Standing Committee on the Status of Women Thursday, February 14, 2013 Chair FEWO

Standing Committee on the Status of Women Thursday, February 14, 2013 Chair FEWO
Standing Committee on the Status of Women
FEWO
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NUMBER 059
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1st SESSION
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EVIDENCE
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Chair
Ms. Marie-Claude Morin
41st PARLIAMENT
1
Standing Committee on the Status of Women
Thursday, February 14, 2013
● (1105)
[Translation]
[Translation]
Ms. Francine Boudreau: Regarding our expectations, there have
certainly been some improvements in Correctional Service over the
years. Threats, such as death threats, have been made over time.
Twenty-five years ago, those kinds of threats did not necessarily go
through legal channels. The process was often piecemeal. However,
over the years, the disciplinary system has been enhanced, making it
possible to report those cases as offences. So disciplinary measures
could be imposed so as to remedy the situation.
The Chair (Ms. Marie-Claude Morin (Saint-Hyacinthe—
Bagot, NDP)): Good morning and welcome to the 59th meeting
of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we are continuing our study of
sexual harassment in the federal workplace.
Joining us again today are Francine Boudreau and Anne-Marie
Beauchemin, from the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers.
We will begin the question and answer period right away.
Ms. Truppe, you have seven minutes.
[English]
Mrs. Susan Truppe (London North Centre, CPC): Thank you,
Madam Chair.
Welcome back, Anne-Marie and Francine. Thank you for coming
back so we can have an opportunity to ask you some questions.
In the 2011 public service employee survey, question 60.d. asks
respondents to indicate whether they had experienced harassment on
the job from individuals for whom they had a custodial
responsibility. The responses indicated that 50% of correctional
service employees had experienced some harassment from this
source in the last year. I was wondering if you could tell us a bit
more about what it is like to pursue a career in that sector, which
places you at a high risk for a number of things, including
harassment or sexual harassment.
[Translation]
Ms. Francine Boudreau (Correctional Officer, Union of
Canadian Correctional Officers): Could you please repeat your
question?
However, in the case of sexual harassment, the situation is
difficult because the concept has become very trivialized. Over the
past few years, harassment has been discussed, but it would be
difficult to provide you with statistics on that because it's not a
problem that is easy to report. That's why I think changing the
disciplinary system could contribute to the reporting of those kinds
of offences.
In 2013, even if we want to report a case of sexual harassment or
an inmate's inappropriate sexual behaviour, the disciplinary system
does not contain any provisions we can use.
People want to continue working for Correctional Service. As for
us, we will make recommendations. For starters, improvements to
the disciplinary system would be very appropriate. That way, legal
action could be initiated through police involvement, for instance.
The Criminal Code would help us establish a balance of power.
[English]
Mrs. Susan Truppe: Thank you.
In your last statement, you talked about an inmate deliberately
exposing himself in regard to a particular woman.
Is that type of harassment very frequent? Have there been a lot of
reports on that from women, or from women and men?
[English]
● (1110)
Mrs. Susan Truppe: What is it like to pursue a career in that
sector, which, based on your remarks in your last report, places you
at a high risk for a number of things, like harassment or sexual
harassment? What do you, as a female, expect when you're going
into that position?
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin (Correctional Officer, Union of
Canadian Correctional Officers): Reports come in occasionally.
Officers are reluctant to report such incidents because there is no
recourse, or proper recourse, for charging an inmate.
Then I'll get to the training part about that.
Do you expect it to be a higher-risk job? One of our last witnesses
was from the military. She indicated that women going into the force
expect it to be different from what it would be like if they were
getting a job in a school, for example.
Mrs. Susan Truppe: So there's recourse if it's a correctional
officer, but there's no recourse if it's an inmate. Is that right?
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: What I mean to say is that if we
do charge an inmate, there's nothing exactly on the charge sheet that
is specifically for inappropriate behaviour—i.e, exposing themselves. Usually it's put under a minor charge on the sheet.
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FEWO-59
I'll read to you exactly what the charge sheet says:
...disrespectful toward a person in a manner that is likely to provoke them to be
violent or toward a staff member in a manner that could undermine their authority
or the authority of staff members in general.
That's basically what we have.
Mrs. Susan Truppe: That's for the inmate.
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: Yes. When we charge an inmate,
that's what the charge would fall under. There's nothing specifically
for masturbation or that sort of behaviour.
Mrs. Susan Truppe: Okay. Thank you.
Very quickly, since I only have one minute left, I was surprised
when I read the stats that said, overall, 37% of men reported more
than two incidents of harassment by inmates, while only 22% of
women reported more than two. Women were also more likely to say
that they'd never experienced harassment. It was 41%, I think, versus
35% of men.
Do you think there's some reason for the discrepancy? I actually
thought it would have been the reverse.
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: Is this with regard to harassment
between co-workers or for offenders?
Mrs. Susan Truppe: I think it's co-workers. But it could be
offenders, actually; it doesn't specify. It was just harassment in the
workplace.
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: I'm not familiar with it, so I can't
answer that question.
Mrs. Susan Truppe: Okay.
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: I'm not sure why it would be one
way and not the other.
Mrs. Susan Truppe: I was surprised, yes.
Thank you very much.
[Translation]
The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Truppe.
We now go to a representative of the official opposition.
Ms. Hassainia, you have seven minutes.
Mrs. Sana Hassainia (Verchères—Les Patriotes, NDP): Thank
you, Madam Chair.
Ladies, thank you for coming to meet with us.
Ms. Beauchemin, during your last presentation, you told us about
a masturbation incident and a female correctional officer who
temporarily left her job. You clearly indicated that the complaint
process in the case of such incidents is needlessly long and leads to
unnecessary trauma for correctional officers.
Following a long struggle with the management, the inmate was
transferred to another penitentiary, right? That person was simply
transferred, and not punished. No other measures were taken aside
from the inmate's transfer.
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: I think the person was just
transferred to another institution. I will inquire.
February 14, 2013
[English]
Karrie, was he charged?
A voice: He was charged...[Inaudible—Editor].
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: Okay.
[Translation]
Yes, charges were laid against him, but we still don't know
whether a ruling has been made.
Mrs. Sana Hassainia: Do you think that punishment is adequate,
given his actions?
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: No.
Mrs. Sana Hassainia: Did that woman suffer any retaliation once
she resumed her duties at the penitentiary following the incident and
the inmate's transfer? Have you heard about anything her colleagues,
inmates or even the management may have done to her?
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: Not to my knowledge, as the
support among colleagues is genuine. People really tend to support
their colleagues in such cases.
Mrs. Sana Hassainia: What kind of support are we talking
about?
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: We have the Employee Assistance Program.
[English]
She did receive.... You can get EAP support, and CISM.
[Translation]
They can also talk to a psychologist at work. In addition, they can
seek those services outside the prison.
[English]
As far as colleagues go, there's a lot of moral support, with people
encouraging officers to charge inmates in situations like this and to
pursue a paper trail so that maybe an inmate can, further down the
line, get proper treatment if he is considered or diagnosed a sexual
deviant.
So that support is there as far as officers go, but employers, not as
much. They don't see it as the criminal act that it is. When inmates
masturbate in front of officers, our employer considers it more a part
of their job. It's expected to be tolerated. But it shouldn't be. It's like
any other job. We don't tolerate it anywhere else; it shouldn't be
tolerated in the prison environment.
