On Wednesday, June 13, 2018, I was invited to make a presentation to the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights to comment on Bill C-65, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (harassment and violence), the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1.
Bill C-65 is intended to add protection against workplace harassment, including sexual harassment and sexual violence, to Part II of the Canada Labour Code, the occupational health and safety provisions that apply to federally-regulated employees. Bill C-65 would also extend the protection of Part II of the Canada Labour Code to employees working on Parliament Hill. Currently, Part II of the Canada Labour Code and the regulations under the Code protect against workplace violence.
The Bill is short on details. The intention of government is to provide the details in the regulations, once the Bill is passed. When it was introduced, the Bill did not even contain a definition of harassment. It was amended in committee to include the following definition of harassment and violence:
harassment and violence means any action, conduct or comment, including of a sexual nature, that can reasonably be expected to cause offence, humiliation or other physical or psychological injury or illness to an employee, including any prescribed action, conduct or comment
Bill C-65 would (a) provide an employee with the right to make a complaint of workplace harassment or violence to his or her supervisor or to the person designated in the employer’s policy, (b) require an employer to investigate a complaint of harassment and violence, and (c) allow the investigation of an unresolved complaint by the Minister of Labour.
The details of the complaint and investigation procedure will be provided in the regulations. I assume that the current regulations governing workplace violence investigations will be amended to apply to harassment and sexual harassment investigations.
Currently, the regulations require an employer to appoint a “competent person” to investigate workplace violence when the matter cannot be resolved with the employee. The regulations define “competent person” as a person who is (a) impartial and is seen by the parties to be impartial; (b) has knowledge, training and experience in issues relating to workplace violence; and (c) has knowledge of relevant legislation.
When I appeared before the Senate Committee by video on June 13, 2018, I recommended that the following amendments be made to Bill C-65:
1. That, at a minimum, the definition of “harassment and violence” be amended to remove the word “other,” so that the definition does not suggest that harassment and violence is limited to conduct that causes injury or illness. Ideally, however, the definition would be replaced with separate definitions of harassment, sexual harassment and violence, as in the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act.
2. That there be a requirement for an employer to have measures and procedures for an employee to make a complaint to a person other than the employer or supervisor, where the employer or supervisor is the alleged perpetrator, such as in the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act.
3. That there be a requirement for an employer to have an investigation conducted by a “competent person”, that the Minister be granted the power to order an employer to appoint a “competent person” to conduct an investigation, and that a “competent person” be defined as a person who is (a) impartial and is seen by the parties to be impartial; (b) has knowledge, training and experience in issues relating to workplace harassment, sexual harassment, or violence, as the case may be; and (c) has knowledge of relevant legislation.
You can read my full speaking notes to the Senate Committee on Human Rights here: Speaking Notes, and view the video of my comments directly below: