassment and sexual violence in Parliament and in federally regulated workplaces. With Bill , we are taking an important and necessary step toward making workplaces in federally regulated industries and on Parliament Hill free from these behaviours. This framework will prevent incidents of harassment and violence. It will respond effectively to these incidents when they occur. It will support victims, survivors and employers.
However, no government can fix this alone. We live in a culture where power imbalances and gender norms create tolerance for these kinds of unacceptable behaviours. It will take all of us, employers, employees, colleagues, family members and friends, to do better and to change this culture.
The members of the committee worked very hard during those months to make sure that we would strengthen the legislation. Today we received suggestions and amendments from the Senate, and we believe that some of them need to be integrated to strengthen this legislation. I hope the members of this House will make sure we pass these suggested amendments, which we think can help strengthen the legislation, so we can move on and change the situation that exists in our government and in the workplace.
I will now answer questions.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today and speak to Bill , which is an important piece of proposed legislation. I gather from all the presentations today that all of us in the House understand that this legislation is overdue. As elected officials and members of Parliament in the House of Commons, I do not think there is any doubt that we should be the ones to set the example. Canadians across the country look up to us, and it behooves us as members of Parliament to ensure that leadership comes from the top down and that we are the ones taking the lead on an issue such as this.
All forms of harassment, sexual violence, discrimination and bullying are unacceptable in our society today. That has been very clear, not only from the presentations and interventions in the House but in the media and society as a whole. We have seen that the time has come where these types of actions are simply no longer acceptable. They probably should never have been acceptable, but now with the coverage and the change in society, this has certainly come to a head. Therefore, it is important that we enact this legislation, Bill , but I also think Canadians expect us to make sure we do it right.
Like many of my colleagues who have spoken today, I too am a father. I have three children. My youngest actually leaves her teenage years today. It is her 20th birthday, which makes me feel very old.
As my wife and I raised our three kids, we certainly encountered various instances of bullying and harassment in school and in sports. I understand, as I think every parent in the House does, the profound and long-lasting impact that had on my children from when they were in elementary school to their lives now as young adults. We cannot underestimate the long-lasting impact that these types of inappropriate activities have on our children, which certainly leads and shapes how they are as adults.
Therefore, I am very proud of the work that was done at committee and within the House on Bill to ensure that we get this right, that we lead by example, and that the example starts right here in the House with this proposed legislation, which is a good first step forward.
However, as many of my colleagues have said, I believe that some pieces of the proposed legislation are concerning. When we are hearing allegations that for powerful officials, elected representatives or people in business there is a two-tiered system or a two-tiered level of acceptance, that is where we have to ensure that we get this right and that we are going in the right direction.
As I said, I truly believe Canadians are looking at us today to set the right example. They want to see that we are taking action, and that the action we are taking means every single Canadian is treated equally and with respect, and that their stories hold the same weight as any other Canadian, regardless of that person's position of power or as an elected official.
Unfortunately, I do not believe that is in the spirit of the bill before us. We simply cannot have a system where people in power do not face the same consequences as any other Canadian.
I will tell members a quick story. I was watching the news on the weekend, as I do just about every weekend, and I saw an interview on CBS with former first lady and secretary of state Hillary Clinton. She was asked whether or not her husband and former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, should have resigned as president after the sex scandal with his intern, who was 22 years old at the time.
As a father, but certainly as an elected representative and member of Parliament, I was appalled by her answer. Her answer was that he should not have stepped down, that the intern was an adult, and that this was a consensual relationship. That is certainly not the type of answer or the attitude that we are expecting in today's day and age, especially from a well-respected Democrat in the United States who tried to become the president of the United States. She just sloughed off this issue, saying that they were consenting adults despite his being 27 years her senior and in a very influential position of power. He was the president of the United States.
I would profess that had anybody else been in this situation, I think Ms. Clinton would have had a very different response. We have seen that across all spectrums of society, whether it is Mr. Weinstein or Mr. Cosby. It concerns me that in today's society, there seems to be this development of a two-tiered system, where people in power are somehow exempt from the same repercussions as any other Canadian.
