Standing Committee on the Status of Women Tuesday, October 23, 2012 Chair FEWO

Standing Committee on the Status of Women Tuesday, October 23, 2012 Chair FEWO
Standing Committee on the Status of Women
FEWO
●
NUMBER 045
●
1st SESSION
●
EVIDENCE
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Chair
Ms. Marie-Claude Morin
41st PARLIAMENT
1
Standing Committee on the Status of Women
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
● (0850)
[Translation]
The Chair (Ms. Marie-Claude Morin (Saint-Hyacinthe—
Bagot, NDP)): Good morning, everyone. I welcome you to this
45th hearing of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.
Today, we are going to continue our study on sexual harassment in
the federal workplace.
During the first hour, we shall hear from Ms. Caroline Cyr and
Ms. Judith Buchanan, from the Department of Human Resources and
Skills Development. We also welcome Ms. Elizabeth MacPherson,
from the Canadian Industrial Relations Board. Ms. MacPherson is in
contact with us by videoconference, since she is in Toronto.
Each organization will have 10 minutes at their disposal.
Afterwards, we will have a question period.
We will begin with the representatives of the Department of
Human Resources and Skills Development.
You have 10 minutes.
[English]
Mrs. Caroline Cyr (Director General, Workplace Directorate,
Labour Program, Department of Human Resources and Skills
Development): Thank you for the opportunity to come and speak to
you today on behalf of HRSDC and the labour program.
The labour program administers the Canada Labour Code, which
covers labour relations, which is part I, occupational health and
safety, which is part II, and labour standards, which is part III, for
federally regulated, private sector employers. For part II, it's
important to note that we have extended jurisdiction and we also
cover the federal public sector, while for parts I and III we do not.
Today I want to focus my opening remarks on how occupational
health and safety regulations and labour standards obligations
address sexual harassment concerns in the workplace. Both
occupational health and safety and labour standard obligations are
a shared responsibility between the labour program and employers.
That's an important point.
The labour program sets the legislative and regulatory framework
for employer policies. We educate workplace parties, and we enforce
the Canada Labour Code requirements via inspections and handling
of complaints. Employers are responsible for complying with the
requirements of the code and for administering workplace policy. In
this case it's the policies that address violence in the workplace and
sexual harassment. This includes investigating and responding to
incidents of violence in the workplace, as well as allegations of
sexual harassment.
With regard to occupational health and safety, the Canada
occupational health and safety regulations, which were introduced
in 2008, establish a regulatory framework for violence prevention in
the workplace. They apply to federally regulated workplaces,
including the federal public sector. In the case of the federal public
service, the Treasury Board policy on harassment prevention and
resolution incorporates these regulations by reference. I understand
that Treasury Board witnesses were in front of the committee last
week, so I know you've heard from them about their policy.
Workplace violence is defined as “any action, conduct, threat or
gesture of a person towards an employee in their workplace that can
reasonably be expected to cause harm, injury or illness to that
employee”. While this policy requirement has a broader application
to address bullying and other types of aggressive behaviour in the
workplace, it can also be applied to sexual harassment toward an
employee.
In establishing a violence prevention program, an employer must
consult with it's workplace health and safety committee, which
comprises employee representatives, and assess the workplace to
determine the potential workplace violence issues. The workplace
violence program does not need to address sexual harassment
specifically and focuses more broadly on all forms of workplace
violence.
In addition, each employer must develop and post a workplace
violence prevention policy. This should include a commitment to
providing a violence-free workplace and a statement that bullying,
teasing, and abuse and other aggressive behaviour will not be
tolerated; an indication that the employer will share any information
concerning the factors that contribute to workplace violence;
assistance for employees who've been exposed to workplace
violence; and finally, procedures to follow should an employee be
subject to workplace violence.
Employees also have a responsibility in creating and sustaining a
violence-free workplace. They're to report cases of violence to the
employer, who's responsible for recording and investigating the act
of violence. It goes without saying that they must abstain from
violence or be subject to disciplinary actions.
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FEWO-45
It's important to know that part II of the code does not require
employers to inform the labour program of any employee complaints
of violence in the workplace, including sexual harassment. They're
responsible for dealing with any such complaint, and should
employees not be satisfied with the results of the employer's
investigation, then they can file a complaint with the Canadian
Human Rights Commission, which I understand also presented in
front of the committee last week.
October 23, 2012
prevention program would be reported to the labour program for
investigation.
Under part III of the code, an employee may file a complaint with
the labour program alleging that the employer has not developed or
posted a sexual harassment policy in the workplace. The complaint
would be investigated and all attempts would be made to educate and
counsel the employer with the goal of obtaining voluntary
compliance.
I'll now turn to part III of the code, which establishes an
employee's right to employment free of sexual harassment and
requires employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
This applies to federally regulated workplaces, but does not cover
the public sector.
● (0855)
Under both parts II and III of the code, individual complaints of
sexual harassment are referred to the Canadian Human Rights
Commission to be addressed under the discriminatory practices
provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act, as they are the
primary authority to address discrimination in the workplace.
In comparison with the federal public service, federally regulated
workplaces are required to have a policy that addresses sexual
harassment specifically, while the Treasury Board policy on
harassment prevention and resolution addresses all types of
harassment.
The labour program has received some complaints where
employers were not compliant with the violence prevention
regulations and sexual harassment provisions of the code. These
mostly related to the lack of policies, and in all cases, employers
were able to correct the situation and comply with the code.
The code defines “sexual harassment” as:
Over the last five years, from 2007 to 2012, the labour program
received only two complaints with respect to sexual harassment
provisions under part III of the code, and both complaints were
unfounded.
any conduct,
comment, gesture or contact of a sexual nature
(a) that is likely to cause offence or humiliation to any employee; or
(b) that might, on reasonable grounds, be perceived by that employee as placing a
condition of a sexual nature on employment or on any opportunity for training or
promotion.
Every employer, after consulting with employees and their
representatives, must issue and post a policy on sexual harassment.
The policy must contain the definition of “sexual harassment”, a
statement entitling employees to employment free of sexual
harassment, a statement specifying the employee will make every
reasonable effort to prevent sexual harassment, a statement
confirming that the employee will take appropriate disciplinary
measures against any person who subjects any employee to sexual
harassment, a statement explaining how complaints of sexual
harassment may be brought to the employer's attention, a
confidentiality statement, and a statement informing employees of
their rights to seek redress under the discriminatory practices
provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act.
The compliance activities under the code with respect to both
sexual harassment and violence prevention in the workplace range
from proactive counselling and inspections to reactive investigations
of employees' complaints, and finally, as a last recourse, to
prosecutions.
The labour program utilizes inspections as one of the program
activities to ensure employers' compliance. In cases where violations
are noted by the inspector, employees are encouraged to voluntarily
comply through education and counselling.
Under part II of the code, a labour program officer may direct an
employer to comply with the regulatory requirements for a violence
prevention program. In accordance with provisions of part II of the
code, an employee may submit a complaint to their employer using
the internal complaint resolution process, which promotes the
internal resolution of complaints by the workplace parties. Only
unresolved issues with respect to the implementation of the violence
In conclusion, the labour program strives to create Canadian
workplaces where trust and respect for everyone are the norm. We're
committed to protecting the fundamental right of workers and
employers to work in an environment that is safe and free of violence
and sexual harassment.
● (0900)
[Translation]
The Chair: Thank you very much.
We shall now give the floor to Ms. MacPherson.
You have 10 minutes to make your presentation.
[English]
Ms. Elizabeth MacPherson (Chairperson, Canada Industrial
Relations Board): Thank you very much.
I'd first like to thank the committee for allowing me to appear by
video conference. It's much appreciated.
I am the chair of the Canada Industrial Relations Board, which is
responsible for the administration, interpretation, and enforcement of
part I of the Canada Labour Code. Part I governs the relationship
between unions and employers in the federally regulated private
sector.
Ms. Cyr has already given you an indication of what that federally
regulated private sector encompasses.
Under part I, the board hears applications related to the acquisition
and termination of bargaining rights, unfair labour practice
complaints, and the maintenance of activities that are essential to
public health and safety in the event of a work stoppage.
October 23, 2012
FEWO-45
We very rarely hear any cases directly related to harassment of any
kind, let alone sexual harassment. The only way in which those cases
tend to come before the board is in respect to an obligation that
unions have under the code to fairly represent all of the employees in
a bargaining unit. The union is obliged to act in a manner that is not
discriminatory, in bad faith, or arbitrary.
I had a survey done of the cases since the amendments to the
Canada Labour Code—
[Translation]
harasser, who was complaining that the union didn't do enough to
defend him or her against the allegations of harassment.
There are some cases where an individual who was harassed
complained that the union wasn't doing enough to represent them,
and of course those are the kinds of cases that the board would hear
and determine.
As I said, though, it's very rare that we have any involvement
whatsoever in the subject matter of your inquiry.
The Chair: I apologize, Ms. MacPherson, but I have just been
told that there is no sound in the room. I think that we have a minor
technical problem. I am going to ask you to wait a bit.
I'm quite prepared to take any questions you may have.
● (0905)
We are going to suspend the hearing, just for the time it takes us to
resolve this technical problem.
● (0900)
(Pause)
● (0900)
The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms. MacPherson.
The Chair: We shall resume our meeting, Ms. MacPherson. It
seems that the earphones are working, even though we don't have
sound in the room.
Would the committee like Ms. MacPherson to start over again? I
see that the answer is yes.
And so Ms. MacPherson, we are going to ask you to start over
again. We do apologize for this inconvenience. I am going to set the
clock back to zero again, and so once again you have 10 minutes at
your disposal.
[English]
Ms. Elizabeth MacPherson: Thank you, Madame Morin.
Again, thank you to the committee for allowing me to appear by
video conference, but I regret the difficulties that have occasioned
for the committee.
