I will call this meeting to order. Welcome to meeting number 15 of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.
I know we have some guests here today, subbing in for their colleagues, so welcome to our committee.
The committee is meeting today in public to study “Report 1—Respect in the Workplace” of the 2019 Fall Report of the Auditor General of Canada. Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format. The webinar format is for public committee meetings and is available only to members and their staff. All functionalities for active participants remain the same. Staff will be non-active participants only and can, therefore, only view the meeting in the gallery view.
I'd just like to remind members and advise our witnesses of a few rules to follow.
Before I do, I would just ask you, Madam Clerk, if there is anybody in the room.
For all of you, interpretation services are available for this meeting. You have the choice at the bottom of your screen of “floor”, “English” or “French”. Before speaking, click on the microphone icon to activate your own mike. When you are done speaking, please put your mike on mute to minimize any interference. Also, when speaking, please speak slowly and clearly to assist our interpreters with the interpretation. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, the use of a headset with a boom is mandatory for everyone participating. As always, should any technical challenges arise, please advise me. Please note that we may need to at that time suspend, as we need to ensure that all members are able to participate fully.
Before I welcome our witnesses today, I would like to advise you that I've been informed that the deputy minister for Public Services and Procurement Canada is not available for our meeting next Tuesday. Therefore, we have rescheduled things on the calendar, and I am proposing that we study some draft reports that are ready for us. If you do have any questions, please save them for the last five minutes. We'll make sure to suspend the meeting and move into that time to answer any questions for you.
Now I'd like to welcome our witnesses. Joining us today from the Office of the Auditor General are Martin Dompierre, assistant auditor general; and Susan Gomez, principal. From the Canada Border Services Agency, I would like to welcome John Ossowski, president; and Louise Youdale, vice-president, human resources branch. We also have the commissioner of Correctional Service Canada, Anne Kelly; and Nick Fabiano, assistant commissioner, human resource management sector.
Mr. Dompierre, I am going to turn to you to begin. You have five minutes for your opening remarks.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you for this opportunity to discuss our report on respect in the workplace, which was tabled in Parliament in February 2020. Joining me today is Susan Gomez, who led the audit team.
The Canada Border Services Agency and Correctional Service Canada, like all federal employers, are required to provide their employees with respectful workplaces that are free of harassment, discrimination, and violence by co-workers and supervisors.
This is important because the well-being of employees suffers when the workplace is unhealthy. In addition, employees are less likely to report concerns if they perceive that their employer does not take them seriously. Issues that are not reported cannot be resolved and may affect employees’ health. The additional pressures of the current pandemic on employees make it especially important that employers provide healthy workplaces.
In this audit, we found that the Canada Border Services Agency and Correctional Service Canada did not do enough to promote and maintain respectful workplaces.
Our audit report included the results of a survey we conducted with the employees of these two federal organizations. The results showed that the employees who responded to the survey had concerns about respect in their workplaces. More than one-third of survey respondents stated that they feared reprisal if they made complaints of workplace harassment, discrimination or violence. They also had serious or significant concerns about organizational culture and about the lack of civility and respect in their workplaces.
Although both organizations knew that there were problems of harassment, discrimination and violence in the workplace, neither had developed a comprehensive strategy to address them, including a way to measure and report on their progress towards reducing harassment, discrimination and workplace violence.
Federal employers are encouraged to offer informal mechanisms such as meetings between individual employees and mediation for resolving complaints to help restore working relationships more quickly. We found that in the harassment and workplace violence complaints we reviewed, both organizations did not always tell employees that they could use informal processes.
In addition, we found that the organizations did not always do an initial assessment before deciding whether to accept or dismiss a complaint. The lack of initial assessments can lead to inconsistencies in the decision-making process and in the treatment of complaints.
Finally, we found that in the majority of the harassment complaint cases that had been investigated and resolved, the organizations had ordered restorative actions aimed only at individuals involved. In other words, the restorative actions were not aimed at establishing or re-establishing a harmonious working relationship within the affected team, group or unit. This is important because the behaviours leading to these complaints can have a long-lasting and broad impact on relationships in the workplace.
Canada Border Services Agency and Correctional Service Canada agreed with all our recommendations and have prepared action plans to address them.
Madam Chair, this concludes my opening remarks. We would be pleased to answer any questions the committee may have.
