Skip to main content Accessibility help

Canada's Member-to-Member Code of Conduct on Sexual Harassment in the House of Commons: Progress or Regress?

  • Cheryl N. Collier (a1) and Tracey Raney (a2)


In 2015, the Canadian House of Commons passed a new code of conduct governing non-criminal sexual harassment between members of Parliament becoming the first of its kind in any Westminster system in the world. Using a feminist institutional and violence-against-women-in-politics approach, we assess how the code challenges, legitimizes and upholds traditionally gendered norms and institutionalized sexism within Canada's parliamentary system including parliamentary privilege, party cohesion and party discipline. Despite its novelty, we argue this code fails to enact positive gender-friendly institutional change and may do more harm than good in its efforts to curb sexual harassment.

En 2015, la Chambre des communes du Canada a adopté un nouveau code de conduite en matière de harcèlement sexuel non criminel entre élus, le premier du genre au sein du système de Westminster au monde. En utilisant une approche féministe institutionnelle et de la violence faite aux femmes en politique, nous évaluons comment le code remet en question, légitime et maintient les normes traditionnellement sexospécifiques et le sexisme institutionnalisé au sein du système parlementaire canadien, y compris le privilège parlementaire, la cohésion et la discipline de parti. Malgré sa nouveauté, nous soutenons que ce code ne parvient pas à mettre en œuvre des changements institutionnels positifs favorables à l'égalité des sexes et qu'il peut faire plus de mal que de bien dans ses efforts visant à réduire le harcèlement sexuel.


Corresponding author

Dept. of Political Science, University of Windsor, 401 Sunset Avenue, Windsor ON, N9B 3P4, email:
Dept. of Politics and Public Administration, Ryerson University, JOR 713A Victoria St., Toronto ON, M5B2K3, email:


Hide All

The authors would like to thank the journal's editorial team and the anonymous reviewers of our manuscript for their helpful and supportive suggestions.