To reiterate, I'm the chair of the Canada Industrial Relations
Board, which is the body responsible for the interpretation and
enforcement of part I of the Canada Labour Code. Part I deals with
such matters as the acquisition and termination of bargaining rights,
unfair labour practices, and the maintenance of activities that are
essential for public health and safety in the event of a work stoppage.
Our duties mainly revolve around the relationships between
unions and employers. It's very rare that we would have a case
involving harassment or sexual harassment coming in front of the
board. Those kinds of complaints may, and very rarely do, come to
us peripherally, as part of a complaint against a union that would be
filed under the duty of fair representation provision of the code. That
section of the code requires unions to act in a manner that is not
arbitrary, discriminatory, or in bad faith with respect to their
representation of the employees vis-à-vis their rights under a
collective agreement.
I caused a study to be done of the jurisprudence of the board over
the last dozen years or so. We were only able to find about 30 cases
where an individual had complained about the way their union
behaved with respect to allegations of sexual harassment. Interestingly enough, the majority of those complaints were from the
3
[Translation]
We will now move on to our question period. We'll begin with the
government side.
Ms. Truppe, you have seven minutes.
[English]
Mrs. Susan Truppe (London North Centre, CPC): Thank you
for your time in coming today for this important study. We really
appreciate learning more about each individual area.
My questions are for HRSDC and the labour officials.
Caroline, in your opening remarks, you indicated that there's an
education component on the occupational health and safety and
labour standards as they pertain to workplace violence, and that
includes sexual harassment. Could you elaborate on that, and explain
to the committee the types of training and education provided on
these standards and who's responsible for that training? Are
employers primarily responsible for ensuring that employees receive
training and are properly educated, or who does that?
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: It is a shared responsibility. The best way to
define how to divide those responsibilities, and how we use the
training and how we define, educate, and do counselling is when it
comes to the actual training component. The training of the
employees falls within the responsibility of the employers, whereas
the educational piece falls within the labour program.
I'll go a little bit more into more detail for each of those elements.
Mrs. Susan Truppe: Sure.
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: The employer has the responsibility to
educate their employees on acceptable behaviour in the workplace.
The responsibilities are a little bit different under part II than under
part III, so I'll present them separately.
Under part II, the occupational health and safety component, in
accordance with the violence prevention regulations, all employees
in a workplace unit must receive training from their employer in any
skills that would allow them to identify, prevent, or avoid any
workplace violence. That can include sexual harassment, as I
mentioned earlier.
The employer must provide employees with the information, the
guidelines, and the training at least every three years, as a minimum.
That's in the legislation.
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FEWO-45
Training and education are essential when we strive to have a
workplace that is free from violence and sexual harassment.
Under part III, the employer is responsible for providing a
workplace that's free from sexual harassment. I defined that earlier in
my presentation. The employer has to make every reasonable effort
to maintain a workplace that is free of sexual harassment, and that
often involves ensuring through their policy that they can provide the
right information and the right training to their employees.
With respect to what the labour program's responsibilities are, we
provide education and counselling to the federally regulated
employers, either upon an employee's request to do so or as part
of our duty to inspect the workplaces. During our inspections, the
officers will explain the requirements of the regulations, and will
share the available tools, such as pamphlets, which can provide an
overview of the provisions in question. In some instances, we have
what we call IPGs, interpretation, policies and guidelines documents.
If we have them, these are brought to the attention of the employer to
comply with.
As an example, under violence prevention, the labour program has
created a guide, which is on our website and which I'll be happy to
provide a link to, that is meant to assist employers, members of a
policy or workplace committee, and health and safety representatives
in preventing violence in the workplace. The guide outlines very
practical procedures, almost like a step-by-step of how to comply
with the requirements of the code, so that they can follow those
instructions in implementing the prescribed steps for the prevention
of violence. It includes the step of providing employee training and
education.
● (0910)
Mrs. Susan Truppe: Thank you, Caroline.
My next question is on a couple of things you said. One of them
was that they have to train, I think, every three years.
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: To refresh, yes.
Mrs. Susan Truppe: To refresh, so there's no training whatsoever
for an entire three years. If you're new, you get trained, and then
nothing else happens for three years?
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: The policies always have to be posted and
visible. It doesn't mean there is no training. The minimum
requirement set by the code is every three years.
Mrs. Susan Truppe: Okay.
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: It's up to employers to decide if they want to
increase the frequency. Of course, when you have new employees
who come into the workforce, they would either go through an
orientation program or they would be informed of what's available.
Mrs. Susan Truppe: When you were speaking earlier, you
mentioned that the employers develop and publicly post their
violence prevention strategies. How do we ensure that these
strategies in the workplace are working? If they're developed by
an employer and posted, how do we know for sure that the
employees are aware? Is there some type of follow-up done to ensure
that the rules under the code are being followed by the employers
with respect to the policies? Is there some type of accountability?
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: We do follow up. That is part of our
compliance activities. We'll follow up either through proactive
October 23, 2012
measures, like inspections, or through a reactive measure. If we
receive a complaint from an employee, then we'll do an investigation. We will verify, during inspections or investigations, whether the
provisions of the code were adhered to.
Since 2008, when the provisions under the violence prevention
regs were introduced, the labour program has conducted about 700
inspections, with the goal of ensuring that the employer's violence
prevention programs are developed and functional. I believe there
are now 9,300 employers in the federal jurisdiction, so we can't visit
them all in one year.
Mrs. Susan Truppe: Sure.
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: We have what we call an intervention model,
which enables us to target high-risk industries such as the road
transport sector. We target our inspections in those areas first and
foremost to ensure that the policies are adhered to.
Mrs. Susan Truppe: Is the inspection system complaint-based?
Oh, we're done. Thanks.
[Translation]
The Chair: Ms. Truppe, unfortunately your speaking time has
expired.
I now give the floor to the NDP side.
Ms. Ashton, you have seven minutes.
[English]
Ms. Niki Ashton (Churchill, NDP): Thank you very much.
I wanted to follow up on your last comment, Ms. Cyr. You
mentioned that the rail industry was a high-risk industry. Is that in a
context of harassment in general?
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: No, it's in an overall context. When we look
at our data, if it's under part II, it's how many hazardous occurrences,
fatalities, and investigations there are. Under part III, it's how many
investigations we do. We then determine which ones are the highrisk industries.
● (0915)
Ms. Niki Ashton: Okay. Thank you for that.
I'm wondering if you have an idea of which sectors or workplaces
might be high-risk for sexual harassment.
October 23, 2012
FEWO-45
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: Because we don't collect data specifically
about sexual harassment, we're not able to provide you with that
information. The data collection we have is specific to what our
intervention activities are. If we go into a business or workplace to
do an inspection or an investigation, we'll record that. With respect to
violence prevention, we don't record the type of violence. We don't
keep data on that.
What we can tell you is how many inspections we've done, how
many complaints there were for violations under violence prevention. Beyond that, we don't have any breakdown.
Ms. Niki Ashton: That follows from the presentation from
Treasury Board last week. They don't have data on how much sexual
harassment occurs in the federal workplace. While a figure of 29%
was made for general harassment complaints, there's actually no
information on how much of that is sexual harassment.
When we're talking about something as serious as sexual
harassment, one would hope that the information would be available
at anyone's fingertips. Is HRSDC working at asking that question?
Recognition exists for hazardous occurrences. Is there an interest in
finding out exactly what kind of harassment takes place in certain
workplaces, specifically sexual harassment?
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: Our mandate under both part II and part III is
very specific. We keep data that is in line with what we're mandated
to do under the legislation. We have data on the number of
occurrences where we've been pulled in.
An important point of clarification is that we provide the
legislative and regulatory framework, and we provide the education
and counselling, but it's up to the employers to ensure that they
adhere to the code.
As part of that division of responsibilities, there's nothing in the
code that mandates the employers to report to us when there is
violence in the workplace or where there are complaints of sexual
harassment. That information never comes back to us. So even if we
had data, it wouldn't be indicative of the whole universe, because the
employers don't have to tell us what's happening in their workplace.
Ms. Niki Ashton: Thank you for that. That seems to be a gap.
Certainly our committee's in a position to recommend how we could
deal with such gaps.
I want to move to the question of the times we're in, specifically in
terms of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.
In September, 1,700 more jobs were lost in HRSDC alone across
the country. We've talked a lot in this committee about prevailing
cultures in the federal workplace and how they might assist in
harassment taking place and also in people choosing not to report
harassment.
I'm wondering, in the context of job stress and workplace
adjustment, if you have a sense of not just sexual harassment but of
perhaps greater stress on workers and maybe a sense that they don't
want to come forward on any harassment that might be taking place.
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: Unfortunately, as the labour program, we are
the regulator. That information falls within the purview of the
employers.
5
You mentioned specifically the public service cuts. Treasury
Board Secretariat, as the employer of all public servants, would be in
a better position to answer that question. It falls outside the purview
of the labour program.
Ms. Niki Ashton: Sure.
How about in terms of applying the kind of work you do with
respect to HRSDC employees working on the ground in Service
Canada offices? There are potentially some challenging situations,
particularly in the times we're in, with respect to the cuts to EI,
pension changes, and that kind of thing.
I happen to know people who work for Service Canada. I'm
wondering about the kinds of situations they're facing and how, in
fact, HRSDC might be responding to perhaps increased stress and
the potential for harassment.
● (0920)
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: Right.
Again, even though we are HRSDC, the labour program also
regulates HRSDC, the same way it would regulate any other federal
department. In that respect, we would take the same role vis-à-vis
our own department.