Thank you, Madam Chair and members of the public accounts committee. It's a pleasure to be here today.
I am joined by Louise Youdale, the vice-president of our human resources branch.
Thank you having invited me to take part in today's discussion.
It's my pleasure to appear before you today to share details on the efforts we have taken to effect positive change in the culture of the CBSA.
I would like to thank the Office of the Auditor General for their work on this report. I welcome the findings and recommendations that they have put forward.
Let me be clear, the CBSA has zero tolerance for harassment, discrimination or violence in our organization.
The Auditor General's report laid bare some of the issues we have at the CBSA in the areas of workplace violence and harassment. When the report was tabled, I openly acknowledged those gaps, including how long it takes for the issues to be investigated and resolved.
Over the past few years we have done a tremendous amount of work to change the culture of our organization, focus on people, and address workplace violence and harassment. We acknowledge that systemic racism, intolerance and discrimination exist, and we are committed to doing the continued work needed to build a more diverse, inclusive and respectful culture.
Several initiatives have been undertaken to understand and further explore root causes of harassment, and to identify the concrete actions needed to create a healthier workplace culture, provide protection to employees and address their concerns.
We created a centre of expertise to educate on, prevent and manage harassment complaints. It's a one-stop shop that any employee can turn to for information, support and guidance in matters related to harassment or any type of conflict in the workplace.
We've also invested in a dedicated team of experts to develop and help implement a comprehensive strategy on culture to get to the root causes behind these unfortunate incidents and to ensure that we build a healthy and vibrant organizational culture.
We are also focused on selecting and developing managers who demonstrate people skills: respect for all, empathy, courage and emotional intelligence. Skills in conflict resolution are also important. These all contribute to creating a psychologically healthier workplace.
I also want to confirm that our disclosure process for complaints made to our senior officer of internal disclosure is confidential. There are many ways for employees to bring forward their concerns. Any issue can be reported to our senior officer for internal disclosure or to an immediate supervisor. Employees can also take their concerns directly to the office of the Public Service Integrity Commissioner. What's more, if an employee feels targeted because of an incident or an issue they have reported, that employee can make a complaint to the Public Service Integrity Commissioner.
As I said, I am encouraged that our efforts have started to show some positive results, yet there is still a lot more work ahead of us to build on recent indicators in the past. For example, our average positive response to all questions in the 2019 public service employee survey increased by more than four percentage points. We also saw a 3% decrease in the number of cases of harassment reported.
Madam Chair, the Auditor General's report identified ways to address the challenges we have in regard to respect in the workplace. Rest assured we are acting on the recommendations put forward by putting our people first and reinforcing respect, dignity and fairness.
I would be happy to answer any questions from members of the committee.
Madam Chair and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. With me today is Nick Fabiano, my assistant commissioner of human resources.
Respect and a healthy workplace are a key priority for me, as commissioner. This needs to be at the heart of everything we do.
An organization is nothing without its people. Our 18,000 employees are our greatest assets in successfully carrying out our work. They are hard-working, professional and passionate about making a difference in the lives of offenders and ensuring public safety.
Correctional work can be challenging and stressful and the well-being of our staff is essential. Harassment, discrimination or violence have no place in the Correctional Service of Canada.
We recognize the importance of the Auditor General’s findings last year, and I want to assure this committee that we have been taking it very seriously and are taking concrete actions.
Culture change does not happen overnight. We have been continuing to work at sustaining the changes that have been made to ensure that they will become embedded in our culture.
The pandemic has helped to reinforce the importance of making our health, safety and well-being a top priority in all of our workplaces. This is especially topical as we take part in a national dialogue on mental health today during Bell Let’s Talk. Every action counts.
Since the completion of the Auditor General’s report, we have worked to strengthen our ability to maintain healthy workplaces in several ways.
In response to the AG's recommendations, we have reviewed guidelines and tools on harassment and workplace violence, as well as worked to ensure that employees at all levels of the organization are aware of these resources.
A new workplace harassment and violence prevention policy is now in place, together with procedures to respond to incidents of harassment and violence.
Understanding that change requires constant communication, town halls on respect and mental health were conducted with staff on several occasions this year. Some were held as part of Correctional Service Canada Respect Day in November 2020. I have led several town halls myself with our senior leaders.
