Politics
Internal data shows increase in harassment complaints at Canada Revenue Agency and RCMP

Internal data shows increase in harassment complaints at Canada Revenue Agency and RCMP

Complaints of workplace harassment and violence have risen sharply in several federal departments and agencies in recent years, according to internal data.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) saw harassment complaints soar 82% to 166 between 2016-2017 and 2018-2019.

The RCMP says it received 1,132 harassment complaints over a five-year period, with numbers increasing by more than 50% between 2015 and 2017 before leveling off.

The RCMP figures follow an independent report released in November on misogyny and homophobia within its ranks, which called for fundamental change to rid the police of a toxic culture.

At Canada Post, complaints about workplace violence have increased every year since at least 2011, doubling to 641 between 2011 and 2015 and rising to 870 in 2019. Most complaints relate to interactions with the public rather than with others factors.

Harassment complaints filed with Fisheries and Oceans Canada increased to 66 in 2018-2019, compared to four in 2016-2017.

In response to an NDP Order Paper question, the CRA said the numbers “are not necessarily an indication of more discrimination and harassment”, but rather the result of greater public awareness and internal processes. reinforced that encourage victims to come forward.

“It is not known whether these statistics can be attributed to an increase in reporting or an increase in incidents,” said Mary-Liz Power, press secretary to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair – who oversees the RCMP – in a statement. email.

She highlighted efforts which include an independent Center for Harassment Resolution to be launched this summer and a management advisory board established in 2019 to identify improvements in internal policy on violence and harassment within the police service. .

The New Democrats have sought to link the higher number of complaints to the Liberal government, which the NDP says has avoided reforms to ensure a healthier environment for federal employees.

“In the context of the investigative report on the former Governor General which led to her resignation … the Liberals knew that federal workers were increasingly subjected to a toxic and insecure work climate and did not not taken the appropriate steps to improve the working conditions of public servants, ”said NDP labor critic Scott Duvall.

The accusation follows reports of the usual intimidation and belittlement of staff by Julie Payette, who resigned as governor general last month.

Increase in complaints, increase in workload

Duff Conacher, co-founder of advocacy group Democracy Watch, said the federal integrity commissioner and a broader awareness of workplace mistreatment had helped eliminate bad actors, but the government had failed to act on them. recommendations from a parliamentary committee to protect public service whistleblowers.

A 2017 government operations committee report sought to protect federal workers who report wrongdoing, including harassment, with amendments that would prevent employer retaliation and shift the burden of proof from the whistleblower to the government by retaliation cases.

“You’re going to have a paid lawyer. You will be rewarded if your claims are held to be true. If they try to do anything to fight back … you will get compensation for that,” Conacher said of potential legislation. “In other words, you won’t be alone… and you can do it anonymously.

It could be very healthy if there is an increase in complaints. It could just be a sign that the policies are working.– Katherine Lippel

“Obviously, that deters people from harassing people and abusing them in other ways, because you know that person is going to have a place to go that’s dedicated to their protection.”

Katherine Lippel, Canada Research Chair in Occupational Health and Safety Law at the University of Ottawa, said workplace harassment has skyrocketed over the past decade, in part due to increased workload.

Harassment, rather than relating exclusively to verbal abuse or violence, is “not having enough time to do what you’re supposed to do, being asked to do conflicting tasks, not to get the workload under control, to have very, very high demands, “she said.

Yet growing recognition among employers of the psychological strain – and bad press – associated with toxic workplaces means that new processes could lead to a wave of complaints.

“It could be very healthy that there is an increase in complaints. It could just be an indicator that the policies are working,” Lippel said.

Encourage staff to speak up

The new workplace harassment and violence prevention regulations under the Canada Labor Code came into effect on January 1. It places more emphasis on prevention and informal resolution.

The Canada Revenue Agency mentioned its Center of Expertise on Discrimination and Harassment, created five years ago to allow employees to report discrimination and harassment.

“Following the introduction of the IMG, there has been increased communication and awareness for employees,” as well as a more centralized approach to dealing with complaints of discrimination and harassment, said the spokesperson for CRA Sylvie Branch in an email.

At Canada Post, about 70% of employee complaints of violence stemmed from “aggression from customers or the public,” agency spokesman Jon Hamilton said in an email.

About 20% were for peer interactions, while the rest were for employee-supervisor incidents, he said, with both numbers peaking in recent years.

“Most often, the cause is customer frustration due to factors beyond the control of the frontline worker, such as delivery delays or company policy,” he said.

Jane Deeks, spokesperson for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, said the department is working “to move towards a harassment-free workplace.”

“While an increase in the number may cause concern, it also demonstrates our increased efforts to encourage employees to come forward, address these issues and complaints and find a meaningful solution,” she said.

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