What is Bill C-65 and what are the new regulations announced this week?
Bill C-65 came into effect in 2018 following the #MeToo movement and a series of sexual misconduct allegations brought to light, which lead to the resignation of various political figures in Canada.
At the time, one major criticism was that rules and policies around sexual harassment and violence in federally regulated workplaces were patchy and not entirely clear or accessible. One of the aims of the bill was to bring all these bits and pieces together to create a streamlined approach.
Furthermore, political staff are not covered by the Canada Labour Code and are considered to be “exempt staff” making them more vulnerable and less likely to report on harassment.
The bill only covers those employed in federally regulated sectors, though those in the private sector are encouraged to follow the lead.
What does the bill consist of?
Bill C-65, assented to on October 25, 2018, was brought in to strengthen pre-existing framework surrounding the prevention of violence and harassment – including sexual harassment and sexual violence – in the workplace.
The bill was referred to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA).
The Bill amends the Canada Labour Code, Part III of the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act (with respect to Part II of the Canada Labour Code) as well as amending a transitional provision in the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No.1.
So, what were the new amendments?
Broadly, Bill C-65 includes a definition for the term “harassment and violence” in the legislation as well as expanding protections to former employees and allow employees to bring their complaints to someone other than their supervisor. Furthermore, it instituted mandatory training in the prevention of workplace harassment and violence. These amendments to the bill were brought by HUMA.
The protections brought by the bill cover employees in federal workplaces, including the federally regulated private sector, the federal public service and parliamentary workplaces.
The aim of Bill C-65 was to put into place a more comprehensive approach of workplace harassment and violence in three key areas: prevention of incidents of harassment and violence, a more effective response if these incidents occur and better support for affected employees.
For example, one aim of the bill was to better empower employees to come forward with harassment and violence claims. The bill requires employers in federally regulated workplaces to offer the employee alleging harassment and/or violence a third-party investigation, with the obligation for the employer to implement recommendations brought by the investigator – who may face sanctions if they refuse to comply. The employee may also choose to resolve the claim through a more informal resolution process.
Patty Hajdu, formerly minister of employment, workforce development and labour (now minister of health) said when the bill was passed: “We know that legislation alone can’t fix this problem. We need a culture shift to put an end to workplace harassment and violence. The fact that Bill C-65 received support from all parties and moved so quickly demonstrates just how far we’ve come and how serious we are about taking action against these unacceptable behaviours. Today, we’re sending a strong message to Canadians: we hear you, we support you, and we will not allow workplace harassment or violence of any kind to be tolerated in our federally regulated workplaces.”
What are the new regulations?
This week, Filomena Tassi, minister of labour, announced that new regulations surrounded workplace violence and harassment, Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations, have been published in Part II of the Canada Gazette and will come into effect on January 1, 2021. These new regulations aim to strengthen Bill C-65 and make even clearer to employees and employers what their rights and obligations are.
Tassi said: “Today, we're taking an important step forward to ensure that federally regulated workplaces – including the federally regulated private sector, the federal public service and parliamentary workplaces – are free from harassment and violence, including sexual harassment and sexual violence. Every worker deserves a safe workplace, and by working together, we can make that a reality.”
The new regulations outline procedures to put in place should an incident occur, including: timeframes for resolution which better support the alleged victim; confidentiality of all parties involved throughout the investigation; employer obligations to implement corrective measures in response to an investigation should there be one; better support for employees who have experienced workplace harassment and violence, etc.
Outside of Bill C-65 and its new regulations, the Canadian government announced in 2018 that it would be committing $7.4 million over five years to support the bill. $3.5 million of this sum will be dedicated to grants and contributions through the Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Fund.
In 2019, Part III of the Canada Labour Code was amended to provide new leaves for victims of family violence of up to 10 days.
-Parliament of Canada, Bill C-65: https://www.parl.ca/DocumentViewer/en/42-1/bill/C-65/royal-assent
-Library of Parliament, Legislative Summary of Bill C-65: https://lop.parl.ca/sites/PublicWebsite/default/en_CA/ResearchPublications/LegislativeSummaries/421C65E
-Government of Canada, Canada Gazette: http://gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p2/2020/2020-06-24/html/sor-dors130-eng.html
-Government of Canada, list of federally regulated industries and workplaces: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/jobs/workplace/federally-regulated-industries.html