We have already begun to see changes based on these initiatives. The results of the 2019 Public Service Employee Survey showed that the rates of reported harassment and discrimination had dropped for a second year in a row.
The survey also showed that there was an increase in the number of respondents that felt that the department is working hard to create a workplace that prevents harassment and discrimination.
While this decrease is a step in the right direction, we know there is more work to do and are working to ensure that respectful behaviour is embedded in our culture.
In March 2019, we released our first annual workplace climate and employee well-being report. This report helps us to monitor the health of our organization and plan for the year ahead. The second report will be released within the next couple of months.
Last fall, we launched the national comprehensive strategy on workplace wellness and employee well-being. This strategy serves as CSC's foundation for prioritizing activities that are essential to the respect, well-being and mental health of employees and managers at all levels.
We are now in our third year of the respectful workplace campaign. This campaign involves various initiatives including awareness, promotion and developing avenues for employees to disclose inappropriate behaviour.
Lastly, we have also begun planning an audit of CSC's culture. The goal of the audit is to identify ways to make CSC a safer, healthier, more respectful and violence-free environment for all employees and offenders.
While we know that we have more work to do, we are seeing progress.
I would like to conclude by using a sentence from an article that Dr. Robert Cormier, a psychologist and former executive, shared with me a couple of years ago. It says, “It is essential to recognize that a respectful workplace is not an end point; it is a way of doing things moment by moment, day by day, rather than a discrete project to complete.”
I agree, and day by day, CSC is building a culture where we all lead by example and inspire one another to carry out our important mission and achieve positive correctional outcomes.
As we conducted this audit, we looked at past survey work that has been done in the public service. As indicated in the report, since 2008, questions around harassment, discrimination and workplace violence have been included.
Also, based on reports that were produced by the Privy Council Office, the reports stressed the importance of creating a workplace free of harassment, discrimination and workplace violence.
We had also seen events happening in the news related specifically to one organization in particular—in this case, in 2016 and 2017, about an allegation at Correctional Service of Canada.
Basically, those were the main reasons we initiated our work around the Canada Border Services Agency and the Correctional Service of Canada.
Good morning. Welcome back to the committee. I wish a belated happy new year to you all.
Sadly, harassment and discrimination in the workplace still occur. I'm thankful that we're having this discussion this morning. Every Canadian deserves to feel safe at work. They shouldn't feel afraid to come to work because of mistreatment by their co-workers or managers. I hope there will be some definite improvements.
My first question is in regard to the survey results on harassment questions between 2005 and 2017. In both instances, the CSC and CBSA have almost doubled the percentages. I'm just wondering why that is for victims of harassment on the job as well as by co-workers, and for victims of harassment by individuals with authority over them.
Why does this pattern continue? Is it because of the nature of the work?
Please go ahead, Ms. Kelly or Mr. Ossowski.
There's no question that correctional work is very challenging. Certainly our front-line staff are exposed to traumatic events. Obviously, they sometimes respond to situations such as overdoses, self-harming behaviour, potential suicide attempts. It's really difficult.
In terms of our results on the public service employee survey, we actually saw in the 2019 results that there's been a 6% decrease in respondents indicating that they have been victims of harassment. There's also been an increase in the percentage of those who are satisfied with the quality of supervision as well as an increase in those who are satisfied with how interpersonal issues are resolved.
We're seeing some positive results with the initiatives that we've put in place, but we understand that certainly there is more work to do. I agree with you—employees need to feel valued. I've been with the Correctional Service for 37 years. I love my job. I love coming to work. This is what I want for every employee.
The other statistic I'll mention is that in the public service employee survey we found that 84% of our staff actually are proud of the work they do, which is significant.
Absolutely, and as a follow-on to what my colleague was just saying and the first part of your question, I think it comes down to understanding the culture of the organization. Certainly law enforcement agencies and the cultures we have have been highlighted over the last few years, but I think we're only now getting to the point where we have the tools and the frame to talk about them and ask ourselves if this is what we really want.
No, everybody would argue, that's not the case. If we're not happy with it, then let's do something about it. I'm super proud of the work that we've done here. For example, our visible minorities advisory committee, which is a grassroots committee that formed itself, is providing me with advice. They certainly provided me with advice in the summer after the George Floyd incident about putting out communications and support to our Black employees.