● (1115)
[Translation]
Mrs. Sana Hassainia: Is any recourse available in case of
retaliation?
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: What do you mean?
Mrs. Sana Hassainia: Is any recourse available in case of
retaliation in such situations?
Ms. Francine Boudreau: What kind of recourse?
Mrs. Sana Hassainia: Legal recourse or access to an office where
the person could talk about what may happen to them once they
return to work.
February 14, 2013
FEWO-59
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: Are you talking about recourse
available to officers when dealing with inmates?
[English]
She did charge him—she institutionally charged the offender.
There hasn't been any resolution in the case yet. She could charge
him with what we call a street charge—go to the penitentiary OPP
squad and charge him on the outside, but it is very difficult when you
street charge someone to prove intent.
[Translation]
Mrs. Sana Hassainia: Could you remind me when this incident
happened?
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: It happened last year.
Mrs. Sana Hassainia: Okay.
In other words, a year has gone by, and there are still no results.
Do you think that timeframe is normal?
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: No.
Ms. Francine Boudreau: No.
There are a number of similar cases. Another case is awaiting trial.
At the Kingston Penitentiary—where I work—an inmate would
masturbate constantly. Several officers had submitted complaints and
laid charges against the inmate, but an officer finally laid charges
against him under the Criminal Code. Yet she has been awaiting the
results for six months.
Mrs. Sana Hassainia: How long do you think it should
reasonably take for a similar sexual harassment case to be dealt with?
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: It should be done as quickly as
possible, so that the inmate can have more opportunities to benefit
from rehabilitation programs, medication or treatments.
Mrs. Sana Hassainia: I have a question either one of you can
answer.
Do you think the budget cuts announced in 2012 will affect the
progress made or the assistance provided to victims of sexual
harassment in the case of correctional officers?
Ms. Francine Boudreau: I couldn't tell you. There's really so
much more work to be done with regard to that. It's very much a
work in progress. However, I sincerely believe that the budget cuts
could have a fairly significant impact.
Mrs. Sana Hassainia: Are there any changes you would like the
management to make, so that members can have an environment free
of sexual harassment?
Ms. Francine Boudreau: The Canada Labour Code is clear on
that issue. Section 247.2 states that “every employee is entitled to
employment free of sexual harassment.” That applies to everyone,
including correctional officers. Unfortunately, people are often told,
based on the same legislation, that those are normal conditions of
employment. The issue stems from the difficulty of explaining what
constitutes a normal condition of employment.
Mrs. Sana Hassainia: Is that a normal condition for women? As
you said, as women, you are more subject to jeers, comments and
harassment.
3
Ms. Francine Boudreau: That's not it. Many people consider
that, if we work with inmates in a correctional facility—which is, in
a way, their home—death threats and similar things are a normal
occurrence. The same goes for sexual harassment. When we come
across inappropriate sexual behaviour, we are asked what we
expected when we joined Correctional Service, where we are right in
their home.
It's as if the fact that those people are already serving a sentence in
a prison made everyone forget their other offences, which are also
absent from our reports. I don't understand that, in 2013, those
offences are not in our reports. Yet that would enable us to do the
right thing and create a balanced and healthy environment for
everyone.
● (1120)
The Chair: I have to stop you there, Ms. Boudreau. Thank you.
I will now yield the floor to Ms. O'Neill Gordon.
You have seven minutes.
[English]
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill Gordon (Miramichi, CPC):
Madam Chair.
Thank you,
Thank you for coming back again.
I was happy to hear you say in one of your replies that things have
improved since you have gone there, and that you're glad. It's very
important that we all strive to have a work area that's free of sexual
harassment, and free of harassment, period. We all know that's
something we're striving for.
We're looking at the results that were sent in. The results we're
looking at are on how inmates treated men in comparison to women
in 2011. That would have been before the budget cuts were
implemented. In 2011, while both women and men had experienced
harassment once or twice at the same rate, men were far more likely
than women to have experienced harassment more than twice. In the
survey, it showed that, overall, 37% of men reported more than two
incidents of harassment by inmates, while only 22% of women
reported more than two incidents of harassment. Women were also
more likely to say that they had never experienced harassment—
41% of women—versus 35% of men who never did.
Do you think there is a reason for this discrepancy? Is there some
reason the inmates act differently towards women? What do you see
as the cause of this?
[Translation]
Ms. Francine Boudreau: If I have understood correctly, you said
that things have improved over time.
When I joined Correctional Service Canada, 26 years ago, there
was a total of 34 inmates. About 32 of them would masturbate on a
daily basis. That was common practice. Back then, an attempt was
being made to have women account for 10% of employees in federal
penitentiaries. Over the years, an improvement has been made
without going through legal channels. Today, no inmates masturbate.
If any of them do, we make sure they change their attitude.
Could you please repeat your second question regarding the
percentage of women?
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FEWO-59
February 14, 2013
[English]
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill Gordon: Do you think there is some reason
for the difference that there are fewer women reporting harassment
than men? Is it that women are less likely to be placed in an
environment where harassment or repeat harassment is likely to
occur in the first place? Are women more likely than men to either
report or otherwise resolve incidents of harassment before they
become repetitive? Is there a reason why there are fewer reports of
that from women?
[Translation]
Ms. Francine Boudreau: That's because the matter has become
very trivialized. I have an anecdote to share with you.
is there to support you if you do have questions. Francine and I are
both local representatives for the Status of Women, so we do have a
lot of female officers that we will approach. When they are new to
the institution, we'll introduce ourselves and help them and support
them along the way, because there are many challenges and risks as
female officers, and it's very different from our male counterparts.
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill Gordon: There certainly would be. I certainly
appreciate the job you're doing.
A psychologist at work held a training session for correctional
officers. To help with her statistics, she asked for written comments
to see whether there were any sexual offence problems. She also
wanted all the employees to write a report when they come across
such incidents. In all of her courses, correctional officers would
always say that, if they had to report all such incidents, that would
take up all their time. Those incidents are very trivialized. That's also
the case when it comes to female correctional officers.
We now go to Ms. Sgro. You have seven minutes.
[English]
Hon. Judy Sgro (York West, Lib.): Thank you very much,
Madam Chair.
Women do inmate head counts and, for them, that's not a big deal.
They just keep going. I am not talking about official head counts, but
rather about head counts at night, when officers complete their
rounds. It's very trivialized. A great deal of education needs to be
provided. That's why the statistics are often unreliable. Women do
not report those kinds of incidents. The statistics are unreliable.
● (1125)
[English]
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill Gordon: Does your union offer any
additional training on sexual harassment to its members? Are you
aware when you go in what you're going into? Is there any kind of
training for you?
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: Prior to becoming a correctional
officer, it used to be a 12-week program. I believe it's reduced now.
I'm not quite sure of the amount of time they spend at the staff
college. In that training there is a small part that deals with
manipulation of inmates, how not to cross boundaries.
I'm going to try to separate my questions into two parts, because
this is the federal workplace. Let's talk about the people with whom
you work, not the inmates, initially.
I, myself, provided a training session at the institution for officers
and other staff a few years ago, and it was called boundaries training.
But specifically, no, they don't discuss....
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill Gordon: Is the training different for men than
for women, or is it all the same for both?
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: They're all the same, yes. Men
and women take the training together.
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill Gordon: And that's before they go into the
workplace?
