Standing Committee on the Status of Women Thursday, November 1, 2012 Chair FEWO

Standing Committee on the Status of Women Thursday, November 1, 2012 Chair FEWO
Standing Committee on the Status of Women
Thursday, November 1, 2012
Ms. Marie-Claude Morin
Standing Committee on the Status of Women
Thursday, November 1, 2012
● (0850)
The Chair (Ms. Marie-Claude Morin (Saint-Hyacinthe—
Bagot, NDP)): Please take your seats. We are going to begin the
meeting. I apologize for the five-minute delay.
Good morning, and welcome to the 47th meeting of the Standing
Committee on the Status of Women.
The meeting will last only an hour. We will attend to committee
business at the end. If you wouldn't mind staying an extra five
minutes or so, it would be appreciated.
Today, we have Geoff Bowlby from Statistics Canada with us.
Welcome and thank you for contributing to our study on sexual
harassment in the federal workplace. Without further ado, I'll hand
the floor over to you.
Mr. Geoff Bowlby (Director, Special Surveys, Statistics
Canada): Thank you very much.
Thank you to the committee for having me here today. My name is
Geoff Bowlby. I'm the director of special surveys at Statistics
Canada. I was the director responsible for the public service
employee survey, and that's what we'll be talking about today.
The focus of my opening comments will be on the nature of the
survey itself. There are a few numbers thrown in there, but the main
purpose is to show you how we collected the information on
harassment. I'll also show you a little information, that I'm not sure
you were aware we had, on a similar concept of discrimination.
My opening statements come in the form of a presentation. I see
you have copies of it. That's great. I have extra copies if some are
What is the public service employee survey, or PSES? The PSES
is a survey that provides the opportunity to give feedback on matters
that directly affect employees. I'll talk a little bit later about the sorts
of questions that were asked on the survey. It was conducted on
behalf of the Office of Chief Human Resource Officer about a year
ago, between August 29 and September 30.
The date of our release to departments was on January 26, 2012,
so it was not that long ago that the information was made available to
all departments. The results of the survey are used to measure
employees' perception of the state of people management in their
organization, to identify strengths and opportunities to guide
organizational planning and learning, and to contribute to the
assessment of the organization's performance.
Who was surveyed? A lot of people. It was a very large survey,
one of the largest that StatsCan undertakes. All employees working
in 90 federal departments and agencies were surveyed. It was a
census of all of those employees. That means that every single
employee in those 90 organizations and agencies were surveyed. The
organizations were the ones for which the Treasury Board is the
employer, or organizations where the Treasury Board is not the
employer but the organization wished to participate anyway. I'll give
you an example of one of those organizations in which the Treasury
Board is not the employer but wished to participate in any case.
Canadian Revenue Agency is a good example of that. Statistics
Canada's statistical operations arm is also another example of that.
Those are two large parts of the federal public service for which the
Treasury Board is not the employer but where the PSES was
It was broadly administered. It's easier to talk about who was
excluded from the survey than it is to talk about who was included.
Excluded were ministers' exempt staff, employees on leave without
pay, and employees on maternity, paternity, or parental leave,
because we were targeting people who were at work at the time of
the survey. As well, employees from one department who were on
secondment to another were not included.
What types of questions were asked? There were a lot of questions
asked. There were 98 questions on the current version of the survey.
The survey is repeated every three years, by the way. It started back
in 1999, so this iteration had some content that was on previous
versions of the survey. Of the 98 questions, 79 were the same as in
the previous cycles. That's important because if we want to compare
over time, it's really only those questions that were consistent from
one survey to the next that we can accurately compare over time.
Before the survey was conducted, StatsCan in its role as
administrator of the survey took the questions from OCHRO, the
Office of Chief Human Resource Officer, and tested those questions
in focus groups. We ran a number of focus groups all across the
national capital region in both English and in French to ensure that
the questions were respondable by the employees we were targeting.
This is a paper version of the questionnaire, but it was rarely
administered as a paper questionnaire.
● (0855)
Actually, 95% of the roughly 300,000 people we sent the
questionnaire to received it and responded to us by electronic means,
so we had e-mail addresses of every employee in the participating
departments and we invited employees to respond to an electronic
questionnaire by asking them through their e-mail address.
As I said earlier, it's a census of all employees. This is important
because in a census there's no such thing as sample error. You are
used to hearing poll results, no doubt, where there is a plus or minus
1% 19 times out of 20. That's the sample error. In this case, because
it's a census and not a poll or a sample, there is no such thing as
sample error.
There are other forms of error that can be introduced. We call that
non-sample error. These are the errors that respondents themselves
might make. Or Statistics Canada, in the processing of the
information, might make a mistake. But those non-response or
non-sample errors were kept to a minimum by using that focus group
testing process that I described earlier to make sure that there weren't
many errors, that respondents understood the questions and could
answer them. As well, Statistics Canada was using a tried and proven
type of processing of the information to create the database from all
these various questionnaires.
