Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Greg Fergus Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Greg Fergus Profile
2019-06-13 15:23 [p.29070]
Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak to the message received from the other place with regard to Bill C-58, an act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
I would like to recognize that this is my first official duty debating a piece of legislation as Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government, who is a fabulous minister, I might add.
I also want to acknowledge the many stakeholders who were involved in getting Bill C-58 to this point, starting with our colleagues in the other place, who conducted a very thorough and thoughtful study of this bill.
I must also recognize the contributions of parliamentarians and stakeholders and particularly the contributions of the Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner in the development of Bill C-58, as well as, of course, our colleagues on the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics who worked long and hard on the amendments being proposed.
I would especially like to note the interventions of a number of indigenous organizations, their influence on the matters we are considering today and with whom the government is committed to engaging more closely on these matters in the future.
Together, the ideas and suggestions in the letters and presentations at both committees contributed to ensuring that the concerns of Canadians were taken into consideration and reflected in the final version of the bill.
I would remind the House that the bill would implement some of the most significant changes to the Access to Information Act since it was introduced more than 30 years ago, changes which have not been seen since the advent of the World Wide Web. This is part of the Government of Canada's continuing effort to raise the bar on openness and transparency.
We believe that government information ultimately belongs to the people it serves, and it should be open by default. That is quite simply a fundamental characteristic of a modern democracy, and the bill reflects that belief.
In that context, we welcome many of the proposed amendments that would further advance this objective. I would note, however, that two of the amendments would effectively legislate matters that are beyond the intent of the bill, whose purpose, I would remind the House, is to make targeted amendments to the act.
Those targeted amendments include providing the Information Commissioner with the power to make binding orders for the release of government information and the creation of a new part of the act on the proactive publication of key information.
For the reason that it goes beyond the intent of the bill, the government respectfully disagrees with the amendment that would limit time extensions to respond to a request to 30 days without prior approval of the Information Commissioner.
The government is declining this proposal because these provision have not been the subject of consultation or thorough study in the context of the targeted review that led to Bill C-58. This proposal risks having unintended consequences, particularly for the office of the Information Commissioner.
The government does agree with our friends in the other place that the time extension provisions merit further study. These will be examined as part of the full review of the act which Bill C-58 requires to begin within one year of royal assent.
For the same reason, the government respectfully disagrees with the proposal to create a new criminal offence for the use of any code, moniker or contrived word or phrase in a record in place of the name of any person, corporation, entity, third party or organization. Once again, the provisions of the Access to Information Act concerning criminal offences have not been the subject of consultation or thorough study in the targeted review. Therefore, it would be more appropriate to review changes to this provision in the context of a full review.
A third amendment of concern would require the Information Commissioner to review the operation of proposed part 2 of the act regarding proactive publication and report the results to Parliament on an annual basis. Giving the commissioner oversight of proactive publication by institutions supporting Parliament and the courts would create the potential to infringe on both parliamentary privilege and judicial independence. For this reason, the government respectfully disagrees.
It is also proposed that the Information Commissioner's ability to receive and investigate complaints related to fees and time limit extensions be removed from the act. While the government recognizes the intent of this amendment, which relates to some of the other proposals that were advanced, the commissioner's authority to receive and investigate complaints regarding waiver of fees would be removed from the act, an outcome I am certain hon. members on all sides of the House would agree is undesirable.
Similarly, as the amendment with respect to the extension of a time limit was not agreed to, we must preserve the powers of the Information Commissioner to receive complaints concerning time limits and to investigate these complaints, and therefore this amendment is not necessary.
With these few exceptions, the government is pleased to accept the proposed amendments in the message from the other chamber, subject to some technical adjustments to ensure the proper functioning of these provisions.
For example, we agree with the proposed amendment that would eliminate the government's authority to set and collect fees, apart from the application fee. As the government has committed to Canadians, it will continue to charge no fees other than the application fee of just $5.
A related amendment proposed in the message would retain the right of requesters to make a complaint to the Information Commissioner regarding decisions to waive the application fee. While the Senate amendments would have removed that right, we consider that the Information Commissioner should continue to have oversight over the way the authority to waive fees is exercised by institutions.
Some of the amendments proposed in the other place would foster and, in some cases, require more extensive consultations and better communication between the Information Commissioner and the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. This is paramount to continue to ensure privacy protection while the government seeks to foster more openness and better access to government documents.
The bill already provides the Information Commissioner with new power to order the release of government information. To ensure that this does not compromise the right to privacy, an amendment proposes that the Information Commissioner must consult the Privacy Commissioner before ordering a release of personal information. This amendment also proposes that the Information Commissioner have the discretion to consult the Privacy Commissioner when investigating a complaint regarding the application of the personal information exemption. Both of these and some related amendments were suggested by the commissioners themselves, and the government has previously indicated that it supports these amendments. We believe they will strengthen the protection of personal information and further safeguard Canadians' privacy rights.
