'Seven months is a long time': Chagger says of MP harassment claim process
Published Saturday, December 16, 2017 7:00AM EST
OTTAWA -- Government House Leader Bardish Chagger is weighing in on the current process in place to deal with allegations of sexual harassment between MPs, saying there is room for improvement.
"There is an internal process that takes place and we need to make sure that internal process is timely and works, I would say, faster, because seven months is a long time," Chagger said in an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CTV’s Question Period.
Chagger was referencing the seven months that it took from the time that Liberal MP Sherry Romanado filed a formal harassment complaint, to when Romanado said the process concluded, in late November or early December.
The complaint stemmed from an incident in May, in which Conservative MP James Bezan remarked "this isn’t my idea of a threesome" while posing for a photo next to her and an unnamed veteran.
While the conclusion of the Chief Human Resources Officer’s (CHRO) review of the incident came in August, in an exclusive interview with CTV News on Dec. 5, Romanado said the process surrounding the review was completed months later, and just days before Bezan publicly apologized in the House of Commons. She said that while she thought the process was fair, it could be improved.
The CHRO found that the reported incident "did not support a claim of sexual harassment," and no disciplinary action was recommended against Bezan.
"It’s a long time," Chagger said in the interview airing Sunday, referring to the time it took for the process to wrap up.
It is unclear if changes to the process are something that Chagger is currently involved in working on. When asked if she was engaged on rule changes, she said: "Of course we will try to improve the process."
But, a government source told CTV News that there are no current plans to seek changes to the way MP-to-MP harassment on the Hill is handled.
The current sexual harassment code of conduct for MPs came into being in 2015, prior to the federal election, and after allegations was levelled against two former Liberal MPs by two NDP MPs.
The sexual harassment code was developed, and continues to be managed by the Procedure and House Affairs Committee, which includes MPs from all three recognized parties.
The policy spells out how to report, the process for mediation, privacy protections, and the involvement of the CHRO.
The code was last reviewed by MPs in Oct. 2017.
Mandated to make Parliament harassment free
As part of her mandate letter, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tasked Chagger with ensuring that "Parliament is a workplace free from harassment and sexual violence."
In November, Employment Minister Patty Hajdu introduced Bill C-65. The bill is aimed at giving workers and their employers a clear course of action to better deal with allegations of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment.
The bill applies to staff on Parliament Hill and in other federally-regulated workplaces such as banks, telecommunications and transport industries, representing about eight per cent of the national labour force. It’s aimed at exerting more pressure on companies to combat unacceptable behaviour and punish those who don't take it seriously.
The changes will merge separate labour standards for sexual harassment and violence and subject them to the same scrutiny and dispute resolution process, which could include having an outside investigator brought in to review allegations.
"Parliament Hill is not a workplace that is free from these challenges," said Chagger. She cited this bill as an example of the government taking leadership on the issue.
"This is a matter of making sure that our workplaces are free of harassment," she said.
Chagger also weighed in on comments made by Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities Kent Hehr; the appointment of a new ethics commissioner; and the Senate’s study of marijuana legalization.
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