An amendment proposed by the Alberta Liberal Party to Bill 2: An Act to Remove Barriers for Survivors of Sexual and Domestic Violence, to include offences perpetrated by a peer in the workplace was defeated in the legislature March 15.
Alberta Liberal Party leader David Swann said he was disappointed the amendment failed to gain the support of the NDP government and other MLAs.
“The bill as it was written didn’t seem to include peers – abuse or harassment by peers in the workplace,” he said. “Within a few minutes of me tabling (the amendment) the minister said that, number 1, she didn’t think it would be necessary and number 2, she indicated it might raise more technical complications in the legal process. I wasn’t very happy with the reasons given.”
Under the bill, victims of sexual and domestic assault would have unlimited time to submit a civil claim. Previously, victims were required to bring forward a civil claim within two years from the offence.
Bill 2 would remove limitation periods for three types of crimes: sexual assault, sexual misconduct involving a minor, intimate relationship or dependant and non-sexual assault involving a minor, intimate relationship or dependant.
According to Swann’s Chief of Staff Jonathan Huckabay, one of the reasons given by Minister of Justice Kathleen Ganley for not supporting the amendment was because the bill opened up a specific section of the legislation.
“One of the things we wanted to do was to include the term co-workers but we were not allowed to do that because it would have to be opened up in the definition section of the law, which the bill wasn’t opening,” he said.
“If you propose an amendment to a bill, it can only deal with the sections of the law that the bill is dealing with.
“The minister basically said, if we add another category, we may end up eliminating people and we’re not really sure how that works.”
The provincial government announced the tabling of the bill March 7 in the provincial legislature. It passed first, second and third readings and was approved by the committee of the whole. Royal assent is required before the bill can be enacted.
Swann said he hoped the legislation would be tested by people alleging abuse or harassment by a peer.
“Individuals who feel harassed in the workplace should test this now and see whether in fact (the minister) is right. Is this going to be a barrier to people making a claim because they don’t think it’s properly covered in the legislation? My thought was, we should make it easier rather than more ambiguous for the person who has been harassed,” he said.
“Let’s make it very explicit that anybody harassing anybody in the workplace, not just people in a subservient or lower rung on the ladder, is eligible for this.
“It is now essentially the law of the land, which is good. I just think it could have been better.”