The government also accepts an amendment that would retain Info Source. Government institutions will continue to be required to publish information about their organization, records and manuals. Canadians seeking to exercise their right of access to government records will continue to have access to this tool.
As hon. members are surely aware, the government processes tens of thousands of access requests each and every year. It is an unfortunate fact that in a small number of cases, the requests are made for reasons that are inconsistent with the purposes of the Act. They may be made to harass a certain employee or work unit, for example. Such requests can have a disproportionate effect on the system and slow down resources on legitimate requests.
The government agrees with the amendment from the other place that the power of government institutions to ask the Information Commissioner for approval in order to refuse to act on requests should be limited to requests that are vexatious, made in bad faith or that would constitute an abuse of the right of access and would backlog the system. That would enable government institutions to focus their efforts on legitimate requests after having obtained approval from the Information Commissioner.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the main objectives of Bill C-58 is to provide the Information Commissioner with the power to issue binding orders for the processing of requests, including the disclosure of records.
The commissioner would be able to publish these orders, establishing a body of precedents to guide institutions as well as users of the system.
Originally, in order to give the commissioner time to prepare to assume this power, it would not come into force until one year after royal assent. However, the commissioner has asked that this power be available immediately upon royal assent. Reflecting the value it places on the commissioner's perspective, the government has already indicated its support for this amendment.
Another amendment asked for the Information Commissioner to file her orders in Federal Court and have them enforced as Federal Court orders. Under Bill C-58, the Information Commissioner's orders are legally binding without the need for certification. We believe that this amendment is unnecessary and would add a step in the process.
However, the government will look at these amendments at the one-year review of the act, with a year's worth of experience under the new system.
Providing the Information Commissioner with the power to issue binding orders to government and institutions is not a trivial change. It is a game-changer for access to information. Whereas now the Information Commissioner must go to court if an institution does not follow her recommendations, Bill C-58 puts the onus on institutions. Should they disagree with an order by the Information Commissioner, institutions will have 30 days to challenge the order in Federal Court.
As for the courts, I would remind the House that the government accepted an amendment that would ensure that Bill C-58 does not encroach on judicial independence. As the House knows, part 2 of the bill would impose proactive publication requirements on 260 departments, government agencies and Crown corporations, as well as the Prime Minister's Office, ministers' offices, senators, MPs, parliamentary entities and institutions that support the courts.
The amendment would also enshrine in law the proactive publication of information of great interest to Canadians, particularly information relevant to increased transparency and responsibility with regard to the use of public funds.
This includes travel and hospitality expenses for ministers and their staff and senior officials across government, contracts over $10,000 and all contracts for MPs and senators, grants and contributions over $25,000, mandate letters and revised mandate letters, briefing packages for new ministers and deputy ministers, lists of briefing notes for ministers or deputy ministers, and the briefing binders used for question period and parliamentary committee appearances.
Putting these requirements into legislation will ensure that Canadians will have access to this kind of information automatically, without having to make a request. It will impose a new degree of transparency on this government and on future governments.
As passed by the House, Bill C-58 would require similar disclosure by the judiciary.
Concerns have since been raised about the impact that the publication of individual judges' expenses could have on judicial independence, and those concerns are exacerbated by the fact that, due to the traditional duty of reserve, judges express themselves only through their judgments and can neither defend themselves nor set the record straight. The amendment proposed in the message that would require the publication of judges' expenses according to each court, rather than on an individual basis, would address these concerns and include additional measures to increase transparency.
The government also welcomes and accepts the amendment to remove the specific criteria requiring requesters to state the specific subject matter of their request, the type of record being requested and the period for which the record is being requested.
This was included in the original bill as a way to ensure that requests provided enough information to enable a timely response.
We listened to the Information Commissioner's concerns about this clause and especially to the indigenous groups who told us that these provisions could impede their access rights. I just want to note that this amendment, along with several others proposed in the message, was suggested by the former Treasury Board president when he appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in October.
The proposal and acceptance of this amendment reflect the government's commitment to guaranteeing that indigenous peoples have access to the information they need to support their claims and seek justice for past wrongs, for example.
As members can imagine, when it comes to records that are several decades or, in some cases, more than a century old, asking someone to state the specific subject matter, type of record and period requested may constitute a barrier to access.
I also want to assure the House that the government has taken careful note of the feedback from indigenous groups who felt that the governments did not consult them properly when drafting Bill C-58.
To respond to these concerns, the government supported the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, the National Claims Research directors and the Indigenous Bar Association in surveying selected first nations researchers and policy staff about the issues they were encountering with respect to access to information, compiling and analyzing the results in a discussion paper, and undertaking a legal review of Bill C-58.