The department is responsible for ensuring that they comply with
the elements of the code, which means that they have to have a
policy with respect to violence in the workplace. As part of their
responsibility, they have to be able to identify any factors that may
come into play in increasing the risk of workplace violence. That
would be work done by each of the employers, whether that's
HRSDC or a trucking company that crosses borders. It's up to the
employers to do that. That certainly falls within their roles and
responsibilities. Ours is to ensure, when we do inspections, that they
have those policies in place, that they're posted, and that the training
has taken place, for instance. If we receive complaints, we can make
sure that they were indeed in compliance with the elements of the
code.
If we receive complaints about sexual harassment, we don't
actually—
[Translation]
The Chair: Unfortunately, Ms. Cyr, I am going to have to stop
you here. Thank you very much.
Ms. James now has the floor and has seven minutes at her
disposal.
[English]
Ms. Roxanne James (Scarborough Centre, CPC): Thank you,
Madam Chair.
Thank you to our guests for being here today.
I listened to your speeches. Part of the speech is in printed form,
and I'm going to read from it. It says, “Every employer, after
consulting with employees or their representatives, must issue and
post a policy on sexual harassment. The policy must contain”—and
the first one is—“a definition of sexual harassment”. There's a series
of points thereafter.
6
FEWO-45
October 23, 2012
I'm a little concerned, because the way this is worded seems to
imply that employers can actually have different types of policies
posted. When I think of the definition of “sexual harassment”, I'm a
bit concerned that one definition from one employer may be different
from another definition from a different employer.
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: I can't answer the question right now,
because we don't actually have a repository of all of the employers'
policies and policy statements. There are almost 10,000 employers,
so you can imagine the nightmare this would create for us to keep
those, and this is one regulation.
Is sexual harassment not sexual harassment? That's the first part of
the question. Also, who actually monitors the actual policy that's
posted to make sure that it is in compliance and that one employer's
policy is not way out of line compared to those of other employers
that are also monitored or governed by this code?
We don't have that information in terms of being able to offer a
comparator.
It's a two-part question. Thank you.
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: We provide a definition of “sexual
harassment” under part III of the code. The employer's policy has
to be aligned with that. Although there might be some nuances from
employer to employer, they have to be aligned with what's in the
code. That's the safeguard, if you will, in that respect.
Part two of your question is about how we ensure that they have it
and how we ensure that they don't do something other than what
they're required to do. Is that a fair summary of what you're asking?
Ms. Roxanne James: Yes, it is.
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: That's part of the follow-up we do, as I
mentioned earlier. We will do a proactive follow-up. It's what we call
the inspections. We go into the workplace and ensure that the
employers are compliant with the requirements of the code.
We can go into the workplace and look at a variety of things. It
doesn't necessarily mean that our visits are targeted only to violence
prevention. We might be going there for something else and would
look at the violence prevention at the same time.
We have those follow-ups, and we ensure that, indeed, the policy
statements and the definitions, all of these things, are aligned with
the provisions of the code, either part III for sexual harassment, or
violence prevention in part II. If they're not, this is where we play our
education and counselling role. We work with employers.
Generally speaking, we are successful through what we call an
assurance of voluntary compliance, AVCs, where they voluntarily
agree to comply with that. After that agreement, we will do a followup, or they will be asked to send us whatever is lacking or whatever
needs to be redressed.
● (0925)
Ms. Roxanne James: Thank you. That actually leads to another
set of questions, but I want to come back to this policy the employers
actually create.
You've indicated that you actually give them some parameters.
You provide the definition of “sexual harassment”. That's good, but
what would be the variations you would see in certain policies
among different employers?
It looks as though the employer needs to consult with employees
and their representatives to come up with a tailor-made policy that
fits their organization. I'm just wondering, if they have to include all
of these different points, what would you see as a variance between
one employer and another, and just the Canada Labour Code
providing what's required?
Ms. Roxanne James: I was just curious to know where you
would see the variations, but if you can't answer, that's fine.
Going back to your statement regarding the inspections, and I
know that Ms. Truppe asked some questions regarding that, as well,
you indicated that you had made 700 inspections.
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: Under part II, yes.
Ms. Roxanne James: You also mentioned that when there's a
complaint, you initiate an inspection. Are they random inspections?
Are they annual inspections or are they done every two years? Do
you hit the 10,000 different organizations? How do you pick and
choose?
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: We have this intervention model. This is
under part II, occupational health and safety, the violence prevention
regulations. We identify which ones are our high-risk industries. We
identify those through an analysis of data in terms of which sector,
rather than employer-specific, has the most hazardous occurrences or
the most fatalities, in that sort of scope. Based on that, we identify
the top five sectors and we target our interventions to those sectors.
I don't have all of them, but I could come back to the committee
with a written response. We have road transport. We have
longshoring. We have rail. I think there are two more. I could—
Ms. Roxanne James: Is it safe to say that if you were not one of
the top five sectors, this particular organization or department would
never have an inspection?
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: I don't think that's safe to say. You may not
have an inspection this year—
Ms. Roxanne James: —or regularly.
You've also mentioned high-risk industries based on different
sectors. Why are those sectors, and you named a few, considered
high risk with regard to sexual harassment and not necessarily deaths
or injuries in the workplace? What would define a high-risk sector?
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: Those sectors are defined as high risk not
specifically to sexual harassment. We don't have an identification of
high risk based on sexual harassment because we don't collect data
on that.
[Translation]
The Chair: Unfortunately, Ms. Cyr, I am going to have to
interrupt you because Ms. James' speaking time has expired.
[English]
Ms. Roxanne James: It was mentioned that something could be
provided to the committee thereafter. If we could have that as well,
perhaps you could make a note. Thank you very much.
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: For the high-risk industries?
Ms. Roxanne James: Yes.
October 23, 2012
FEWO-45
[Translation]
The Chair: There is no problem. Thank you.
It is now Ms. Sgro's turn.
7
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: Indeed. All federally regulated employers
and employees.
Hon. Judy Sgro: Exactly.
You have seven minutes.
[English]
Hon. Judy Sgro (York West, Lib.): Thank you to our witnesses
for coming this morning.
You can read all of these wonderful words and policies, and so on
that get set up, which is what you're doing as far as the labour side of
it, and then it's up to employers to come to you if they're having an
issue, if there's been a complaint made to them that they can't
resolve. You said that in five years you've only received two
complaints. The employer has no time obligation to bring those
complaints to you. Do I understand that?
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: It's actually the employees who can complain
to us. If the employees are complaining to their employer, the
employer, in setting up the policy, must provide an explicit
explanation to employees of what to do if they encounter sexual
harassment in the workplace. They would go to their employers.
You're correct. The employees don't have to report back to us.
● (0930)
Hon. Judy Sgro: In the last five years, have there only been two?
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: There were two complaints, and both were
with respect to whether or not the employer had created a policy or
posted a policy. When we went in to investigate, we found that in
fact that wasn't the case, that there was a policy, or that the policy
was posted. That's what we mean by the complaints having been
unfounded.
Hon. Judy Sgro: Does that not concern you, given the fact that
Treasury Board had told us it was about 29% for complaints, and
when we look at the statistics, the number of complaints of
harassment, only two got to the labour board? Does that not raise a
concern that there may be a bigger problem, that somehow there's a
disconnect between the labour board in your program and various
federal departments?
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: We make sure that we deliver our mandate
appropriately and efficiently. In doing so, we live within the
constraints of that mandate.
Has the RCMP or employees of the RCMP ever been in contact
with you or your department?
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: I would have to look into that. Specifically,
they are covered under part II, occupational health and safety. They
are not covered under part III of the code.
Hon. Judy Sgro: You indicated that you've only had two
complaints in the last five years, from 2007 to 2012. I assume then
that you must not have received anything directly from the RCMP or
it would have been reflected.
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: I can assure you that for the two complaints
under part III, they could not have been made by the RCMP because
they're not covered under part III.
Hon. Judy Sgro: They're not covered under part III.
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: They're not covered under part III, only
under part II, occupational health and safety. For that, that's the
violence prevention that encompasses sexual harassment but isn't
specific to it.
Hon. Judy Sgro: Yes, because I would find it difficult, when you
talk about violence in the workplace and then you try to tie that in to
sexual harassment, to see how people would view that.
It seems to me that your mandate really needs a very serious
update to better reflect some of the challenges we're facing out there
today, specifically for women, and the whole bullying and
intimidation issues that aren't violence, as you would call violence
in the workplace, but are intimidation and so on. A recommendation
that I think the committee might want to make is that you update
that. Certainly, it doesn't gel with the numbers we heard from
Treasury Board as to what's really happening in various departments
and agencies.
Hon. Judy Sgro: When was that mandate last reviewed?
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: For part II, under occupational health and
safety, the last review was in 2000. For part III, I believe it was in the
mid-1980s. I don't have the specific date. I can come back to the
committee with that specific date.
Hon. Judy Sgro: It has been quite a while.
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: For part III.
Hon. Judy Sgro: For part III, which is the area we're very
concerned about.
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: That speaks specifically to sexual harassment.
Hon. Judy Sgro: Is the Canada Labour Code and the work that
you've put together for all federally regulated employees?
One of the smaller agencies we heard about had a 51% complaint
ratio, yet none of them got to you. I guess that's not your role, unless
the employers are going to come to you, and you've only had two
complaints. I find it alarming. I mean, I don't want you to have a
whole lot of complaints. I like to think of the federal service as being
terrific, which it is, but any huge employer will have lots of
challenges, and there are those that are unwarranted complaints. We
all know about them, but there are lots of other complaints out there
that are clearly warranted. I think if 5% come forward with
complaints, it's probable there are 8% or 9% more that could.
However, people do not jump into filing complaints against their
employer easily. I think there has to be a very serious issue because,
right off the bat, you know there is going to be an issue to do with
your job future, no matter how much protection we might put down.
8
FEWO-45
Everything sounds wonderful and reassuring in your policies. All
the right words are there. We heard all the right words from Treasury
Board last week, and yet there is still an alarming number of people
coming forward. If 29% come forward, then there's another
significant amount that aren't coming forward. It's a bit concerning
as we move forward on this in trying to create that culture where
people feel comfortable in an environment, because they would be
more successful in their jobs if they felt more comfortable. You
really don't cover that off when you talk about violence in the
workplace.
