National Gender and Harassment Advisory Committee - Annual Report
The implementation of Gender and Harassment Advisory committees (GHACs) across the RCMP was one of the change initiatives agreed to by the RCMP in the Merlo and Davidson v. Canada settlement agreement, which was approved by the courts on May 30 2017. One committee in each of the 16 RCMP Divisions, and one National committee, were established to serve as an internal advice-giving forum to Divisional Commanding Officers and the Commissioner on matters related to gender, sexual orientation, harassment, equity and inclusivity, all working to build on the RCMP's efforts towards eliminating harassment and discrimination from the workplace.
In fall 2017, a committee member application and nomination process was created to solicit participation from employees at every level in all three categories in the RCMP (Regular Member, Civilian Member and Public Service Employees). The Committees were formed to reflect a diversity of identities and experiences to help encourage active discourse from a variety of perspectives.
The National Committee, which is chaired by the Commissioner, is to review the recommendations submitted by the Divisional Committees. The National Committee will produce a publicly-available Annual Report containing the recommendations made to the RCMP, and the RCMP will issue a formal response to the Committee recommendations.
2018 Committee Discussions and Recommendations
The initial meetings of the new Divisional Committees took place between January and March 2018. They then submitted their reports and recommendations to the National Committee in advance of their first National Committee meeting which was held in April 2018. A variety of initial topics were discussed by the Divisional Committees, involving the general themes of committee mandate, training, support resources, and communication:
- Some Divisions submitted suggestions for changes to committee Terms of Reference, and several divisions expressed the need for more clarity around the role of the GHACs, and a desire for additional information to support these committees. As well as trying to clarify the links between these new committees and existing committees on diversity, inclusion and employment equity.
- Several Divisions mentioned the advantages of training related to harassment awareness, bias, diversity and inclusion, and how it is not always apparent or obvious when the training is being offered or available. While some courses currently exist for unconscious bias training, diversity and inclusion, and gender based analysis plus, it was expressed that additional cultural awareness and conflict resolution training would be beneficial.
- Also mentioned was how to better improve communication about the Peer-to-Peer (P2P) program, its roles and mandate, and how P2P coordinators can advise or support employees on harassment issues was also suggested. The difficulty of returning to work after maternity leave was identified as a challenge and a process to aid in return to work after long absence would be helpful.
- Some Divisions are considering producing a monthly employee newsletter to communicate expectations, to advice employees of courses, resources and support available. There was also a proposal to conduct a survey to determine what the issues are relative to gender and harassment, and how this impacts careers.
The first National Committee meeting held on April 5th, 2018 was chaired by then Commissioner-designate Brenda Lucki. As an inaugural meeting of a new Committee, time was allocated for the introduction of members and their wishes for contributions to the Committee. The Chair thanked the members for their engagement and emphasized the potential of these Committees as one of many vehicles for positive change in the organization. As these committees were formed as a result of the Merlo-Davidson settlement agreement, Committee members were recommended to familiarize themselves with all of the settlement obligations.
The National Committee also discussed suggestions on the Terms of Reference (ToR) received from Divisional Committees. The Committee considered the requirements of the Merlo-Davidson settlement agreement regarding the naming and purpose of the Committees, and also recommended suggestions for revisions into the final English and French versions of the ToR.
The relationship between the GHACs and other committees that have a mandate for diversity and inclusion was discussed, as well as the annual schedule of meetings. It is recommended to have a GHAC member sit on the divisional Diversity and Inclusion / Employment Equity Committee so that committees do not operate in isolation. It would also be beneficial and welcome to have other committees express concerns to GHACs. It is recommended that more information and answers to frequently asked questions about the committees be prepared.
The Committee discussed potential improvements identified by Divisional Committees to programs and policies for employees returning to the workplace after long absence (for example, maternity/parental leave, or long-term illness/injury). Good practices are in place in some areas that could be adopted in other Divisions; information should be shared so Divisions can adopt positive changes to current practices. It was also recommended that Human Resources examine systemic policy/program changes to introduce additional supports to facilitate employees returning after longer absences from the workplace.
The Committee was informed about the recent creation of the Troop 17 Scholarship. The scholarship was part of the Merlo-Davidson settlement agreement, and is one of the many initiatives that the RCMP has implemented to help support the elimination of harassment from schools, communities, and workplaces. The scholarship was given its name in honour of the first troop of women to attend the RCMP Academy and be hired on as RCMP officers. It will award up to five scholarships annually in the amount of $1000 each to the eligible post-secondary students across Canada. The scholarship is being launched in mid-April 2018 with a closing date for applications of June 29, 2018. Information will be posted on the RCMP external website, and disseminated through media release and social media. It is recommended that NGHAC members be given the opportunity to review scholarship applications during summer months. Selected recipients will be announced in September 2018.
The committee also discussed the potential to have more frequent meetings subject to availability of the Chair and Committee members.
RCMP Response to Committee Recommendations
The RCMP has accepted and made the necessary changes to the ToR. The French title of the Committees was changed from "Comité consultatif national sur l'égalité des sexes et le harcèlement" to "Comité consultatif national sur l'égalité des genres et le harcèlement". Additional changes were mainly grammatical in nature. Updated ToRs were shared with all Commanding Officers of Divisions and with the National Committee members in late April 2018, and are available through the Infoweb, to all employees upon request.
The RCMP has accepted to undertake providing more information to Committee members and all employees about the GHACs. Updated answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ) were published on the Infoweb in late April 2018; employees are also able to forward questions to the Workforce Culture and Employee Engagement general email box if they have specific questions not answered by the FAQ. In accepting recommendations from Divisional Committees, additional materials that provide definitions of key terms and concepts will be developed, circulated for feedback, and disseminated/published at a later date. The RCMP is in the process of updating the governance framework for committees involved in diversity and inclusion and employment equity to improve the flow of information between Divisional and National committees, and to have appropriate linkages between these committees which have some related interests to the Gender and Harassment Advisory Committees. Included in the framework is the recommendation that Commanding Officers have at least one member from their Divisional Gender and Harassment Advisory Committee sit on their Diversity and Inclusion / Employment Equity Committee to facilitate sharing of vital information between the committees.
The RCMP accepts to undertake a review of policies and practices to improve employees' return to work experience after long-term absence. Several policy centres will be involved in examining these processes, as the return experience may involve several processes and the requirements of the employee may vary depending on the reason for absence (for example, disability management, parental leave, personal leave of absence, etc.), and needs to be customizable to the employee's needs. While a systemic approach is being reviewed by Human Resources, good practices currently in place in Divisions which do not require centralized policy changes will be shared so that Divisions can implement immediate improvements.
The RCMP commits to sharing applications for the Troop 17 scholarship with NGHAC members for them to have the opportunity to review prior to the announcement of the selected recipients in September 2018.
The RCMP is open to holding more frequent meetings of the NGHAC subject to availability of the Commissioner and the Committee members.
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