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Rally at Province House calls for protection against workplace bullying

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KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Nova Scotia is the only jurisdiction in Canada that neither has legislation nor plans to introduce legislation to outlaw bullying and psychological harassment in the workplace. 

Some 20 people gathered outside Province House this afternoon to demand that the Liberal government take steps to fix this. Today is Wear Pink Day, a national day of action against bullying, and the protesters were all wearing pink shirts.

The action was organized by Equity Watch, an organization that fights bullying, and discrimination in the workplace. 

At the Nova Scotia Advocate we are often approached by people who have suffered because of abuse by co-workers, managers and employers. 

In this province an employee who faces harassment and bullying at work has virtually no recourse. Harassment and bullying are not prohibited grounds according to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act. And the Nova Scotia Occupational Health and Safety Act also does not cover psychological violence in the workplace. 

Annette Harpell has experienced both psychological abuse at work and the total lack of legal protection here in Nova Scotia.

Harpell was terrorized by a female co-worker while working at a Lawtons store in Antigonish. 

“Dealing with how I was being treated took a great toll on my health. And I repeatedly went to my managers for months and months, but they failed to see the seriousness of the issue. And they failed to do anything about it,” Harpell told the crowd.

As the bullying continued her health deteriorated, and she went on sick leave. That’s when management told her she was terminated.

“I was totally devastated,” said Harpell.

In June last year, the Nova Scotia Labour Board dismissed Harpell’s complaint that she was psychologically abused at her job and said it was up to the provincial government to change the law to cover such a situation. 

Last fall the NDP MLA Tammy Martin proposed a private member’s bill to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Tammy Martin had to step away from her MLA position for health reasons, but her colleague Susan LeBlanc, speaking at the rally, committed to press again during this winter sitting. Progressive Conservative MLA Brian Comer, who also spoke briefly, pledged the support of his caucus,  

Without the support of the Liberals though the legislation will not go anywhere.  

Harpell is fervently hoping that the government will pay attention.

“I want to see every employee go to work safely and enjoy their day and know that if they have any concerns, that there is a system in which they can report those concerns, and something is going to be done immediately,” she said.

See also: NDP proposes legislation against bullying and harassment in the workplace

Check out the Equity Watch Facebook page. Email equitywatchns@gmail.com

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