The response rate was also very high. Of the roughly 300,000
employees who received the questionnaire, 72%, or 211,000
employees, returned the questionnaire. A 72% response rate on a
survey of this type is a very high response rate. It exceeded our
target. It was higher than we've ever had in a public service
employee survey in the past. It's a higher response rate than any
other known government employee survey. The U.K. runs a survey;
the United States government runs a survey, and neither of those
come anywhere close to a response rate of 72%. So employees were
very engaged in the process and responded at a very high rate.
November 1, 2012
causes personal humiliation or embarrassment, and any act of intimidation or
threat. It includes harassment within the meaning of the Canadian Human Rights
We asked the employees to read that definition before they
answered any other questions. It would appear in an electronic
questionnaire as a screen of its own. Then, after reading it, the
employee would click a button that says “Next” to take them to the
first question, which is the broadest question on the concept of
harassment, and that is the employee's perception of harassment over
the two previous years.
That is our step two. We ask employees to answer if they think
they've been harassed: “After having read the definition of
harassment, in the past two years, have you been the victim of
harassment on the job?”
That is the question that's asked, and there are answer categories
of never, once or twice, or more than twice. If you sum once or twice
and more than twice, 29% of employees perceived harassment in the
two previous years.
That's similar to what we recorded back in 2008 with the public
service employee survey. It is the exact same number, in fact, 29%.
● (0900)
By the way, this is the first presentation of any data. You may
know that if you go to the Treasury Board Secretariat website, you
can see all this information. StatsCan administered the survey, gave
the results over to the Treasury Board Secretariat, and they have
posted it on their website.
The Chair: Sorry, I have to cut you off there. Your time is up.
Thank you.
We will now move on to questions.
That's an overview of the survey itself. I want to talk to you now
about what were the questions related to harassment, what were not
the questions related to harassment, and I want to talk to you as well
about the questions related to discrimination, which I thought might
be of use to the committee, given the similarity in concepts between
harassment and discrimination.
Mrs. Susan Truppe (London North Centre, CPC): Thank you,
Madam Chair.
I should have said earlier that the harassment and discrimination
questions were part of a suite of questions, and if you have the
presentation, I would go back to slide 4, where you can see the sorts
of questions that were asked. The harassment and discrimination
questions were near the end of the survey.
That was a fast ten minutes. Thank you for coming today. We
were looking forward to an opportunity to hear what you had to say
about the survey. I'm glad you sent it ahead of time so we had a
chance to look it over, since you didn't have an opportunity to finish
There were four questions related to harassment. Actually, the first
is a statement. Because we are asking employees whether or not they
perceived harassment, we needed to first define what harassment
was for the employee.
What was your involvement in the preparation of the Women in
Canada report? Are you involved in identifying the issues and
questions to ask, or is it limited to methodology and the conduct of
the study?
The public service employee used the following
definition of harassment. This is a definition that
was provided to us by the client, by Treasury Board
Secretariat:Harassment is any improper conduct by an individual, that is directed
at and offensive to another person or persons in the workplace, and that the
individual knew or ought reasonably to have known would cause offence or harm.
It comprises any objectionable act, comment or display that demeans, belittles, or
Ms. Truppe, you have seven minutes.
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: The Women in Canada publication?
Mrs. Susan Truppe: Yes.
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: That's not under my responsibility. It's
StatsCan’s. So I'm not prepared to comment on that.
Mrs. Susan Truppe: Okay.
November 1, 2012
You said that you had a 72% response rate, which was very high.
If that's the highest, higher even than in some other countries, what
does that tell you about those who are responding? Does it tell you
that they are really engaged, or does it tell you that they really want
to provide feedback because there are a lot of problems with certain
From your experience, what do you think about the 72%, besides
the fact that they're engaged?
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: My interpretation is that it's probably a little
bit of both. They are engaged. We had a strong communications
program to make sure that all employees were aware that this
questionnaire was in their inbox, so there was a lot of work from the
deputy minister level down, in all the organizations, to make sure
that employees responded, and as completely as possible.
The closer you get to 100%, the higher the quality of the
estimates. There probably are some respondents who were more
engaged as a result of the fact that they might have felt discouraged
in the workplace. On the other hand, there might have been as many
people who were excited to brag about their organization, which
could counteract that effect.
So we don't know, but to sum up, I think certainly the engagement
strategy we had was an effective one, and then employees
themselves might feel some natural engagement as a result of
different factors.
Mrs. Susan Truppe: It is a good stat, 72%, for sure.
