Politics

MPs studying Bill C-65 willing to hear stories of sexual harassment in secret

The MPs studying proposed legislation to strengthen harassment regulations in federal workplaces, including Parliament Hill, will invite staffers, interns and even their colleagues to share their stories behind closed doors.

Review will be limited to the code of conduct dealing with allegations against MP

The Peace Tower is framed through a gate on Parliament Hill Thursday January 21, 2016 in Ottawa. The MPs studying proposed legislation to strengthen harassment regulations in federal workplaces, including Parliament Hill, will invite staffers, interns and even their colleagues to share their stories behind closed doors. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The MPs studying proposed legislation to strengthen harassment regulations in federal workplaces, including Parliament Hill, will invite staffers, interns and even their colleagues to share their stories behind closed doors.

The House of Commons human resources committee has agreed to set up confidential sessions to allow those voices to be heard while protecting their privacy, said Liberal MP Chris Bittle, the deputy government House leader.

The legislation, known as Bill C-65, is aimed at giving workers and employers a clear course of action to better deal with allegations of bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct.

The proposed changes, introduced last fall, would merge separate labour standards for sexual harassment and violence, subjecting them to the same scrutiny and dispute resolution process, which could mean bringing in an outside investigator to review allegations.

Those rules would apply to all employees working for parliamentarians, too, but there is a separate code of conduct aimed at addressing allegations of harassment between MPs that could also be getting a revamp.

The procedure and House affairs committee unanimously passed a motion Thursday to create a sub-committee to handle the task.

The code was reviewed last fall, but Liberal MP Filomena Tassi, the government's deputy whip, said things have changed so much in the past few months that it is time to dig deeper.

The #MeToo movement, the recent cases involving Canadian politicians and a survey of female MPs by The Canadian Press have all helped to shift the landscape, Tassi said.

"I think the time is right and the time is now that we have a renewed focus on this code."

The review will be limited to the code of conduct dealing with allegations against MPs, which was set up after two New Democrats accused two of their Liberal counterparts of sexual misconduct in 2014.

There is also a separate policy meant to prevent and address harassment involving MPs and employees, which is outside the jurisdiction of the committee to review.

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