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: Before they become correctional
officers, yes.
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill Gordon: Is there anything offered along the
way as you are working in the place and you really see what you
need?
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: It sounds harsh, but basically
you're thrown to the wolves. So you learn. It's a process. The union
Thank you.
[Translation]
The Chair: Thank you.
And thank you to our witnesses for coming out again and taking
the time to give us some insight into the kinds of challenges you face
in a very difficult environment.
You work in an environment of much bravado, I suspect, and that
would have to be the way it is. Everybody who works for
Corrections Canada in the prisons, with very tough people behind
those bars, must think they're all pretty macho kind of people. I
would think that would immediately set up an environment, when
there are other women of equal rank, for a variety of inappropriate
remarks and comments and so on. Logic tells me that, just because of
who your other colleagues are.
What kind of exposure have you had? Or are you just tough
enough from working in that environment that you simply roll with
the punches, don't bother to lodge complaints against your fellow
workers, and just shrug it off?
[Translation]
Ms. Francine Boudreau: I will speak for myself. It's out of the
question for me to let myself be pushed around. That's clear.
When it comes to my colleagues, valued judgments are always at
play. People wonder whether we had it coming, and that kind of
thinking is widespread. Honestly, I have always fought against that. I
don't need to be tough, but I do need justice. That's important. When
something is not normal, it's not normal.
I am not sure I have actually answered your question.
[English]
Hon. Judy Sgro: Am I wrong to suggest that you'd probably take
10 incidents and it would be number 10 where you'd finally say
that's enough? You wouldn't be lodging a complaint on the first
incident of one of your co-workers making particular comments or
touching? Your tolerance level, I would think, would be much higher
than a lot of women in a lot of other jobs, just because you are
working in a completely male environment, with the inmates and
your co-workers.
February 14, 2013
FEWO-59
● (1130)
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: It's probably slightly higher, but
there is a line you don't cross, and a lot of the women correctional
officers are very good at drawing that line with male officers. It's a
younger generation coming in, and the male officers are very aware
of the zero tolerance for sexual harassment and harassment in the
workplace. So I think you have that sensitivity towards that.
As far as going forward and putting a complaint in against
somebody, I'm not aware of any situations in our region, in Ontario,
where this has occurred. The union talks to them, brings them to
mediation, and if it goes any further than that...I'm not aware of any
cases that have been brought forward. People tend to deal with that
in the workplace.
Hon. Judy Sgro: I see that according to the statistics there are
more men complaining than women complaining, and you kind of
wonder if that's just part of that atmosphere of women not wanting to
see that they have to lodge a complaint that they feel they can deal
with themselves.
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: I think maybe some of those stats
were for inmate behaviour—disrespect to an officer. There are a lot
of charges. There are a lot more men who work in the service than
women as well. The numbers are higher. And when you put a
complaint in on an inmate for disrespect, that is harassment right
there. When they call you names, you write up a report, you put
“charge it” on it. So there may be more men who tend to do that than
women.
Hon. Judy Sgro: Now if we talk about your having to deal with
the inmates and the kind of exposure you have, different activities
that go on in their living quarters, as you're trying to do your jobs....
You're surrounded inside and out by a lot of males. What kinds of
charges are they going to get? They're already in jail, so what, they
add 10 days on to their prison sentence? Big deal for them.
Incentives are usually offered. Would they not be for positive
behaviour? And would that not include the kinds of activities that
some of your colleagues have witnessed, as far as masturbation and
various other activities that must go on within the cells?
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: There definitely needs to be a
change in policy, because that's exactly it. The inmates, whenever
they conduct themselves in an inappropriate way, don't see any
recourse. There's no....
5
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: Absolutely, yes. We need something that directly says “sexual harassment, inappropriate behaviour,
inmates posting explicit pictures on their cell walls”. We need
something that is more specific and in line with that.
Hon. Judy Sgro: There are certain laws prohibiting what an
inmate can have in his cell, are there not?
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: Yes. There's a fire load. It
depends on the institution what they can and cannot have in their
cells.
Hon. Judy Sgro: So if you could, please leave us that document,
and thank you for that suggestion.
[Translation]
The Chair: Thank you.
We now go to Ms. Young, who has five minutes.
[English]
Ms. Wai Young (Vancouver South, CPC): Thank you, Madam
Chair.
Thank you again for being here. We wanted to call you back
because of your extensive experience in a very difficult work
environment, as my colleagues have already outlined.
I want to talk a little bit about training. We didn't have a chance
previously to talk about this in depth. I want to just share with you
that in the 2011 public service employees survey, 70% of female and
64% of male Correctional Services Canada employees who
experienced harassment indicated that the source of this harassment
is a co-worker.
I want to separate out the harassment from a co-worker from the
harassment from an inmate and ask you how you are in your
training. I mean, obviously you received some training before you
started the job, and perhaps you received some training during the
job—maybe you have to go for refresher courses or that sort of
thing. How is that delivered to you in the course of both choosing
your career as well as during your career?
● (1135)
Hon. Judy Sgro: They can't go to jail because they're already in
there.
[Translation]
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: They're already there. They'll tell
you, “Go ahead and charge me”. So there needs to be more
appropriate.... We need to reflect 2013, where there's zero tolerance
for this sort of behaviour. And it's not there.
Ms. Francine Boudreau: That's actually not discussed at all. It's
something we don't talk about. We don't talk about harassment.
That's one of our recommendations. We have had enough
trivialization in that area. We want to shed light on this issue. We
suggest that training be provided as soon as people leave college and
that a component be dedicated only to harassment.
Hon. Judy Sgro: What kinds of recommendations would you like
to see come out of this committee?
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: Changes on the offence, on the
charge offence.
Hon. Judy Sgro: Right on that charge form?
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: Yes.
Hon. Judy Sgro: Maybe you can leave that for the committee.
[English]
Ms. Wai Young: Let me be very clear. Are you saying that there
is no training on sexual harassment or harassment in general?
Perhaps it's because you joined the service 26 years ago and there
was no training then? Are there courses now that are being offered,
or are you saying that there are no courses being offered?
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FEWO-59
[Translation]
Ms. Francine Boudreau: There's nothing. When you become a
correctional officer, you don't receive that kind of training in college
or during your career. It's all handled on a case-by-case basis. Each
time something like this happens, the case is handled as well as
possible.
[English]
Ms. Wai Young: Ms. Beauchemin, would you agree with that?
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: Absolutely, yes.
Ms. Wai Young: Well, that's why we're doing the study, so it's so
great that you guys are here.
Given that then, it must be quite a shock to start your first day, or
whatever it happens to be, when this is not addressed at all. Would
you say that's true?
Let me rephrase the question.
Given that this is not dealt with whatsoever in terms of training,
would you agree with this statistic? Are you harassed more by your
co-workers, or have you experienced more harassment from the
inmates? Based on your experience, where would the percentages
be?
[Translation]
Ms. Francine Boudreau: I cannot give you a percentage. The
policy is clear when harassment comes from colleagues, but it is in a
grey area when inmates are involved. It's difficult because we have
to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that we did nothing to warrant
that kind of harassment.
As for our co-workers, I am not saying that harassment doesn't
happen. People can experience harassment in any occupation. In our
case, policies are in place, and a process is being implemented.
That's why I am saying that we think the statistics are unreliable.
