OTTAWA — Newly elected MPs will be required to take a training course to prevent sexual harassment in their offices.
The awareness course will educate new MPs on what counts as harassment — and how to take steps to prevent it.
The course, paid for by the House of Commons, will address many forms of harassment, as well as violence prevention and the abuse of power by MPs.
New MPs must complete the training by the end of the year, along with new Commons staff.
Sitting MPs already have to take anti-harassment training every three years.
The harassment prevention session, called Strengthening a Culture of Respect — from Awareness to Action, will be offered in English and French.
It will be run by ADR Education, a Victoria-based training company which offers courses on "building and sustaining a respectful workplace."
The courses develop skills to "address harassment or disrespectful behaviours."
The conduct of MPs has come under the spotlight once again during the election, with allegations that a Liberal MP harassed a female member of his staff.
Last week, the House of Commons’ most senior official ordered a fresh look at whether there are "shortcomings" in the policy on sexual harassment, and whether improvements need to be made.
The move followed questions about a Commons inquiry into Raj Saini, former Liberal MP for Kitchener Centre.
The clerk of the House of Commons wrote to Michelle Rempel Garner, a Conservative, to tell her he had asked the head of human resources to examine the Commons' handling of the matter.
Saini stood down as a candidate after facing a barrage of questions about claims he harassed a female staff member, allegations he says are "unequivocally false."
Liberal whip Mark Holland last week warned against a "trial" of Saini, who has said he will not discuss the allegations because of privacy concerns.
The Tories and NDP have questioned why Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau allowed Saini to run for re-election.
Rempel Garner, who rigorously campaigned as an MP against sexual harassment and urged politicians from all parties to speak out, criticized the Liberals' handling of allegations against Saini, as well as previous complaints.
The Conservative candidate for Calgary Nose Hill suggested MPs might benefit from even more training on the issue, perhaps twice a year. But training MPs would not improve behaviour if "the culture in the party is of coverup," she said.
Speaking to The Canadian Press, she said there is an "inherent power imbalance on Parliament Hill" which "rewards silence" over inappropriate behaviour.
"Members are required to (sign up) for mandatory training. I am just not sure if it is strong enough or frequent enough," Rempel Garner said.
New MPs will be able to choose between virtual or in-person harassment prevention training and must complete the course within three months of taking their seat in the House.
The harassment course is one of a series of orientation courses offered to newly elected MPs by the House of Commons, including on the hiring of staff.
Heather Bradley, director of communications in the office of the Speaker of the House, said the training would focus on "setting up a healthy workplace."
"The goal of this training session is to give participants a better understanding of the roles that the member and their employees play in maintaining a culture of respect in the workplace, and it focuses on harassment and violence prevention in the workplace. "
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 15, 2021.
Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press