One of the other stats I read in there was that of the 29% who had
harassment issues, 70%, I think it said, felt that it was done by
people in authority. What does the survey tell you about the fear of
reprisal and the opinions on how these issues are addressed by
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: There is a separate question that I didn't
present here. I didn't actually prepare any data. I can provide it to the
committee later, but in one of the other sections of the survey, we
asked whether employees feel that they can comment without fear of
reprisal. Let me give you the exact wording, because the wording is
important: “I feel I can initiate a formal recourse process (grievance,
complaint, appeal, etc.) without fear of reprisal.” That's question 43
on the survey. Employees were asked to rank that from one to five,
one being strongly agree and five being strongly disagree.
So we have that sort of information from the public service
employee survey.
● (0905)
Mrs. Susan Truppe: Is there an answer with that one? Do you
have that with you?
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: I don't have it with me, I'm sorry.
Mrs. Susan Truppe: And I'm sure you don't remember.
But that's good to know. At least that was on there too.
Are you aware of comparable surveys done in the private sector?
Is there anything else that is as extensive as what you do at Stats
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: No, I don't know. There probably are. I don't
know what they might be, what content they might have.
Mrs. Susan Truppe: Your letter to the clerk states that Stats
Canada does not have statistical information on sexual harassment in
the workplace, but we know from the 1993 Stats Canada study of
violence against women that young women, 18 to 24 years old, were
more likely to have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
These statistics are not specific to the federal workplace but they're
still important.
I understand that the 1993 survey of violence against women was
a one-time-only survey. How does Stats Canada determine that
they're going to do a survey like that, and is there a possibility of
doing another survey?
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: There absolutely is a possibility that we could
do another survey. The role of my part of StatsCan is to respond to
the demands for statistics within federal government departments.
We have a core program of statistics that's funded through our base
funding for StatsCan. That would be things like the census and the
national accounts, and various other surveys.
But then there is a need for ad hoc, one-time, occasional surveys
that are funded from either federal, usually, or sometimes provincial
or territorial governments. They'll fund us to do a survey on their
behalf. The PSES is an example of that, actually, where it's costrecovered. They pay StatsCan to provide the services of the survey.
So if any department needs any information on violence against
women, we have the capacity to develop and administer a survey on
that topic.
Mrs. Susan Truppe: Within those departments?
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: No, it could be within the general population.
It could be within the federal government workplace.
Mrs. Susan Truppe: It could be any department. Okay.
In the other questions on the survey, that we don't have here, is
there anything that says an age group? Is there an age group like 18
to 24, or over 50, or under 50, of the ones who felt harassed?
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: I don't have the stats before me, but there's
that website I was referring to earlier. The easiest way to find it is to
google “PSES results 2011”. The top link will take you to it.
You can see the PSES results for the public service, but you can
also see them by organization, as long as the organization's large
enough, and by demographic group. So you can see a break by
gender, by age group, by occupational group within the organization.
Mrs. Susan Truppe: I was just wondering if there was an age
group on there.
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: There is, yes.
Mrs. Susan Truppe: Great. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you.
We now move to the official opposition.
Ms. Hassainia, you may go ahead for seven minutes.
Mrs. Sana Hassainia (Verchères—Les Patriotes, NDP): Thank
you, Madam Chair. I will be sharing my time with my colleague.
Good morning. We noticed that the survey questions did not
provide any details on the type of harassment public servants
So I would like to know how the survey questions were selected,
and how we can obtain more detailed information on the type of
harassment public servants are subjected to.
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: It's a very good question, and thank you for
asking it. It's one of the things I wanted to address during the
The type of harassment is not asked in the 2011 PSES. It has not
been asked in previous versions of the survey as well, although it
was tested as possible content when we were preparing for the 2008
survey. This focus group testing that I described earlier is a process
that we engage in at any time we run a survey.
That focus group testing showed that we could actually measure
type of harassment. We proved then that we could do it.
The concern at the time was that any addition of any new
questions could affect the time series, the comparability of the data
from one year to the next. So the client at that time decided that they
didn't want to risk that break in the series, in the history, with the
addition of the type of harassment questions.
So the short answer is, yes, it could be done, and we would do it if
it was asked of us by the client. But it hasn't been done for that
reason: because we were concerned that the introduction of any
questions could affect the other questions in that suite of questions
on harassment.
There are two caveats to the fact that we did not ask it in the 2011
survey. We, in fact, did for one department, and that was the Atlantic
Canada Opportunities Agency, ACOA. We had a capacity to add up
to five questions for any department that had department-specific
concerns they wanted us to ask on the survey, and 13 departments
said they were interested in such services. ACOA focused their five
questions on the issue of harassment and discrimination within that
A similar approach was taken in 2005 when the Public Service
Commission had its supplementary questions for their organizations
that were tagged with the public service employees union.
● (0910)
Mrs. Sana Hassainia: Thank you.
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: My pleasure.
Ms. Niki Ashton (Churchill, NDP): Thank you very much.
