1st Session, 42nd Parliament,
Volume 150, Issue 128
Tuesday, June 6, 2017
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker
Bill to Amend the Public Service Labour Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board Act and Other Acts and to Provide for Certain Other Measures
Message from Commons—Motion for Concurrence in Commons Amendments and Non-Insistence Upon Senate Amendments Adopted
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I too rise to speak on Bill C-7, which will provide the RCMP members with the union and the right to organize that they have been denied for over many years. Particularly, I rise to speak on the other place’s response to the amendments presented here. I am particularly pleased that the other place has accepted our amendment to remove restrictions on what may be included in collective agreements and arbitral awards for the RCMP.
In my second reading speech, I spoke at length about the many areas that Bill C-7 prohibited as an area of discussion for RCMP bargaining agents. Each of these areas were central to the job, such as law enforcement techniques, transfers from one position to another, appointments appraisal, probation, discharges and demotions, conduct including harassment, the basic requirements for carrying out the duties of an RCMP officer or a reservist, the uniform, order of dress, equipment or medals of the RCMP.
During this case, the court ruled that the RCMP members deserved a meaningful process of collective bargaining — meaning that they could engage in discussions with their employer to talk about the parts of their job that mattered most to them. I truly believe this is the case now.
To explain why this is so important, I would like to focus on the issue of harassment, which can be an area of discussion now that our amendment has been accepted.
When we first examined Bill C-7, it was by far the one restriction that concerned me the most. In 2013, our Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence had already determined that sexual harassment was a huge problem within the RCMP. Between 2005 and 2011, 718 complaints were filed by employees, with well over half being from women that spoke of sexual harassment, bullying and abuse.
We also frequently hear horrifying stories in the news. There are women who receive unwanted sexual comments and contact, and are often unable to do anything about it because they risk losing their jobs if they speak out. In many cases, their superiors were either involved or indifferent to the situation. There are women who are forced into sexual relationships, threatened that they have to accept if they wish to keep their jobs.
No one was safe, not even Catherine Galliford, who was one of the RCMP’s highest profiled spokeswomen from my province of British Columbia. Ongoing harassment in the workplace forced her to accept medical discharge, as she struggled to deal with severe PTSD.
When we studied the issue of harassment from the RCMP, I became even further convinced that we had to address this issue.
We heard from three women who were involved in the class-action lawsuits against the RCMP: Janet Merlo, Linda Davidson and Sherry Benson-Podolchuk. Each of them had their own horror stories, and each of them was clear on one issue: The RCMP must not continue to handle this issue internally. Barring classic cultural change, this kind of harassment would continue if the RCMP does not have an external body to tackle this issue.
We were also told quite clearly that we must ensure that harassment be part of collective agreements. I would like to share Linda Davidson’s answer when she was asked whether it was acceptable to exclude harass infringement Bill C-7, ensuring that these cases would only be handled internally. She said:
No, absolutely not. . . . There needs to be an outside independent group of individuals who examine the wrong type of behaviour that’s occurring.
We cannot police ourselves, nor should we even try. . . . Bring in an independent body and definitely let them deal with it.
Now that this amendment has been accepted, I am pleased to say that the RCMP’s collective bargaining agent may now act as another force to stand up against this horrifying issue. The members of the RCMP will have more support. This is an important first step toward creating the change needed to make the RCMP a harassment-free and safe workplace.
Honourable senators, I know of many young women who aspire to work with the RCMP. My own daughter-in-law works in the RCMP, and she always tells me what an honour it is for her and other women to work for the RCMP. It is our job to make sure that it is a safe place for all women to work in.
Honourable senators, many people are waiting for us to pass Bill C-7. The Supreme Court has given us the mandate to provide them with legislation that will allow the RCMP to unionize. Women members of the RCMP are waiting for a collective bargaining agent that will let them speak out against the issue of harassment.
The members of the RCMP who work hard every day, often risking life and limb to protect us Canadians from those who would harm us, are waiting on us to provide them with the means to improve their workplace, to make their workplace a safe environment.
Honourable senators, I ask you to join me in supporting this bill.
The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?
Hon. Senators: Question.
The Hon. the Speaker: It was moved by the Honourable Senator Harder, seconded by the Honourable Senator Bellemare, that the Senate concur in amendments — may I dispense?
Hon. Senators: Dispense:
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Some Hon. Senators: On division.
(Motion agreed to, on division.)