Category:government of Canada

Harassment and violence in the Canadian workplace; an issue on the rise

More and more, the media is reporting about serious situations of harassment and violence in the workplace. A toxic culture is often deeply entrenched in large institutions, as we have seen with the RCMP, the Canadian military, and most recently at Corrections Canada. There needs to be fundamental change. Women are particularly affected, and harassment prevents equality in the workplace. Often the response is to silence the person who complains, rather than to tackle the underlying structural violence that is occurring in these workplaces.

This week, the federal government released a report about a year-long public consultation stating women in workplace under-report harassment for fear of retaliation. The findings also showed that when harassment is reported, it is not dealt with effectively.

In response, the federal government today introduced legislation that gives labour laws more teeth when it comes to preventing and handling sexual violence and harassment in federally regulated workplaces. This new law will affect employees ranging from staffers on Parliament Hill to RCMP officers to bank tellers.

Bill C-65 is aimed at giving federally regulated workers and their employers a clear map to follow in handling allegations of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment. Under the new legislation employers would be required to:

1. Prevent incidents of harassment and violence from occurring.

2. Respond effectively to these incidents when they do occur.

3. Support victims, survivors and employers in the process.

The Canada Labour Code covers 900,000 workers in industries that are federally regulated, including banks, telecommunications and airports along with the RCMP and civilian members of the Department of National Defence. The legislation would also bring parliamentary workplaces under the new guidelines, including the Senate, House of Commons and the Library of Parliament.

The changes would merge separate labour standards for sexual harassment and violence and subject them to the same scrutiny and dispute resolution process. Once the legislation is adopted, anyone who is unhappy with how their dispute is being handled could complain to the federal labour minister, who could step in to investigate.

In the wake of Harvey Weinstein and several Canadian celebrities being called out for sexual harassment and assault, there is a sliver lining. The problem is less hidden. The more people who come forward to say ‘I, too, was sexually harassed or assaulted,’ – the shame associated with this form of violence goes away. Men are also coming forward about workplace harassment, including actors Terry Crews and James Van Der Beek.

Should we be shocked by the prevalence of harassing behaviour in Canadian workplaces? Not if we acknowledge how sexism, gender inequality, a lack of diversity, patriarchy and power imbalances all lead to an environment where harassment can thrive. Addressing these systemic issues is long overdue in many industries if we truly value safe and healthy workplaces for all.

National Victims and Survivors of Crime Week, May 28-June 3, 2017

Each year, we celebrate National Victims and Survivors of Crime Week in Canada to raise awareness of services and supports for persons harmed by crime and violence and to recognize the tireless efforts of front-line victim services staff, volunteers and advocates who offer support, information and practical assistance to survivors. In 2017, the theme for Victims Week is “Empowering Resilience”, which provides us with the opportunity to reflect on how we can better help victims discover and utilize their strengths and capacities in their healing journey.

Research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary. It is the ability to overcome challenges or to bounce back from adversity. They way people perceive and interpret adversity affects the way they feel and how they relate to the world around them. Resilient people have a positive view of themselves, their world. The good news is resilience can be learned through behaviours, thoughts and actions, it is not a trait. Resilience can be built in a number of ways by: 1) making social connections for support; 2) avoiding seeing crises as insurmountable problems; 3) accepting that change is a part of life; 4) moving towards goals; 5) taking decisive action; 6) looking for opportunities for self-discovery; 7) nurturing a positive view of oneself; 8) keeping things in perspective; 9) maintaining a hopeful outlook; 10) taking care of oneself.

But sometimes it can be challenging for victims and survivors to feel resilient given the traumatic experience they’ve had. Some may feel that they are being rushed to move forward with their lives or “get over it”. Others may feel they are being judged for not being resilient enough or for being too angry. We must recognize that each individual is on a unique healing path with very different timelines. We cannot rush anyone to recovery, healing or wellness, but we can be present to assist survivors to use their strengths to overcome the challenges presented by victimization. There are also great resources available that may be helpful.  For example, the Victim Coordinating Committee (VICC) for Leeds and Grenville Counties just developed and released an empowerment toolkit, which provides helpful tips on how to maintain, improve, or encourage healthy well-being after experiencing trauma.

We must also be mindful of the diversity that exists within communities and across Indigenous cultures and nations. Decolonizing our practice is important to ensure that we have the skills to help survivors with wholistic wellness and connection to self, family, community, culture and nature/spiritual.

 

The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime offers support, research and education to survivors and stakeholders.

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