It was interesting to note that some departments have seen this as
an important area to focus on. Certainly in this committee there is no
doubt that we view sexual harassment as a very serious issue. We're
very challenged by the fact that there is no documentation of how
much sexual harassment takes place.
One of the things we've heard from other witnesses is that looking
at the question of culture and looking at hiring practices, the more
November 1, 2012
hierarchical the organization, the more chances there are for
harassment. It really brings us to the point of asking why this
information isn't there, as well as information to assess the kind of
culture that exists. We often talk about it being intangible, but with
the consideration of how many women exist in decision-making
positions or what takes place during hiring to enforce these kinds of
messages, these are things that can be measured. When they're not, it
becomes a challenge to be able to find a solution to a problem that
obviously does exist.
Mr. Bowlby, I want to thank you very much for sharing this. One
of the areas that interest me is also the question of, in times of
workplace adjustment, the kinds of stresses that are put on
employees, managers, offices, and departments and whether that
creates more friction in the workplace. It's a question that is very
critical, I think, to a lot of people. Also, is that a factor in people
refraining from coming forward with allegations of harassment for
fear of perhaps losing their job even faster or being marginalized at a
very difficult time?
We're keen to see particular attention to the current situation where
we have seen some real cuts to the public service and how that might
affect women, women dealing with harassment.
If I can turn to the committee, I think that's a very important part
of where we need to be going. I think we need a serious
understanding of what is before us in terms of the cuts to the public
service particularly, but also more generally, the impact of current
budget decisions on the status of women in Canada.
With 48 hours' notice, I would like to verbally
propose a motion:That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the Committee
invite the Minister for Status of Women Canada to appear, no later than Thursday,
November 22, 2012, to discuss the 2012 Budget and the 2012-2013 Report on
Plans and Priorities for Status of Women Canada; that the Minister’s opening
statement not exceed ten (10) minutes; and that the Minister’s appearance be
In presenting this, I would also like to present this on the record.
My colleague Mme Francoise Boivan, on March 14, 2012, asked the
minister, “Can we expect to see you back soon, after the budget is
tabled, at least for one session, in order to see what is in store for the
Status of Women Canada's budget 2012-2013?”, to which the
honourable minister responded, “Sure, I would be happy to come
back. Of course the votes are not in any of our control. I wish we had
more time today. I would be happy to come back.”
I believe we would be remiss to not have the minister speak to not
just one omnibus bill budget bill but two, and the impact on the
status of women in Canada. After all, what is this committee actually
doing? Many of our committees do hear from ministers, and
unfortunately ours has been one that has not heard from a minister in
a very long time.
Thank you.
● (0915)
The Chair: I am going to have to stop you there. Your time is up,
Ms. Ashton.
Ms. Truppe, your turn.
November 1, 2012
Mrs. Susan Truppe: Sorry, was that a motion or a...?
A voice: A statement.
Mrs. Susan Truppe: Was that a motion or a statement?
Sorry: what was that?
The Chair: Was that a motion, Ms. Ashton?
Mrs. Susan Truppe: Is it just notice, or is it a motion?
Ms. Niki Ashton: I used the word “motion”—
Mrs. Susan Truppe: It is a motion?
A voice: Yes.
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill Gordon: Yes.
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: Yes, we were. They way it works is that the
client provides us with the draft questions. The client in this case was
the Office of the Chief Human Resource Officer. So they're really
driving the content. That's their job. Our job is to make sure that the
questions are clear and that the respondents to the survey can answer
those questions.
We worked with OCHRO to focus-group the questions and make
sure they were put into this e-questionnaire or the paper
questionnaire that we administer. We're involved to that degree.
We're not the ultimate determiner of the questions. We will tell a
client if one of the questions is not going to work. As we field it, we
will tell the client that we don't think we should be putting it on the
questionnaire. It's OCHRO who is the owner of these questions and
the one who supplied the questions to us initially.
Mrs. Susan Truppe: Then we'd better go in camera.
We'll have to go in camera and excuse the witness again.
The Chair: Yes. Ms. Ashton has confirmed it was a motion.
Hon. Carolyn Bennett (St. Paul's, Lib.): Why would you go in
Mrs. Susan Truppe: It's committee business.
Ms. Niki Ashton: It's a notice of 48 hours, a verbal notice of
Mrs. Susan Truppe: Okay, so it's a notice.
That's what I was asking, if it was a notice or a motion.
Ms. Niki Ashton: Well, it's a notice of motion.
I was asked if it was a statement. It was not a statement.
Mrs. Susan Truppe: So it's a notice.
The Chair: So it was a notice of motion. We'll deal with it at
another meeting during committee business.
It is now over to Ms. O'Neill Gordon. You have seven minutes.
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill Gordon (Miramichi, CPC): Thank you,
Madam Chair.
