The Canadian electorate show up at elections and vote for the candidate that they believe are best to represent them. We elect men and women to federal and provincial parliament. For the electorate these are men and women believed to be of stellar character. They are intelligent men and women. Surely, MPs responsible for crafting the law and shaping the country’s direction would not engage in sexual harassment which they all know to be wrong.
It may strike you as surprising that femal politicians are not immune from sexual harassment in the workplace. MPs work in the House of Commons. Sometimes, they become involved in public consultations and various Committee activities that they them outside the House of Commons proper.
“The conduct of MPs and their political staff is now subject to a new harassment policy that cover interactions at the office and work-related social gatherings away from Parliament Hill,” writes the Toronto Star journalist Joanna Smith.
The need for the policy appears to have crystallized with the breaking news that “Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau suspended MPs Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti over sexual harassment claims by a pair of NDP MPs.” According to one Toronto Star article, the policy does not cover the conduct of MP, That is the subject of a different process under the Committee of House Affairs.
The Monica Lewinski and Bill Clinton saga comes to mind when one thinks of sexual harassment in and among the political class. It is reprehensible that females employed in MPs political office or female MPs are exposed to sexual harassment as part of their day to day to day job.
For the purposes of the policy harassment is defined in these terms:
Harassment: Any improper behaviour by a person that is directed at someone else, that is offensive and which that person knew or ought reasonably to have known would be unwelcome. It comprises any objectionable conduct, comment or display made either on a one-time or a continuous basis that demeans, belittles or causes personal humiliation or embarrassment to an employee.
Harassment includes harassment based on the following prohibited grounds of discrimination: race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted.

Harassment may include but is not limited to:

• discriminatory, sexist or offensive remarks, jokes, taunts, gestures, emails or offensive pictures that cause embarrassment or discomfort;
• harassment complaints that are frivolous or made in bad faith; and
• threats, intimidation or retaliation against an individual who has initiated a harassment complaint or acted as a witness or support person for the resolution of a harassment complaint.

Sexual Harassment: A form of harassment involving any act, conduct, comment, gesture or contact of a sexual nature, whether on a one-time or recurring basis, that might reasonably be expected to cause offence or humiliation, or might reasonably be perceived as placing a condition of a sexual nature on employment or an opportunity for training or promotion. Sexual harassment may include but is not limited to:
• demands for sexual favours or sexual assault;
• inappropriate or unwanted physical contact such as touching, patting or pinching;
• insulting comments, gestures and practical jokes of a sexual nature that cause discomfort or embarrassment; and
• inappropriate enquiries or comments about an individual’s sex life.

The policy includes formal and informal mechanisms to resolve an allegation of sexual harassment. The goal of the policy appears to be to resolve allegations voluntarily without the need for a formal investigation. “The goal of early conflict resolution is to resolve any conflict or potential harassment situation as quickly as possible, in a fair and respectful manner, before it escalates into potential harassment, which could result in a complaint being filed.” The procedures under the policy includes, mediation, formal investigation, among other things.

= COMPLAINANT RESPONDENT

• receive fair and equitable treatment;

• receive fair and equitable treatment;

• submit a complaint of harassment and have it reviewed in a prompt, sensitive and impartial manner, without fear of embarrassment or retaliation;
• If the Member/Whip/Chief Human Resources Officer (as appropriate) concludes that the alleged facts related to the complaint do not meet the definition of harassment, or concern a labour relations matter, the complainant will be notified immediately and will be redirected to the appropriate recourse mechanism.

• be informed by the with Member/Whip/Chief Human Resources Officer (as appropriate) that a written complaint that falls within the scope of the policy has been received;
• be informed in writing of the allegations;
• be provided with the opportunity to respond to a written complaint of harassment against him or her. The response can be submitted in writing, if desired;

• be provided with a copy of the House of Commons Policy on Preventing and Addressing Harassment and the supporting documents, and be advised of his or her rights and responsibilities under the policy;

• be provided with a copy of the House of Commons Policy on Preventing and Addressing Harassment and the supporting documents, and be advised of his or her rights and responsibilities under the policy;

• be informed of the options available for complaint resolution, including alternate dispute resolution (ADR) methods such as facilitation and mediation;

• be informed of the options available for complaint resolution, including alternate dispute resolution (ADR) methods such as facilitation and mediation;

• be accompanied by a support person of his or her choice during mediation, the investigation process or the appeal process, and be advised of the protocol that will be followed during each;

• be accompanied by a support person of his or her choice during mediation, the investigation process or the appeal process, and be advised of the protocol that will be followed during each;

• be advised of the investigation protocol and the need for confidentiality, provide the names of witnesses, obtain information related to the

• be advised of the investigation protocol and the need for confidentiality, provide the names of witnesses, obtain information related to the


COMPLAINANT RESPONDENT

status of the investigation, and receive a copy of the investigation report;

status of the investigation, and receive a copy of the investigation report;

• appeal the investigator’s findings, be informed of the composition of the appeal panel, inform the panel of his or her concerns and receive a decision with reasons from the panel;

• appeal the investigator’s findings, be informed of the composition of the appeal panel, inform the panel of his or her concerns and receive a decision with reasons from the panel;

• be advised as to whether corrective and/or disciplinary measures were taken against the respondent in the case where a complaint was found to be substantiated or partially substantiated;

• be advised as to whether corrective and/or disciplinary measures were taken against the complainant in the case of a frivolous or bad faith complaint;

• provide written consent for the distribution of the investigation report to other persons not specified in the policy;

• provide written consent for the distribution of the investigation report to other persons not specified in the policy;

• provide written consent for the viewing of the archived complaint file by an individual; and

• provide written consent for the viewing of the archived complaint file by an individual; and

• be provided with access to a resource person upon request

• be provided with access to a resource person upon request

MPs have enormous power over their political staff and others. An MP lucky enough to be in Cabinet or the shadow cabinet occupies a position of trust with respect to his political staff, and arguably other MP. Sexual harassment is a serious matter. Monica Lewinski reportedly could not get a job after she came forward and accused her political master.
In political circles the price for coming forward and making an allegation of sexual harassment can be a career limiting move, especially since political staff are somewhat vulnerable in their employment. Political aides understand the vulnerable position they occupy in terms of their employment. While it is true that there may be a protection from reprisal for making a complaint of sexual harassment, in Ottawa’s political circles, the aide who makes the complaint may be branded for life. Like Monica Lewinski she may be able to land no job in the public or political sphere years after the dust settles on a complaint.
The point is that the policy does not go far enough. For one thing it fails to include harassment that occurs outside of work, even if the complainant must face the alleged harasser every day at work. As a society we ought t be asking whether we want our legislators who use the legislative pen to craft laws of general application to be involved in such abusive conduct. While the policy is a good start, it seems to me that Parliament should go further. MPs should be required to take an oath of office that includes anti-discriminatory conduct. MPs currently take an oath of office that is constitutionally derived. There is no reason, though, that Parliament, as a group, cannot include a broader oath of office with sanctions that goes to the core of the work that MPs perform. This of course would be in addition to the policy.