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Liberals introduce bill to address harassment of federal Workers

08 Nov 17
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The Liberal government has introduced a new bill to prevent and better respond to sexual violence and harassment against federal employees, such as those on Parliament Hill.

The legislation, Bill C-65, would replace the “patchwork” of laws and policies to make a clear process for handling complaints from the public service and federally regulated industries. It places the onus on companies to respond to allegations and protect their workers. If the complaint is against one’s boss, the worker would have the ability to visit a third party, according to officials.

For the first time, complaints made by employees on Parliament Hill will be treated in precisely the exact same manner as other federal-sector employees.

“The time is now to act,” Employment Minister Patty Hajdu told reporters on Tuesday.

It takes about a year to come up with regulations, government officials said, but Ms. Hajdu said offices can quickly work on prevention, such as training tools.

The move comes as women across North America have opened up about their own experiences using the #MeToo hashtag, following a variety of harassment and assault allegations were levied against Hollywood film mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Parliament Hill has never been immune. Most recently, Edmonton MP Darshan Kang quit the Liberal caucus in August amid allegations of sexual harassing a young female staffer. He’s denied the allegations, and an investigation is ongoing.

The House of Commons, however, has its own procedure for MPs who establish complaints about fellow MPs, which isn’t covered by current legislation or the projected bill.

Ms. Hajdu said Bill C-65 crosses the “complete assortment of improper behaviors,” from teasing and bullying, to sexual harassment, to sexual and physical violence.

She said it was important to include Parliament Hill staff from the law, calling it “an environment ripe for harassment and sexual violenc”

“When we have offices where there’s a different power imbalance … it produces a propensity for sexual violence and harassment,” she said.

The new bill would affect about 8 percent of the nation’s workers, government officials said. Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef said she hoped it would serve as an example to the private sector.

Both parties said they would be reviewing the laws, but seemed positive.

“All workers deserve to be respected and to feel secure in their office,” Rachael Harder, Conservative critic for the status of women, said in a statement.

NDP labour critic Sheri Benson said she welcomed the government’s leadership on the issue, but expected the Liberals will be open to changes once stakeholders such as unions are consulted. Canadian Labour Congress president Hassan Yussuff, for example, said he’s concerned the legislation doesn’t have a clear definition of violence and harassment.

The changes would apply to the federal public service and federally regulated private and public industries like telecommunications and banking, Crown corporations and parliamentary offices, like the Senate, the Library of Parliament, and the House of Commons. It would also apply to interns.

The bill requires companies to set up a prevention policy; research, document and report incidents of harassment; attempt to solve the situation and, if that can not be achieved, appoint a “competent person” seen by both parties as impartial to research, implement recommendations and provide support to victims.

It does not list sanctions for harassers, but might rather compel employers to respond to allegations. Employees would be given choices for third party investigations or dispute procedures, and could at any time complain to the employment minister about the procedure. If any employer does not act, they could face consequences, including fines, Ms. Hajdu said.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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