Federal government introduces plan to stop harassment

Minister says harassment, violence in workplaces 'persistent and pervasive'

The federal government has introduced a framework that aims to make federally regulated workplaces and Parliament Hill free from harassment and sexual violence.


“Not only have I been mandated by Prime Minister Trudeau to ensure that federally regulated workplaces are free from harassment and sexual violence, but this is also important to me, personally,” said Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour Patty Hajdu. ”Over the course of my career, I have worked with many people who have survived the physical, psychological and practical consequences stemming from harassment and sexual violence. I have seen the effects it has on their lives and on communities.”


Bill C-65 has three pillars: prevent incidents of harassment and violence from occurring; respond effectively to these incidents when they do occur; and support victims, survivors and employers in the process.


“Power imbalances and gender norms underpin our culture, which has led to tolerance of these behaviours for far too long. Research shows that harassment and violence in Canadian workplaces are persistent and pervasive, and that incidents often go unreported because people fear retaliation,” the Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) said in a news release.


According to results from the most recent Federal Jurisdiction Workplace Survey, which were released in November 2016, there were 295 formal complaints of sexual harassment brought to the attention of the federally regulated employers in 2015. About 80 per cent of the complaints were from women. There were 1,601 reported incidents of violence in 2015 and 60 per cent of the injured or targeted employees were men.


The survey provides information on employees and employers governed by federal labour standards legislation and includes  the banking, communications and transportation sectors (including air, maritime, rail and road), among others. There were almost 900,000 employees in Canada in 2015 in the federal labour jurisdiction.

Harassment and violence have long-term negative effects not just for people who have experienced them, but for employers as well, through lost productivity, absenteeism and turnover, ESDC said.


Bill C-65 would amend existing provisions in the Canada Labour Code, replacing the patchwork of laws and policies that address these issues within the federal jurisdiction, putting into place one comprehensive approach that takes the full spectrum of harassment and violence into consideration. Federally regulated workplaces, the federal public service, parliamentary workplaces (such as the Senate and the House of Commons) and political staff on Parliament Hill would be protected by this legislation.


The proposed changes to the code will repeal weak provisions and ensure employers are required to take steps to prevent and protect employees against these behaviours, to respond to them when they do occur and to offer support to employees affected by them.


The government will also launch an awareness campaign to challenge misconceptions and stereotypes and develop sample policies for employers. To support people who do experience harassment or violence at work, the government will provide outreach to employees and employers to help them navigate the workplace prevention and resolution process and to help direct victims to support services.


This article originally appeared in the February/March 2018 issue of COS.