That was also quite evident earlier this summer when the , albeit it occurred 18 years ago or in that range, was accused of inappropriate behaviour with a newspaper reporter. He did not apologize and there were no consequences within the House of Commons or Parliament. It is very important for us, as parliamentarians, that we send a very strong and clear message to Canadians with Bill that these actions will not be tolerated, regardless of one's position, one's job title and certainly if it is the Prime Minister.
That reaffirms why this bill is so important. It is behaviour such as this that Canadians and members of Parliament can no longer tolerate. We have to send a message and set the tone for the rest of Canada.
The legislation would impact more than 900,000 employees in federally regulated areas. It would cover nearly 8% of workers actively employed in Canada. Therefore, the impact of the legislation would be quite profound.
Bill aims to protect federal public service employees and federally regulated employees, including staff working on Parliament Hill. I think all of us would agree that these employees are exceptionally talented and very important to us as elected officials. If it were not for them, we certainly would not be able to do the day-to-day tasks expected of us. Before this legislation, things were traditionally kind of in a grey area for these employees. They were not sure where they fell when issues of harassment or even bullying occurred in an office and where they could turn for support. This is an extremely important point in the legislation.
Sexual misconduct, sexual harassment and bullying certainly have no place in Canadian society, especially within our political system and on Parliament Hill. By electing us, our constituents across Canada have shown an incredible trust and confidence in us. Each and every one of us should take that responsibility to heart. When they cast their votes, they expected us to represent then with the utmost professionalism, to be above reproach. I dare say constituents look to us and hope to be very proud of the men and women they have selected to represent them in the House of Commons. They look at us to personify their values and the things that are important to them, their friends, their families and certainly their communities.
It is our duty to act in a manner that behooves a member of Parliament, to set a very strong example not only for our colleagues in the House but our staff and certainly and foremost for our constituents. That is why I am voicing a bit of frustration with the bill today as there clearly seems to be two-tier treatment for how people in the House will be treated.
I have been here for just over four years, so I do not have the experience of some of my other very esteemed and honourable colleagues. However, in my short four years, I saw colleagues removed from NDP and Liberal caucuses when allegations of harassment were made. I do not want to judge the validity of those charges, that is not for me to do, but the action in those cases was very swift. A lot of those colleagues were not re-elected, which is the decision of their constituents. However, their leadership teams and caucuses acted very quickly in addressing these situations.
However, it is a much different approach for the and members of cabinet when similar allegations are made against them. It seems that serious allegations of harassment cannot be set aside simply by saying that we remember things differently. We cannot have ministers calling their colleagues ambulance chasers or Neanderthals. That is not acceptable behaviour. We are at a level where Canadians expect us to be beyond that.
I want to go back to this summer. We should focus on that with respect to where this legislation should take us. When the spoke about the allegations that were raised to him regarding the reporter in BC, he said that this should be a reckoning for us all. I agree. This legislation should be a reckoning for us all. It should be tighter, more succinct and stronger than it is.
Protecting our employees and ensuring we have a safe workplace should be unequivocally a non-partisan issue. All of us in the House should be working together to ensure we put the best legislation forward.
When we had some discussions with department officials about Bill , I asked about the investigation guidelines. If members have a chance to take a look at it, it is a flow chart of sorts when complaints are made. Complaints against a staff member go in one direction and a complaint against members of Parliament goes in another. It was important to try to take the politics out of the investigation and the decision-making system.
When I asked department officials if some of the regulations in the bill would be equally enforced on members of cabinet and a prime minister as they would be on any other member of Parliament, I was concerned when they said they were unsure. They did not know if that was truly the case.
Another element in the bill is that a complainant cannot make a complaint against an employer after he or she has been out of the position for three months. Once a complainant has left that position for whatever reason, he or she can no longer file a complaint against the employer. However, the minister of labour of whatever party is in government would have the authority to waive that timeline in perpetuity. It could be three months, three years or 30 years. Again, that brings political influence into the bill. I again want to commend members of the committee who worked to accept amendments from all parties to ensure we tried to eliminate that whenever possible
However, there are still some gaps in the legislation that are open to political influence and we have to be cognizant of that. The optics of the bill have to ensure that there is no political influence when it comes to cases of sexual harassment, harassment in the workplace and certainly bullying.
When I again asked department officials if the minister would be able to make a decision on exempting a former member of Parliament or an existing member, a cabinet minister or a prime minister, they answered that they did not know. We should be aware of that as we follow through on Bill .
