Nfld. & Labrador

MHAs press Bruce Chaulk on harassment reports in House

The province's commissioner for legislative standards was in the legislature Monday, but he wasn't able to give many of the members the answers they were looking for.

House moves to concur with reprimands for Eddie Joyce and Dale Kirby

Bruce Chaulk was in the legislature Monday to provide clarity on the process of the Kirby and Joyce Reports. (CBC)

Members of the House of Assembly pressed the province's commissioner for legislative standards in the legislature on Monday, but he wasn't able to give many of the members the answers they were looking for.

Bruce Chaulk told the legislature he volunteered to appear to "provide clarity on the process of the recently tabled reports," but could not engage in debate on the substance or details of the reports of bullying and harassment.

Chaulk said his duty is to provide his reports to the House, which then has the authority to choose whether or not to accept his opinion given in the reports, and while he said he respected that authority, Chaulk did raise some concern.

"I have concerns that the precedent that this house is now setting, in requiring an independent, statutory officer to be subject to questioning after a finding of misconduct has been made may severely impact the independence of all statutory offices in the future," he said.

Chaulk also said he felt a more private procedure would have been more valuable to everyone involved.

MHA Sherry Gambin-Walsh says she doesn't agree with Chaulk's decision. (CBC)

Liberal MHA Sherry Gambin-Walsh, the complainant in one of the five reports, was the first to question Chaulk and said while she respects his decision, she does not agree with it.

Chaulk said he was unable to answer several of Gambin-Walsh's questions as they related to specifics within the reports.

Joyce vocal in House

Former Liberal MHA Eddie Joyce, who now sits as an Independent, was repeatedly vocal, but received the same response to many of his questions.

Joyce said he wasn't given complete copies of complaints as required by the process, and claimed Chaulk withheld information. The commissioner said he gave Joyce information as he received it.

"I provided all the information that was required by law," Chaulk said.

Wanting to be interviewed and needing to be interviewed is two different things.- Bruce Chaulk

Joyce said he was willing to be interviewed during the process, but never was, and claimed his rights as a respondent were violated. Chaulk replied that respondents have the choice to answer questions in an interview or in writing, and it isn't necessary to interview all involved. 

"Wanting to be interviewed and needing to be interviewed is two different things," he said.

Process 'certainly not' flawed

Joyce further asked the commissioner if he thought the process was flawed.

"No, certainly not," Chaulk said.

At times, Joyce became frustrated.

"We just spent ten minutes discussing the report, but every time I ask a question, we can't discuss the report," he said.

Another former Liberal MHA now sitting as an Independent Dale Kirby also questioned Chaulk if anything in his report was flawed.

"Certainly not," Chaulk replied.

Questions regarding Rubin Thomlinson

Several members also asked questions about Chaulk's use of reports assembled by outside counsel Rubin Thomlinson. The commissioner told the House the Toronto-based firm was chosen "because of their sheer experience, they wrote the book on workplace investigations."

There were "absolutely no restrictions" placed on Rubin Thomlinson when it came to who they chose to interview, Chaulk said.

He added that the sole purpose of Rubin Thomlinson was to review workplace harassment allegations, and that conclusions reached based on the code of conduct are his, but he trusted the firm's work.

"If someone goes to the effort to hire an investigator to investigate a particular situation, I think the person would be a fool to overturn or dispute what the investigator is telling them, so for the most part, you are reading Rubin Thomlinson's reports," Chaulk said.

Had we known what we were about to embark upon, I really would have questioned the process much more beforehand.- Tracey Perry

MHA Tracey Perry expressed her struggles during the process, but was hopeful. 

"Had we known what we were about to embark upon, I really would have questioned the process much more beforehand," Perry said.

"I do believe as a result of this, we can improve the process for [the] future."

When answering questions posed by NDP leader Gerry Rogers, Chaulk sympathized with the public nature of the discussion surrounding the reports. 

"I'm sure that most people wouldn't want this to be debated in the media, period," he said.

"I know what everyone's been going through in this process, including myself. I've been attacked in this, I've had to explain to my own kids about this process and what's going on."

Government house leader Andrew Parsons concluded Monday by moving to concur with recommendations in the Joyce Report and Kirby Report, resolving to have both Kirby and Joyce reprimanded and apologize in the House for their violations.

The House of Assembly will resume Tuesday afternoon.