● (0935)
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: I would say it's hard to draw a comparison
with the stats that were provided last week since our data is not a
reflection of the whole universe, because the employers maintain the
responsibility of recording, reporting, and investigating these
complaints and do not have to report those to us.
I understand your concern about the fact that we have two
complaints under part III, and it looks disjuncted with—
[Translation]
The Chair: I am going to have to interrupt you, because
Ms. Sgro's allotted time has expired.
I now give the floor to Ms. Bateman, who has five minutes.
Ms. Joyce Bateman (Winnipeg South Centre, CPC): Thank
you, Madam Chair.
I would like to share my time between the two witnesses,
beginning with Ms. MacPherson.
[English]
Ms. MacPherson, thank you for putting up with our little technical
glitches at the start.
I always like to understand the big picture. When you have your
employees, you are the chairperson of the Canada Industrial
Relations Board. The workplace of the Canada Industrial Relations
Board is governed by the values and ethics of the public service and
also the rules coming out of Treasury Board as the key employer. Is
that correct?
Ms. Elizabeth MacPherson: Correct. As an employer in the
public service, we are subject to the same rules as Ms. Cyr has
described for any government department.
Ms. Joyce Bateman: Is your employer Treasury Board?
Ms. Elizabeth MacPherson: The employer of the staff of the
Canada Industrial Relations Board is Treasury Board, yes.
Ms. Joyce Bateman: Yes, so you're governed by that.
You made reference to the fact that over a period of time—and I'm
very curious about finding out what period of time that is—there
were 30-some complaints, and they weren't from the harassee, but
rather from the harasser. Is that what you said?
Ms. Elizabeth MacPherson: Let me be more clear.
The board has to interpret and enforce the provisions of part I of
the code. One of the provisions of part I is what we call the duty of
fair representation. It imposes on unions the obligation to fairly
represent every employee in the bargaining unit that the board has
October 23, 2012
certified them for. They're obliged not to act in a manner that is
arbitrary, discriminatory, or in bad faith, with respect to their
representation of those employees vis-à-vis their rights under a
collective agreement.
I think one piece that has been missing this morning is that in
many collective agreements the union and the employer have agreed
to non-discrimination and non-harassment policies. An employee
who feels they've been subjected to some kind of harassment could
also file a grievance. The union has to take that grievance seriously
and make a determination as to whether or not it should be brought
forward to arbitration.
The employees themselves are entitled to make a complaint to the
board if they don't feel that the union has represented them properly,
in accordance with the union's obligations under the Canada Labour
Code—
Ms. Joyce Bateman: That's the 30—
Ms. Elizabeth MacPherson: —and those are the kinds of
complaints that we would hear.
Ms. Joyce Bateman: Is that the 30 cases that you have? Over
how many years did those complaints come in, where somebody
thought they weren't being represented appropriately by their union?
Ms. Elizabeth MacPherson: It was over a 12-year period. I
looked at the board's jurisprudence. I was able to identify 30 cases,
where sexual harassment was a basis for the complaint and—
Ms. Joyce Bateman: Over 12 years you had 30 complaints?
Thank goodness you're there so that people on both sides of the
complaint have recourse, as it were, and sober second thought.
Over 12 years, you had 30 complaints. Of those 30 complaints,
which ones were frivolous and which ones were true complaints that
you felt you had to take action on, that they were justified?
● (0940)
Ms. Elizabeth MacPherson: On the test that we apply in this
case, we're not looking at the merits of the grievance, at whether or
not there was sexual harassment. That's not our job. Our role is to tell
whether the union—
Ms. Joyce Bateman: Gave support—
Ms. Elizabeth MacPherson: —fairly represented the employee
with respect to whatever that grievance was.
Ms. Joyce Bateman: Yes.
Ms. Elizabeth MacPherson: We don't look at the merits of the
grievance. We look at the union's conduct.
Ms. Joyce Bateman: How many of those 30 cases over 12 years
were found to be legitimate complaints against the union?
Ms. Elizabeth MacPherson: I'd have to go back and look at the
results. The—
Ms. Joyce Bateman: Could you go back and look at that?
Ms. Elizabeth MacPherson: In a sense, that's an under-reporting,
because when we get a complaint, our labour relations officers will
often try to mediate, and certainly, if there are complaints—
Ms. Joyce Bateman: We'd appreciate it, Ms. MacPherson, if you
could provide that response in writing.
October 23, 2012
FEWO-45
Meanwhile, I have just a few minutes left, and I want to make sure
that I ask the other lady something as well. Thank you very much.
Ms. Cyr—
The Chair: You have about 50 seconds.
Ms. Joyce Bateman: I have 50 seconds? Then here's what I
would very much appreciate.
You mentioned, Ms. Cyr, that you had certain percentages of
work done. You made reference to education. You made reference to
compliance. You made reference to counselling. I suspect that there
are other pieces.
If you would be good enough to let this committee know in
writing exactly how your time is spent, it would be interesting to us
as we go forward, and it may be a determination as to whether or not
we need you to come back for further questions.
[Translation]
Is it already over, Madam Chair?
The Chair: Your time has expired, Ms. Bateman. You can send in
your request in writing. We will make a note of it and Madam Clerk
will follow up.
Ms. Joyce Bateman: If that is possible, I would appreciate it.
The Chair: Thank you.
I now give the floor to Ms. Ashton.
You have five minutes.
[English]
Ms. Niki Ashton: My question is again for HRSDC. We heard
from the Human Rights Commission last week that one of the things
we need to see is a culture change, and that it's not enough to have
recourse when people come forward with complaints. What's also
important is to make sure that we create work environments where
these complaints don't take place because sexual harassment doesn't
take place.
There was reference to the need for equitable distribution of
power within the workplace and to recognize that women in
particular have to be in positions of decision-making and power as
well.
Are you involved with that kind of work? Do you see a place for
that kind of work in what you do?
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: I would tell you that we strive, through our
role as legislator and regulator, to create workplaces that are
respectful, where trust exists, and that are safe, fair, and equitable in
that respect. Everything we do is aligned with that mandate.
Ms. Niki Ashton: As a follow-up to that, is there any specific
reference to ensuring that women are in positions of decision-making
in the workplace?
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: That falls outside the purview of the labour
program, so I'm unable to answer specifically.
The Employment Equity Act looks at the fair representation and
distribution of the four employment equity groups. I'm sure you're
familiar with the act and what it does and doesn't do. That would be
something that's covered by the Minister of Labour.
9
Ms. Niki Ashton: Thank you for that.
Wasn't the act for private employers seeking a federal contract,
and it was actually repealed in the last number of months? I know
you're referencing the general act for public employers, but also in
terms of employers who are seeking federal contracts, was that act
gotten rid of?
● (0945)
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: Do you mean the Fair Wages and Hours of
Labour Act?
Ms. Judith Buchanan (Manager, Labour Standards, Labour
Program, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development): Are you speaking to the federal contractors program?
Ms. Niki Ashton: Yes.
Ms. Judith Buchanan: Yes. There will be amendments to that
under the Employment Equity Act, but that would be a different set
of witnesses that you'd need to speak with because we're not
responsible for that legislation.
Ms. Niki Ashton: I understand.
Thank you.
[Translation]
Mrs. Sana Hassainia (Verchères—Les Patriotes, NDP): Thank
you.
My first question is for Ms. Cyr or Ms. Buchanan.
What human and financial resources are currently allocated to
processing sexual harassment complaints? Do you have any idea?
And have these resources changed over the years?
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: Are you talking about the amounts of money
allocated to that?
Mrs. Sana Hassainia: Yes.
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: Normally, the word “allocated” has another
meaning in the public service. I wanted to make sure that I
understood your question.
I will be able to provide specific data for each year later. I would
say that there are approximately 80 or 90 inspectors, both for part II,
which deals with health and safety in the workplace, and for part III,
which deals with labour standards. There are between 80 and 90. I
will make sure to follow up on the question concerning the changes
over the past five years.
Mrs. Sana Hassainia: Are you going to send me that
information?
Mrs. Caroline Cyr: Yes.
Mrs. Sana Hassainia: Perfect.
My second question is for Ms. MacPherson.
Good morning, Ms. MacPherson.
What would you say are the current trends within your
organization? Given the cuts that various departments are dealing
with, do you see a difference in your workplace?
10
FEWO-45
[English]
Ms. Elizabeth MacPherson: The cutbacks in the public service
really don't affect the work of our board because our board is
responsible for the federal private sector. In terms of the nature of
cases coming before the board, they tend to be relatively stable.
Applications for certification and our duty of fair representation
complaints run typically at about 25% of our workload, and that
seems to be consistent. I haven't seen any change in that trend.
[Translation]
Mrs. Sana Hassainia: Thank you.
The Chair: This concludes our discussion with the first group of
witnesses.
Ms. MacPherson, Ms. Cyr and Ms. Buchanan, thank you very
much. It was a pleasure to have this discussion with you.
[English]
Ms. Elizabeth MacPherson: Thank you.
[Translation]
The Chair: Ms. Ambler, did you have a question?
[English]
Mrs. Stella Ambler (Mississauga South, CPC): I have a short
point of order, Madam Chair.
Through you, Madam Chair, I would like to ask Madam
MacPherson a question.
When you're providing the follow-up information that you talked
about earlier, perahps you could give us a bit more information. I felt
that after Ms. Bateman was talking about the under-reporting, you
had a little more to say. That's something we might want to hear a bit
more about. When you're providing us the other data, would you
mind—
[Translation]
The Chair: That is not really a point or order, Ms. Ambler.
[English]
Mrs. Stella Ambler: Sorry, I just wanted clarification.