There are some good regulations within the bill. Again, the Conservatives will be supporting Bill as we move it forward. It is an important step but it is just one step.
For example, under the previous wording in the bill, a person who was a victim of harassment by his or her immediate supervisor had to deal directly with the harasser. With the changes to the bill, that would no longer be the case. Victims will not have to deal with the people they are complaining against or who have allegedly attacked or harassed them, which is important. It will ensure that anyone who does have concerns or does have a complaint can feel comfortable that he or she will not have to face the accused in that matter.
The previous wording would have put any victim in a very challenging situation. We heard that at committee when witnesses came forward with their stories, and I appreciate all of them for doing that. It can be very difficult to relive that situation. People do not want retell their story over and over again. I appreciate the effort the witnesses made because it helped us to build this legislation.
Prior to that, if victims or alleged victims had to face their accusers to tell their stories, I think it may have deterred a lot of them from coming forward. They once again would have felt violated. They would have had to confront their harassers and they certainly were not provided the proper resources or the proper tools to deal with that. This was why the proposed amendment, which was accepted, to ensure that victims would not have to go through that situation again was very critical. They would put forward their complaints to a third party.
A third amendment introduced clause 2.1. It added a new text which would amend the Canada Labour Code to explicitly guarantee the ability of complainants to see redress through the Canadian Human Rights Commission. This would also provide greater certainty to those who experienced workplace violence and harassment. That is another important piece of the bill.
Another amendment to clause 11.1 would ensure that the minister's annual report would contain and categorize statistical information related to the prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act, which is also a very positive step forward.
I am proud of the initiatives that our Conservative caucus brought forward as part of the amendments to the bill. Through this process over the last year, we have certainly ensured that our staff are aware of the resources available to them and we have had training sessions. All members of Parliament went through mandatory harassment training, which I think was a very positive experience for all of us. It is very important for us because we want to eliminate harassment. We want to ensure that our employees, our colleagues and the people who we work with here for very long hours each and every day feel comfortable in their workplace.
It is important for members, not only as leaders in our offices but also as leaders in our community, to be aware of how we handle these situations if a staff members feel harassed or uncomfortable. It is important they be aware that there is a system and that guidelines are in place for them to file their complaints and have them resolved.
Knowledge is a powerful thing. The more people who know about their rights and responsibilities regarding issues of harassment and discrimination, the better off they will be and the happier they will be in their lives and in their workplace. We must let our employees know where they can go for assistance. We also need to give them the basic tools and support for them to speak up for themselves and resolve these issues as efficiently and easily as they can.
Staff members are critical to our everyday lives. However, this is larger than just what happens on the Hill. As a father, I want to see protections in our workplace and our communities and I want to see a cultural shift so everyone understands that harassment will not and cannot be tolerated. We are seeing a shift. It begins with us standing up against it, talking about it and proactively changing the dynamic. Creating a safe environment starts here, but we have to do that for everyone.
I urge all members of the House to practise what we preach and show Canadians that we are serious about zero tolerance for harassment and bullying. No one should be exempt from these new rules. No one should be able to shrug off a complaint or an allegation by simply saying he or she remembers it differently.
For this to work, Canadians need to know they will be protected, that they will be believed, that they will be treated equally and that they will be respected. No one is above the law. We in the House must set the example. We must be the leaders and that leadership comes from the top down.
Mr. Speaker, I am extremely proud to speak to Bill, which amends the Canada Labour Code and the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act to help ensure that federally regulated workplaces, including the federal public service and parliamentary workplaces, are free from harassment and violence. With this legislation we can all look forward to a time when Canadian workers are better protected against workplace violence and harassment. We can look forward to a time when no worker in Canada has to fear coming forward after experiencing these inappropriate behaviours to protect themselves or their families.
I want to begin by thanking the hon. for bringing this very important legislation before Parliament. While it is not often that we enjoy support from our opposition colleagues, the way in which we have worked together across the aisle to support this legislation shows that it is truly time for change. Whether it is how sexual violence in the workplace is handled, or how power imbalances are reinforced in our culture, violence and harassment in the workplace are not partisan issues. They are issues that affect us all, regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
Of course, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of this bill is that it benefits vulnerable minorities who are much more likely to be harassed in the workplace. Sexual minorities, including people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or two-spirit are at a particularly high risk of being victims of harassment and violence in the workplace. To me that is totally unacceptable.