Nonetheless, we recognize that further work is needed, with greater collaboration between the government and indigenous groups. I would draw the attention of the House to a letter written by the former president of the Treasury Board and sent to the committee in the other place. The letter detailed specific commitments to engaging indigenous organizations and representatives about how the Access to Information Act needs to evolve to reflect Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples, including how information and knowledge of indigenous communities is both protected and made acceptable.
This engagement, as with all engagements with first nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation, will be founded on the fundamental principle of “nothing about us without us”. The government is committed to ensuring that programs, policies and services affecting indigenous peoples are designed in consultation and in collaboration with them.
In that regard, I would remind the House that this bill represents only the first phase of the government's reform to access to information. A full review of the functioning of the act would begin within one year of royal assent of Bill C-58, with mandatory reviews every five years afterward to ensure that the Access to Information Act never again falls so far out of date. I would add that the government recognizes that engagement with indigenous communities and organizations needs to be a central part of these reviews of the act.
In conclusion, I would recall for the House that in its fifth global report, issued in 2018, Canada was ranked number one in the world for openness and transparency by Open Data Barometer, well ahead of many other nations, including many so-called advanced countries. I would note that in this most recent report the author states:
The government’s continued progress reflects a strong performance in virtually all areas—from policies to implementation. Its consistent political backing has been one [of] the keys to its success.
Bill C-58 would continue to advance our progress toward more open and transparent government.
I again thank our friends in the other place for helping to make a good bill even better. I share the Information Commissioner's opinion that Bill C-58 is better than the current act and urge all members to join me in supporting it.
View Candice Bergen Profile
View Candice Bergen Profile
2018-10-17 15:24 [p.22501]
Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to speak to Bill C-65, an important bill dealing with harassment in the federal workplace. It is important to understand that this bill did not come out when it did by pure coincidence. For context, I will recount some of the incidents that happened around the time the bill came out.
All members of the House will, I am sure, remember that the #MeToo movement touched a wide segment of society around the world last autumn. Then in January, just before the House sat, we had a number of revelations within Canadian political circles as well. One of them affected the Liberal government. Allegations about misconduct, about a decade ago, by the hon. member for Calgary Centre were made known. At that time he was the minister of sport and persons with disabilities. However, that did not continue because he was asked to leave the cabinet, and a secret investigation was launched later.
I do not cite these facts to be disrespectful or rude toward the hon. member. This is important context that will help to explain the Prime Minister's many quotable statements during this narrow window of time. For example, as news of the former minister's past actions were being reported, the Prime Minister, then at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, said:
We must each have a well-understood, established process in place to file allegations of workplace harassment. And when we receive those complaints, we must take them seriously.
As women speak up, it is our responsibility to listen, and more importantly, to believe.
Those were the Prime Minister's words. That is quite clearly the government's policy as well.
It is not just the words in the Prime Minister's speech that matter, but establishing a complaints process, including in our own offices on Parliament Hill, that is very much at the heart of Bill C-65.
Upon his return to Canada, the Prime Minister said days later to the CBC, “The standard applies to everyone. There is no context in which someone doesn’t have responsibility for things they’ve done in the past.” Therefore, it is quite clear. As I mentioned earlier, a wave of revelations and probing questions were sweeping Parliament Hill that week. That is why it is not at all surprising that the CBC would, in that same interview with the Prime Minister, quiz him about his own past. When asked, the Prime Minister answered, “I've been very, very careful all my life to be thoughtful, to be respectful of people's space and people's headspace as well”.
Therefore, the Prime Minister laid down the law about sexual harassment and misconduct allegations when he stated that we should always: one, believe complainants; two, hear out retrospective complaints, without time limit; three, apply one standard to all; and four, do not worry, just know that he is squeaky clean, apparently.
With respect to this final point, it turns out that there were previous allegations of impropriety made against the Prime Minister that surfaced. Late this spring, copies of the Creston Valley Advance from August 2000 surfaced. An editorial, penned by a reporter on staff, informed readers, “I’m sorry. If I had known you were reporting for a national paper, I never would have been so forward.” Those were the words spoken to an Advance reporter by the son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau on August 4. He, the now prime minister, was in Creston to celebrate the Kokanee Summit festival, put on by Columbia Brewery. He apologized a day late for inappropriately handling the reporter while she was on assignment not only for the Advance, but also for the National Post and Vancouver Sun.
The editorial went on to say:
shouldn't the son of a former prime minister be aware of the rights and wrongs that go along with public socializing? ...Didn't he learn, through his vast experiences in public life, that groping a strange young woman isn't in the handbook of proper etiquette regardless of who she is, what her business is, or where they are?
“Groping” is her word not mine.