[English]
Ms. Wai Young: Just to confirm, you did mention there is a
policy if you're harassed by your co-workers, but there's no policy if
you're harassed by the inmates?
[Translation]
Ms. Francine Boudreau: Implementing the policy is difficult.
The key thing would be the ability to report offences, but we are
lacking any kind of relevant terminology. Recently, a correctional
officer was sexually harassed by an inmate. Finally, we were able to
transfer the inmate. The officer was left with the consequences, but
there was no case where we were unable to transfer the inmate who
was guilty of sexual harassment.
The Chair: I have to stop you there because your time is up.
We are now going back to the official opposition with Ms. Ashton,
who has five minutes.
Ms. Niki Ashton (Churchill, NDP): Ms. Beauchemin and
Ms. Boudreau, thank you very much for coming back to meet with
us. What you have to say is extremely important. I have a few
questions for you.
We know that the conditions in our country's federal prisons are
changing. The passing of Bill C-10 will result in greater pressure on
February 14, 2013
correctional systems. We have heard that one of the things prison
employees are worried about is the tension that increases with the
number of inmates because the prisons are not built to handle so
many people.
I am wondering whether this bill and this pressure on the system
will have an impact on sexual harassment and the tensions you are
already experiencing. I'm talking about an impact not only on other
incidents, but also on the hesitation or willingness to talk about those
incidents.
● (1140)
Ms. Francine Boudreau: I think there will certainly be an impact.
The number of inmates will increase. There will be more double
bunking. All the ingredients that prevent our situation from
improving are there. That's clear.
Ms. Niki Ashton: Do your employers provide any training on
prevention? We discussed inmates, but is there any training provided
to prevent harassment among the employees, and especially
employees of the opposite sex?
Ms. Francine Boudreau: No.
Ms. Niki Ashton: None whatsoever.
Ms. Francine Boudreau: Exactly.
Ms. Niki Ashton: That's shocking. When we hear about the
concern for prison employees' safety on the news, we usually hear
men talking. So your information is shocking to all of us.
[English]
I hope that all members of the committee will realize the gender
impact this legislation will have, which will worsen the experiences
that women correctional workers are facing.
Do you know of women who are thinking of going into
corrections, and are they raising issues? What do you tell them
when they ask you if this is something they can see themselves
doing?
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: When I speak to women who are
thinking of going into corrections.... It's not for everybody;
obviously there are different risks involved. I try to make them
aware of things I may see, things I've encountered. You want to give
them a good, realistic look at what it is like inside. It's a different
world in there; things don't run the same as they do out on the street.
There's a lot of awareness training, I suppose, when you talk to them.
It takes a different personality to work in there. Everybody works
differently in there, too, so you never know how a person is going to
react on the inside either.
Ms. Niki Ashton: The pressures that you will now begin to see in
the system as a result of bills like Bill C-10—do people wonder
about that? Is it something that you talk about among your
colleagues, and what it will mean for your safety, as women and as
correctional workers?
February 14, 2013
FEWO-59
[Translation]
Ms. Francine Boudreau: This is one of the first times we have
appeared before you. Of course, we have talked about these issues in
our workplace, and there is some openness. I hope that this openness
will turn into understanding and that we will be able to better prepare
our young recruits to deal with those types of situations. I keep
coming back to training, which would be one way to do that. In
addition, it would be a good idea for some of our recommendations
to be implemented.
● (1145)
The Chair: Thank you.
We now go to the government party.
Ms. Ambler, the last five minutes are yours.
[English]
Mrs. Stella Ambler (Mississauga South, CPC): Thank you,
Madam Chair, and thank you to both of you for returning to our
committee. We appreciate that very much.
I'd like to follow up on the suggestion you made to Madam Sgro
regarding the changes on the charge form. In particular, you
mentioned that they should be more detailed and more specific.
That's great. Do you have any suggestions on what the punishment
would be for an inmate?
Let's say the form has changed, and there's an opportunity to
check off a sexual harassment box and to write a detailed description
of the harassment complaint. What would you like to see happen
next? What would you suggest, other than, say, a transfer? A
removal of privileges? I don't know how it works, but could you tell
us?
[Translation]
Ms. Francine Boudreau: It all depends on how the complaint
and the offence report are handled. Corrective measures increase in
seriousness—first offence, second offence, minor court, major court.
There are several levels when it comes to offence reports. It could be
handled like any other report in cases such as threats. That would be
handled in the same way.
[English]
Mrs. Stella Ambler: Could you give us an example of the kind of
punishment? As we said, they're already in jail. Then they do
something wrong again, so what is the punishment? What can we
do?
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: It's an independent chairperson
who makes that decision, obviously.
Some inmates, when they expose themselves to officers, are sent
to segregation. From there they should be assessed by a
psychological team, and there may be treatment to follow. It's not
necessarily a punishment. I guess you can kind of see segregation
that way, but charges should be put in. It's difficult to say what the
charge is. That depends on the institution too, whether it is medium,
minimum, or maximum security. It would all depend on where they
are, because removal of privileges may not apply the same way in a
minimum security institution as it does in a maximum one.
7
Mrs. Stella Ambler: You work at Kingston Penitentiary for men.
In the union you are representing, what is the ratio of men to women
in the position you are in, as correctional officer?
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: At Kingston Penitentiary we're
almost 300 officers. At this point I don't know the exact numbers,
but we're almost 50-50. We are almost half.
Mrs. Stella Ambler: Okay. I wouldn't have expected that.
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: When I started at Kingston
Penitentiary 10 years ago, we were maybe 20 female officers.
Mrs. Stella Ambler: That's out of 300.
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: Yes. It has grown consistently.
Mrs. Stella Ambler: In female prisons, where the inmates are
women, as a union representative, do you know if there is a similar
number of complaints? What is the nature of those complaints as
opposed to the nature of the complaints you might see, or the
situations that you might find challenging, in your work environment?
[Translation]
Ms. Francine Boudreau: I cannot answer that question. I am not
in a position to answer it.
● (1150)
[English]
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: I have spoken to the women's
representative from Grand Valley Institution and there are incidents
of inmates exposing themselves to male officers and to female
officers. It happens the same in a male environment as well. Our
male officers are subjected to that as well sometimes.
Mrs. Stella Ambler: I was wondering about that.
In some ways, when I hear your reports and the challenges you
face, it sort of calls into question the practicality of a zero tolerance
policy. It's something we all want, but I wonder whether that is
possible in your work environment.
We've had representatives from the Canadian military here, and
they talk about a warrior mentality, a warrior culture. It seems to me
that it's possibly similar.
I see you nodding. I appreciate that.
Thank you again.
[Translation]
The Chair: That concludes the first part of our meeting.
Thank you very much for agreeing to appear before our committee
again. This was a very thought-provoking exchange, and I think it
will help us a great deal in our study.
Ms. Sgro has asked you to provide a brief and your
recommendations. The clerk will contact you, and the documentation will be submitted to the committee.
[English]
Ms. Anne-Marie Beauchemin: If there are others who would like
to receive a formal brief of our recommendations, we're willing to
put something together as well and forward that on.
Thank you so much.
8
FEWO-59
[Translation]
The Chair: Very well, thank you.
I will suspend the sitting for a few minutes, so that members can
get something to eat and other witnesses can take their seats.
Thank you.
● (1150)
(Pause)
● (1155)
The Chair: We are continuing the meeting.
