OTTAWA — Canada’s top bureaucrat says more can be done to prevent harassment in the public service after a review found some federal civil servants are afraid to complain about it.

Earlier this year Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick launched a targeted review of the culture within the civil service and how reports of harassment are handled.

A report on the findings shows that while a comprehensive set of rules and policies are in place, there is room for improvement and departments are asked to make changes by the spring.

“We heard that there are things we can do better,” the report says.

Some victims interviewed said they remain hesitant to come forward with harassment complaints due to a fear of reprisal and that they found the current systems for addressing complaints difficult to navigate.

Lengthy wait times for hiring investigators were also flagged as a concern.

The task force of deputy ministers that led the review has recommended creating a trusted and safe space within departments for employees to talk about harassment without fear – something akin to an ombudsman.

A neutral third-party could also help support the victim and alleged harasser with feelings of anxiety and isolation that employees said often accompany a harassment complaint, the report says.

More “robust and dynamic” training for employees and managers is also needed and also more comprehensive data should be gathered and analysed to identify problem areas or trends, according to the report’s authors.

Each recommendation comes with a deadline for completion with some due as early as this fall and others by spring of 2019. Each recommendation has a list of specific improvements needed.

“This report should not sit on the shelf,” the authors state.

“Our hope is that the advice and ideas we received can be converted into action quickly.”

This review came in the wake of the #MeToo movement and allegations of harassment involving several current and former MPs and Hill staffers that have surfaced over the last year.

In 2017, a public service employee survey found 18 per cent of public servants indicated they had been the victim of harassment on the job in the past two years.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press