Applying the edict from the Prime Minister, I assume we are to believe her story that she was groped by the Prime Minister, disregard the date no matter how far back the complaint went, and apply the same standard that applies to the hon. members for Nunavut, Calgary Centre, and Calgary Skyview, which was removal from cabinet and/or the Liberal caucus. Is that not right?
Members will remember that things did not quite turn out as one would have expected based on the Prime Minister's own rules. Part of the problem was that the Canadian media paid virtually no attention to the groping allegations about the Prime Minister. If only they had given just a fraction of their coverage to this issue here in Canada as they did to the Kavanaugh story in the United States. However, that is wishful thinking.
Despite that, back in July, the Prime Minister went on record defending his groping by saying, “I had a good day; I don't remember any negative interactions that day at all.”
He said, “...I am confident—that I did not act inappropriately.... But part of this awakening that we're having as a that it's not just one side of the story that matters”, and, “That the same interactions could be experienced very differently from one person to the next.”
The Prime Minister 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 and we have to respect that and reflect on it.”
To boil this all down, a simple phrase sums up the Prime Minister's words and deeds: Do as I say and not as I do. That catchphrase seems to describe a lot of what we see from the Liberal government. I am afraid it is playing itself out yet again in the area of sexual misconduct.
The Prime Minister, when he took the stage in Davos, said that having an established policy was crucial. His own government's legislation, which we are debating today, will entrench this expectation in federal labour law. However, we do not know what policies apply to the Prime Minister himself.
Earlier this autumn, I put some written questions on the Order Paper to get answers. Here is what I asked:
(a) what is the procedure when there is an accusation against the Prime Minister, including, (i) who decides if a complaint has merit and warrants an investigation; (ii) who conducts the investigation; (iii) does the individual conducting the investigation have the ability to recommend sanctions; (iv) are the recommended sanctions binding; (v) what is the policy regarding whether or not the reports and findings are released to the public; (vi) what mechanism, if any, exists for the temporary suspension of certain duties of the Prime Minister pending the outcome of an investigation; and (b) does the procedure...apply to incidents which occurred prior to the individual becoming Prime Minister?
Those are valid questions. Canadians deserve to know, this Parliament deserves to know, how the Prime Minister will be held accountable if there are past allegations of sexual misconduct. I have not had an answer back yet.
I would have thought that for something so near and dear to the Prime Minister's heart, the government would actually have had this already prepared and would have given me an answer immediately. Again, that was wishful thinking.
However, there is a deadline for a response to my question, so we should know, come mid-November, just what procedures are in place for Canada's Prime Minister. Maybe the government will even comply with what it expects of other Canadians in Bill C-65. This assumes, naturally, that the government actually answers the question, assuming that there is actually a policy, and assuming, of course, that Bill C-65 is not simply another case of Liberal's saying "do as I say and not as I do."
In closing, Canada's Conservatives support this legislation, as combatting harassment is a pressing need in all sectors of society, including in the Parliament of Canada. We believe that all forms of harassment, sexual violence and discrimination are unacceptable. That is why at committee, among other things, we, as Conservatives, successfully introduced an amendment to prevent political interference in political offices during harassment investigations.
We also successfully introduced amendments to ensure strict timelines for investigations into incidents of harassment to ensure that investigations are carried out in a timely manner.
I think we can all agree in this place that government policy needs to focus on supporting victims of harassment. This legislation is a positive step in that direction. We look forward to answers from the Prime Minister's Office in regard to the policies that are in place should there be allegations against the Prime Minister himself.
We support Bill C-65. We do want more answers. We expect more answers.
View Angelo Iacono Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Angelo Iacono Profile
2018-10-17 15:51 [p.22505]
Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Cambridge for sharing his time with me so I could speak on this important subject.
I am pleased to be speaking on the Senate's proposed amendments to Bill C-65, 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 start by thanking the members of the Senate for the effort they put into their study of Bill C-65. I especially want to thank them for the amendments they proposed, which we are debating today in the House. The government appreciates the work they did to strengthen this bill.
Getting back to the amendments to Bill C-65 proposed by the other place, one of them is intended to guarantee that the person designated by the employer to receive complaints regarding harassment and violence has the necessary knowledge, training and experience to deal with such situations. The amendment in question also highlights the need for the designated person to know the legislation applicable to each case. Our government recognizes the importance of ensuring that everyone in a workplace receives sufficient training. The bill enhances that aspect because it requires employers to ensure that all of their employees receive and undergo training in the prevention of harassment and violence.
Training for everyone is absolutely fundamental, not just to provide the necessary tools to respond effectively to a situation of harassment or violence, but also to bring about the cultural change needed to eliminate and eradicate this kind of behaviour. For these reasons, we support the proposed amendment, which explicitly requires the designated person to be qualified to receive complaints.
