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Justin Trudeau’s expulsion of two MPs from the Liberal caucus for misconduct toward two female MPs is yet another reminder that harassment in the workplace is rife. Even at the highest levels of government where human rights laws designed to protect Canadians are crafted, no such standard exists for parliamentarians.

While politicians, pundits, and journalists seem surprised that harassment is still a part of the workplace – after all, this is 2014 – it appears that the problem is not going away soon. The fact that it is against the law does little to deter the practice. From the halls of parliament to the flight decks of Air Canada’s aircraft, harassment in the workplace, especially toward female employees, is still considered an acceptable practice.

Why? Because despite legislation and official policies harassment is all about power, both personal and organizational. There are plenty of reasons why women who make accusations of harassment want to remain anonymous. But the main reason is a fear of retaliation. Fear is what every harasser counts on to maintain his or her dominance and control in the workplace without consequences. The fear of retaliation is what creates an unsafe work environment for those who speak out.

It is time to stop being surprised that harassment is still taking place. This is 2014 but we have a long way to go to end the practice. It is time for all of us to stand up to harassing behaviour when we encounter it. It is time to stop laughing at insults, repeating racist comments, engaging in sexual innuendo, and sending emails that demean others. And it is time to stop displaying pornography in the workplace. It is up to each of us to play an active role in challenging those who engage in the behaviour. Only then will the rights of every person to work in a harassment-free environment be realized.

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