I want to welcome the witness. Thank you for taking time to be
with us. Your presentation gave us lots of important facts, and it's
great to hear that the employees are given the opportunity to express
their concerns. That's a key concern of ours as well.
I know you have a lot to do with all of this taking place. Have you
been involved in the preparation of the PSE survey? What would be
your involvement with the questions and things like that?
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: Was Statistics Canada involved in the
preparation of the questions for the 2011 version?
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill Gordon: Do you ever see a need to change the
questions? What would make you or them think that a question is not
really good, or that it should be changed to another way of asking it?
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: Actually, if it's a question that is proposed on
a previous survey, we might look at the response to that question on
previous surveys. If there was a high number of blank responses to
the question, it's an indicator that the employees didn't understand
that question enough to answer it. If they checked off “not
applicable”, when the question could have been applicable to them,
that's the first clue.
Then, too, we would engage in a focus group. It'd be in a room
with about as many people as there are here today, and we would
propose different versions of the question on a screen. This is one
technique. The focus group might say, “I think I understand this
question better than question two, so I suggest you go with that first
question”. That's a brief description of how the focus-group process
works and how we would help determine what is a good or bad
● (0920)
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill Gordon: So a lot of thought is put into the
questions of the survey, I would say.
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: Absolutely.
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill Gordon: It gives the employees a chance to
express themselves and show their need and how they feel. I'm glad
to hear you say that.
Has the public service employee survey ever covered crown
corporations or any other federally regulated workplaces?
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: That's a very good question, and I don't have
a good answer for it. Has it “ever”?
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill Gordon: Yes.
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: I don't know. I'm not an expert in the status of
the organizations, whether or not they're a crown corporation. We
surveyed some agencies and parts of the federal workplace that are
not part of the core federal public service. I gave you the example of
CRA, StatsCan's statistical operations. The Canadian Broadcasting
Corporation, for example, was not a part of this survey. The postal
service was not a part of this survey. So those crown corporations
were not in the scope of the survey.
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill Gordon: We see that much of the report deals
with women and their work. Have you ever looked at sexual
harassment in the workplace and not just the work itself? I mean the
surroundings, things like that.
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: The public service employee survey focuses
strictly on the experiences of employees in the workplace. It doesn't
ask about anything else. It doesn't have any specific questions on
sexual harassment. The harassment information that we collect is a
broader concept of harassment than sexual harassment, and it's only
for the federal public workplace. Any harassment experience that an
employee might have at a restaurant or at home is not collected in
this. It's only what they would experience in the workplace.
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill Gordon: What do the survey results tell us
about fear of being punished or chastised, and opinions on how these
issues are addressed by management?
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: On the first part about fear of reprisal, there is
a question related to that. It's not specific to harassment, but it is
more generally about the recourse process.
I'm sorry, what was the second part?
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill Gordon: How they're addressed by management.
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: There is a question on satisfaction—i.e., does
the employee feel satisfied with the way that management is
handling harassment? There is also a question on satisfaction about
November 1, 2012
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: Yes, both the civil service of the RCMP and
the other part of the RCMP were surveyed. That's because they
decided that they wanted to do that.
Hon. Carolyn Bennett: Of the 28% who didn't respond, were
they evenly divided across all departments or were there certain
departments that were less likely to respond?
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: It certainly wasn't perfectly even. We were
happier with some response rates in some departments than we were
with others. We were trying to get everybody up to that 70%-plus
mark. I don't have them in front of me.
We were tracking it as we were going through the survey and
putting extra effort in the collection of this information, where we
thought there might be an issue with low response.
Hon. Carolyn Bennett: Could you provide this committee with
the disaggregated data for which departments? It could be that some
responded at 99% and some at 50%. I think that would be of great
interest to this committee.
● (0925)
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: Absolutely.
Hon. Carolyn Bennett: Can you just tell us offhand which
seemed to be the departments with a lower response rate?
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: It wasn't StatsCan.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: We were quite worried that we would—
Hon. Carolyn Bennett: You should be proud about that.
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: Yes. We had to make sure that we were the
leader in the response rate, as did Treasury Board Secretariat.
Other than that anecdote, I can't remember.
In both of those situations, 72% of employees felt strongly or
somewhat agreed that their agency works hard to create a workplace
that prevents harassment.
Hon. Carolyn Bennett: That was the only harassment that
happened in your department, to fill out the frigging survey.
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill Gordon: That's good to hear—really good.
In more modern workplace lingo, people are avoiding the words
“harassment” and “discrimination” because people find it quite a
serious accusation. I think people such as Nora Spinks, and the
Vanier Institute of the Family, are much more comfortable asking
people to describe a respectful workplace, or whether they think their
workplace is respectful, or is, as you've said in your other questions,
moving to try to remedy these things in terms of “respectful” or
Thank you.