In the second part of this meeting, I want to welcome Robin Kers,
who represents the Union of Solicitor General Employees.
Mr. Kers, we will immediately begin the question and answer
period, since we already met with you last January.
Ms. Bateman, you have seven minutes.
Ms. Joyce Bateman (Winnipeg South Centre, CPC): Thank
you, Madam Chair.
[English]
Thank you so much, Mr. Kers, for coming back to help us out.
We previously had some colleagues come back, and my colleague,
Madam Truppe, asked the individuals who were witnesses just prior
to you what is the reasonable expectation when you start. Obviously
if somebody starts a career....
You work with the RCMP, do you not, sir?
Mr. Robin Kers (Labour Relations Officer, National Office,
Union of Solicitor General Employees): No, I don't.
Ms. Joyce Bateman: I'm sorry. My notes say you're the RCMP
witness.
Mr. Robin Kers: As a labour relations officer with the Union of
Solicitor General Employees, part of my mandate is to represent
public servants in western and northern Canada working for the
RCMP.
Ms. Joyce Bateman: So part of your mandate is to represent
public servants in western and northern Canada who work with the
RCMP.
Mr. Robin Kers: That's correct.
Ms. Joyce Bateman: So you do represent public servants who
work for the RCMP.
Mr. Robin Kers: And a number of other departments.
Ms. Joyce Bateman: As well as other departments.
The question that was asked, which I guess is reasonable, was
about how, if somebody starts a career as a kindergarten teacher, they
have different workplace requirements from a person who works in
the RCMP. In terms of the expectation, do you find when you're
helping your staff that they feel their expectations of what was
proposed in working with the RCMP are completely different?
Mr. Robin Kers: I would have to say that any female wishing to
work for any department or government organization in Canada
would have an expectation that they can do their jobs free of any
form of harassment.
February 14, 2013
Ms. Joyce Bateman: That's applicable to the males as well.
Mr. Robin Kers: Yes, but we are dealing with the issue of the
status of women and sexual harassment in the federal workplace, so
my comments would be focused primarily on my understanding and
my dealing with female members who we represent.
I can tell you, were my daughters to join the federal workplace,
their expectation would be that they would be able to work, advance
their career, and provide a valuable service to the citizens of Canada
without having to constantly worry about a variety of forms of
harassment.
Ms. Joyce Bateman: That's our hope too.
Just to clarify, sir, we are very clear, at least on this side of the
table, that we don't want harassment, be it normal harassment or
sexual harassment, for female employees in the public service or for
male employees. That certainly is possible both ways, and we don't
want that to ever happen. So both parties are part of this
examination, without question.
In terms of the assistance, I'd like to find out how you train your
employees to be aware. What do you invest in the training, and how
do you prepare your employees so they can not only expect a
workplace free of harassment, but contribute to the creation of a
workplace free of harassment?
Mr. Robin Kers: Just to clarify, these people are not my
employees. They are the members of the union that I happen to work
for.
Ms. Joyce Bateman: They pay dues and you help them, don't
you?
● (1200)
Mr. Robin Kers: But just to be clear, they're not my employees.
Ms. Joyce Bateman: What kind of training is there? They are all
privileged to get training in the Public Service of Canada. What kind
of training are they provided to not only protect them from
harassment but to ensure that they contribute to a workplace that is
free of harassment?
Mr. Robin Kers: I have to back up a step and tell you that the
nature of my work is that I'm involved in national labourmanagement consultation and national policy health and safety
consultation with a number of different departments, including the
RCMP. As a consequence, my work with the department relates to
consultation and development of policies, including harassment
policies, violence in the workplace policies, and so on and so forth.
The influence that the bargaining agent or the unions have is in
providing their input to the consultative process when dealing with
the employer. The corollary influence at the work site, where we
direct our presentation for our membership, is that we advise and
counsel and ensure that in that particular work site people are
receiving the training that the department suggests all employees
should receive on the subject of harassment.
Ms. Joyce Bateman: In your view, is the training...?
[Translation]
Madam Chair, is my time up?
The Chair: You have one minute left.
February 14, 2013
FEWO-59
Ms. Joyce Bateman: Thank you, Madam Chair.
[English]
In your view, do your charges receive adequate training as new
employees?
Mr. Robin Kers: It depends upon the department, the region, and
the location.
In fairness to all departments, they try to have current harassment
policies and current training plans, but the reality is that with the
fiscal restraints, I've found over the years when I was a public
servant and find now as a bargaining agent representative that quite
often the financial cost of training is a factor that's considered by
departments, and I'm not entirely—
Ms. Joyce Bateman: Do you, sir, have an example of a
department that you serve that has cut training on harassment in
the last year? Do you have an example of this?
Mr. Robin Kers: I don't have an example of a department that has
cut training costs—
Ms. Joyce Bateman: So is this is just hypothetical—conjecture?
Mr. Robin Kers: Well, no, the fact of the matter is that you don't
have to cut; you can also not schedule.
Ms. Joyce Bateman: But you just told me, sir, that you don't have
the facts to support the cuts.
Mr. Robin Kers: Well, I know that training is not being done on a
sound basis.
[Translation]
The Chair: Ms. Bateman, I have to stop you there. You have gone
over your time.
Ms. Joyce Bateman: Thank you, Madam Chair.
The Chair: Ms. Ashton, you have seven minutes.
[English]
Ms. Niki Ashton: Thank you very much, Mr. Kers, and thank you
for joining us again. I want to note that what you brought forward in
the last go-around as well, in your capacity, is very useful and very
much appreciated by the committee.
In your previous testimony you mentioned that you believe the
new Treasury Board policy on sexual harassment isn't strong
enough. Could you go into more detail as to how that policy can be
strengthened?
Mr. Robin Kers: There is no Treasury Board policy specific to
sexual harassment; it's a generalized policy on dealing with
harassment.
The concern we have, and I believe I mentioned it at the last
sitting, is that the trend appears to be for Treasury Board to shrink its
core policy and rely upon departments to develop their own policies.
The concern we have, which was also mentioned by PSAC in their
brief, is that, for example, this particular iteration of Treasury Board
harassment policy has removed certain things—for example, the
responsibilities of various parties.
Within its dealing with responsibilities of various parties, the old
policy made it very clear to complainants that they had an
entitlement to review a draft report into their harassment complaint
9
before it was finalized. It's been our experience with a number of
departments, but more particularly with the RCMP, that this has been
a failure, with the consequence that the report is incomplete, that the
findings are as a consequence inaccurate, and that as a consequence
there is no successful resolution of the complaints at hand. This
subsequently leads to other processes available to public servants
under various pieces of legislation.
● (1205)
Ms. Niki Ashton: I think it's very important to hear that kind of
feedback, especially with the new policy. As you point out, it's not
specific to sexual harassment, but if we're going to say that it actually
responds to it and is a framework to prevent it, then it should be done
properly. So that kind of feedback is very important.
There's no question that a lot of our discussion here around sexual
harassment is serious for the women who go through these
experiences, and also for others in the workplace—and really, as
well, I would note, for their families.
I want to take a moment to recognize that today around the world
people are recognizing the One Billion Rising movement against
violence against women. Today in the House we're also focusing a
great deal on what is perhaps the biggest level of abuse when it
comes to gender: the gross level that is exercised against aboriginal
women.