More broadly, in terms of the conversations we need to have to understand the culture of the organization and what we're prepared to do about it, we're making huge efforts. I think a critical success factor for us has been that we have a full-time culture team as part of the CBSA transformation office that is working with a very dispersed organization. I have over 100 ports of entry across the land and people working abroad in 40 countries, so reaching out, having those conversations, listening to employees and essentially pulling the bandage off the culture and exposing it and talking about it.... People are starting to build trust, and I think that's reflected in some of the survey results we've seen, which are starting to show some positive direction. I want to be clear, culture change takes time and it's going to require persistent efforts, and we're absolutely committed to those efforts.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would like to begin by thanking all the witnesses for being here today.
My first question is for Mr. Dompierre.
I found the conclusions of your office's audit report rather devastating. Let's look at exhibits 1.1 and 1.2 on harassment and the concerns of Correctional Service Canada and Canada Border Services Agency employees. According to the survey you mentioned, three out of every four employees considered that they had serious or significant concerns about organizational culture. Three out of four is appalling.
We are well aware of the process, Mr. Dompierre, which dictates your actions and your impartiality as an officer of Parliament in the exercise of your duties and in your choices of topics to be audited. This is all to your credit, and what members of Parliament and taxpayers expect of you. Taxpayers expect you to play a watchdog role with respect to their financial interests and the healthy management of public funds.
As for what follow-up action should be required further to your report on working relationships and the respect required at Correctional Service Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency, can you say without the slightest doubt that the corrective action planned, if taken, would really correct a situation that I find highly disturbing?
Thank you very much for your question.
As you mentioned, for the report, we surveyed each of these organizations in order to discover people's opinions about respect in the workplace. We made recommendations about this, and the Canada Border Services Agency and Correctional Service Canada Submitted their action plans to us, which explain the detailed measures they will be taking to implement our recommendations.
We have not yet studied these specific measures yet. We find the action plans submitted to be reasonable. We may, in the near future, have an opportunity to do further audit work to determine whether the recommendations that we made have been implemented.
Thank you for your question.
When we conducted the survey we also found, if you recall, that people feared reprisal if they made complaints of workplace harassment, discrimination or violence.
In Exhibit 1.2, which you mentioned, this was a mechanism provided by the Treasury Board policy that gave complainants the right to use an informal process to deal with the problem at issue. Clearly, if people are not offered this possibility, it will certainly undermine the credibility of the process. People will be less certain that their complaint will be treated consistently within the process.
So it's all about how complaints are managed, and how people are made aware of the various forms of recourse to which they are entitled in the complaint process.
Thank you, Mr. Dompierre.
I now have a question for Mr. Ossowski.
Good morning, Mr. Ossowski. The conclusions of the report prepared by the Auditor General's office were not exactly flattering to your organization. Mr. Dompierre referred earlier to stress caused by the current pandemic, which could have a personal impact on people and lead to regrettable or even reprehensible action by officials in certain organizations.
Everyone is on edge, for reasons outside of our control, and that is understandable. But we need to remain calm. In my view, your organization plays a key role in assuring the safety of all our fellow citizens and the health of all our communities, particularly at this time, if you see what I mean.
In light of the conclusions drawn by the Office of the Auditor General, and in particular given the key impact of the Border Services Agency on collective safety, can you assure the committee that everything can be sorted out without the need for major studies or strategy meetings?
Do you have the moral authority to tell everyone to get onside and work together?
Let's deal with it in a little bit of sequence. Absolutely, we take these results seriously. To that effect, we're actually doing our own internal audit on how we're progressing in 2021-22. I would say that, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, we certainly understand the importance of informal ways to deal with this, and we've actually had over 80 informal conflict management information sessions delivered to employees so that they understand the avenues that are available to them.
I'd also like to correct a little bit of a misperception, too. When we're talking about harassment and discrimination, people think that it's always management to employees. In fact, the majority of these cases are employee to employee. I think it's really important. This is not managers bearing down on their staff. This is something within all levels. It's up and down. It's sideways.