There are, however, other amendments that our government does not support. For example, the proposed amendment to clause 3 of Bill C-65 specifies that employers must ensure that the workplace is free from harassment and violence. While this is certainly in line with the intent of Bill C-65, it would, in practice, undermine the process at the heart of the code: the internal resolution system that gives those in the workplace the opportunity to quickly resolve the issue before escalating it to outside parties.
Workplace parties, including the employer, the employee or employees, must try to resolve the situation internally first, including undertaking an investigation if unable to resolve it to everyone's satisfaction. It is only in instances where the process has not been followed that a complaint would be made to the labour program, which would then trigger an investigation. This process recognizes that the workplace parties are the ones best positioned to identify, address, mitigate and prevent occupational health and safety hazards in their own workplace.
However, with this proposed amendment, the labour program could be required to investigate every incident relating to harassment and violence, regardless of the outcomes of internal workplace resolution processes. This would not only undermine the objective of the provisions, it would significantly increase costs for everyone involved. Furthermore, requiring the labour program to investigate every incident of workplace harassment and violence would divert resources from other health and safety investigations, ultimately delaying the resolution of all incidents. Resolving these incidents in a timely manner is paramount.
During our consultations prior to tabling Bill C-65 and in previous debates and committee meetings in the chamber, we heard time and time again that a lengthy resolution process is a major deterrent to those who might otherwise come forward. Individuals who experience workplace harassment or violence need effective and timely resolution. The last thing we want to do is deter individuals from coming forward when they experience an incident of harassment or violence in the workplace.
It takes an enormous amount of courage to do so and those individuals need to feel confident that their complaints will be dealt with as efficiently as possible. Members of the other chamber also proposed the addition of a line to specify that a copy of the investigation report must be provided to the employee and the employer. Let me assure everyone that this would be the case. It would be abundantly clear through the regulations that all parties involved would be informed of the status of the investigation. Unfortunately, where this was inserted in the bill as per the proposed amendment, it would not apply to complaints of harassment and violence. It would apply to all investigations undertaken by workplace committees of occupational health and safety violations except harassment and violence.
The line directly preceding the line that would be inserted states, “The employee or the supervisor may refer an unresolved complaint, other than a complaint relating to an occurrence of harassment and violence, to a chairperson of the work place committee or to the health and safety representative to be investigated jointly.” Complaints related to an occurrence of harassment and violence are specifically excluded here because if unresolved, they would be referred to a competent person. However, let me reiterate that this is a valid concern and it would be fully addressed in the regulations associated with Bill C-65. It would clearly stipulate that all reports from investigations would be shared with both the employee and the employer.
There is no doubt that this bill deals with some sensitive issues. Victims of harassment and violence deserve justice, they deserve a timely resolution, and they deserve to know that a good system is in place if needed. All of this is the basis for Bill C-65.
I assure the House that our government has carefully studied this legislative framework to ensure that the provisions are reasonably clear and effective. All Canadians deserve a workplace free from harassment and violence and in which inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour is not tolerated. Employees who have been victims of harassment and violence have suffered for too long and have had to deal with a limited system that did not work.
We listened to what Canadians had to say, and our action will bring about a change in culture that will have a positive effect on all workplaces and also on our society. We are keeping the promise we made to always stand with those who have been affected by these life-changing experiences.
I urge the House to support Bill C-65 so that we can set the standard and create a model of which we can all be proud.
View Karine Trudel Profile
View Karine Trudel Profile
2018-10-17 16:13 [p.22508]
Madam Speaker, we have talked a lot about Bill C-65 in the House over the past two days. This bill amends the Canada Labour Code in order to reduce violence, intimidation and sexual harassment.
We have talked a lot about this, but I would like to hear what my colleague thinks. What does he think about the fact that, despite the many amendments I proposed, the government did not want to keep the joint health and safety committees? The government did not want to give those who file a complaint the option of submitting it to a joint workplace health and safety committee. We heard the argument that it would undermine the confidentiality of the person filing the complaint, but actually the opposite is true. The members of these committees have a certain expertise in the organization and they know how to work with people.
I would like to know why the government rejected the amendments and why it took away the right of joint workplace health and safety committees to receive and investigate complaints.
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
2018-10-17 16:15 [p.22508]
Madam Speaker, I admit that there is a vast array of subjects that we get to be part of and contribute to in the House. This is one of those ones that I do not have the level of detail that the member is referring to when she talks about the various different components. What I can say is that I have a great degree of faith in the legislative process, the committee process we have, where the bill has come from and where it has gone through the process in order to determine the best safeguards to be put in place for victims. I have faith in the work that our committees do. What they recommend back to Parliament through that deliberative process is something that I am extremely willing to accept and I am willing to move forward with.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
View Alupa Clarke Profile
2018-10-17 16:15 [p.22508]
Madam Speaker, this a very important debate today, as we are speaking about increasing safeguards at the workplace for males and females, concerning discrimination, harassment, be it sexual or other types of harassment.