I would like to read a motion into the record for this committee to
deal with when the time is fit. It is that:
Whereas the numbers of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in
Canada continue to rise;
Whereas there are serious allegations of ongoing failures to protect Aboriginal
women and girls from violence and violent behaviours including reference to
incidents by police officers against Aboriginal women in Northern British
Columbia;
Whereas it is the mandate of the committee to guide Status of Women—
[Translation]
The Chair: Pardon me, Ms. Ashton. The interpreter is telling us
that he doesn't have the motion and is having trouble following.
Ms. Niki Ashton: I will speak more slowly.
[English]
Whereas it is the mandate of the committee to guide Status of Women Canada,
which has the ability to direct other government agencies and departments;
Be it resolved that, given the legal mandate of Status of Women Canada “to
support action...that will lead to equality across Canada”, the Committee call on
the Government of Canada to launch a national public inquiry into missing and
murdered Aboriginal women and girls in Canada, including an examination of
police misconduct against Aboriginal women.
Thank you very much. I'd ask how much time I have left.
[Translation]
The Chair: You have a minute and a half left.
[English]
Ms. Niki Ashton: Monsieur Kers, there is no question that in your
capacity you interact with people on the ground who face a different
reality from women, say, in the public service in the national capital
region—women who have different avenues and sometimes don't
feel they have avenues at all.
10
FEWO-59
Can you speak to the trends and challenges that you hear from
women on the ground who work for the RCMP as civilians, or for
other departments, when it comes to coming forward about their
experiences of sexual harassment?
Mr. Robin Kers: That's a pretty big question.
I would say that the first challenge for women would be a lack of
confidence in current policies and procedures and the resources
necessary for people to successfully raise their concerns. That would
be the first challenge.
I guess the second challenge is that, like it or not, this is a maledominated society and male perspectives have prevalence in Canada,
and it's difficult for many women to properly pursue their complaints
when a good part of the management cadre is male—and in the case
of the RCMP, a lot of the investigators are male, and it is a maledominated hierarchy.
That would be it. Those are the two primary challenges, I would
say.
● (1210)
Ms. Niki Ashton: You've given us a lot to think about. Thank you
very much.
[Translation]
The Chair: Are you finished?
Ms. Niki Ashton: Yes.
The Chair: Thank you.
We now go to the government party.
Ms. Truppe, you have seven minutes.
[English]
Mrs. Susan Truppe: Thank you, Madam Chair.
And thank you, Mr. Kers, for coming back again.
You were just mentioning some of the challenges: the lack of
confidence maybe in policy procedures; that they maybe feel they
can't get their concerns heard.
There were some results that were posted from the 2011 public
service employees survey for the RCMP, and I notice that within the
gender breakdown, the tendency was for women to respond more
positively to questions—for example, about the effectiveness of their
management, 57% versus 51% of men; feeling treated with respect,
81% for women, 76% for men. Women feel more supported in
flexible work situations at 77% versus 72% for men, and they say
they get the training required more often than men, 69% versus 64%.
They also feel the department does a better job in helping them
develop their careers—59% for women, 52% for men.
Women in the RCMP are far more likely to identify faith in their
employer, management. They are even more likely to indicate that
the union-management consultation process works and that supervisors respect their collective agreement. The list goes on. It sort of
looks like a trend. Women in the RCMP seem to have more faith in
the process than the men do, for whatever reason. They seem to like
their job better for the most part, and they feel strongly that the
employer is helping to support employee career development.
February 14, 2013
Most of the sexual harassment issues that you had mentioned
previously involved women as the complainant, with the exception
of one, I think, which was between two men.
If women have more faith in the system, management, and union
support, do you think they would also more likely take advantage of
opportunities to resolve the sexual harassment complaints in the
workplace, or maybe they would have more confidence? You feel
they didn't have confidence. Would this help them with maybe more
confidence in procedures?
Mr. Robin Kers: A number of the statistics that you've outlined,
while valuable and important in their own right, don't really deal
specifically with the issue of how women feel about their managers
and how their departments deal with harassment. I am not saying that
every woman who works for the RCMP is unhappy, but our concern,
our focus here, is dealing with those women who work for the
RCMP who experience harassment and sexual harassment.
So, yes, there are women who work for the RCMP and have
wonderful careers and they don't experience this, but there are too
many who don't, and there are the women who have excellent
working relationships with their supervisors and their careers are
fostered and supported, but there are a lot of women who don't.
If you want to use the responses to those questions and statistics in
this context, I think we would have to go back to a more refined
questioning, such as that suggested by PSAC in its brief on the issue
of sexual harassment. Then we might have a better comparator to
use.
Mrs. Susan Truppe: I understand that there are certainly some
people, obviously, who don't feel they are getting enough help and
don't feel that the policy or procedure is working for them, but I just
found it strange or odd that there seemed to be more happy women
there than men, which totally surprised me.
What is your role when an allegation is raised relating to sexual
harassment? At what point does the union become involved? If
someone calls up right now and there's a sexual harassment
complaint, what do you advise them to do?
Mr. Robin Kers: Well, it depends. Let's assume we're going to be
talking about the RCMP and not other departments.
Any employee who has a concern about harassment has a number
of different avenues available to them, and it's going to depend on
what stage of the game and how serious.
For example, if it's euphemistically called a minor issue of
harassment, the issue can be raised one on one with the individual
concerned, it can be raised with a supervisor, informal conflict
resolution can be sought, and so on and so forth. And the unions
generally support informal conflict resolution if there's a welldeveloped policy and process within X department.
Should there be more serious or more numerous allegations of
harassment where initial attempts to try to resolve them have failed,
at that point in time an employee is faced with having to use one of a
variety of means of redress.
February 14, 2013
FEWO-59
In many environments they will come to the union right away and
say, “We need your help. What's the best approach here?” In some
other environments those environments are such where there's a fear
of even coming to the union to discuss their concerns. I made a
reference to that in the case of Donald Ray at my last sitting.
Let's say, for the sake of argument, someone comes to us with
some allegations. We would obviously obtain more information to
determine what's an appropriate course of action. Depending on the
seriousness of the allegations and the department we're dealing with,
in this case the RCMP, my personal inclination would be to say to a
public servant, use the grievance process to resolve your harassment
concerns rather than the internal complaint process, because at the
present time we don't have confidence in the current process. And
the grievance process gives people certain rights under other
legislation that the internal complaint process doesn't.
● (1215)
Mrs. Susan Truppe: Okay. Thank you.
I was going to ask you about the grievance process. But just very
quickly, when you mentioned...let's take, for example, a minor issue
like a minor harassment issue, in your terms, what would be a minor
harassment issue?
Mr. Robin Kers: All harassment is serious, but I guess when it
comes to classification of minor versus serious, it leads more to what
are appropriate measures to be taken, how extensive an investigation
needs to be conducted, and what the severity is, potentially, of
disciplinary measures down the road.
For example, if somebody came to me and said my colleague
made a joke that could be interpreted as a racist joke, I would
recommend in a situation like this that there be a one-on-one
dialogue, potentially, with the assistance of an informal conflict
resolution professional to try to resolve that issue at that stage.
However, if there was an incident where one employee made
severely racist remarks on more than one occasion to another, then
clearly a one-on-one dialogue, an informal conflict resolution, is not
going to resolve the situation. That would require an elevated, more
detailed process.
Mrs. Susan Truppe: Thank you very much.
[Translation]
The Chair: Thank you.