As for the point about whether I have the moral authority to make this all better, that's an interesting question because I actually would say that it is the collective responsibility of everyone in the organization to make improvements. If you see something that's not right, you have to act. That's what I'm trying to impress upon the organization. Don't sweep things under the carpet. If there's something that's not right—and everybody can understand the basics of what's right and wrong in these types of subjects that we're talking about—you have an obligation to act. That's what we're trying to talk about. The culture of the organization has been to sweep things under the carpet, and that's the part that we're changing. It's about speaking up and doing something about it with proper processes and training, and choosing the right people so that they can actually act appropriately and stop these things from festering to the point where they blow up into a giant problem that makes it much harder for everybody to deal with.
What we started with was something very basic, which was a listening tour. Soon after my arrival, having worked in other organizations where I really believe that understanding the culture was a critical element to making any kind of change, and not getting the kind of feedback from the surveys that had been done, with respect, by the AG or even the PSES.... It wasn't helping us understand the issue. We went around the country and held dozens and dozens of sessions with employees in very Chatham House Rule kinds of ways and said, “Okay, what's going on?”
That did two things. First of all, it gave us better insight into what was going on, and second, it started to build trust that we're listening, that we're going to do something and that we're taking it seriously. We're just starting to see the benefits of that. We're doing little pulse-check surveys now, and especially to the previous member's question—
I thank my colleagues for their learned questions so far. I've certainly benefited from that.
I would also like to thank our witnesses for the progress they have made and also recognizing that through the pandemic I'm sure they've both had some difficult times, especially Mr. Ossowski working through the borders. I'm sure you're working hard to keep all Canadians safe, so I appreciate that.
That being said, I want to walk through one of the key things, the vetting process, that I think is successful in making sure that we have a workplace that is relatively....
To both the CBSA and also to Corrections, what is your process in making sure that bad actors or bad apples, the people who are perhaps prone to these types of behaviours, do not get into the CBSA or Corrections?
Again, it's very stressful work for us in Corrections, and certainly we've had our challenges during COVID, as well, to keep everyone safe.
In our recruitment, for example, there is a screening process for our correctional officers. Tests are administered, for example, the situational judgment tests and others to make sure we hire the right people. Then they go through a rigorous training program.
Certainly as the commissioner, when we have what we call our correctional officer graduation programs, as much as possible I attend them and I speak with them about the fact that they're peace officers, about respect and ethics and how important they are, and that they serve as role models to the offenders. We definitely want to ensure we hire the best officers we can because we have to do important work with a challenging population, and they absolutely have to be role models to them.
Very similarly, we spent a lot of time up front screening applicants, certainly for the front-line positions, but for managers as well. We're very big on something called character-based leadership, which comes out of the Ivey Business School at Western University, which is really about the exercise of judgment. We actually assess people. We recruit people. There's a whole interview process around it to make sure at the very beginning that we're getting the people who have the right comportment, if you will, for the work.
Secondly, once they are here it's about the training program. There's a very robust training program for front-line officers that takes close to 20 weeks to complete. Much of it is on campus in our own training facility.
For other training, in terms of creating a respectful workplace, values and ethics, disclosures of wrongdoing, mental health awareness, diversity and race relationships, we've put all of these programs in place and we have very high completion rates. All of them are around 90% or more completion rates so far.
We keep promoting these courses and offering that support to people, so that they understand this is the workplace environment we are in now and we're not dwelling on the past. We are moving forward with deliberate action.
One of the things you have touched upon and Mr. Green also touched upon, is that it's so critical that people speak up.
One of the things I would challenge you on, Mr. Ossowski, with all due respect, is you said that one of the positive signs was that the number of reports of harassment actually declined by 3%. How do you know that actually means there are fewer cases of complaints as opposed to, as it shows in the report, people being fearful of reprisals?
We have really high numbers in both departments of 20% or 30%. How are you validating that the actual numbers of complaints or the actual violations to your policies are declining, as opposed to just the complaints?
Good morning, everyone.
Obviously, as was stated earlier on Bell Let's Talk today, it's not lost upon me the discussion we're having on the environment that one finds oneself in at the workplace. That environment extends not only to the public sector, but to the private sector across our country. Every Canadian needs to know they can go to work every day—when they leave their families—and that they are free of harassment, free of discrimination and free of any nonsense, if I can use that term.
My first question is for the wonderful folks at the Auditor General's office. I'm looking at page 14 of the report. As a data person and a finance guy, I like to look at numbers, which tend to tell a story. They are sometimes different stories for different people, but nonetheless they tend to tell a story.