Historically, LGBTQ2 community members have been targets of workplace violence and harassment. Progress is being made, but we need to continue to do more.
One example of such societal progress is the historic apology made to LGBTQ2 Canadians last summer by . When most of us see Canada as a progressive and accepting nation, our past has not always been so open-minded. We know that from the 1950s to the early 1990s, the Government of Canada undertook a horrifying campaign of oppression against citizens suspected of being part of LGBTQ2 communities, setting a course for decades of discrimination in the Canadian workforce and destroying the lives of thousands of workers, including public servants and soldiers in the process. As we know, the made a historic apology that day. I apologize for using his name in this chamber.
Although we now see workplace violence and harassment as issues that need to be solved, this shows that for these communities in particular, workplace violence and harassment have been part of the lives of people for too long. Today, as a legacy of this dark period of our history, LGBTQ2 Canadians are still subjected to discrimination, violence and aggression at alarming rates. In fact, trans people did not even have explicit protection under federal human rights legislation until 2017. Occurrences of mental health issues and suicides remain higher among LGBTQ2 youth as a result of violence and harassment. In fact, LGBTQ2 youth are four times more likely to attempt to suicide than their straight counterparts. The homelessness and joblessness rates that face the LGBTQ2 community are high. Therefore, the steps we are taking today will encourage LGBTQ2 Canadians to be full participants in our workforce.
I must also mention the treatment of indigenous workers, for whom violence and discrimination are part of their daily lives. According to the 2014 Statistics Canada General Social Survey, violent victimization among indigenous people is more than double of that of the non-indigenous population. Research shows that regardless the type of violent offence, whether it is sexual assault, robbery or assault, the victimization rate is almost always higher in indigenous populations than in Canada's non-indigenous populations.
It is vitally important that indigenous peoples and LGBTQ2 citizens feel able to be 100% themselves without the fear of being harassed, treated poorly or made to feel insignificant.
Before I came out, I felt like I could only operate at about 60% or 70%. I spent 30% to 40% of my brain space trying to be a straight guy. It did not work and it ate me up from the inside. Once I came out, I was able to be 100% me. Even some of my friends said, “Could we just have the 80% Randy back? You're a lot to handle.” Quite frankly, I am 100% now. I am not going back in that closet.
Guess what? We want LGBTQ2 Canadians to be 100% themselves, and that includes in the workforce. When we get this kind of legislation passed, when we practise what we preach inside this chamber, all Canadians can feel like they belong in our workforces.
As I have said to friends and colleagues in the workplace since coming out, “Joke with me, not about me. I am a bald, gay guy. They can make lots of jokes about that, but just do it with me in the room, not when I am outside the room grabbing some coffee.”
The results and the stats are real. A 2018 Human Rights Campaign foundation study noted that a little more than half of employees surveyed, 53%, hide their sexual orientation or gender identity at work, and a little over a third, 35%, do not disclose their personal lives. Could members imagine going through a week in this place not talking about what it is like to be part of a family, not talking about their kids, not talking about their loved ones, not talking about whether they are an aunt or uncle, and whether they are a proud member of a partnership that has lasted for 10, 15, or 20 years? That would be unthinkable to me, and yet it happens to far too many Canadians. That means they are not bringing their full selves to work.
The transgender community especially faces staggering challenges. Transgender people face an unemployment rate three times higher than average. Twenty-seven per cent were not hired, were fired or were not promoted in 2015, due to their gender identity or expression, according to the U.S. Transgender Survey, the largest of its kind looking at the American transgender community. In 2015, an astounding 80% of transgender people were harassed or mistreated at work or had to take steps to avoid it. We do not have data at the national level, but we are getting there. The Trans Pulse project in Ontario studied the impact of social exclusion and discrimination on the health of transgender people. Of those surveyed, 13% said they were fired specifically for being transgender; another 15% suspected that it might have been the reason for their dismissal; 18% said they were turned down from a job for being transgender, while another 32% suspected this was the reason.
