Oxfam Canada welcomes federal legislation to target sexual harassment and violence in the workplace

To be effective, new bill must come with adequate resources to transform culture that enables harmful behaviour

November 7, 2017

(Ottawa) Oxfam Canada welcomes the federal government’s announcement today of legislation aimed at addressing sexual harassment and violence in the workplace. This is an important step to ensure women working at the federal level feel safe and know they will be supported if they speak out.

The current sexual harassment provisions are weak and do not apply to public servants and employees working on the Hill.  Bill C-65 would mandate employers to investigate all reported incidents of harassment and violence and provide support to survivors.

"While policies are critical to reducing the prevalence of sexual harassment and violence in the workplace, they only make a difference when they are effectively and consistently implemented," said Diana Sarosi, Policy Manager at Oxfam Canada. "Effective legislation must be accompanied by sufficient financial resources and must come with comprehensive training that is sustained adequately over time. It is unclear at this point whether sufficient resources will be allocated to implement the regulations proposed in the bill."

"In order to create environments that are safe, inclusive and free from violence, both individual attitudes and underlying culture must change,"
Diana Sarosi, Policy Manager, Oxfam Canada

Sexual harassment and violence are systemic problems in society that require a comprehensive strategy on multiple levels to address the negative social norms that condone these behaviours in the workplace. Only then will lasting, long-term behavior change occur. 

"It is encouraging to see the bill emphasize the importance of shifting workplace culture. A hotline and programs to raise awareness are good first steps. However, Oxfam's experience working to end violence against women and girls suggests in order to create environments that are safe, inclusive and free from violence, both individual attitudes and underlying culture must change," Sarosi said.

Oxfam Canada is once again calling for a national action plan on ending violence against women to ensure women have access to comparable services and protections no matter where they live or work. Based on the recommendations of the 2016 Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women Committee, Canada should work in partnership with the provinces to build a comprehensive plan to end this scourge that has impacted too many lives.

-30-

Contact information

Shirlee Engel
Media Relations
Oxfam Canada
(613) 240-3047
shirlee.engel@oxfam.org