In terms of robustness, when I took econometrics in graduate school some 25 years ago, we always talked about the robustness of the data sample. I see that nearly 16,000 employees of the CBSA were asked to participate in the survey and the response rate was 38%. On the Correctional Service of Canada side with the survey of 19,000 employees, the response rate was 28%.
How do we feel about that response rate in terms of the robustness of what comes out afterwards?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I have a question for Mr. Dompierre.
As you put it so well in your opening remarks, the first step in getting a complaint dealt with is to make the complaint. You also mentioned that problems with the initial assessment could lead to inconsistency in the decision-making process of dealing with complaints. I want to mention the numbers again, because they are rather alarming: at both the Canada Border Services Agency and Correctional Service Canada, two out of four employees had problems with respect to decisions made in processing complaints about harassment.
The figures for workplace violence complaints are also alarming. More than three out of four employees filed complaints. There's a real problem with the decision-making and complaint handling processes. You also mentioned that this could "...result in employee perception of bias and a loss of confidence in the process."
I am really wondering how employees can feel sufficiently confident to make a complaint when the decision-making process is undermined from the outset.
If a complaint is to be considered and dealt with appropriately, an initial assessment is required. People need to know that if they file a complaint for investigation, it will be processed properly, given due consideration and correctly assessed.
In the example you gave, the investigators would be required to examine the complaint and determine whether it is consistent with the definition of harassment, for example. After that, the investigators need to document these factors to demonstrate that they have made the right decisions. When we examined the files as part of our work, they did not contain this information.
To return to what you were saying, the complaints have to be processed and given proper consideration if people are to trust the system and file complaints without fear of reprisal. There complaints have to be processed properly.
In the opening remarks of my friend Mr. Webber, he zeroed in on these departments that were picked but other departments weren't. I think this is an important step forward for us to perhaps look at where else we might want to look, including of course Parliament Hill.
Mr. Dompierre, as a part of your audit you asked CBSA and CSC employees to respond to a survey on three themes: lack of civility and respect, the organizational culture, and reporting harassment without fear of reprisal. You noted that employees in both organizations had serous concerns about these points. Did you note any significant differences in responses among men and women and racialized employees? If yes, what were they?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Mr. Ossowski and Ms. Kelly, as you are both very aware, many people working for organizations historically say that they don't come forward because they are not believed. They really never get a resolution that they expect, so it's just easier not to rock the boat.
I'm interested in knowing what percentage of complaints in your organizations are determined as legitimate complaints. Are most determined legitimate, or are they dismissed? If I'm reading correctly exhibit 1.3 of the audit report, the vast majority of complaints are rejected, and many early in the process, too. Is that correct? Is that occurring in your organizations?
Staying with you, Ms. Kelly, then, in paragraph 1.26 of the audit report, the CSC, over a two-year period between 2017 and 2018, completed 18 assessments of 148 of your organizational units, such as the institutions and parole offices and such. Of course, these assessments identify the risks to the safety, security and well-being of the employees in each of these units, in order to later develop a strategy in each unit to manage risks. By doing only 18 assessments out of 148 organizational units, that's just over 10% of the CSC's entire organization. Does this really show a deep organizational commitment to identifying risks to the employees?
From the report, my gut feeling tells me that this sort of looks like foot-dragging. I know that was back in 2017-18, and I'm sure things have improved since. Why were only 10% of CSC's organizational units assessed back then? Also, where are we now with the unit assessments? Have we assessed all your units?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thanks to the witnesses and committee members. This is a tremendous discussion.
Mr. Green, you took my main question on gender-based analysis and the fact that when I looked at exhibit 1.1, I couldn't see how concerns around harassment and “reprisals, civility and respect” were being defined by types of people within the organization, and whether it's gender-based or racialized information.
Statistics Canada is now providing us information on poverty and on other social measures. Maybe that's a comment back to the Auditor General's office for Mr. Dompierre. Is anything in active discussions with the Auditor General's office?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would like to thank Mr. Lawrence For having given me his remaining 30 seconds. This means that I should be allowed six and a half minutes.
And thanks to my colleagues for having asked such incisive questions.
I am an MP, but I also have the privilege of being a member of the Parliamentary Black Caucus. Our witnesses will understand why I'll be asking questions about discrimination within their ranks.
