Politics

MPs' sexual harassment code of conduct outlined in House report

A House of Commons committee gave a glimpse at what the sexual harassment code of conduct for MPs could look like in a report tabled Monday.

Committee sets out recommended roles and process for complaints between MPs

A Commons committee has tabled a report on an MPs code of conduct following sexual harassment accusations against two MPs last November. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

An all-party House of Commons committee gave a glimpse at what the sexual harassment code of conduct for MPs could look like in a report tabled Monday.

The report outlines the recommended responsibilities and the process for handling sexual harassment complaints between members of Parliament and emphasizes confidentiality.

Complaints would be dealt with by three key figures: the party whips, the Commons' chief human resources officer and, if necessary, an external investigator, depending on which political party the complainant represents and whether the two parties are part of the same caucus.

The report, from the procedural and House affairs committee, also recommends allowing for discipline against those who have been found making frivolous complaints.

Mediation is given as an option for resolution between MPs — if both sides agree to it. If they don't, or the mediation isn't successful, the chief human resources officer can then bring in an external investigator. This investigator would look into the complaints and rule on whether or not sexual harassment occurred. The investigator would issue a draft report and a final version.

Depending on the situation, the appropriate discipline for each case could be decided by the party whip or the procedure and House affairs committee.

The proposed resolution process would be driven by those making the complaints. That means it would only end once the complainant or complainants were satisfied with the outcome. 

Pledge to condemn harassment

The report follows complaints of alleged sexual harassment from two unnamed MPs last November. The Liberals suspended ethics critic Scott Andrews and Quebec MP Massimo Pacetti from caucus after the MPs went directly to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau with complaints.

The Liberals called in Toronto lawyer Cynthia Petersen, an outside human rights specialist, to review the complaints after the House of Commons found it did not have a code of conduct or formal process in place to deal with complaints between MPs.

After reading Petersen's findings, Trudeau made the decision to permanently expel Andrews and Pacetti from the caucus.

Monday's report says the code of conduct should become an integral part of training for parliamentarians, led by the chief human resources officer and that all members should take a pledge that condemns sexual harassment in the House. 

The NDP were quick to respond after the report's tabling. 

"This code is an important first step forward in making sure that Parliament is a sexual harassment-free workplace for everyone," said NDP MP Jean Crowder in a written statement.

"Canada will be the first Parliament to have such a code in place."

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