Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says an “awakening” is sweeping society about the issue of workplace harassment and violence as the dominoes continue to fall from the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
Trudeau suggested that awareness being raised around the issue could reverse trends that show incidents are not only under-reported, but are often not dealt with properly when they are brought forward.
A newly released federal survey on the issue hints at such a trend.
Three-quarters of those surveyed in the federal consultations said they recently reported harassment, sexual harassment or violence, but two-fifths of those complaints were never addressed.
Federal officials caution that the results of the online survey should not be taken as representative of the population because it was not a random sampling.
Speaking in Toronto, Trudeau said far too many victims — women and men — don’t feel safe coming forward with their stories.
But with the fall of one of Hollywood’s most powerful producers, a Weinstein effect has swept across industries with actors, producers, singers, CEOs, journalists and chefs ousted and forced to apologize for inappropriate behaviour as victims felt safer to come forward with their stories.
“There is an awakening,” Trudeau said.
“There is an increasing awareness that it’s not all right, it’s never all right and regardless of the power or influence or money or fame of the person doing the harassment, it’s never excusable and it should never be kept hidden.”
The consultation report released Thursday also focuses on education to help reduce incidents, saying “prevention should be the primary focus” of any federal efforts and “precede any legislative changes.”
The Liberals say they will tackle the issue soon, but won’t say what they plan to do.
Documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act suggest officials previously expected to see regulatory changes after the consultation report was released. The briefing note late last year to Labour Minister Patty Hajdu’s top official also suggested further consultations with the public could flesh out any “approved, non-legislative initiatives.”
Any change to the labour code would only apply to federally-regulated companies, like Crown corporations, banking, rail, telecommunications and broadcasting.
Trudeau said no workplace in the country is immune from harassment and intimidation, including Parliament, requiring the federal government to set the tone for the country in how to deal with the issue.
“This is something that affects all of us and we need to realize that harassment, intimidation in any workplace, in any place in this country is unacceptable and needs to stop.”
The government launched consultations on dealing with workplace violence in the summer of 2016 to review the existing laws and regulations under the Canada Labour Code.
The government’s consultation report says most survey respondents believe employers, followed by the government and then unions, should provide support for victims of workplace violence.
Employer and employee groups asked for simpler language in the labour code and clarification of legislative and regulatory requirements, including differentiating sexual harassment from other forms of workplace violence because of privacy concerns.