My first comment is for the Office of the Auditor General. I think there is a consensus that when we carry out studies in future on these issues, everything possible should be done to disaggregate the data. It's very important to identify existing problems, such as those of concern to racialized women and women in groups affected by employment equity in the public service. In future, it will be very important to ask these questions beforehand and not simply react afterwards.
My question is for Mr. Ossowski and Ms. Kelly.
In response to a question—I no longer remember who asked it—you said that most cases of discrimination were between employees and did not necessarily involve management. However, the Auditor General's report concluded as follows:
...we found that ...the organizations had ordered restorative actions aimed only at the individuals involved. In other words, the restorative actions were not aimed at establishing or re-establishing a harmonious working relationship within the affected team, group, or unit. This is important because the behaviours leading to these complaints can have a long lasting and broad impact on relationships in the workplace.
I agree completely with this conclusion.
Do you think that it's important to have the context? It's not a dispute between two employees. When something happens, Treasury Board regulations need to be complied with and a broader intervention is required in the unit where the cases of discrimination have been occurring.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
My question is for Ms. Kelly.
Good morning, Ms. Kelly. Thank you for being here today.
In your opening address, you said that culture change does not happen overnight. I fully agree with you.
However, in 2005, 32% of Correctional Service Canada employees said that they had already been subject to harassment from superiors over the two previous years. At the time, this was nearly twice as high as the average for the public service, which stood at 17%.
According to the data we now have, things are still rather troubling, indeed devastating. At Correctional Service Canada, according to the Auditor General's report, almost three out of four employees had serious concerns about the organizational culture. Half were also afraid of reprisal if they were to file a complaint when an employee was a victim of harassment, discrimination or violence from another employee or a manager.
Ms. Kelly, This organizational culture appears to have spread in several respects in recent years. I am of course referring to the 2016 incident, in respect of which the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada launched an investigation into the behaviour of Ms. Brigitte de Blois, the director of the Offender Redress Division between 2010 and 2015. This rather scathing report said that there had been a climate of terror there for years. At the time the facts were reported in February 2017, the Correctional Service Canada Deputy Commissioner, Mr. Motiuk, was investigated separately because evidence had been presented. However, no action had been taken with respect to the information alleged against Ms. de Blois. At the time, you were in an acting position. Disciplinary measures were afterwards taken against Ms. de Blois and Mr. Motiuk.
Today, my question is very simple. I'm trying to understand the situation, which has persisted for several years. The facts are shocking. Why is harassment still considered an occupational hazard at Correctional Service Canada?
We are, of course, working hard on this issue.
As I mentioned, in 2019 and 2020, there was a decrease in the number of harassment complaints. It's something we discuss on a regular basis.
To address fear of reprisal, we set up a whistleblowing site and a generic email people could use to tell us about their worries and concerns. We also included tough language in our performance assessments for all supervisors, managers and senior managers. As for civility and respect, we launched an annual campaign to promote a respectful workplace. We are also preparing an annual report on the working climate, which includes a database to track whether we are making progress over the years.
We are working extremely hard on the culture. We now have an annual strategy that is truly exhaustive. We will also be checking on the culture at Correctional Service Canada. Many initiatives have been launched.
I'm going to be more specific. Organizational culture is top down. This means that senior managers motivate people in the organization.
At the time, when we had evidence of negligence and inaction in the behaviour of Ms. de Blois and Mr. Motiuk, it had been impossible to obtain details about sanctions. They kept their respective jobs as director and deputy commissioner.
They encouraged a reign of terror. This kind of organizational climate starts at the top and does not promote change.
Can you confirm that there are no problems of this kind at the moment in senior management at correctional service Canada?
From 2010 to 2015, a five-year period, we were able to observe Ms. de Blois' inappropriate behaviour.
We have had people come forward. Obviously, we've reassessed the complaints. Again, there's lots of discussion going on in the organization.
One of the questions was around restorative actions. I think Mr. Fergus was talking about that. That's very important. Whenever there's a conflict, whether it's between employees or between the employee and the manager, it impacts the whole work area. Once lines are drawn in the sand, it becomes really messy, as far as I'm concerned.
We use the office of conflict resolution very quickly to work with the impacted area. We do workplace surveys. We have facilitators to work with the area. We have mandated that senior management meet with the staff, because we want to restore the whole workplace. It's not just the individuals.
