Summary of Key Provisions on Harassment and Violence under the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators
On Tuesday, May 4, 2021, the Senate modified the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators (the Code). The modifications to the Code came into effect on August 12, 2021.
These modifications create a separate regime for harassment and violence cases in order to harmonize the Code with the new Senate Harassment and Violence Prevention Policy (the Policy) with the Code and modify the role of the Senate Ethics Officer (SEO) in respect of harassment and violence complaints and inquiries.
The new regime consists of a new definition of “harassment and violence” (subsection 3(1)), a new rule of conduct (section 7.3) and new substantive and procedural provisions (section 53 to 61).
Under this new regime:
- If the SEO is of the opinion that the conduct of a senator (with respect to harassment and violence) may be addressed under the Policy, the SEO will not conduct a preliminary review nor an inquiry in respect of that conduct.
- The SEO will inform a person who feels they are a victim of or witnessed harassment and violence that recourse may be available under the Policy.
- Any investigation of the conduct of a senator with respect to matters falling under the Policy will be conducted solely under the terms of the Policy and not under the Code.
- Under the Policy, a final report of an external investigator concerning a senator’s conduct is to be provided to the SEO for consideration under the Code.
- There is now a new rule of conduct under the Code that addresses harassment and violence directly. Section 7.3 provides: “A senator shall refrain from engaging in conduct that constitutes harassment and violence.”
- A finding in an investigation report that a senator’s conduct constitutes harassment or violence is deemed to be a breach of section 7.3.
- Once seized of the investigator’s final report, the SEO must provide it to the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators (CONF) as soon as possible.
- The SEO cannot conduct any preliminary review and inquiry in respect of conduct that could constitute harassment and violence as identified in an investigator’s final report.
- The SEO may conduct preliminary reviews and inquiries in respect of conduct other than those that constitute harassment and violence as identified in the investigation report.
- If the SEO conducts a preliminary review or an inquiry concerning conduct that does not constitute harassment and violence, the SEO may not disclose the existence or content of the investigation report to anyone, except to the senator who is the subject of the preliminary review or inquiry, nor the information contained in the investigation report in respect of conduct that may constitute harassment and violence.
- The CONF may direct the SEO to provide recommendations regarding remedial, corrective, or disciplinary measures in relation to a breach of Section 7.3.
- The CONF would report to the Senate with a recommendation for disciplinary measures or would communicate with CIBA for the purposes of the Policy for the imposition of remedial or corrective measures. The new provisions contain more details on the role of CONF.
- This process continues regardless of whether the senator who is the subject of the allegations ceases to serve in the Senate or whether the conduct at issue may also require investigation by authorities outside the Senate.
- This process is confidential, and the report of the external investigator is not a public document.