The Chair: Ms. Bennett, it is your turn.
You have seven minutes. Go ahead.
Hon. Carolyn Bennett: Thank you.
Just to be clear, the military personnel from the Canadian Forces
were included?
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: No, they weren't. The civil service within
DND was.
Hon. Carolyn Bennett: What about the non-civilian personnel
within the RCMP?
In terms of actually using the words “harassment” and
“discrimination”, were there experts who advised you to continue
on that way, or would there be an interest in maybe doing a second
survey that prodded a little bit more gently the real existence or nonexistence of a respectful workplace?
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: It's a very good question. You know, this is
what statisticians do: we try to figure out what is the best way to
measure a concept. Harassment is not an easy concept to try to
November 1, 2012
Our focus-group testing suggested that the approach that we took
was one that could be responded to by respondents. We would have
shown them the description of harassment, the definition of
harassment that I read to you, and asked them if they understood
the definition. Then the following questions that related to that
definition were respondable by the respondent.
Given that, I don't think we looked at the alternative measurement
of the concept of harassment that you suggest. It's not something that
we couldn't entertain in the future. We have to be careful, though. If
we whole-scale replace the way that we've measured in the past with
a new way of measuring, you aren't going to be able to compare the
29% that we got with this to the survey in the future.
Hon. Carolyn Bennett: You would have to do both.
I guess there are interesting articles now, and poems and
everything, around bullying in the workplace. Is there any data on
whether if you use the word “bullying” you might get different
numbers than if you use the word “harassment”?
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: You certainly would. I can't say to what
degree you would get a different answer. Any time you change the
wording in any way and move it from a question on bullying to a
question on harassment, you would see some people who interpret
bullying as something different from harassment. Therefore, they
would respond to the question differently.
Hon. Carolyn Bennett: Were you able to find out whether it
seemed to be about sex or race or religion in terms of the
discrimination? Do you know whether it seemed to be genderspecific or religious or race-specific, in terms of discrimination?
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: No. Other than the information we collected
at ACOA and what we did in the past, in 2005, at the Public Service
Commission, we have no information on the type of harassment that
has taken place, whether it be sexual harassment, age-related, or any
other sort of harassment. We didn't collect that.
As I was saying earlier, it's not that we couldn't. We believe that
we could, because we tested those sorts of questions back in 2005,
and it showed that employees in the federal government could give
us good answers.
Hon. Carolyn Bennett: In previous surveys of the public service,
people with disabilities, people whose first language is not the
culture of that particular department, there have been many things
identified as specific to certain departments.
Are you able to help departments in knowing which people feel
particularly uncomfortable or feel that they are not in a respectful
● (0930)
The Chair: You have 30 seconds left.
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: Yes. If you go to the website, there is
information that shows a breakout of all the information, within the
departments that are large enough, by age, by sex, and by visible
minority status. That is very helpful information for the department
trying to understand the issue of harassment in that workplace and
who is affected more than others.
Hon. Carolyn Bennett: Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you.
We will now begin the second round of questions.
Ms. Young, you have five minutes.
Ms. Wai Young (Vancouver South, CPC): Thank you so much
for being here today. Your study is extremely interesting to me. I
have a couple of questions.
First, did you compare our results with other countries in terms of
their public civil servants and such surveys? Are we sort of on par
and within the parameters of normality, or are we on one scale or the
other of extremes? That's my first question.
Second, I note here that respondents said that they felt that
members of the public were harassing them 31% of the time. I found
that very interesting, and wondered if there was any kind of followup discussion or something for next year's survey. What does one do
with that? I mean, it's a work environment. If you are providing
service to members of the public, then obviously that has an impact.
But it's not your colleagues or the actual public service itself
harassing you.
The other thing I wanted to ask was what the context of the survey
was. You've taken the survey. You've captured your responses. Some
of us have worked in various work situations, whether they be with
the federal service or not. In my case, I worked for the federal
government and provincial governments, etc., in my past life.
Whenever you work in a bureaucracy, or anywhere else, for that
matter, there are some employees who can be disgruntled employees
or just unhappy people. How do you put that in the context of the
respondents? Has that been looked at? Do you correlate your figures,
your data, and your responses with there maybe being 10% of public
civil servants who are vexatious complainants or whatever? I don't
know. That's why I'm asking the question.
Thank you.
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: On your last question, I think what the PSES
actually gives us is the context. Without the information from the
public services employee survey, you really don't know how happy
or unhappy employees are within any given department. So it sets
the context.
Ms. Wai Young: Yes, but do you correlate that with another
context? If those people are unhappy, they're going to be unhappy
anywhere—or everywhere, if you know what I mean.
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: Some departments using this data might
choose to do that. StatsCan doesn't.
Ms. Wai Young: Okay.