The Chair: It's not a point of order.
If I understand correctly, you want more information.
Mrs. Stella Ambler: Yes, a little more information on the underreporting, as well as the other information if possible. It sounded as
though she had more to say about that. We want to hear more about
that, if you don't mind.
[Translation]
The Chair: Is that possible, Ms. MacPherson?
[English]
Ms. Elizabeth MacPherson: Certainly. I would be happy to do
that, Madam Chair.
[Translation]
The Chair: Fine.
[English]
Mrs. Stella Ambler: Thank you.
October 23, 2012
[Translation]
The Chair: Thank you very much.
We are going to suspend the hearing while we change witnesses.
● (0945)
(Pause)
● (0950)
The Chair: We shall resume our hearing with our second group of
witnesses.
First I would like to welcome our two witnesses, Mr. Christopher
Rootham, Partner and Director of Research Labour Law and
Employment Law Groups. We also welcome Mr. Steven Gaon,
who will be presenting as an individual.
Welcome to everyone. You will each have 10 minutes at your
disposal and afterwards we will have a question period.
We will begin with Mr. Rootham.
Mr. Rootham, you have 10 minutes.
[English]
Mr. Christopher Rootham (Partner and Director of Research,
Labour Law and Employment Law Groups, Nelligan O'Brien
Payne): Thank you very much.
By way of introduction, my name is Christopher Rootham. I've
been practising labour and employment law in the private sector for
approximately 10 years. I'm also a lecturer and professor of labour
law at Queen's and the University of Ottawa. I've written extensively
about human rights, labour and employment law, particularly with an
emphasis on the federal public service. I would like to confine my
introductory remarks to dealing with the question of recourse
available to the victims of sexual harassment within the public
service.
In my view, there are five essential characteristics of an effective
system of recourse. It must be expeditious, because justice delayed is
justice denied. It must be procedurally fair, including the opportunity
to be heard by an impartial decision-maker. There must be expertise
by the decision-maker. There should be broad acceptance of that
decision-maker within the community. There should be effective
redress at the end of that recourse mechanism—can the system right
the wrong?
In the federal public service there are at least five different systems
of recourse that could be used by a victim of sexual harassment,
depending on the circumstances of that harassment. A victim could
file a sexual harassment complaint by policy, either Treasury Board's
policy or a policy in place at a separate agency or separate employer.
The victim could file a grievance under the Public Service Labour
Relations Act. The victim could file a complaint with the Public
Service Staffing Tribunal or the Public Service Commission, if the
complaint refers to sexual harassment in an appointment process in
the core public administration. A victim could file a complaint with
the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner or with the Canadian
Human Rights Commission.
October 23, 2012
FEWO-45
11
The first difficulty with this system is the sheer number of
different recourse mechanisms available. This leads to confusion,
overlap of functions, and inefficiencies because of duplication, or
alternatively, passing the buck, as victims are passed from
jurisdiction to jurisdiction in an effort to find someone who will
take control or take jurisdiction over their matter.
Finally, a federal public servant could file a complaint with the
Canadian Human Rights Commission. The Canadian Human Rights
Commission, as you're aware, is a gateway to get to a tribunal. The
commission does not make decisions. The commission screens
complaints. Only approximately 9% of cases or complaints filed
with the commission make their way to a tribunal.
There are also difficulties within or about each of the particular
systems. With respect to a sexual harassment complaint, there are
three difficulties I'd like to bring to your attention. First, a sexual
harassment complaint is not available to the victims of harassment if
they have already grieved or attempted to use some other method of
recourse. Second, there's no requirement under the policy to provide
redress to the victim. The policy talks about corrective measures to
address what to do with the perpetrators of the harassment, but not to
talk about what to do for the victims. Third and finally, there's no
requirement that the deputy head or the deputy minister agree with or
implement the recommendations of the investigator.
The commission can refuse to refer a complaint of sexual
harassment to the tribunal for a number of reasons. One of them is
that paragraph 41(1)(a) of the Canadian Human Rights Act permits
the commission to refuse to investigate a complaint on the grounds
that it should be dealt with in another method of recourse. Both
legally and experientially, I can tell you that the commission
routinely refuses to investigate complaints of sexual harassment in
the federal public service because those victims should be going to
grievance or through Treasury Board's harassment policy.
With respect to the grievance system, there are two categories of
grievances in the federal public service: grievances that can be
referred to adjudication, which is independent third party resolution;
and grievances that cannot be referred to adjudication, which are
finally decided by the deputy head or his or her delegate.
Grievances can be referred to adjudication if they are about
discipline or if they are about collective agreement violations. For
those employees who are represented by a bargaining agent who has
successfully negotiated a sexual harassment clause into their
collective agreement, the grievance may be referred to adjudication.
The grievances of unrepresented employees or employees whose
bargaining agents have not negotiated sexual harassment clauses are
finally decided by the deputy minister alone.
If the matter is not referred to adjudication, this is not a truly
impartial hearing for unrepresented employees or for certain
represented employees, particularly with respect to the remedy. Is
a deputy head expected to award damages to the victims of sexual
harassment or career assistance that costs money, or other remedies
with a financial consequence when this money is going to be taken
out of their budget for other priorities? Further, deputy heads have no
expertise in assessing damages. They have no expertise in
adjudicating. Their expertise is in management, in program
administration; it's not in remedying the effects of sexual harassment.
● (0955)
Another category of recourse is to the Public Service Staffing
Tribunal or the Public Service Commission. This deals with only a
limited number of cases, if the harassment occurred in the context of
an appointment process to the core public administration, to Treasury
Board. There are limited remedies in that case, because the
complaint is only about that staffing action.
A victim could file a complaint with the Public Sector Integrity
Commissioner. However, the Public Servants Disclosure Protection
Act permits the commissioner to refuse to investigate a complaint of
sexual harassment on the grounds that there is another method of
recourse available. Frankly, we're in early days with the Public
Sector Integrity Commissioner in terms of learning how they're
going to deal with complaints of sexual harassment. We simply don't
know if that is going to be an effective recourse.
Also, the commission can refuse to refer a complaint to the
tribunal if, in its opinion, an offer to settle has been made to the
victim and the victim should have accepted it. This is a valid
complaint where the commission concludes there is merit to the
complaint, and yet the commission refuses to allow it to proceed to
the tribunal. This instead forces the complainant to accept a
settlement.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission can be slow in many
cases. It takes an average of nine months for the commission to
investigate its complaints. That does not include the complaints that
are dismissed expeditiously because they're in the wrong forum or
wrong jurisdiction, or they should go to another forum. The
complaints that are valid often take longer than nine months to
investigate. That does not take into account the fact that if the result
of the investigation by the Canadian Human Rights Commission is
that the matter is referred to a tribunal, you're looking at another nine
to ten months in order to complete a hearing in front of the tribunal.
Finally, the human rights system has the authority to grant
substantial remedies for the victims of harassment, but there is one
hole in that legislation; namely, that the Canadian Human Rights
Tribunal has no jurisdiction to award legal costs to a victim of
harassment. That was set out in the Supreme Court of Canada
decision in Mowat, which involved an employee who was sexually
harassed in the workplace. The tribunal awarded her $4,000 in
damages, but that did not go anywhere near to meeting the legal
expenses she incurred, because she retained private counsel.
The concern is that victims are not accessing these particular
forms of recourse because of the flaws in them, because there's no
true remedy at the end of the day, and because the expenses of
pursuing the matter would outweigh any possible recovery.
In conclusion, I suggest that one way to protect the victims of
sexual harassment would be to carefully examine the systems of
recourse to ensure that there is expeditious, effective, and fair
recourse available to the victims of sexual harassment.
● (1000)
[Translation]
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Rootham.
12
FEWO-45
I will now give the floor to Mr. Gaon, who will have 10 minutes,
but first I'd like to say that I have Mr. Gaon's speaking notes here, but
they are in English only. They are currently being translated. Once
they have been translated, they will be distributed to the members of
the committee.
Ms. Joyce Bateman: Madam Chair, will these speaking notes be
distributed after they have been translated?
The Chair: Yes, after they have been translated.
Ms. Joyce Bateman: Thank you. I am asking because this is a
very important witness.
The Chair: Yes, quite so. Thank you, Ms. Bateman.
Mr. Gaon, you may begin. You have 10 minutes.
[English]
Mr. Steven Gaon (As an Individual): Thank you.
In the time allotted what I would like to do is confine my remarks
to three general areas. First, I'd like to speak about where I fit into
this process of sexual harassment prevention and resolution. Second,
I'd like to speak very briefly about the Treasury Board of Canada’s
new harassment policy and highlight some differences I see in
comparison with the old policy. Third, I have some practical
experience and some issues I'd like to bring to your attention and
perhaps provide some advice for the future by way of concluding
remarks.
First of all, I will start with a brief description of who I am and
how I fit in. I am a lawyer by training and experience. I was called to
the Bar of Ontario in 1989. I had a traditional law practice in the
past, but I no longer have a traditional law practice. It now consists
almost exclusively of alternative dispute resolution, or what we call
ADR. This consists of mediation, arbitration, workplace facilitation,
and investigation work.
I am regularly called upon to investigate harassment complaints
within federal government departments, agencies, boards, and
tribunals. I have investigated wrongdoing, including sexual harassment, by lower level employees,all the way up to some of the highest
levels in the public service and its related organizations. In other
words, I fit in near the end of the process. Once the complaint has
been submitted and vetted by human resources officials, once the
parties have been notified, once there is a level of dysfunction
already in the workplace, and once informal resolution has failed,
that’s when I come in. My perspective is somewhat narrow. It is not
that of a theorist or academic; it's that of a practitioner.