It struck me today that, on an ongoing basis, my colleagues have been asking members on the other side of this House about the actions that were alleged this summer, through the media, that the Prime Minister inappropriately touched a journalist 20 years ago. The PM has not addressed this situation in an appropriate way.
What does the member have to say about this?
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
2018-10-17 16:16 [p.22508]
Madam Speaker, I have already answered this question. I could be brief and just say that.
Again, it comes back to the leadership that is displayed on this side of the House. It is about identifying the problems, creating the policies and processes to put them in place, to make sure that all victims are protected through the process they will have to go through, should they have complaints to bring forward.
View Hedy Fry Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Hedy Fry Profile
2018-10-17 16:17 [p.22508]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to stand and speak to this particular bill because I think it has been a long time coming in this House.
We know that staff on the Hill have had no recourse and we know also that parliamentarians have no protocols, recourse or processes with which to address sexual harassment, physical violence, intimidation of any kind and/or just basic workplace safety in the sense of fair play and justice in the workplace.
Why is that so? Mainly because most employees were afraid to speak up as they were afraid that they would lose their jobs and afraid of further intimidation. We know that these are the real reasons to deal with these issues.
We also know that there had been nothing in place for parliamentarians to discuss any sexual harassment, physical violence, intimidation or inappropriate behaviour from other parliamentarians.
Therefore, this is something that this government is trying to set right. We are trying to do this to address the problem not only in the federal public service and in the federal workplace but for parliamentarians, their staff, ministerial exempt staff and the Prime Minister's exempt staff. We will have the whole group covered then, who have never been covered before.
I guess most Canadians would find this extraordinary that this was not in existence before. However, we know that the reality is that where there is power there is also an abuse of power. That is what we see happening here, whether the power is based on gender, i.e., men in positions of power who tend to intimidate women who are under their jurisdiction or who work for them.
We must also address that while we have talked a lot about women and girls and gender in this particular bill, we need to recognize that this does not only apply to women and girls. We do know that young women, however, are about three times as likely to have these issues of sexual harassment and violence, etc. addressed to them.
We also know that systemic racism has really been a problem here within this House, within most institutions, and within most places that are federally legislated with people in positions of power.
We know that disabled persons also face this kind of intimidation, harassment and bullying, to use the appropriate term.
We know that people of different sexual orientations, the LGBTQ, have often been afraid to come out or to let people know of their sexual orientation because they fear bullying and harassment.
This is an issue that is becoming more and more complex as we look at the problems of the workplace with issues such as the use of social media. Especially as parliamentarians, we know that the use of social media can be very damning to parliamentarians. One can be found guilty even before one has been shown any due process.
This bill will take aspects of two separate bills and the labour code to have a comprehensive way to address this particular problem in its entirety so that we are not looking at sexual harassment only. We would be looking at violence. We would be looking at bullying and we would be looking at intimidation. Under that there are three specific things we are hoping to address. One of them in the labour code is that employers will now be bound to protect their employees from harassment and bullying and from the kind of intimidation and fear of reprisal that we know that employees now feel.
That is an important part of it that there can be no reprisals, rather that people can come out and speak freely. At the same time, this must be balanced to show that there is a fair and objective way of dealing with complaints when they come through. Of course, I think we have all found in this House that complaints against parliamentarians need to be very careful. When results of investigations occur and we find out that people are not guilty, we are going to be able to say so.
Having the ability to sully a name, especially a parliamentarian, is really important when we look at how we balance the objectivity of any kind of legislation.
Although parliamentarians are not necessarily employees, per se, they are part of this institution and this institution needs to look at how we deal with parliamentarians as well.
When we look at preventing this, which is what we are looking at as part of the bill, we are looking at things like how we prevent it, how we make the workplace a safe place and how we make it a place for people to feel free to speak out without fear of retaliation and reprisals. Making it easy for people speak out is one element. The second is to prevent it, which means the creation of a safe workplace and letting everyone know very clearly there are processes in place in which they can feel safe in coming forward.
However, the idea is to also have an objective way to look at it. I know people have been concerned that existing tribunals, etc. may be replaced. I do not think the bill says that. It does not say that they will be replaced. If they exist and are able to do the work and get the full amount of that work done, it would be fine. However, if there was none in existence, they may need to be replaced by one which would be able to deal with the whole issue. This is what we are trying to talk about here. There is no point in having people doing the same thing, as we now see, because the whole issue has been dealt with in two separate regiments. We would then need to bring them together, which may mean rejigging how we do this and who the people are who will look at this.