Hide All
Blatchford, Christie. 2015. “Liberal MPs accused of sexual harassment treated less fairly than VIA plot terrorists.” National Post (Toronto). March 21. (March 24, 2017).
Canada. Parliament. 2015a. Report 38 of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Ottawa: Supply and Services. (June 20, 2017).
Canada. Parliament. 2015b. Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Subcommittee on a Code of Conduct for Members, Meetings. May 11. (November 25, 2015).
Canada. Parliament 2017. Report 42 of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Ottawa: Supply and Services. (February 23, 2018).
Chappell, Louise. 2006. “Comparing Political Institutions: Revealing the Gendered ‘Logic of Appropriateness.’” Politics & Gender 2 (2): 223–48.
Chappell, Louise. 2014. “‘New,’ ‘Old,’ and ‘Nested’ Institutions and Gender Justice Outcomes: A view from the International Criminal Court.” Politics & Gender 10 (2): 572–94.
Chappell, Louise and Waylen, Georgina. 2013. “Gender and the Hidden Life of Institutions.” Public Administration 91 (3): 599615.
Childs, Sarah. 2004. “A Feminised Style of Politics? Women MPs in the House of Commons.” British Journal of Politics and International Relations 6: 319.
Collier, Cheryl and Raney, Tracey. 2016. “Everyday Sexism in the Elected House: A Comparative Study of Westminster Parliaments in Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Political Science Association, Calgary. June 2.
Crewe, Emma. 2014. “Ethnographic Research in Gendered Organizations: The Case of the Westminster Parliament.” Politics & Gender 10 (4): 673–78.
CTV News. 2016. “Reports into sexual misconduct allegations against 2 MPs finds new complaints: source.” (October 14, 2016).
Dekker, Inez and Barling, Julian. 1998. “Personal and Organizational Predictors of Workplace Sexual Harassment of Women by Men.” Journal of Occupational Health Psychology 3 (1): 718.
Edwards, Katie M., Turchik, Jessica A., Dardis, Christina M., Reynolds, Nicole and Gidycz, Christine A.. 2011. “Rape Myths: History, Individual and Institutional-Level Presences, and Implications for Change.” Sex Roles 65: 761–73.
Inter-Parliamentary Union. 2016. “Sexism, harassment and violence against women parliamentarians.” Issues Brief. (March 28 2017).
Krook, Mona Lena. 2017. “Violence against Women in Politics.” Journal of Democracy 28 (1): 7488.
Krook, Mona Lena and Restrepo Sanin, Juliana. 2016. “Gender and Political Violence in Latin America: Concepts, Debates, and Solutions.” Política y gobierno 23 (1): 129–64.
Lovenduski, Joni. 2014a. “Prime Minister's Questions as Political Ritual at Westminster.” In Democracy in Practice-Ceremony and Ritual in Parliament, ed. Rai, Shirin M. and Johnson, Rachel E.. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Lovenduski, Joni. 2014b. “The institutionalization of sexism in politics.” Political Insight 5 (2): 1619.
Macdonald, Paula. 2012. “Workplace Sexual Harassment 30 Years on: A Review of the Literature.” International Journal of Management Review 14 (1): 117.
Mackay, Fiona. 2014. “Nested Newness, Institutional Innovation, and the Gendered Limits of Change.” Politics & Gender 10 (4): 549–71.
Marleau, Robert and Montpetit, Camille, eds. 2000. House of Commons Procedure and Practice. Parliament of Canada, Ottawa, Canada. (March 9, 2016).
Moore, Terry and Robertson, James. 2001. “An Introduction to Parliamentary Privilege.” Canadian Parliamentary Review 24 (3): 1925.
Murphy, Rex. 2015. “Sexual misconduct scandal involving Liberal MPs should have a full and open hearing,” The National Post online. March 20. (March 24, 2017).
Nash, Chelsea. 2017. “Educate new Senators on how to report sexual harassment: Sen. Hartling.” The Hill Times online. April 12. (April 12, 2017).
National Democratic Institute. 2016. #NottheCost: stopping violence against women in politics: a call to action. Washington DC (Dec. 10, 2016).
Ontario Human Rights Commission. 2013. “Policy on preventing sexual and gender-based harassment.” Last modified May 2013. (Nov. 27, 2015).
O'Brien, Audrey and Bosc, Marc. 2009. House of Commons Procedure and Practice. 2nd edition. (March 29 2017).
Payton, Laura. 2017. “Liberal MP Iqra Khalid reads threats she's received over Motion 103. CTV News online. Feb.16. (March 30, 2017).
Puwar, Nirmal. 2004. Space Invaders—Race, Gender and Bodies Out of Place. Oxford: Berg.
Rana, Abbas. 2018. “House developing in-person training for MPs on sexual harassment, but not all agree they need it; ‘everyone understands unacceptable behaviour’.” The Hill Times online. Jan. 8. (Feb. 23, 2018).
Russell, Andrew. 2017. “Opposition MPs urge Trudeau to ‘step up’ over Liberal MP's allegedly sexist comment.” Global news online. March 24. (March 28, 2017).
Russell, Brenda L. and Trigg, Kristin Y.. 2004. “Tolerance of Sexual Harassment: An Examination of Gender Differences, Ambivalent Sexism, Social Dominance, and Gender Roles.” Sex Roles 50 (7/8): 565–73.
Ryckewaert, Laura. 2018. “Liberal MP Mendes wants a Hill ‘harassment watch,’ after CP survey finds 58 per cent of female MPs subject to sexual misconduct while in office.” The Hill Times online. Jan. 8. (Feb. 23, 2018).
Samara Institute. 2015. Cheering or Jeering? Members of Parliament Open Up About Civility In The House of Commons. Toronto, Canada: The Samara Institute.
Thompson, Elizabeth. 2011. “The 106 things you can't say in Parliament.” iPolitics. Wednesday, Dec, 14. (March 24, 2017).
Thompson, Elizabeth. 2015. “MP's new sexual harassment policy still keeps bad behaviour in the dark,” iPolitics. Monday, June 8. (March 25, 2017).
Trimble, Linda and Arscott, Jane. 2003. Still Counting—Women in Politics across Canada. Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press.
Waylen, Georgina. 2008. “Transforming Global Governance: Challenges and Opportunities.” In Global Governance: Feminist Perspectives, ed. Rai, Shivin M. and Waylen, Georgina. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Waylen, Georgina. 2014. “Informal Institutions, Institutional Change, and Gender Equality.” Political Research Quarterly 67 (1): 212–23.
Westmacott, Martin. 1983. “Whips and Party Cohesion.” Canadian Parliamentary Review 6 (3): 1419.
Wright, Bernard. 2007. Patterns of change–Parliamentary privilege. Deputy Clerk. House of Representatives. Australia. (June 27, 2017).

Canada's Member-to-Member Code of Conduct on Sexual Harassment in the House of Commons: Progress or Regress?

  • Cheryl N. Collier (a1) and Tracey Raney (a2)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed