Dr. Swann Debates Bill 2 – An Act to Remove Barriers for Survivors of Sexual and Domestic Violence (Committee of the Whole) – 22 March 2017

Taken from the Alberta Hansard for Wednesday, March 22, 2017.

Bill 2 – An Act to Remove Barriers for Survivors of Sexual and Domestic Violence (Committee of the Whole)

Dr. Swann: Thank you very much, Madam Chair. I look forward to tabling an amendment that I’ve raised privately with the minister and I hope will be favourable to just adding the scope to the bill and clarity to the bill.

The Chair: This will be known as amendment A1. Go ahead, hon. member.

Dr. Swann: Thank you, Madam Chair. I very much support the intent of this bill. I am slightly concerned that its protections may not be afforded to all survivors due to a technicality. Bill 2, An Act to Remove Barriers for Survivors of Sexual and Domestic Violence, currently covers survivors who are either a minor, in an intimate relationship with or dependent on the perpetrator at the time that the sexual misconduct or nonsexual assault occurred. It is the term “dependency” that concerns me.

A relationship with dependency might not be an accurate description of incidents where the survivor and the perpetrators are co-workers with the same level of seniority such as the recent high-profile case of female police officers who were affected in the Calgary Police Service after enduring years of harassment from colleagues. It’s not clear if dependency applies to harassment or exploitation of an adult student by a university professor or a postsecondary instructor. It’s unfortunate that the specific mention of co-workers was left out as it would give confidence, I think, and encourage people to come forward. Even though it may be implied, it’s not explicit.

The bill cannot be amended at this time to include references to co-workers since that would involve altering the legislation, which is not under current consideration.

Consequently, I would like to propose an amendment aimed at reducing the bill’s ambiguity by inserting an additional category of protection. I have the appropriate number of copies as circulated, and my amendment reads as follows. I move that Bill 2, An Act to Remove Barriers for Survivors of Sexual and Domestic Violence, be amended in section 3 in the proposed section 3.1(1) as follows: in clause (b) by striking out “or” at the end of subclause (ii), by adding “or” at the end of subclause (iii), and by adding the follow-ing after subclause (iii):

(iv) the person who committed the misconduct was in a position of trust or authority in relation to the person with the claim.

The second part, (b), in clause (c) by striking out “or” at the end of subclause (ii), by adding “or” at the end of subclause (iii), and by adding the following subclause (iv):

(iv) the person who committed the assault or battery was in a position of trust or authority in relation to the person with the claim.

Essentially, the amendment seeks to amend Bill 2 to ensure that its protections apply to a broader category of survivors; namely, that the person who committed the misconduct was in the position of trust or authority in relation to the person with the claim. A “position of trust or authority” is admittedly a general term, and that’s exactly the point. My amendment seeks to ensure these limitations apply to a broader category of survivors.

Unfortunately, short of rewriting the entire proposed section 3.1, which I’m sure the government members would not support, my amendment cannot capture everything in terms of eliminating the limitation period for sexual harassment claims. Instead, it builds on the bill’s original wording but doesn’t radically alter it. Since the sexual misconduct section deals primarily with power differentials, this proposed bill is in line with the government’s intent. Regrettably, it will not include situations where workplace sexual harassment occurs among relative equals, such as the situation in Calgary that I mentioned.

Again, I hope the government would consider bringing forward further legislation that would deal explicitly with workplace sexual harassment, but for now the government may wish to argue that what my amendment seeks to accomplish is already covered by subclause (iii), which deals with situations of dependency, as in financial, emotional, physical, or otherwise. However, this is far from certain in cases of workplace dynamics or adult educational settings, and I think we owe it to survivors to be as inclusive as possible.

I call on my colleagues to support the amendment to ensure that more survivors feel included under these important protections and will more readily come forward.

Thank you, Madam Chair.