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An Inter-Parliamentary Issue

It has become quite evident that the #MeToo movement has helped give a voice to vulnerable populations in the workplace. Taking off in the world of entertainment, #MeToo has since spread to every industry where unequal workplaces have allowed some to exercise power over their subordinates with impunity.


The political arena has also been particularly prone to the dangers of mistreatment though it has long been shrouded in secrecy. Thankfully, in recent years victim's stories have made it to the public light. Although this project highlights the strife of employees of Canada's Senate, we have come across similar experiences suffered by workers in the UK and Australian parliamentary institutions. Harassment is a raging issue in governments across the globe. 


Anti-Harassment Activity in the UK


Over the years there have been many reports of bullying, harassment and abuse of power in both houses of parliament.  In 2017, the House of Commons commission appointed Dame Laura Cox to carry out an inquiry into bullying and harassment in the Commons Service. The Laura Cox report was published on 15 October 2018 and her recommendations implemented. Recognizing that the problems were not limited to the Commons Services, an additional inquiry into Bullying and Harassment of MP’s and parliamentary staff was commissioned resulting in the July 2019, report. The recommendation of this report is currently being implemented. 


A Similar situation existed in the House of Lords leading to the 2018 inquiry and report by Naomi Ellenbogen into the nature of Bullying and harassment (including sexual harassment and any systemic behaviours) experienced by past and present members of the House of Lords and their staff, and Administration staff employed by the House of Lords. Her report was published on 10 July 2019 and led to the House of Lords announcing plans for a streamlined and more effective system to combat allegations of bullying and harassment. The revamped policy also changed the code of conduct for members of the Lords to add explicit provisions on bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct. In addition, complaints could now be made via email or an independent helpline rather than only in writing.

Further reading:

Anti-Harassment Activity in Australia

Despite several high-profile cases of harassment and bullying, there has been strong resistance to the idea of a code of conduct in the Australian parliament. Despite many attempts to create such a code, the Australian Senate as recently as 2017 rejected the Senate Committees  recommendation for a parliamentary code of multicultural ethics rejecting in principle any code of conduct. However the situation changed after the 2019 election when the ruling Greens party introduced a bill proposing a statutory code of conduct for parliamentarians and their staff. Although this bill was rejected the #MeToo movement encouraged women MPs and Staffers to reveal their own experiences of sexual harassment and gender-based violence in the workplace. This publicity led to the inquiry and report by Sex Discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins released in November 2021.The report  Kate Jenkins 28 recommendations to fix parliament's toxic culture  exposes the extent of bullying and harassment in the nations parliament. The report finds that the drivers behind this behaviour include power and gender inequalities, entitlement and exclusion and the lack of inequality. The report is still undergoing review and it is to be seen if parliament will approve and implement the recommendations.

Further reading:

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