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: We just provide the results of the survey
I guess that leads to your second question, the one about
harassment that's perceived from the public, and what you do with
that information.
November 1, 2012
What each department does with it is up to each department to
respond to, but a not untypical process is to take these numbers and
then to have sort of a shop floor discussion with your employees.
And the manager of that area can say, this is what I found within our
part of the organization and this is what the PSES tells us about our
You could get some clues from the survey, however. We did
collect the information by department, by organizational unit, and by
group and level of the employee. If you are in an organization that
has a public face and you know what part of that organization has
that public face, you could see, if you're responsible for that area—
We provide the data within departments right down to the
organizational unit within that department.
Mrs. Anne-Marie Day: On the flip side, then, you can say how
many people—it appears on the site—handle complaints within a
department. Out of 72,000 people, there has to be some percentage.
Ms. Wai Young: Maybe in the interest of time I can be a bit more
specific with my question.
For example, if my job is a complaints clerk, a front-line
complaints clerk at some government office, then obviously I'm
going to be feeling probably fairly harassed at the end of the day,
because that is my job. Do you see what I mean? Those figures, and
those statistics, then, are going to show up in your survey of course
because these people feel harassed—31%, it says here. Maybe that
will spill over, because it's a difficult job; don't get me wrong, we
know it's a difficult job. There's probably a high turnover rate or
My point around putting it into context is that these are various
good figures to have. Yes, you're right, it's good to have the survey
and get that information. But without putting it into that kind of
context and say, okay, you know, we can see why you would feel
harassed in this job....
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: There aren't exact figures on that, but the
survey does have elements that can give us an idea of how many
people are responsible for complaints of that nature.
Mrs. Anne-Marie Day: Thank you.
The results are broken down by age and gender, and by other
routine statistical categories. But was a gender-based analysis done?
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: Each department was provided with an
analytical report. One was actually done by StatsCan but not as a
part of my unit. I administer the survey. There is an analytical part of
StatsCan that produced very nice reports for each department, and
reports on each section of the survey. Each department would have
received a report, for example, that showed their statistic on
I'm understanding what you're saying, that, yes, you can get down
to the unit level, absolutely, but are you saying then that the
managers do or do not wrap programs around it, or provide
counselling or support, etc.? Maybe some of those jobs are just
difficult jobs, and what does one do with that?
● (0935)
I can't tell you exactly to what degree that information might have
been cross-classified in the analysis with age or gender or any other
factor that it could be, but it's certainly possible to produce those
sorts of data.
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: It's up to the manager. If in this example
you've got someone who is in charge of a complaints department
who sees that the results from the survey show that there's a high
degree of harassment within that part of the organization, they might
discount that and say that this is the way the employees feel as a
result of the nature of their job. Or they may not. They may see this
as a problem and—
Mrs. Anne-Marie Day: In response to a colleague's question, you
said that military personnel were excluded from the survey.
The Chair: I apologize, but I must cut you off. Ms. Young's time
is up. Thank you.
Were other groups excluded as well, RCMP members, for
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: No, they were not excluded. The RCMP was
included fully in the survey.
Mrs. Anne-Marie Day: Any other exclusions?
It is now Ms. Day's turn.
You have five minutes.
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: The sorts of exclusions were people who
were not at work during the time the survey was being run, people
who are ministers' exempt staff, contractors working on behalf of the
department within a department's premises. Those are the sorts of
exclusions from the survey. It was quite broad in its targeting of
employees within the federal government.
Mrs. Anne-Marie Day (Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles,
NDP): Thank you.
Continuing along the same lines as Ms. Young, I would like to
know, from your statistics, how many people handle complaints, and
how many of those say they feel harassed?
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: No, we didn't ask that specifically on the
survey. “Do you deal with complaints on a regular basis?”: that
could be an example of a question that we could ask, but we didn't.
As I mentioned earlier, our definition of what was a department or
agency did not include some of the crown corporations, for example.
Really, the main focus was on the organizations where Treasury
Board is the employer, as defined in the Financial Administration
Act, schedules 1 and 4.
November 1, 2012
● (0940)
Mrs. Anne-Marie Day: Thank you. We see that—
The Chair: One minute left, Ms. Day.
Mrs. Anne-Marie Day: Thank you.
Since the short-form, not the long-form, census is now used, it
calls into question Statistics Canada's figures. You said this was an
internal survey. However, the budget cuts have become a real cause
for concern among the public, especially when it comes to the
quality of the data collected in order to fully understand the issues
facing Canadians and as regards the advancement of knowledge.
Even though the internal survey of public servants doesn't fall
within the scope of the census, I would like to know your opinion on
the statistical risks associated with the significant decrease in
funding for your activities and the risks directly tied to your
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: On this particular survey there was no cut to
funding from past cycles. It was sufficiently funded to run the census
that I described. It will be up to the government to decide whether or
not it wants to fund the next cycle in 2014, but the indication I have
right now is that the client is very keen on running the survey once
again in 2014.