We need to ensure that at the end of the day there is a clear process, everyone knows what the process is, the process is objective and is carried out by people who have expertise and understanding of some of these issues. As I said before, a lot of people who have different sexual orientations are very afraid of social media outing them or of being moved from their place. Even though the Prime Minister stood in the House and apologized for all the damage done to people in the LGBTQ community who had worked in the armed forces and other areas of government, we still need to guard against it. Everyone in the House knows that it is not just legislation that makes a difference. Legislation has to be backed up by policies and by clear, fair, open and transparent programs.
The bill also talks about that openness and transparency. It is very important that there is annual reporting on how the bill is going through, how it is being implemented and what the outcomes are. However, it is also important to do this five-year review. At the end of five years, we will have to do exactly what is done in medicine. We need to look back to see if it has worked, if it has achieved its results, if the objectives have been met, or if there are problems, glitches or areas we can tighten or have things fell between the cracks.
As any legislation, it is also very important to have a look back and see if it worked and if it was effective and transparent.
I have been in the House now for 25 years, which is been a long time. I have seen so many people who have fallen by the wayside because they were afraid and did not want to come out. For me, it is why the issue of LGBTQ was really important. I knew many people who worked in the public service who were very afraid to come out and say what their sexual orientation was because they feared reprisals. Reprisals do not have to be in the form of firing, but can include shunning, how one treats someone, perhaps with a certain amount of psychological manipulation, disdain, making them feel lesser or making them feel they do not belong. We know about that with people with mental disabilities and physical abilities. It could also be that the workplace is not ready, or making room for them or not showing them they are welcome to be part of that workplace. There is a sense that one does not belong and is really out of place. These are some the most important things.
It is important that we will look at policies and programs, which will make it effective, that we will report on it every year and that in five years we would go back and look at if we achieved the results we said we would. That is a simple way of dealing with a long-standing problem.
View Kelly Block Profile
View Kelly Block Profile
2018-10-17 17:02 [p.22514]
Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to rise today to speak to the motion by the government in response to the Senate's amendments to Bill C-65.
I am pleased to see that the government took a judicious view of the amendments, accepting those that strengthened the bill in combatting harassment and violence in federally regulated workplaces, while respectfully declining those that would have caused the bill to be imbalanced or that could be better dealt with through regulations. The government's thoughtful review of the amendments proposed by the other place have ensured that I will be supporting its response.
Recently, I spoke out here in the chamber against violence in our political discourse, stating that it had no place in Canadian society. I feel just as strongly about violence and harassment in our workplaces. They have no place in Canadian society or within Parliament. We have been working in recent years to move toward addressing these issues with the gravity they deserve.
The Conservative Party has a long and proud tradition of standing up for the rights of victims of crime. Our previous Conservative government passed the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, ensuring that the most vulnerable Canadians could still receive justice. I am happy to see that Bill C-65 follows along that same path set by the previous government, proposing legislation that seeks to prevent incidents of harassment and violence and ensure additional protections for parliamentary staff.
In some ways, this proposed act would continue the work that I and other members of Parliament undertook in the previous parliament through the all-party subcommittee on a code of conduct for members. In that subcommittee, we struggled with the balance between parliamentary privilege and responsibility, between holding to account and respecting privacy, and between the rights of the accuser and the rights of the accused. Due to my time on that subcommittee, I understand the complexity of these questions.
For most workplaces, these issues are difficult enough. Clearly, Parliament is far from a typical workplace. Our workplace is unique. As such, it can be ripe for abuse, and for far too long, victims of harassment and violence have felt that they had no recourse. The bill before us seeks to rectify this problem and would provide legal recourse and protection to MPs' staff as well as to other victims.
Recent events have made it clear that a rigorous process needs to be in place to ensure that all are treated equally. Our democratic system of laws demands that justice be blindly executed and that all face consequences for their actions, whether that person be the pauper or the prince. Is this currently the case? If I may make an observation about the party across the floor, it does not appear to be.
I fear that the Liberal Party has become the party of virtue signalling. The Liberals will readily say the right words, or more often, the words that sound nice in theory but fail in reality. Their actions do not match their platitudes. They are willing to create a rule and to then apply it unequally, as the need may be. At times, they have gone so far as to ignore their own rules, as was a recent case with the Prime Minister. In that case, there was one set of rules for the members of his caucus when it came to accusations of harassment and another for him. That is far from fair, far from feminist and far from just.
I know that I am not alone in wanting better from those in power. It is for this reason that I welcome the clarity Bill C-65 would bring to this process. No one, no matter who they are, should ever escape the consequences of their actions because of the title they bear.
Bill C-65 would ensure that every victim would be given due process and that the rights of the accused would be protected. Canadians want a fair process free from interference, free of innuendo and blind to power. I am happy to see that all parties worked together to ensure that this would be the case by amending the bill in committee.
Prior to the amendments, as my colleague, the member for Lethbridge, pointed out in her remarks at second reading, the bill granted a great deal of power to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour. Those powers included the ability to choose when and if to begin an investigation.
