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New law helps prevent workplace harassment and violence

Several Senate amendments helped improve new law.

Employees in federally regulated workplaces now have increased protections from harassment and violence at work under a new integrated regime that received final approval in Canada’s Senate on Wednesday.

Bill C-65 replaces a patchwork of policies with a more comprehensive approach that covers the full spectrum from bullying and teasing, to sexual harassment and physical violence. The objective is to prevent not only physical illnesses and injuries, but psychological ones, as well.

The legislation protects approximately 1.2 million federally regulated employees, including those who work for the federal public service, banks, air transportation, cross-border rail and road transportation and most Crown corporations. For the first time, political and non-political staff working in the Senate, the Library of Parliament and the House of Commons will be protected under the law.

During its thorough study of the bill, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights made several amendments that were ultimately accepted by the House of Commons, including a clarification that the Canada Labour Code would not supersede the Canada Human Rights Act. The purpose is to ensure employees would have access to multiple recourse mechanisms.

Another Senate amendment that was accepted ensures that officials who receive complaints about harassment and violence are provided the appropriate knowledge, training and experience to deal with them. Yet another successful Senate amendment ensures that statistical data that could help improve the legislation in the future will be included in an annual report by the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour.

Senator Nancy Hartling, who sponsored the legislation in the Senate, said in an Oct. 18, 2018 speech that she was pleased with the final result of the bill.

“Initially, I decided to sponsor Bill C-65 in the Senate because I feel very passionately about human rights and addressing violence and harassment,” she said. “I deeply appreciate all of the collaborative efforts of everyone who contributed to Bill C-65, especially the witnesses who had the courage to come forward and tell us about their situation, and all of our colleagues.”

The legislation was introduced in response to research that harassment and violence is persistent and pervasive in Canadian workplaces – but that incidents often go unreported out of fear of reprisal or that nothing will be done in response.

One Senate amendment, which proposed to modify the definition of harassment and violence, was not accepted because the House of Commons committee that reviewed the bill had already crafted a definition based on testimony from a wide range of experts and input from all parties. Other amendments that were not accepted include issues that will be dealt with through regulations.

The bill received Royal Assent on Thursday.

So far this session, more than a quarter of Government bills have been successfully amended by the Senate.

New law helps prevent workplace harassment and violence