Speaker of the House Andrew Scheer has approved a new harassment prevention policy following several meetings and informal investigations into harassment on Parliament Hill.
“The policy builds upon a framework previously implemented by the [Board of Internal Economy],” according to a press release. The Board of Internal Economy is the governing board of the House of Commons.
Previously, the 2001 policy on the “Preventing and Resolution of Harassment in the Workplace” did not apply to parliamentary members.
The policy will come into effect immediately, and will address “prevention, processes for filing informal and formal complaints, investigating and reporting, appeals, and communicating findings,” reported the press release.
The news comes after a new subcommittee for Procedure and House Affairs met for the first time in-camera on Monday to handle complaints and suspicions of harassment.
“The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs is now reviewing the impact on Members’ conduct and disciplinary processes, within the context of parliamentary privilege,” the release said.
Scheer also met with the All-Party Women’s Caucus on Monday to address the new policy and how the subcommittee and the Commons Board of Internal Economy, which Scheer chairs, can go forward with handling harassment allegations.
“This is the first step to ensure everyone can go to work in a safe and respectful workplace, including people who work in and around Parliament Hill,” said NDP MP Mylène Freeman, a member of the All-Party Women’s Caucus. “We’re hopeful that going forward we will be able to harmonize and strengthen the procedures that exist and close gaps.”
The policy applies to MPs, house officers and research officers. However, only employees whose salaries are paid from the House Officer are covered under the policy. It details rights and responsibilities, along with a complaints process.
“Employees covered under a collective agreement, as well as employees of the House of Commons Administration are excluded,” the policy reported.
Last month, two Liberal MPs were suspended by leader Justin Trudeau for allegations of sexual harassment by two unidentified NDP MPs.
Newfoundland and Labrador MP Scott Andrews and Quebec MP Massimo Pacetti deny the allegations and are excluded from the Liberal caucus. As well, a former intern came forward with an allegation of sexual harassment on the Hill following the revelations made by the NDP members.
Francella Fiallos is a fourth-year journalism student at Carleton University in Ottawa. She sits on the Board of Directors for OPIRG-Carleton, edits a campus newspaper and hosts a radio show on CKCU 93.1 FM in the capital region.
Photo: flickr/Tamara Polajnar