We could see that this was an issue. Not only must investigations be free from political interference, they must be free from the appearance of political interference. Canadians must be completely confident that justice is served to all, or our justice system, as a whole, loses legitimacy.
Other powers originally granted to the minister included the power to subpoena personal and professional material in the offices of any member of Parliament under investigation. This could have included confidential political documents regarding internal party policy discussions. It is not hard to see how these powers could be misused.
We can all agree that allegations of harassment are sensitive and require the confidence of all participants in the process. Both accuser and accused must believe that the highest priority of the investigation is to find the truth.
The placement of so much power over an investigation in the hands of a political operative weakened the bill greatly. The victim's voice would be drowned out in political debates. I am pleased to see that the committee worked together to address this very serious concern. The power would no longer be in the hands of the minister but would be in the hands of the deputy minister, a non-partisan civil servant. I believe that this change would ensure the integrity of not only the investigation process but of our political process as well.
The bill would apply not only to Parliament Hill but to all federally regulated workplaces. I am pleased to see that the government accepted an amendment from the other place that would ensure that the person to whom complaints would be made would be required to have proper training, knowledge and experience in dealing with harassment. The amendment would give additional strength to the enforcement of the bill, as every federal employee would have an expert to turn to when faced with violence or harassment.
Much of the conversation around this act has focused on the after-effects of harassment and violence, or the allegations thereof. However, I am also pleased to see that an amendment was accepted during the committee stage to add mandatory sexual harassment training. The enactment of this training moves beyond reactive responses to harassment and instead seeks to prevent harassment from taking place in the first place.
I would once again like to congratulate my colleagues in this place and the other place for all the work they have done to ensure that Bill C-65 would be able to combat workplace violence and harassment effectively. I will be supporting the government's response to the amendments, and I look forward to seeing this bill become law.
View Patty Hajdu Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Patty Hajdu Profile
2018-10-16 10:13 [p.22415]
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 C-65 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 C-65 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 C-65: 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 C-65 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 C-65 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 C-65 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 C-65, 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 C-65 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.
View Steven Blaney Profile
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour for bringing forward a legislative measure of such importance to this country.
We worked together as members of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. The Conservative Party of Canada will support this bill. We played an active role in the committee's work.
This is a step in the right direction, but it does not go far enough. It does not give employees the option of turning to the labour minister for support. The act merely requires businesses to follow procedures.
Does the minister plan to take things further by enabling employees to file complaints with Employment and Social Development Canada, as Quebec and other legislative bodies have done, making support available to them, and having an independent individual, a departmental official, conduct investigations?
View Patty Hajdu Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Patty Hajdu Profile
2018-10-16 10:23 [p.22416]
Mr. Speaker, this proposed legislation is so comprehensive that at any time should someone feel that the process has not been followed, they would have the ability to come forward to the labour department.
View Lisa Raitt Profile
View Lisa Raitt Profile
2018-10-16 10:32 [p.22418]
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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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 Minister of Finance, 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 Prime Minister.
It was, again, on very difficult questioning, which was on the question of whether or not the Prime Minister had the power to move or cause to be moved a prisoner, Terri-Lynne McClintic, from one institution to another. The Prime Minister was asked many questions, first by my hon. colleague for Parry Sound—Muskoka and then by me. Instead of answering the issue, the Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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.
View Karine Trudel Profile
View Karine Trudel Profile
2018-10-16 11:15 [p.22424]
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 C-65, 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 C-65. However, in its current form, the bill is not perfect. Sadly, I think Bill C-65 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 C-65 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 C-65 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 C-65, 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 C-65, 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 C-65 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 C-65.
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 C-65 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 C-65.
I will stop here, but I have a lot more to say about Bill C-65. 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 C-65 but still finds the legislation lacking. We will therefore support the bill on division.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2018-10-16 11:38 [p.22426]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Jonquière for her fine speech. I want her to know that I was part of the group of people who were listening.
I just want to reiterate that we are in favour of the principle of the bill, and that this is progress and a step in the right direction.
In answering my colleague's question, the hon. member pointed out that the Canada Labour Code should have been more specific so as to provide guidelines and standards for improving the situation at workplaces in every business governed by the federal Labour Code. As the hon. member mentioned earlier, there are certain conditions unique to Quebec.
I have a question for my colleague. We all agree that guidelines would be a good thing. I know that she will speak from her experience as a leader at the company where she worked, specifically Canada Post. Does she not agree that every case is unique, that every workplace has its own set of specifics in terms of gender balance, the male-female dynamic, the authority relationships?
It seems to me that setting guidelines is kind of the same as establishing basic principles, but the fact is that it is up to each individual employer and each individual employee to work together to improve things, right?
Does my colleague agree that, regardless of whether the law says so, the most important factor is the good intentions of the people who work in those workplaces every day?
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