I will now yield the floor to Ms. Sgro, for seven minutes.
[English]
Hon. Judy Sgro: Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Mr. Kers, thank you very much for coming back to help us
through this.
As we know from many of the claims and much of what has been
public news in the newspaper, sexual harassment or harassment
seems to be alive and well in the RCMP, and that's very regrettable
because those kinds of things end up smearing everyone, and
needless to say this is isolated to certain specific individuals. We
must always keep that perspective in mind.
Examples like Donald Ray, though, just continue to feed into that
dislike and disapproval of what is going on. If Donald Ray had been
11
fired, I would tend to think that would have sent a very different
message to people in the service.
Do you have any other examples over and above Mr. Ray of the
kind of frustration that continues in the service?
Mr. Robin Kers: Earlier, I provided the committee, and PSAC in
its brief provided the committee, with a reference to the case of Ms.
R. in British Columbia. In preparing for my appearance before this
committee, I selected that one as a classic case of a public servant
employed at the RCMP and the hoops, barriers, and hurdles they
have to go through to deal with the issues. I also indicated in an
earlier appearance that even we have difficulty having people come
forward to deal with this issue because of the stigma.
Returning back to Donald Ray, for example, in our involvement in
this file following a release of the decision into the review of his
actions, we only have three out of seven women who are prepared to
discuss this issue with the union, even though it's clear that our
perspective is to try to seek healing and redress where appropriate
and movement forward in that really heinous file.
There are problems in every government department when you
raise issues of harassment, in particular, sexual harassment, but it's
particularly difficult in the RCMP because of the nature of that type
of organization. Organizations like National Defence and the RCMP
have that rank hierarchy sort of process where public servants deal
with people who have a level of authority and a view of their
authority that is very different from the public service management
cadre in other departments. It's a combination of the culture and
environment, and in my view a lack of sufficient movement by
successive governments to address this issue. It's not an environment
where women are prepared to come forward.
We hear about this. We'll have conversations with people and we'll
ask them to be more forthcoming so that we can deal with the issue
with the employer. There's such an enormous level of fear,
discomfort, and hurt that they're just not prepared to do it.
● (1220)
Hon. Judy Sgro: With Donald Ray, though, only three women
would come forward out of seven.
Mr. Robin Kers: Only three out of seven have agreed to contact
with us so far, yes. I'm hoping that the appearances before the Status
of Women committee, an airing of concerns, and your respective
perspectives may encourage people to be a little more comfortable in
coming forward.
Hon. Judy Sgro: Certainly the only way that we're going to make
a great institution like the RCMP as great and respected as we want
them to be is to have all of them feeling confident that they can come
out with their complaints and that there won't be the reprisals and the
put-downs. Hopefully, through our work, we'll make the right
recommendations in this report that will be helpful.
You mentioned Ms. R. Could you elaborate a bit? I don't believe
the committee has the brief that you mentioned. Could you elaborate
a bit about the case of Ms. R.?
Mr. Robin Kers: I believe I provided a case summary of that to
the clerk, and she would be better prepared to answer that than
myself.
Hon. Judy Sgro: Can the clerk distribute that to us?
12
FEWO-59
February 14, 2013
[Translation]
The Chair: The document in question has been distributed to the
committee.
[English]
Hon. Judy Sgro: Okay. Given the fact that we won't get that until
after your testimony, could you generally comment on what the
individual experienced?
Mr. Robin Kers: I can, but I would just preface that if this
committee wants more direct testimony on that issue, I'm pleased to
advise this committee that Ms. R. is prepared to appear before the
Status of Women committee in camera and respond to your direct
questions.
grievance? Do you provide legal assistance? Do you advise a
member what type of claim or process to follow? What is your role
in that area?
But in any case, Ms. R.—and of course I identify her this way for
confidentiality reasons—is a detachment-level employee in British
Columbia who experienced incidents of sexual harassment and
brought them to the attention of her supervisors, who chose to deal
with the matter via a code of conduct investigation rather than a
sexual harassment investigation.
So we will advise them of the pros and cons of doing things one
way versus another. It depends on what process is chosen. For
example, with the internal harassment complaint process, there is no
right to representation under Treasury Board policy and guidelines,
but under the grievance process, there is a right to representation. So
depending on the process that is chosen, the employee may or may
not proceed on their own on a harassment complaint with advice and
guidance but no direct representation, or an employee may proceed
with a grievance where the union representative will be present with
the employee throughout the various levels of the process.
Quite frankly, that has always been the core of the problem for
public servants, that it's not a problem dealing with public servant to
public servant harassment complaints, and we don't have any
mandate to speak about regular member to regular member
complaints because we don't represent regular members. But the
problem has always been, how do you deal with complaints where
the respondent and the complainant are variously a public servant
and a regular member?
In any case, the complaint was filed and an investigation was
conducted. The member in question was, for want of a better term,
disciplined in a very minor way, and then retaliated, leading to the
filing of another complaint. This is the problem. It just got worse,
and eventually Ms. R. became extremely ill. She was diagnosed with
PTSD and had to go on workers compensation.
I know the RCMP came in and made their own presentation to this
committee back in November, I noticed that their presentation deals
very extensively with the costs of the after-effects of these types of
issues. So you have a classic example here of where the improper
handling of this file and the improper dealing by the RCMP with the
respondent led to another complaint, led to illness, led to costs to the
Province of B.C., led to costs to Canada, and led to costs to the
RCMP, never mind all the personal costs to the individual.
Have I run out of time?
● (1225)
[Translation]
The Chair: I have to stop you there. Thank you.
We now move to Ms. O'Neill Gordon. You have five minutes.
[English]
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill Gordon: Thank you, Madam Chair,
Thank you for being here with us this morning.
You spoke about your role when an allegation is raised relating to
sexual harassment. I was wondering, what do you do to assist a
member of your union in the event of a sexual harassment
Mr. Robin Kers: First and foremost, our role is to ensure that we
have all the facts before us, because without all the facts, it's
inappropriate for us to suggest a course of action for that particular
circumstance. Once we have the facts, the next logical step would be
to fully inform our member of the various means available to deal
with the particular issue, and depending upon the severity of the
issue, the duration, the time, and the environment, we will make one
or another recommendation, such as I mentioned in my earlier
testimony.
Again, depending on the nature of the issue, we may recommend a
filing of a complaint under the Canadian Human Rights Act, which
will be set aside until normal redress measures are utilized and
finalized within a particular department, and again, depending on the
nature of the incidents, we may recommend pursuing a complaint
under regulation 20 of the Canada Labour Code, Part II Occupational Health and Safety.
It depends on the circumstances. There are no unions that I know
of that have a cookie-cutter formula for this. Every case is reviewed
on the information available to us, the merit, and a number of other
factors before advice is given.
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill Gordon: If a member chooses to pursue a
human rights claim or to participate in informal methods of
resolution, does the type of support provided differ from the other
measures?
Mr. Robin Kers: I'm sorry, could you repeat that?
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill Gordon: If a member chooses to pursue a
human rights claim or to participate in informal methods of
resolution, does the type of support differ or is it all the same?
Mr. Robin Kers: Yes and no. First off, the informal conflict
resolution process is in most departments. I should point out that the
RCMP, for example, still does not have an informal conflict
resolution program that's been approved, it still doesn't have a welldeveloped process, and it's in the process of hiring a number of
ICMS practitioners. For an ICMS process, people who are new to
that type of a process and are fearful or uncertain or uncomfortable
have the option of asking for a union representative to attend with
them, but that's more for accompaniment and comfort than classic
representation.
