The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) headquarters Connaught Building is pictured in Ottawa on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. nbsp; THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) headquarters Connaught Building is pictured in Ottawa on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. nbsp; THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Internal data shows surge in harassment complaints at Canada Revenue Agency, RCMP

New workplace harassment, violence-prevention regulations under Canada Labour Code came into effect Jan. 1

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

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) saw harassment complaints jump 82 per cent to 166 between 2016-17 and 2018-19.

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

The RCMP figures follow an independent report in November on misogyny and homophobia in its ranks that called for fundamental change to rid the Mounties of a toxic culture.

At Canada Post, the number of complaints about workplace violence has grown every year since at least 2011, doubling to 641 between 2011 and 2015 and swelling to 870 in 2019.

Harassment complaints filed to Fisheries and Oceans Canada shot up to 66 in 2018-19 from four in 2016-17.

In a response to an order paper question from the NDP, the CRA said the figures “are not necessarily an indication of more discrimination and harassment,” but rather the result of greater public awareness and beefed-up internal processes that encourage victims to come forward.

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

She highlighted efforts that include an Independent Centre for Harassment Resolution set to launch this summer and a management advisory board established in 2019 to identify internal policy improvements around violence and harassment at the police agency.

New Democrats sought to link the higher complaint tallies to the Liberal government, which the NDP says has avoided reforms toward a healthier environment for federal employees.

“In the context of the investigation report on the former governor general that led to her resignation … the Liberals knew that federal workers were increasingly subjected to a toxic and insecure working climate and failed to take the right measures to improve the working conditions of civil servants,” NDP labour critic Scott Duvall said in an email.

The accusation comes after reports of habitual bullying and belittling of staff by Julie Payette, who stepped down as governor general last month.

READ MORE: Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Duff Conacher, co-founder of advocacy group Democracy Watch, said the federal integrity commissioner and a broader consciousness around workplace mistreatment have helped root out bad actors, but the government has not followed through on recommendations from a parliamentary committee to protect whistleblowers in the public service.

A House of Commons government operations committee report from 2017 sought to shield federal workers who speak up about wrongdoing, including harassment, through amendments that would prevent employer retaliation and shift the burden of proof from the whistleblower to the government in cases of reprisal.

“You’re going to have a lawyer paid for. You’re going to be rewarded if your claims are found true. If they try to do anything to retaliate against you’ll get compensation for that,” Conacher said of the would-be legislation.

“In other words, you won’t be on your own … and you can do it anonymously.

“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 is dedicated to protecting them.”

Katherine Lippel, Canada research chair in occupational health and safety law at the University of Ottawa, said workplace harassment has ballooned over the past decade, partly as a result rising workloads.

Harassment, rather than relating exclusively to verbal abuse or violence, is “about not having enough time to do what you’re supposed to do, being asked to do contradictory tasks, having no control of the workload, having very, very high demands,” she said.

Nonetheless, a growing recognition among employers of the psychological strain — and bad press — tied to toxic workplaces means new processes could prompt a flurry of complaints.

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

New workplace harassment and violence-prevention regulations under the Canada Labour Code came into effect Jan. 1, which include an increased focus on prevention and informal resolution.

The Canada Revenue Agency pointed to its five-year-old Discrimination and Harassment Centre of Expertise, established as a way for employees to report discrimination and harassment.

“Following the introduction of the DHCE, there was increased communication and awareness for employees,” along with a more centralized approach to addressing discrimination and harassment complaints, CRA spokeswoman Sylvie Branch said in an email.

Jane Deeks, a spokeswoman for the minister of fisheries and oceans, said the department is striving “to move towards a harassment-free workplace.”

“Although an increase in numbers may spark concern, they also demonstrate our increased efforts to encourage employees to come forward, to address these issues and complaints, and to find a meaningful resolution,” she said.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

RCMPworkplace harassment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sylvain Fabi, Canada’s chief negotiator for the Columbia River Treaty, joined a number of government and Indigenous government stakeholders for a virtual town hall on Feb. 24, 2021, to update the state of the Columbia River Treaty negotiations. Trevor Crawley photo/Zoom screenshot
Indigenous input key to Columbia River Treaty negotiations

Ecosystem function included in negotiations along with flood management and power generation priorities

Midway RCMP are continuing to investigate a recent burglary near Westbridge, B.C. File photo
Mounties looking for suspect in Boundary burglary

Investigators believe the suspect was driving a Jeep Liberty with a busted side mirror

Lawyers for three Grand Forks Fire/Rescue members denied any wrongdoing against former firefighter Leslie Cleverly, who in January filed a B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit against the defendants as well as their former Fire Chief and the City of Grand Forks. File photo
Grand Forks firefighters respond to former colleague’s lawsuit alleging conspiracy

The Supreme Court in Kelowna has not fixed a date for trial

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
MY COVID STORY: From doctor to patient

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

Castlegar’s Gabrielle Herle (right) will be one of the speakers at the conference. She is seen here with Wendy Gaskill from Chinook Scaffolding accepting their Contractor of the Year Award in 2019 from the Builders Code Champion Awards. Photo: Submitted
Girls in STEAM and Leadership Conference offered free for all girls in the Kootenay Boundary

Virtual conference for girls in grades 8 to 12 will be taking place on March 8

Thursday, Feb. 4: RDKB Chief Engineer Darryl Funk hoists a banner commemorating last year’s championship season by the Bantam House Bruins. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Bantam Bruins honoured at hair-raising banner ceremony at Grand Forks’ Jack Goddard Arena

Asst. coach Mike Tollis said he reluctantly gave in to the team’s victory wish that he cut his pony tale

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

The missing camper heard a GSAR helicopter, and ran from his tree well waving his arms. File photo
Man trapped on Manning mountain did nearly everything right to survive: SAR

The winter experienced camper was overwhelmed by snow conditions

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of 3 B.C. men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Ashley Paxman, 29, is in the ICU after being struck by a vehicle along Highway 97 Feb. 18, 2021. She remains in critical condition. (GoFundMe)
Okanagan woman in ICU with broken bones in face after being struck by car

She remains in serious condition following Feb. 18 incident

Vancouver International Women in Film Festival kicks off March 5.
Women in Film Festival features two B.C. filmmakers

The 16th annual festival kicks off March 5, 2021

The booklet roots present day activism in the history of racist policies, arguing the history must be acknowledged in order to change. (CCPA)
New resource dives into 150 years of racist policy in B.C.

Racist history must be acknowledged in order to change, authors say

Most Read