Category:Legislation

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.

Federal ministers get new mandates

November 18, 2015 – The Prime Minister of Canada has sent a mandate letter to each of his new Ministers. He expects them to deliver on the government’s top priorities. As Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould will be tasked with ensuring legislation meets the highest standards of equity, fairness and respect for the rule of law. She is expected to:

  • Lead a process, supported by the Minister of Health, to work with provinces and territories to respond to the Supreme Court of Canada decision regarding physician-assisted death.
  • Develop, in collaboration with the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, and supported by the Minister of Status of Women, an approach to, and a mandate for, an inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls in Canada, including the identification of a lead Minister.
  • Review our litigation strategy. This should include early decisions to end appeals or positions that are not consistent with our commitments, the Charter or our values.
  • Conduct a review of the changes in our criminal justice system and sentencing reforms over the past decade with a mandate to assess the changes, ensure that we are increasing the safety of our communities, getting value for money, addressing gaps and ensuring that current provisions are aligned with the objectives of the criminal justice system. Outcomes of this process should include increased use of restorative justice processes and other initiatives to reduce the rate of incarceration amongst Indigenous Canadians, and implementation of recommendations from the inquest into the death of Ashley Smith regarding the restriction of the use of solitary confinement and the treatment of those with mental illness.
  • Work with the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to address gaps in services to Aboriginal people and those with mental illness throughout the criminal justice system.
  • Working with the Ministers of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and Health, create a federal-provincial-territorial process that will lead to the legalization and regulation of marijuana.
  • Undertake modernization efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system, in cooperation with provinces and territories. This should include improved use of information technology to make the system more efficient and timely, exploration of sentencing alternatives and bail reform, and the creation of a unified family court.
  • Support the Minister of Canadian Heritage to restore a modern Court Challenges Program.
  • Work with the Ministers of Finance and National Revenue to develop a modernized regulatory and legal framework governing the Charitable and Not-for-Profit sectors.
  • Engage all parties in the House of Commons to ensure that the process of appointing Supreme Court Justices is transparent, inclusive and accountable to Canadians. Consultations should be undertaken with all relevant stakeholders and those appointed to the Supreme Court should be functionally bilingual.
  • Support the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in his efforts to repeal key elements of Bill C-51, and introduce new legislation that strengthens accountability with respect to national security and better balances collective security with rights and freedoms.
  • Support the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in his efforts to repeal key elements of Bill C-42 and implement our commitment to reduce the number of handguns and assault weapons on our streets.
  • Implement our platform commitments to toughen criminal laws and bail conditions in cases of domestic assault, in consultation with stakeholders and with the goal of keeping survivors and children safe. You should undertake this work in consultation with the Minister of Status of Women and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
  • Work with the President of the Treasury Board to enhance the openness of government, including supporting his review of the Access to Information Act to ensure that Canadians have easier access to their own personal information, that the Information Commissioner is empowered to order government information to be released and that the Act applies appropriately to the Prime Minister’s and Ministers’ Offices, as well as administrative institutions that support Parliament and the courts.
  • Introduce government legislation to add gender identity as a prohibited ground for discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act, and to the list of distinguishing characteristics of “identifiable group” protected by the hate speech provisions of the Criminal Code.

The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the Honourable Ralph Goodale, also has a long mandate to fulfill based on election promises:

  • Assist the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons in the creation of a statutory committee of Parliamentarians with special access to classified information to review government departments and agencies with national security responsibilities.
  • Work to repeal, in collaboration with the Minister of Justice, the problematic elements of Bill C-51 and introduce new legislation that strengthens accountability with respect to national security and better balances collective security with rights and freedoms.
  • Create an Office of the Community Outreach and Counter-radicalization Coordinator.
  • Lead a review of existing measures to protect Canadians and our critical infrastructure from cyber-threats, in collaboration with the Minister of National Defence, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, and the President of the Treasury Board.
  • Take action to get handguns and assault weapons off our streets by working with the Minister of Justice to strengthen controls on hand-guns and assault weapons, including by repealing some elements of Bill C-42.
  • Enhance compensation benefits for public safety officers who are permanently disabled or killed in the line of duty, including the creation of a compensation benefit for firefighters, police officers, and paramedics.
  • Work with provinces and territories and the Minister of Health to develop a coordinated national action plan on post-traumatic stress disorder, which disproportionately affects public safety officers.
  • Restore funding to provinces and territories to support Heavy Urban Search and Rescue teams.
  • Work with provinces and territories, Indigenous Peoples, and municipalities to develop a comprehensive action plan that allows Canada to better predict, prepare for, and respond to weather-related emergencies and natural disasters.
  • Support the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health on efforts that will lead to the legalization and regulation of marijuana.
  • Work with the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to address gaps in services to Indigenous Peoples and those with mental illness throughout the criminal justice system.
  • Take action to ensure that the RCMP and all other parts of your portfolio are workplaces free from harassment and sexual violence.

The CRCVC looks forward to the upcoming work of Parliament to address all of these important issues. We will pay close attention to: the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls; the toughening of criminal laws and bail conditions in cases of domestic assault; sentencing reforms and increased use of restorative justice processes; the use of information technology to improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system; the creation of a counter-radicalization office and the work done to ensure the RCMP and all other Public Safety portfolio workplaces are free from harassment and sexual violence.

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

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