My investigation work is typically carried out pursuant to
organizational harassment policies, most often the Treasury Board
policy. As the committee now knows from hearing from Treasury
Board officials, the Treasury Board just released its new harassment
policy, “Policy on Harassment Prevention and Resolution”, which
was made effective October 1, 2012. This replaces the old policy,
which had not been revised since 2001. They are similar, but there
are some notable differences. As you will see, the name change
reflects one of the key features of this new policy.
The formation of this new policy was no doubt a major
undertaking and a positive development, in my view, to deal with
harassment in the workplace. There are a number of documents and
October 23, 2012
guides which I understand are still under development. I think we all
need to see how the policy is applied in practice before we pass
judgment on its effectiveness.
Let's start with the new policy versus the old policy. Like most of
you, I have not had a chance to do an extensive review, but I have
looked at it as carefully as I could have within the last few days. A
number of related documents, as I said earlier, still have yet to be
released. I will highlight a couple of key features.
One item is scope. The new policy specifically includes
harassment outside the workplace, including travel locations,
conferences, training, and informational sessions. As long as these
outside locations are related to the workplace, a harassment
complaint can be made.
Another is the harassment definition. The difference between the
old and new definition is the idea that harassment can take place
outside the traditional workplace. Finally and importantly, with
respect to the new harassment definition, there used to be guides
contained right in the definition itself with respect to what may or
may not constitute harassment. Those are no longer there. Those
may come out with some of these guides and other documents, as I
indicated that Treasury Board is currently working on, but I don't see
them in the current harassment definition. I don't think that's a
critical problem. However, it was certainly useful to enable
investigators and the parties to a harassment complaint to get a
better understanding of what is inside and outside the lines of
harassment.
Manager's obligations is the third key feature that I see as a
difference between the old and new policy. Again, this may show up
in some of the further documents that Treasury Board is developing.
The old policy had a section entitled “Expectations”. It discussed
the expectations placed upon employees, parties to the harassment
complaint, and managers. This, as I said, apparently no longer exists.
One of the main features of this, which I had relied on a number of
times in doing my work, was an obligation on the part of the
manager to independently authorize an investigation where the
manager becomes aware of alleged harassment in the absence of a
formal complaint.
By way of example, I have investigated a matter involving sexual
harassment where the manager was accused of failing to intervene
even though there was no complaint filed. I determined in that case
that there had been a failure by the manager to sufficiently act upon
the allegations. I hope and expect there will be a way to authorize
investigations independently in the absence of a harassment
complaint, and that obligation or that capacity will be given to the
manager or the delegated manager.
● (1005)
Currently, the new policy seems more focused on the responsibilities of the deputy head, as I read it, rather than those of the
individual manager. Again, we do need to suspend judgment until
some of these other documents are released.
October 23, 2012
FEWO-45
13
I can bring some practical concerns and issues to your attention.
As I said, I'm not a theorist or an academic. I do quite a bit of
teaching, and I've certainly spoken on harassment a number of times.
I don't bring to you statistics; I bring practical experience. The vast
majority of investigations that I've performed have involved
harassment in the form of misconduct or abuse of authority, but
not sexual harassment. There have only been a handful of those.
Why is this? Are there simply fewer cases of sexual harassment than
we imagine? Are we now in an improved society where people better
understand what sexual harassment is and how to better comport
themselves in the workplace, or is sexual harassment underreported? My answer is it's a bit of both.
officers. I think they have a good policy. The policy that I have with
me today is from 2008. It's actually much more specific and broader
than the Treasury Board policy. It creates some really compelling
obligations on management, on the employees, and on the parties to
an investigation. Yet apparently we still have problems. As I said
earlier, you can have good policy, good managers, and still have
problems.
● (1010)
I cannot give you statistics, as I said, but I can tell you that based
on the cases that I've investigated, incidents of sexual harassment in
my view are probably under-reported. I can think of two major
investigations that I undertook that provided me with some insight
into this problem.
Mr. Steven Gaon: I could make some concluding remarks if you
like.
One case involved the alleged failure of a senior manager to
intervene—I mentioned this earlier—when the manager became
aware of potential harassment in the workplace. A number of women
were subjected to alleged sexual harassment by an employee who
was under that manager's direction. None of the women filed
complaints. What surprised me, frankly, was that based on the
evidence that I gathered, it was obvious to me that each was fearful
of the employee's close relationship with that senior manager. No
one wanted to make waves. None of the women, in my view, wanted
to be ostracized or have their careers adversely affected.
Another case involved sexually inappropriate remarks and
physical touching alleged against a senior male official by a female
colleague who was essentially at the same seniority level. She, too,
would not file a complaint. Instead, she reported her concerns to
management, which appropriately authorized an investigation. I did
that investigation. She was adamantly opposed, and this surprised
me. I was surprised to learn how fearful she was to come forward
even though this colleague was effectively at the same level. What
also astounded me was that during the course of my interviews,
including interviews with some senior women who also worked in
the same office, they too experienced unwanted sexual advances and
touching by the same individual. There were others I found out about
through hearsay evidence who also experienced this. None of these
people came forward. Every one of them was reluctant to come
forward.
I said at the beginning of this process that I come in near the end.
What this tells me about sexual harassment, just from anecdotal
experience, is that it often goes unreported and unchecked,
notwithstanding the existence of good policy, and notwithstanding
the existence of good managers. At the very end of the process,
management has to decide what to do once there is a sexual
harassment complaint that has been founded. As I alluded to earlier,
there are cases where the manager has inadequately dealt with the
situation. I believe that too often there is an ineffectual follow-up
once the investigation is completed.
I know this committee is concerned with recent allegations of
sexual harassment within the RCMP. I've looked at the RCMP
policy. I undertook an investigation, which did not involve sexual
harassment but involved alleged harassment against some RCMP
[Translation]
The Chair: I want to advise you that you have one minute left.
[English]
I'd like to leave you with three main points.
First, there needs to be better education and training in federal
workplaces on the issue of harassment in general and sexual
harassment in particular. In general, people need to better understand
that unsolicited and unwanted sexual advances are not acceptable.
People also need to know that they can safely bring forward their
complaints without fear of retaliation or adverse impact on their
careers.
Second, we need to make sure that managers can and should
independently authorize investigations where the situations warrant
it in the absence of formal complaint.
Third, where serious allegations of sexual harassment are proven
to be founded, there needs to be an effective follow-up by way of
action in restoring the workplace and consequences for those who
have breached the policy.
[Translation]
The Chair: Thank you very much. That was very interesting.
Before we have our question period, I would like to make a
clarification. Some members of the committee feel the need—and I
find this very relevant—to share with the public the fact that sexual
harassment does not always involve a situation where a man harasses
a woman. A woman can also harass a man. We wanted to make that
clarification for the general public. There you go, now that has been
said.
We will now have our question period.
Ms. O'Neill Gordon, you have seven minutes.
[English]
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill Gordon (Miramichi, CPC): Thank you,
Madam Chair, and my thanks to the witnesses for being with us
today. You certainly gave us lots of interesting facts that we are glad
to have for our study.
What can you tell us about how the federal workplace fares in
comparison with the broader Canadian workplace? You have lots of
practical experience in different areas beyond the federal workplace.
I'm wondering how this compares with the broader workplace in
regard to frequency of sexual harassment and how complaints are
addressed within and beyond the federal area.
14
FEWO-45
Mr. Steven Gaon: I'm not sure who that question is for, but I
could jump in.
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill Gordon: Okay.
Mr. Steven Gaon: I can tell you that I think the federal and
provincial governments have been incredibly progressive in bringing
in harassment policies and legislation. It's almost as though it doesn't
exist in the private sector. You rarely see sexual harassment
complaints. In fact, you rarely see harassment complaints of any
kind, and when you do see them my experience is they're not
generally dealt with adequately.
Mr. Christopher Rootham: Certainly, in respect of internal
mechanisms to deal with harassment complaints, the federal public
service is significantly better than the broader public sector or the
private sector. One of the main differences is that in the federal
public sector there are a number of internal mechanisms. You can file
a grievance, and there are other administrative methods of recourse.
In the private sector, you're stuck with either a human rights
complaint, in which you can only hope for the best, or in some cases
a civil action if the sexual harassment has other components to it,
aside from just being sexual harassment.
In a federally regulated workplace, you cannot sue for sexual
harassment alone, but you could sue for constructive dismissal on
the basis of having been sexually harassed.
● (1015)
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill Gordon: I am hearing you say that both the
provincial and the federal governments are taking active steps
toward preventing this and having more of a study, so that people
feel they can look into anything they need to complain about and
bring forth their complaints.
We've already heard from Treasury Board, and I'm glad to hear
you say that this new policy is a step in the right direction. But an
informal approach to addressing complaints is often taken. Can this
be effective?
Mr. Steven Gaon: In my experience as a mediator, informal
resolution is often very effective. It depends on the nature of the
complaints. I know that on the surface it sounds as though all sexual
harassment complaints are the same. That's not the case. There are
degrees and there are different cases.
I would suggest that informal resolution, including workplace
facilitation and one-on-one mediation, can be very effective. It can
usually resolve the problem if it's handled properly.
Mr. Christopher Rootham: That's all true. I want to say that
there are benefits to resolution outside of the informal resolution.
Informal resolution has both the benefit and the detriment of being
confidential. There's no publicity around promoting people coming
forward with sexual harassment complaints if it's done informally.
There's no broader sense of deterrence and adverse publicity if it's
dealt with through an informal mechanism, and so there are a large
number of benefits to resolving sexual harassment complaints
informally and as soon as possible. But I would not like to see a
system where there is no access to a more formal complaints
mechanism. There are real benefits to having a decision that's made
public.
October 23, 2012
Mr. Steven Gaon: I can give you a quick example of a case that
I'm working on right now, actually, where I offered up mediation to
the parties. It's not a sexual harassment case; it's simply allegations
of harassment. One of the responses you often get from the
respondent is that they want to be vindicated. Sometimes people
need that closure. The same applies to complainants. Sometimes
they need a definitive decision at the end of the day. That varies from
case to case.