As I say often—I say it in graduation ceremonies—there's no greater responsibility than having the care and custody of other human beings. That's what they are—human beings.
I repeatedly say to all staff, and I have town halls with the staff, that they have to be role models. It's a challenging population. They are in our institutions because, obviously, they committed crimes. Many of them are impulsive. Many have mental health issues. As people who work with this population, we absolutely have to be role models. This is something I stress repeatedly with my regional deputy commissioners as well.
I believe that although we're working on the culture, it's not just for staff. It's not only about how we deal with staff with staff or staff with managers; it's also staff with offenders.
Yes. During wave one, we had 360 offenders who tested positive and we had two deaths. During wave two now, we have only 15 active cases at this point. In terms of our staff, we have 511 who have tested positive, but 94% have been resolved. Definitely it's been difficult.
I want to acknowledge the work of all staff, especially our front-line correctional officers. Our business is 24-7, 365 days a year, and they do fantastic work. We've really been working hand in hand, and I applaud their work.
The other thing is that it has been difficult because when we have positive cases of COVID in our institutions, we need to restrict movement.
However, I have to say that I have received more letters from offenders than ever, thanking the organization for keeping them safe. I correspond with the staff and with the offenders weekly, telling them exactly what's happening, so everybody is informed of the situation.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I'd like to thank the witnesses for their testimony today.
Obviously I'm at the back of the bus in terms of questions that have been already asked and some of the dialogue. However, I want to go a little bit broad. We're looking at the results of the Auditor General's report in this specific area.
Ms. Kelly, Mr. Green pointed out that you've been in public service for 37 years. Thank you for your work.
I want to know from your perspective whether you have noticed a trend and a gradual improvement, in terms of even just having conversations about workplace harassment. You have almost four decades' worth of experience. Can you speak a little bit about how we've been able to move the meter in the right direction? There's certainly still more work to be done, but can you speak to that?
I started in 1983. I've worked in many institutions, both in Ontario and in the Pacific region. Definitely I've seen some improvements along the way.
First of all, when I started, I was one of the few women. I became a manager fairly quickly, and often I found myself being the only woman in the room.
In terms of harassment, discrimination, workplace violence, it's much more open than it was when I started 37 years ago. In those days, people didn't come forward as much.
There are also generational differences. I think 37 years ago, it was more that you went to work, you did your job, you went back home. Now what I see is that people are much more willing to share how they're feeling, what's happening. I think it's a good thing. They're also quite willing to share it with the top levels of the organization. I get messages from staff, and every message I get, I respond to, and it's the same for all of my executive committee.
For me, definitely there have been some positive changes. I think the biggest change is in the willingness to talk about it. I believe it's a shared responsibility. Everybody has a role to play to ensure their environment is safe and healthy.
I appreciate that. Obviously, we need to continue to move that. I think that's the benefit of having these committees where we can revisit ways that we can improve, to try to get even better in the days ahead.
Mr. Dompierre, obviously, as was already mentioned, these are two particular organizations that you took a look at. I know the question has already been asked about why and what other organizations you might consider in the future, but I'm sure that the Office of the Auditor General has done harassment, discrimination and workplace violence audits in the past. I know we're thinking about this more and more.
Can you speak about how these audits may or may not have changed over time, compared to other ones that might have been done even five, seven or 10 years ago?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I'll begin with an important comment for Mr. Ossowski and Ms. Kelly, and follow that up with a question for Mr. Dompierre.
Over the past few days, the climate of work at Rideau Hall has dominated the news. Based on the information we have so far, it's particularly troubling to realize that at the highest level of the State, even the Governor General can have complaints filed against her reprehensible behaviour. The consequences are enormous.
Mr. Dompierre, can you tell the committee whether your office will be taking any follow-up action with respect to this situation, or whether at the very least it will remain on your radar, if I can use that expression, for the good of the employees there?
I believe that an example has to be set from above, and it can't come from much higher than the Office of the Auditor General.
Thank you very much, Mr. Green.
With that, we are done our questioning for our presenters today. I would like to thank you very much for joining us and having this conversation with us. I will now invite you to leave our meeting.
Thank you very much, colleagues. That was an excellent meeting with excellent questions.
We are on time, and I thank you for that.
Mr. Fergus, were you satisfied with the follow-up question by Mr. Green and the answer, or would you like a follow-up written response?