The Chair: Thank you.
We will now go to Ms. James.
You have five minutes.
Ms. Roxanne James (Scarborough Centre, CPC): Thank you,
Madam Chair.
May I ask how long I have?
The Chair: Five minutes.
Ms. Roxanne James: Thank you.
I have one particular question, and a number of my colleagues
have touched on it. I've been trying to listen, but I'm not sure whether
it was asked in its entirety. I know Ms. O'Neill Gordon asked
whether there was a trend with areas that were left blank. You
responded to that. My colleague across the way, the Honourable
Madam Bennett, asked questions about departments, etc. But I am
wondering if there was a trend with responses—so the numbers that
were received or not received back—with regard to gender and also
regions or areas within Canada.
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: Generally, no. We did look at the public
service as a whole and how well distributed the responses were, and
we saw no what would we call “risk of bias” in the data.
You would have a problem, to use an extreme example, where no
women answered the survey and it was all done by men. You would
only get the perceptions of men. You wouldn't get the perceptions of
the whole of the public service.
We did not find that. We found our response to the survey to be
proportional to what we knew were the characteristics of the public
Ms. Roxanne James: Of the 300,000 employees that you sent the
survey to, 211,000 responded, and there was nothing that stood out
as being an issue in one particular area or department or region.
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: Absolutely not.
Ms. Roxanne James: Okay. Thank you.
My next question has to do with regard to the statistical
information you provided on.... I believe it's on page 8 of the
handout. Here's the question: “My department or agency works hard
to create a workplace that prevents harassment.” There was also a
question similar to that on discrimination. The percentages returned
were 72% strongly agreed that was the case, and 77% strongly
agreed that was the case.
Has this question been asked in the most recent three-year cycles?
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: Yes. It was introduced in 2002, so we have
information for 2002, 2005, 2008, and 2011, which is four cycles of
the survey.
Ms. Roxanne James: I'm most interested in the one about
preventing harassment, because hopefully sexual harassment would
be included in those responses.
Could you tell me if there's been any trend with the percentages
getting better, where employees feel that the departments support
them and provide the proper mechanisms in place, or are the trends
getting worse?
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: I don't have that in front of me. We could pull
that information for you, and for the committee, and provide it to you
very shortly.
Ms. Roxanne James: Thank you.
Could I ask the clerk to make sure that we do obtain that
information? Thank you.
Another question I have is really a point of clarification. One of
the answers that someone could tick off to a question was
“Individuals for whom I have custodial responsibility”.
Could you explain what that actually means and what type of
employee that would pertain to?
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: It doesn't apply to most employees of the
federal public service, but if you worked, for example, at
correctional services and you were the custodian for the prisoners
within the facility, then you might experience some harassment from
those for whom you are the custodian. That's the sort of employee
who might be able to respond yes or no to that. Many people would
say it's not applicable to them.
● (0945)
Ms. Roxanne James: I was curious to have an example of that,
because I was trying to think of where that might apply. In the
example you've given, you could see how there may be some sort of
harassment in that particular situation, so that number does not
surprise me at all.
I apologize if this next question has been asked—
The Chair: I just want to tell you that you have one minute left.
Ms. Roxanne James: One minute? Okay.
Very quickly, of the 29% who perceived that there was harassment
—I think I heard you talk about this—did you say that there was no
clear split between gender on that particular answer, or is that
something, again, that you can tell us? For instance, in terms of those
who responded, were 25% female, 14% male...?
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: I did bring that with me. I haven't stated it yet.
The split was 31% for women and 25% for men.
Ms. Roxanne James: I'm actually surprised that the numbers are
relatively even there. Thank you for that.
Very quickly, when we talk about harassment, I see your
definition. I sometimes have difficulty with this, because one person
may perceive harassment whereas another individual does not
perceive it as harassment, and so forth. For me, I have very thick
skin. Something that my colleague may perceive as being offensive
would just roll off my back.
When we do statistical information and surveys like this, how do
we determine whether it may be a real issue for someone but trivial
to someone else?
November 1, 2012
The Chair: Ms. James, you are out of time.
Ms. Roxanne James: Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you. That brings our meeting today to a close.
A few members of the committee asked you for some information
in writing. Madam Clerk will follow up with you on that.
Thank you kindly for joining us today, and enjoy the rest of your
Mr. Geoff Bowlby: Thank you.
The Chair: We will now proceed with committee business. So I
will suspend the meeting for a few minutes.
Ms. James, did you have a question?
Ms. Roxanne James: I only wanted to make sure that we were
going in camera for committee business.
The Chair: Yes, that is why I am suspending the meeting.
[The committee continued in camera]
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