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill Gordon: How do you see the private sector
becoming more educated and more ready to take part, file
complaints, and be more upfront than they are now? Do you see
any way they can be trained and made to feel comfortable with this?
Mr. Steven Gaon: It's difficult to see how that can happen until
we as a society become better educated. For example, we can see
organizations and companies taking more of a progressive stand in
trying to prevent harassment in the workplace. I've seen that.
However, we cannot compel the private sector to put on, for
example, mandatory sessions to train them as to what does or does
not constitute harassment.
Often, it's a financial issue. They don't want to put the resources
into it. I'm glad to see that the federal government is putting the
resources into trying to prevent it in the workplace. Hopefully, there
will be some trickle down to the private sector. I expect there will be.
Mr. Christopher Rootham: To follow up on that, we can
mandate—
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill Gordon: No, I know we can't mandate, but I'm
just wondering—
Mr. Christopher Rootham: No, I'm saying we can. We can
mandate training on sexual harassment. We do it in Ontario for
workplace violence. There are requirements that employers over a
certain size—and the size is pretty small—have to train their
employees in workplace violence and workplace harassment. As an
employee in the firm in which I work, I recently attended the
government of Ontario's webinar that we all had to sign off having
attended, and it was fantastic. There are things that governments can
do to require better education in the private sector.
● (1020)
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill Gordon: Thank you.
[Translation]
The Chair: I now give the floor to the official opposition.
Ms. Hassainia, you have seven minutes.
Mrs. Sana Hassainia: Thank you, Madam Chair. I want to share
my time with my colleague Mr. Caron.
My question is addressed to Mr. Gaon.
Workplace cultures have a direct impact on the occurrence of
sexual harassment. In light of the cases you have dealt with, could
you determine what factors might contribute to preventing sexual
harassment in workplaces?
October 23, 2012
FEWO-45
[English]
Mr. Steven Gaon: It would be a little difficult to do, but I would
say that often when you have a hierarchical system where there are
more men at the top of the chain rather than women, you can have
that kind of thing exist. In one case that I handled, there were a
number of senior women in the office, but the most senior person
was a male, and he was the manager who was accused of not dealing
appropriately with allegations against a colleague.
I would say to you very simply that there does need to be a
cultural change. There's no question about it. The movements we've
made toward a more equitable workplace, such as more women in
senior positions, will be helpful.
[Translation]
Mrs. Sana Hassainia: I understand that you feel that if more
women were given positions of power, there would be fewer cases of
sexual harassment.
[English]
Mr. Steven Gaon: That's probably true.
I will tell you this, though. For whatever reason, perhaps even in
the majority of cases that I've investigated that involve harassment,
there have been allegations of one woman making a harassment
complaint against another. It's really just through anecdotal
experience that I can tell you that. There are no statistics to back
it up. You may be right. You may see fewer cases of sexual
harassment. I'm not sure that you would see fewer allegations of
harassment in general.
[Translation]
Mrs. Sana Hassainia: Mr. Rootham, do you have something to
add to that?
[English]
Mr. Christopher Rootham: No.
[Translation]
Mrs. Sana Hassainia: Thank you.
Mr. Guy Caron (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, NDP): Mr. Rootham, during the previous meeting of this
committee, we heard the testimony of a representative from the
Canadian Human Rights Commission who mentioned that there was
a lack of direction and policies for a victim who wants to leave her
workplace when a complaint has been filed.
According to you, aside from the possibility of taking sick leave,
for instance, which is far from ideal, how can victims of sexual
harassment withdraw from a workplace that has become toxic for
them?
[English]
Mr. Christopher Rootham: The legal mechanism is very sparse
for that sort of thing. In the core public administration—this is the
Treasury Board employees—they are governed by the Public Service
Employment Act, which does permit the deployment of a manager
who has been found to have harassed his or her subordinates. Aside
from that deployment, which takes place at the end of an
investigation, there is no legal way to deal with it unless you are
going to administratively suspend someone, probably with pay,
during that process.
15
Anecdotally and from my experience, I can tell you that with sick
leave the victims of harassment are either left to fend for themselves,
or there is some informal mechanism put in place that moves them to
a different position, or they are at home on sick leave. None of those
things is a best solution.
[Translation]
Mr. Guy Caron: Are you aware of mechanisms that could
improve the work atmosphere in a toxic situation? Indeed, when a
victim files a sexual harassment complaint, she is in a difficult
situation. Do you have any recommendations concerning mechanisms that could be put in place to make the victim's life easier in
harassment cases, among other, while the complaint is being dealt
with, aside from having to take sick leave?
[English]
Mr. Christopher Rootham: That's right. There are a number of
things that can be done, but each of them would have to be
contextual. There is no one solution that's going to fit every single
circumstance. Some of the things that can be done are to change the
reporting relationship between the victim and the alleged perpetrator
of sexual harassment. Another thing would be to move one or the
other of them, but there would have to be some voluntary element to
that move. It's not fair to force the victim of sexual harassment to
change jobs simply because she—usually she—came forward with a
complaint. Likewise, it's not fair to the alleged perpetrator to damage
his—usually his—career by forcing him to move into a different role
or a different managerial position. There would be a stigma attached
to that. I don't think there's one answer that would fit for all
situations on that point.
You have to look at the context. You have to look at the nature of
the workplace. You have to look at how serious the complaint of
sexual harassment was, and you have to look at whether an attempt
at an immediate informal resolution of the problem was already
made and failed.
● (1025)
Mr. Guy Caron: The question that perhaps should be asked in
that sense is whether we should have a set of options available rather
than what we have right now, which seems to be a kind of void in
that regard, and once again, taking sick leave. As the tribunal said,
there doesn't seem to be any policy or guidance regarding this, so
should we develop, as a recommendation, a set of options that would
be available in cases where there is an ongoing complaint?
Mr. Christopher Rootham: Yes, I believe a set of options would
certainly be helpful. Whether that's done by legislative change or
requires legislative change depends on the type of options you are
looking at. A lot of them would be simply changes in policies or
practices within the workplace.
[Translation]
Mr. Guy Caron: Fine.
Mr. Gaon, do you have something to add on that matter?
16
FEWO-45
[English]
Mr. Steven Gaon: I don't think so. I would simply echo my
colleague's comments and say that there are certain things you try to
do when you have very serious allegations, whether it's sexual
harassment or another type of harassment, one of which is separating
the parties. If that's feasible, that's usually a good idea, and that
doesn't always happen.
I agree that a set of options certainly would be helpful and that
needs to be decided on a case-by-case basis.
October 23, 2012
harassment cases, although in one particular case where there was a
failing on the part of the manager, there wasn't a whole lot done.
What can be done? Well, this is, as I said, a human resources
issue. I think the federal public service needs to take strong steps to
make sure that their HR managers are properly trained and to make
sure that where situations warrant it, there's progressive discipline,
for example, which doesn't always happen.
Mr. Jay Aspin: Okay.
[Translation]
Mr. Guy Caron: Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you.
I will now give the floor again to the government side.
Mr. Aspin, you have seven minutes.
This may be to either one of you gentlemen. How would the
Canadian approach in this situation compare to approaches taken in
other countries? Do either of you two gentlemen have experience
with the situation in other countries?
[English]
Mr. Steven Gaon: I'm going to pass this over to my colleague and
see if he has some information.
Mr. Jay Aspin (Nipissing—Timiskaming, CPC): Thank you,
Chair.
Mr. Christopher Rootham: No, I haven't looked carefully
enough at how this is dealt with in other countries.
Welcome, gentlemen, to our meeting this morning and thank you
for your contributions.
Mr. Rootham, you mentioned there were many options available,
perhaps too many options available, and that this would be confusing
to complainants. Do you have any recommendations as to how that
process can be improved in that area?
Mr. Christopher Rootham: I have one recommendation, at least.
It is to make sure that there is a forum where complaints will be
accepted and addressed and where the victims of sexual harassment
will receive the necessary or appropropiate redress.
There are a number of different ways that could happen. One way
it could happen would be to clarify the jurisdiction of adjudicators
under the Public Service Labour Relations Act.
Remember I said that some grievances end up with a deputy head.
Other grievances can be referred to adjudication. A guarantee that a
grievance alleging a breach of the Canadian Human Rights Act,
including sexual harassment, would be dealt with by adjudication
instead of solely by the deputy head would certainly help resolve a
lot of that confusion. It would ensure that there was a forum for
redress for the victims.
Mr. Jay Aspin: Would you mind submitting that recommendation
in writing to us?
Mr. Christopher Rootham: I can do that.
Mr. Jay Aspin: Mr. Gaon, you had three, what you termed,
significant points or recommendations. The third one was adequate
follow-up. I wonder if you could elaborate on that for us.
● (1030)
Mr. Steven Gaon: It is essentially a human resources issue. The
policy, as it's currently drafted, speaks in generalities, as did the old
policy, with regard to what should happen after an investigation is
completed. In my experience, from what I have found out after
speaking with HR managers after an investigation is completed, very
often very little is done. I'm not speaking specifically of sexual
Mr. Jay Aspin: Okay, those are my questions, Madam Chair.
Thank you.
[Translation]
The Chair: You are finished? Very well.
I now give the floor to Ms. Sgro, for seven minutes.
[English]
Hon. Judy Sgro: Thank you very much.
To both Mr. Gaon and Mr. Rootham, thank you so much for your
information today. It helps to give us a handle on it to hear from
people from the outside who deal with this. We can hear from all
kinds of departments, but we're hearing the real stuff from both of
you as far as the kind of work you do and what you've actually seen.
I have to say that I have great faith in our country and in our
public service at all levels, because I think we're way ahead of a lot
of countries. But even though we may be ahead, we still have
significant issues.
