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Complaints of harassment, violence and discrimination in the House of Commons rose by 63 per cent in the last year, an increase attributed to greater awareness because of mandatory training on the issues.

The report by Michelle Laframboise, the House of Commons’ chief human resources officer, revealed that 13 complaints, including of sexual harassment, were made to the House of Commons’ Respectful Workplace unit in the fiscal year of 2022-23, compared with eight the previous year.

The report does not include complaints by members of Parliament about another MPs because they are covered by a separate code of conduct.

Of the 13 complaints, four were allegations of sexual harassment; two involved violence, including psychological violence; three were classified as harassment complaints and one involved discrimination. Three complaints were about a combination of behaviours.

One of the complaints was against an MP, while four were complaints lodged against MPs’ staff. The subjects of eight complaints involved people in Parliament whose role was not specified.

Ms. Laframboise attributed the increase in complaints to the training the House of Commons was offering MPs and their staff.

“The number of reported occurrences is higher than in previous years,” Ms. Laframboise said in the report. “This can be explained by the heightened awareness regarding the responsibilities of both Members of Parliament, as employers, and their employees to record and report occurrences of harassment and violence that followed the implementation of the Policy in January 2021 and the associated mandatory training.”

The annual report on the Members of the House of Commons Workplace Violence Harassment and violence Prevention Policy says that since 2020, there have been 23 complaints against MPs and people in their offices: two in 2020-21, when MPs and staff were working remotely much of the time owing to the pandemic, eight in 2021-2022 and 13 in the last year.

The report did not include the Senate, which said two complaints were filed in the past year that are currently being investigated. In the previous year, there was one complaint that has now been resolved.

Alison Korn, spokesperson for the Senate committee on internal economy, budgets and administration, said the Senate is “committed to fostering a culture of respect in the workplace. Harassment and violence of any kind will not be tolerated.” Senators and their staff must complete mandatory training.

MPs and their staff have to take part in a training session on “promoting a culture of respect.” New MPs are obliged to do their training as part of the “onboarding” process after they take their seats, as do staff when they start jobs in the House of Commons.

The training is part of a new House of Commons policy introduced in 2021 outlining the responsibilities of MPs as employers to ensure that their staff, including interns, work in a healthy, safe and respectful work environment.

The conduct of MPs, and the policy, came under the spotlight in 2021 during the election, after allegations emerged that Liberal MP Raj Saini had harassed a female member of his staff.

Mr. Saini withdrew as a candidate after facing sustained questioning, although he said the allegations were “unequivocally false.”

Liberal whip Mark Holland warned at the time against a public trial of Mr. Saini, who has said he will not discuss the allegations because of privacy concerns. Mr. Saini said an independent third-party review of his office conducted through the House of Commons had cleared him of harassment allegations.

But the Commons faced criticism that its policies were weighed against staff making complaints. It prompted a review of the way the House of Commons investigates harassment allegations against MPs, which concluded the process had “no shortcomings.”

People who complain are offered dispute-resolution options under the policy and mediation before the complaint is investigated.

Julie Labelle-Morissette, spokeswoman for the House of Commons Speaker, would not give details of the complaints made in the past year, including against an MP, “for confidentiality reasons.” She would also not discuss whether the police were involved or if any of the other complaints listed in the report involved members of the public visiting the House of Commons.

“The increase in the number of cases from last year and the year previous is not unusual when a new policy and process are introduced, and significant awareness activities are undertaken,” she said.

“It’s not an indication that there is more harassment activity, but rather that employees are more comfortable in bringing situations forward and are doing so earlier, which allows for early intervention and a quicker resolution.”

The report revealed that three cases – including harassment, discrimination and “multiple grounds” for complaint – were resolved through negotiation. Seven were resolved, without giving details how. And two complaints of sexual harassment and multiple grounds did not progress because they did “not meet policy criteria.”

One case involving multiple grounds for complaint is still being dealt with by the House of Commons, the report said.

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