I have faced this kind of discrimination in advance of the campaign trail. I was on a study tour, learning how to speak Spanish in Latin America. I was in Buenos Aries, and serendipity happened to lead me to hear a voice of a distinguished member of my community of Edmonton. We met in the kiosk at the local museum and we agreed to have lunch the next day. It was a long lunch. After about two and a half hours, I mentioned that I might someday like to be in politics and mentioned my partner at the time. He said, “Wait a second, you are gay?" I said yes, that I had been out for almost 20 years. “And you're francophone,” he said. I said that I was. He said he could tell me what I needed to do, that I needed to take my francophone, gay self and go back to Montreal where I came from because I did not stand a snowball's chance in hell of ever being elected in Edmonton. I found that really interesting because my family does not come from Montreal. It comes from Quebec City and had moved to Alberta 126 years earlier. Therefore, I took what was overt discrimination and used that as fuel. I used that as fuel at the doors and won that election. Within a couple of days of winning the election and becoming a Liberal, gay, francophone person in Edmonton Centre, I found a postcard, en français, that said, “thinking of you”, “pensant à vous”. I wrote on the inside, “Looking forward to lunch soon. Can't wait to see you”, and signed my name with “Edmonton Centre, member of Parliament”.
We had a meal together and it went very well.
He totally fell on his sword and said, “I can't believe I said that to you. I was wrong, and please forgive me.” Discrimination happens, but so does reconciliation.
What we are talking about here is stopping it, preventing it, and addressing it properly. Bill can help to further our fight for equality. The legislation builds on existing violence and harassment provisions in the code to create a comprehensive approach that would cover the full spectrum of harassment and violence, from bullying and teasing to sexual harassment and physical violence. This legislation extends the full suite of occupational health and safety protections, including harassment and violence protections, to parliamentary workplaces, such as the Senate, the Library of Parliament and the House of Commons, including our own political staff.
I was surprised, mystified and shocked when I was elected to realize the few protections afforded to parliamentary staff. As a new member of Parliament, coming from business, I was shocked. I am proud to be part of a Parliament that is taking steps to address that. As a result of this legislation, a single, integrated regime would be created to protect all federally regulated employees from harassment and violence in the workplace, including LGBTQ2 and indigenous workers, preventing incidents of harassment from occurring and supporting those employees affected by harassment and violence, including respecting their privacy.
I know that the other chamber has done extensive study of this bill and that it engaged in discussions with witnesses from many organizations to help in the study.
Having read the amendments made to Bill , I find that these changes clearly help strengthen a powerful framework that will support every Canadian worker from coast to coast to coast.
The other place heard concerns that Bill would prevent employees from complaining to the Canadian Human Rights Commission when they experience workplace harassment or violence. As such, they proposed an amendment that explicitly states that “nothing in this Part shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from the rights provided for under the Canadian Human Rights Act.” Indeed, it is not the intention of this legislation to prevent someone from going to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. As such, we support this amendment.
The Government of Canada reiterates that it is essential for Canadian employees to know that they can file complaints without fear of those complaints being buried under a pile of red tape. Reprisals are already prohibited under the Canada Labour Code. Accordingly, a complainant who feels they are being punished for coming forward can contact the labour program for help.
This amendment also guarantees that the information concerning any complaint of workplace harassment or violence remains confidential, whether it is brought before one tribunal or another.
The other chamber has proposed additional amendments. A member of the other place proposed that the terms “trivial, frivolous or vexatious” be replaced with the term “abuse of process” to limit the negative associations of coming forward with a complaint. Language matters. It is important that we show the government that people who experience workplace harassment or violence will have their claims taken seriously and that experiences will not be dismissed as trivial, or frivolous, or vexatious. We know that it takes strength and courage for someone to come forward when they have experienced inappropriate behaviours in the workplace. We know that we must make it easier for those people to come forward.
This amendment shows that the government recognizes that abusive language can harm anyone who has been a victim of sexual harassment and wishes to file a complaint, but who is ashamed of what happened to him or her.
There were other amendments proposed by the other place that we were not able to accept, and I will address one such amendment in particular.