If you don't change the culture of the environment people are
working in, it's impossible, no matter how many rules there are. The
RCMP's 2008 policy you referred to was a great policy. They've had
huge problems, and so have many others, with acts that are underreported. It's for a lot of reasons, and I'm not sure that the policies are
going to change that. It's more to do with the culture and training.
I think the federal public service is an example of putting all kinds
of things in place but still having the problems. Until we change the
culture of organizations, I'm not sure we're going to be able to solve
some of these issues. I'd like your comments.
October 23, 2012
FEWO-45
Mr. Steven Gaon: I'll start by saying that I agree with you. I think
training is very important. I don't believe mandatory instruction is
currently available or that employees are compelled to take
mandatory training to understand harassment in the workplace. I'm
not sure that the solution is that it be made mandatory, but I think it
certainly should be strongly encouraged. In other words, seminars
should be available to employees from inside or outside providers to
understand how the new Treasury Board policy works, for example.
If they are in another organization that has its own policy, they
should be taught to understand how those policies work. They
should understand generally what does or does not constitute
harassment. They should certainly be made aware of what is
acceptable and what is not acceptable in the context of sexual
harassment.
I think those efforts could be made, and they could be made more
strongly. A point I'd also like to add is that we have to be careful that
these policies are not used as a sword instead of a shield. You see
that happen in sexual harassment cases, and you see it in regular
harassment cases. We need to be conscious of the fact that if we're
overpromoting the policy, sometimes it encourages bad faith or
frivolous complaints.
Mr. Christopher Rootham: I agree with you that a cultural
improvement in the public service would be helpful, but echoing
comments made by Mr. Gaon earlier, the federal public service is
generally seen to be good at this. There is broad acceptance that
sexual harassment is inappropriate in the workplace, particularly in
the federal public service, so I don't think we need that big a culture
change.
The culture change, if we can call it this, that would need to
happen is the culture of how complaints are dealt with, or whether
complainants are marginalized for bringing complaints, and frankly
whether it's worth their while to bring a complaint. If a complainant
is bringing a sexual harassment complaint, it takes four months to do
an investigation properly—
● (1035)
Mr. Steven Gaon: At least.
Mr. Christopher Rootham: —at least, so let's say that six
months after the complaint is filed, there's an investigation report.
The deputy head gets the investigation report. The delegation goes to
the ADM of HR. The ADM of HR decides we're going to take some
appropriate action. It's nine months later. The victim of sexual
harassment has just been through nine months of investigation while
they've been on sick leave, or moved out of their unit.
Great, there's been a finding of sexual harassment. The
perpetrator's been reprimanded. Why did you do that as a
complainant? The complainant is thinking, “Why would I have
gone through all of this just to receive some element of vindication?”
That's enough for some people, but it's not enough for everyone. It's
part of why these types of complaints are under-reported. If you're
going to change the culture, the culture can't be that sexual
harassment is bad. The culture has to be that complaining about
wrongdoing is good.
Hon. Judy Sgro: You don't want to open the door to frivolous
complaints.
Mr. Christopher Rootham: No.
17
Hon. Judy Sgro: I can suggest to you that for someone to come
forward and complain of sexual harassment, I'd like to think that
99% of the time it took a tremendous amount for that individual to
get to that point. I don't think, and I don't want to think, there would
be frivolous complaints, but we all know there would be, and I'll say
it's 1%.
It's getting women to be empowered enough. I say women, but
I'm not sure it's only women we're talking about, not in the new
world we live in. It's the whole issue of empowering those
individuals to push back literally to the manager, to take things
more into their own hands rather than to feel they're victims. There
should be a mechanism for a much more upright, straight-on
complaint, and that complaint gets resolved. Either the manager is
moved or instructed in a better way of handing these issues rather
than a woman having to feel as though she's a victim for this long
period of time. It's the empowerment of women as well to be able to
come forth with these things in a much more straightforward manner.
I know they're under-reported; we know that. As women who
have worked in the workplace all our lives, we know it's underreported because nobody wants to get into that. It's not something I
think women want to start reporting. It takes a minimum of nine
months, so it's not done lightly. Yet many of them would just prefer
to quit their jobs and find another job where they're not going to have
these kinds of difficulties. That happens a lot. You must hear it in
your work.
Mr. Steven Gaon: Yes, I tend to agree with you. At the risk of
reducing my own workload, I will tell you that investigations are an
unhappy and unsatisfactory process. They're usually, and they ought
to be, the last resort. I think you can probably accomplish a lot by
involving the parties at an early stage where, let's say, if you're
speaking about women, they feel comfortable enough to come
forward and know that it could be resolved informally, perhaps.
Very often, at least in the cases I've encountered, these women
simply want the actions to stop. They're not looking for blood.
They're not looking for vindication per se. They're not looking for
anyone to get fired. They're simply looking for the wrongful acts to
stop, and it can often be resolved at an informal level.
Mr. Christopher Rootham: I agree. They're not looking for
vindication but for recognition that there has been something wrong,
that they have been a victim of sexual harassment, and that
somebody in power recognizes that.
Hon. Judy Sgro: Would you both make....
[Translation]
The Chair: Forgive me for interrupting you, Ms. Sgro, but
unfortunately your time is up.
[English]
Hon. Judy Sgro: Madam Chair, would you please ask the two
witnesses if they could supply some recommendations following
today's meeting to the committee on the kinds of actions that could
be taken to improve the situation?
[Translation]
The Chair: Do our two witnesses agree to comply with
Ms. Sgro's request?
18
FEWO-45
[English]
Mr. Steven Gaon: Certainly. I've got some very general
recommendations in the material that I've provided to you already,
but perhaps Mr. Rootham and I can coordinate our efforts. I'd be
happy to discuss it with him.
Mr. Christopher Rootham: That would be fine.
[Translation]
The Chair: Madam Clerk will follow up with you.
We are now going to have our last five-minute turn. Once again, I
give the floor to the government side.
Ms. Young, you have five minutes.
● (1040)
[English]
Ms. Wai Young (Vancouver South, CPC): Again, I'd like to say
thank you so much for coming today and providing us with the
information, which is very startling and interesting.
Following up on what Ms. Sgro was asking, are there any
immediate recommendations that you feel, given your extensive
expertise and experience in this area, the government can do or put
into place that would have some very positive impacts?
Mr. Gaon, you said that maybe an earlier informal mediation
process would be highly effective in terms of giving an intervention
opportunity before things got too unbearable at work in those
circumstances.
Mr. Steven Gaon: That's correct, but I will tell you this: those
provisions are already there in the policy. They were already in the
old policy. I'm sure you will find those provisions that require early
intervention and early informal resolution in virtually every
government harassment policy.
Really it's a question of educating people and making sure that
they understand, particularly HR directors or those responsible for
managing the process. They need to understand that those options
need to be pursued vigorously at the outset.
Ms. Wai Young: Is this an education or training aspect for those
senior managers who are in positions of authority or positions of
decision-making, where they can pull the members in and tell them
that if it continues, their job is at risk, or those kinds of things to
informally set the tone and correct these incidents in the workplace?
Mr. Steven Gaon: I absolutely agree with that. In fact, where I've
found that there's been—“failing” is probably too strong a word—a
lack of adequate action on the part of a manager, it's usually because
they have not intervened promptly at the outset. I agree that is a
training issue. I think that managers need to be trained in this area
and understand that early intervention will generally be effective.
Ms. Wai Young: Is it correct to say—Mr. Rootham, please feel
free to jump in here—that in our deliberations about changing the
culture, whether it's the RCMP, the federal workplace, or even the
dribble-down effect in the business community, because we heard
earlier that there are private businesses that aren't covered by federal
policies, etc.... You are probably aware that our federal government
launched a women on boards initiative in our last budget, with $5
October 23, 2012
million to put more women on boards. There is another aspect for
this dribble-down effect in the private sector.
Getting back to my question, if the managers who are in these
positions of decision-making were held more accountable or were
better educated and trained about this aspect, would that have a huge
impact—given that we already have these policies and programs and
processes in place—for at least a high percentage of these incidents
to be addressed in this kind of informal way?
Mr. Christopher Rootham: Obviously I can't speak to a number
of the initiatives that you've mentioned because they're so new. We
don't have any data yet about whether they're working or not.
You mentioned better education for managers. Some of the
education needs to happen to allow managers to better recognize
sexual harassment when it's happening in front of them. This isn't
just about training people not to sexually harass. Quite frankly, a
small number of people, but a number of people, are just never going
to get it.
The training that would be most effective would be to train the
managers to recognize that this is happening and act proactively
instead of waiting for a complaint to materialize, and when a
complaint does materialize, to deal with it quickly and effectively,
not necessarily to punish the perpetrator, but to deal with it in
whatever way is appropriate. If we can't do that, then sexual
harassment is going to keep happening, in which case we have to
find a way to create a proper remedy for the victims of sexual
harassment, to make sure that they're willing to come forward and to
make sure that their careers are put back on track.
Ms. Wai Young: May I ask you to go a step further, though, and
put out there the fact that it's not only the manager's role to recognize
sexual harassment. Sometimes it's behind the scenes or on coffee
breaks or lunch; it's not in the workplace. Perhaps it's up to them to
create a work environment where people feel comfortable approaching them about this kind of thing, because they're not always going
to be in a situation where they see it. The fact that the employee feels
comfortable reporting that is something that's—
● (1045)
[Translation]
The Chair: Ms. Young, your speaking time is up.
The reply will really have to be very quick.
[English]
Mr. Steven Gaon: I don't think I have anything further to add,
other than to say that your suggestions are certainly valid.
Ms. Wai Young: Thank you.
Mr. Christopher Rootham: It's the same for me.
[Translation]
The Chair: Thank you.
This concludes today's meeting.
I want to thank the witnesses, and I wish everyone an excellent
day.
The meeting is adjourned.
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