JUST IN: The ZeroNow Campaign’s Sunshine Law Success
Trudeau government amends anti-harassment legislation (Bill C-65) to include ZeroNow’s proposal for annual disclosure of sexual misconduct statistics, making it the first federal jurisdiction in the world to embrace a key transparency provision in the fight for zero tolerance.
This represents a major breakthrough in the role that transparency and accountability can play in achieving zero tolerance and creating a safer, more respectful workplace for everyone.
Bill C-65 received third and final reading on May 7, 2018 and incorporated several other recommendations made in The ZeroNow Campaign’s submission, available here.
THANKS TO EVERYONE, AND ESPECIALLY THE SURVIVORS, WHO SUPPORTED OUR ADVOCACY OF THESE IMPORTANT CHANGES.
In my view, the extent of sexual misconduct in the workplace is so widespread, and its damage to the dignity and personhood of women so profound, that we have reached the point where the right to be protected from it should be recognized, not just by the policy of the government of the day, but as a fundamental human right.
—Kathleen Finlay, founder, The Zero Now Campaign™ in a submission to the Canadian House of Commons.
Canada is in the midst of updating its laws to more fully address sexual harassment in federally regulated workplaces, and to bring parliamentary and political staff under such protections. Known as Bill C-65, the proposed law is, thanks to amendments which incorporated a number of recommendations made by The ZeroNow Campaign (see below), including our Sunshine law , a major step in adopting practices to make the workplace safer and more respectful for everyone. (The Manitoba government also adopted our Sunshine law proposal for its workplace anti-harassment legislation.)
We are disappointed, however, that the vexatious clause (see below) which allows the Minister, or the Minister’s delegate, to label a complaint as “trivial, frivolous or vexatious” is out of place in modern approach to dealing with sexual misconduct matters and represents a throwback to a much discredited era when victims were turned into the offender.
As we told the Committee in our submission:
For anyone entrusted with investigating sexual misconduct to be able to tar a victim — as Bill C-65 would allow — with the label “trivial, frivolous or vexatious” is a terribly counterproductive move, and one that could well place more women at risk because they will be reluctant to come forward. It is totally at odds with the principle that we should be respected and believed. The “vexatious” provision loudly portrays women as possible mischief-makers in raising sexual misconduct claims, when available evidence is precisely contrary to that notion. In doing so, it perpetuates a false stereotype that has no place, and no factual justification, in the 21st century.
Perhaps we will have more success on this point when the Bill reaches the Senate in the Fall.
Here is a summary of the recommendations ZeroNow made to the Committee on Bill C-65:
SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS
1 Remove the proposed “vexatious” amendment to Subsection 127.1(9) of the Canada Labour Code, which would permit the Minister to refuse to investigate a complaint of harassment or violence if the Minister is of the opinion that “the matter is trivial, frivolous or vexatious.”
Through amendments to Bill C-65, and by other legislative and policy instruments, as may be required:
2 Establish a sunshine law requiring the annual public disclosure of relevant sexual harassment statistics, including the number of incidents reported, the outcome of the complaint and any financial settlement paid for every federally controlled entity, including Parliament itself.
3 Prohibit non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) from being included in any settlement involving a sexual misconduct complaint. These devices amount to a DNR (do not resuscitate) order for the careers and reputations of victims. They prevent survivors from speakingout to defend our reputations against bad employer actors and stifle our ability to protect other women from similar abuse.
4 Support an active policy in the federal public service to hire survivors of sexual misconduct (Hire US Back) , and to provide the necessary means of creating a safe and welcoming workplace so that survivors can begin to rebuild their lives and careers.
5 Provide for a federal-workplace-wide whistleblower system allowing employees, as victims, witnesses or bystanders, to report incidents of sexual misconduct on a confidential and, if they wish, anonymous basis, and to provide for the follow-up of a neutral party for information on options going forward, if such guidance is sought.
. . .
If you would like a copy of our submission, you can request it here. Please include any relevant information if you are with an organization focusing on this subject. We’d like to keep in touch.
We’re making a number of other exciting contributions toward bringing Canada’s sexual misconduct laws into the 21st century. We’ll keep you posted.
— More from Kathleen in HuffPost —
Kathleen Finlay interviewed on Bill C-65 in The Hill Times, April 18, 2018.
“The public of Canada has a right to know how extensive, and with what consequences, sexual misconduct is occurring, especially in the ranks of taxpayer-funded entities,” Ms. Finlay wrote. “Closing the door on the voluntary personal narratives of victims and concerned employees, even though they are published without attribution or identification, prevents the public from seeing the full picture.”
Kathleen Finlay interviewed on Bill C-65 in The Hill Times, April 4, 2018.
The necessary culture change isn’t going to happen when things start with the “bad idea” of having to go to one’s supervisor at the outset of a complaint.
Through a Survivor’s Lens
Whether it is the fear of coming forward in the first place, or the experience with a botched investigation where they are re-victimized, or the aftermath of the ordeal where they are left alone, isolated and forced to pick up the pieces, victims constantly express the strongest misgivings about the system that is supposed to protect them.
In a heartfelt and deeply personal submission to the House of Commons committee preparing anti-harassment legislation for federally regulated workplaces, Kathleen Finlay shares her story and those of former and current federal employees who have reached out to her.
It is only when lawmakers and policy leaders fully understand how damaging and life-altering an encounter with sexual violence, harassment and bullying can be that they will truly know the extent of the changes that are required to create a safer, zero tolerance workplace.
Here is a summary of the recommendations Kathleen Finlay made in her individual submission to the Committee on Bill C-65:
SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS
The Committee is urged to: (1) reach out and listen to more victims and survivor voices in order to draft a bill that more fully speaks to their needs and concerns; and (2) place greater focus on the need for safeguards against retaliation that is a universally common complaint in sexual misconduct issues.