February 14, 2013
FEWO-59
In a complaint filed under the Canadian Human Rights Act, it's
normally the Public Service Alliance of Canada that assists its
members when there's a complaint before the Canadian Human
Rights Commission. But the Canadian Human Rights Commission
will not generally deal with a complaint filed unless it has assurances
that all other reasonable methods of resolving the thing, based on
internal department policies, have been utilized. It's something we
advocate to people in case the internal mechanisms don't work in
resolving the issue, and then they have that to rely on as a fallback
position. But it's not considered as the first avenue to try to resolve
these issues.
● (1230)
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill Gordon: Okay. Thank you for your great
explanation.
[Translation]
The Chair: We now go to Ms. Ashton. You have five minutes.
[English]
Ms. Niki Ashton: Thank you very much.
Mr. Kers, when we last heard from you, you mentioned how—and
we've heard from various people—Bill C-42 will not make a
significant difference. I'm wondering if you could speak to that and
to this idea of how we could improve it—if Bill C-42 is improvable.
And what kind of legislation truly needs to be brought forward, in
your mind?
Mr. Robin Kers: I'm a little concerned that my comments on Bill
C-42 have been taken out of context. First, you have to stipulate that
USGE and PSAC do not represent the regular members of the
RCMP.
As to what potential impact Bill C-42 may have on the resolution
of regular member to regular member complaints, it's not my
position to comment. My comment was intended to be a reflection of
our view as to whether or not the change to Bill C-42 will improve
the situation of public servants.
The concern that we've always had, and I've mentioned it before,
is we're not satisfied with the way harassment complaints have been
dealt with when the complainant is a public servant and the
respondent is a regular member. So the failing in Bill C-42, as far as
I'm concerned, is that it's largely devoted to addressing the much
publicized issue of harassment between member and member and
the need for the commissioner to have a capacity to deal with that
issue in a more direct manner.
Insofar as it affects the public servants, the problem with the
change to Bill C-42 is that it essentially gives the commissioner and
the RCMP the right to bypass or not have applicability of the
Treasury Board policies and directives in investigations where a
regular member is one of the parties. The problem with that, of
course, is that it's not a problem if both parties are regular members,
but it's a problem when the other party or the complainant is a public
servant.
The RCMP proposes to create a new form of investigation under
what's called a commissioner standing order. The problem with that
process is it's going to apply to any harassment complaint that
involves a regular member. Again, I go back to this: what if the
complainant is a public servant? We see that as problematic because
13
public servants involved in that complaint would be put under a
process that is really more designed for dealing with member to
member.
The other problem we have is that we're not entirely satisfied that
a commissioner standing order has the legality under law to apply to
public servants. I raised that issue internally at an RCMP harassment
working group committee yesterday, and they'll provide their legal
opinion in due course.
Our view is that the RCMP has to recognize the need for a
separate complaint process when the complainant is a public servant
and the respondent is a regular member. It can't rely on the new
process that they're developing because public servants have certain
rights and benefits and privileges under Treasury Board policy that
they wouldn't necessarily have under a commissioner standing order.
Just for your information, in response to a query from Ms. Sgro at
the earlier sitting, I have provided today a complete list of
recommendations in response to the request for a list of
recommendation vis-à-vis the RCMP. You will have that once
translation is done, I presume.
I could go over it orally if you wish, but it's up to you.
● (1235)
Ms. Niki Ashton: I think we're good to look at it.
[Translation]
The Chair: The document will be provided to the committee once
it has been translated.
[English]
Ms. Niki Ashton: Thank you for sharing it with us.
You mentioned a working group. How long has this working
group been going on for?
Mr. Robin Kers: Essentially, the RCMP, recognizing that the
changes to Bill C-42 would affect a variety of different issues and
elements, created a number of different working groups, one of
which is the harassment working group. So it's a working group
that's composed of several bargaining agent representatives, the
remainder, of course, being RCMP managers' representatives with
varying specialties and involvement.
As you'll note from the list of recommendations that I've provided,
one of our concerns is that we have provided feedback in the past to
the RCMP over the last three or four years, because there's been a
long, convoluted process of reviewing the internal harassment policy
and looking to see what improvements needed to be made. The
concern we have is that there may not be sufficient weight given to
our input into that committee.
[Translation]
The Chair: Thank you.
We now have three minutes left.
Ms. Ambler, those three minutes are yours.
[English]
Mrs. Stella Ambler: Thank you very much, Madam Chair, and
thank you, Mr. Kers, for being here today.
14
FEWO-59
My questions are with regard to training. In particular, what is
your organization's level of involvement with the joint learning
program?
Mr. Robin Kers: The joint learning program is a Public Service
Alliance of Canada initiative, not a component initiative. That said,
all components at varying times will have certain levels of
involvement, by either contributing to the writing of training
programs or facilitating training programs, depending on their
availability.
Mrs. Stella Ambler: I'm sorry, what's a component issue?
Mr. Robin Kers: The Public Service Alliance of Canada is the
actual bargaining agent, but it's composed of 18 components, one of
which is ours, which is the Union of Solicitor General Employees.
But the agreement is between PSAC and Treasury Board. It's not
between the components and Treasury Board.
Mrs. Stella Ambler: You'd say you don't have much involvement
at all with the joint learning program?
Mr. Robin Kers: I'm saying that the JLP is a program and
function of the PSAC. Our contribution as a component would be
when assistance is required or requested in the design of a particular
training program or when there's a need for facilitators for a
particular training session. That would be our involvement as a
component.
Mrs. Stella Ambler: Not in the development of it per se, but your
employees would use it?
Mr. Robin Kers: Use it?
Mrs. Stella Ambler: They would be trained using this method.
Mr. Robin Kers: The concept behind JLP is that it provides
training jointly to management and employees, so to the extent that
budget, timing, resources, size of the room, etc., permit, there will
be, in theory, roughly an equal number of managers and employees
on any JLP-delivered session.
Mrs. Stella Ambler: Does the Union of Solicitor General
Employees encourage their employees to participate in anti-
February 14, 2013
harassment training? Do you recommend providers? How do you
encourage employees to make use of these available resources?
Mr. Robin Kers: Once again, just for clarity for the record, we're
not referring to our employees, but the employees of the federal
government who we represent.
We certainly encourage all of our membership across the country
to take advantage of any training, be it harassment or be it any
subject that's being offered by the federal government or that
department. We certainly don't discourage people from taking
harassment training.
Mrs. Stella Ambler: Or encouraging people to take a half a day
off in order to attend the training, let's say. Would that be an
encouragement, or letters and flyers and e-mail—that kind of
encouragement?
● (1240)
Mr. Robin Kers: In consultation at a local level and a regional
level and a national level with various departments, we take part, to
the extent that we're permitted, in developing and encouraging
employees to take whatever training is available.
[Translation]
The Chair: That concludes the second part of this meeting.
Thank you very much, Mr. Kers, for agreeing to appear before our
committee again. It was very interesting.
Mr. Robin Kers: You're welcome. It was a pleasure.
The Chair: Thank you.
We will now continue the meeting in camera to deal with
committee business.
I will suspend the sitting for two minutes.
[Proceedings continue in camera]
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