A member of the other chamber proposed that persons who investigate the complaint shall inform the employee and employer in writing of the results of the investigation. We agree with the intent of this amendment, which was thoughtful and positive. However, we are unable to accept this amendment because of its location in the legislation. The section of the Canadian Labour Code that would be amended by the other chamber pertains to investigations by workplace committees. In Bill , incidents of workplace harassment or violence are not subject to this part of the code, in order to protect the privacy of individuals in cases of harassment and violence. Bill C-65 prohibits the involvement of workplace committees in the investigation of specific incidents.
If this amendment were included the Canada Labour Code, it would not apply to incidents of harassment or violence, and that is why it was not adopted. If an incident of harassment or violence is not resolved, the workplace committee investigates and proceeds directly to an investigation by a qualified person.
This concern is not lost. The process related to the investigation by a competent person will be set out in the regulations. That point was raised by the other chamber and will be included in the regulations as well. What we propose is that these regulations include who receives a copy of an investigative report, including the employee. Since the entire process related to the competent person investigation is set in the regulations, there is nowhere in the code where a reference to who receives the investigative report could be added.
Further, the reason why the process is set out in regulations is that it builds on the existing violence prevention regulations that were developed through tripartite consultation. The new regulations for Bill are also being developed through tripartite consultation to ensure that the process meets the needs of all parties and will result in timely resolution of incidents.
I am also glad to see that this legislation will apply to employees of Parliament who were not previously protected, as we discussed. It is also important to know that staff are being supported both on the Hill and in constituency offices like my own in Edmonton Centre. This legislation now extends all safety protections to Hill and constituency staff.
The fundamental objective of this bill is to prevent not just physical illness and injury, but also mental health issues. This bill will apply to the entire spectrum of workplace harassment and violence. The amendments to the code will apply to federally-regulated workplaces, including international and interprovincial transportation, banks, telecommunications, most Crown corporations, the federal public service, ministerial exempt staff and interns employed in these sectors.
The proposed changes to Bill will show Canadians that these behaviours will not be tolerated.
There is a misconception brought to the House by the member for that I would like to address. The issue pertains to the possibility of perceived political interference in processes related to political staff and their employees.
Let me be really clear on this. To avoid any perception of conflict of interest where a matter involves a member of the Senate or their staff, or a member of the House of Commons or their employees, the powers, duties and functions of the will be exercised by the deputy minister of labour. This includes the ability to extend the length of time for a former employee to bring forward a complaint. It is the deputy minister of labour who will grant this extension. There will be no political influence or interference in such matters, full stop.
It is important to circle back to why this matters so much. The federal government employs some 300,000 Canadians, as the largest employer in the country. A 2014 World Bank study estimated that the cost of intolerance in the Indian economy was $31 billion U.S. a year. What does that mean in the Canadian context? If we take the average company, the average NGO, the average provincial workforce or, in our case, the federally regulated agencies, and we take 15% of the bottom line, 15% of the staff costs, and add up what that number is, it is the cost of exclusion. That is what intolerance in the workplace costs us as Canadians every day. Add up how much is spent on salary and benefits, take 15% of that, and ask how much is it worth to get workplace harassment under control, to stop it, to prevent it and to help people who are victims of it.
That is what we are talking about. I would like to be here in the future to talk about the benefits of inclusion, not the costs of exclusion. That is exactly what this kind of legislation will help us to achieve here today.
Here is a magical thing that happens. When an inclusive workforce is created, when people know they are protected, when the 15% of those who feel marginalized because of racism, bullying, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia and biphobia feel welcome, that workforce will include 100% of its employees. Something magical happens, because the other 85% know they are in a healthy ecosystem as well, and the whole workforce does better. The pie increases.
What we want to do here is to have workplaces where people can bring 100% of themselves to work. We want to have workplaces where people can be their full selves. We want people to be safe. We want them to have a good day at work and to go home to their loved ones and to be able to talk about how awesome it is to work for the Government of Canada, because we have put in place a system and a piece of legislation that keeps them protected.
I am honoured to serve in the 42nd Parliament. I am even more honoured to know that we are working on an issue that not just Canadians face, but also people around the world. Workplace harassment is serious. We must stamp it out. With this legislation, we are taking great strides. We know that the measures in Bill will help make these changes possible. I hope that the bill will serve as a historic reminder of Canada's dedication to equality and strength here and from coast to coast to coast. I encourage all colleagues in the House and around the country to bring their 100% selves to work. Canadians would ask no less of them.