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

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
The Longhorn Saloon and Grill has opened its patio for outdoor diners. (Facebook photo)
Town of Ponoka launches new temporary seasonal patio program

The Town of Ponoka has launched a new Temporary Seasonal Patio Program… Continue reading

Dr. Wayne John Edwards, 66, died Tuesday at Chinook Regional Hospital. (Cornerstone Funeral Home)
Lethbridge doctor becomes 7th Alberta health-care worker to die from COVID-19

Dr. Wayne John Edwards, who was 66, died Tuesday at the Chinook Regional Hospital in the southern Alberta city

2019 Ponoka Stampede rodeo action. (File photo)
Chute not yet open for 2021 Ponoka Stampede

Ponoka Stampede Association still hopeful event can go ahead this year

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

A vial of some of the first 500,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Canada’s 2nd blood clot confirmed in Alberta after AstraZeneca vaccine

The male patient, who is in his 60s, is said to be recovering

The funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip in Windsor, England, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Philip died April 9 at the age of 99. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip laid to rest Saturday as sombre queen sits alone

The entire royal procession and funeral took place out of public view within the grounds of Windsor Castle

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine in a freezer trailer, to be transported to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pfizer to increase vaccine deliveries in Canada as Moderna supply slashed

Moderna plans to ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million

A empty classroom is pictured at Eric Hamber Secondary school in Vancouver, B.C. Monday, March 23, 2020. The Alberta government says schools in Calgary will move to at-home learning starting Monday for students in grades 7 to 12.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calgary schools to shift to at-home learning for grades 7 to 12 due to COVID-19

The change, due to COVID-19, is to last for two weeks

A man wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
COVID-19 spike in B.C. could overwhelm B.C. hospitals: modelling group

There are 397 people are in hospital due to the virus, surpassing a previous high of 374 seen in December

Most Read