Saturday November 04, 2017

'Room for better legislation' to deal with sexual harassment

Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour.

Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Listen to Full Episode 49:59

On the heels of troubling findings on workplace harassment and sexual violence in Canada, Employment, Workforce Development and Labour Minister Patty Hajdu says there's "room for better legislation" even if she expects resistance as the government takes steps to tackle the issue.

A government consultation on workplace harassment shed light this week on the prevalence of bullying, sexual harassment and violence at work in Canada.

In an interview with CBC Radio's The House, Hajdu said she isn't surprised by what the consultations revealed, but is disappointed. In her former role as Status of Women Minister, she often heard how frustrated people are about harassment in the workplace.

"This is a culture problem. Women are taught at a very early age how to fend this behaviour off," Hajdu said. "And the conversation isn't so much how we shouldn't be perpetrating these kinds of behaviours."

What's needed is awareness, training that certain behaviours are not okay and for broader conversations to take place by both women and men, she added.

Hajdu said there's "room for better legislation" to create processes in workplaces where people feel comfortable coming forward with complaints, and where those complaints are handled appropriately.

Part of her job will be to take a look at the Canada Labour Code, which she points out hasn't been thoroughly examined since the sixties, and find ways to make it better for workers and employers, she said.

What's happening in Hollywood and the U.K., as more and more sexual harassment allegations are coming to light, may help victims come forward in Canada. But Hajdu said she expects push back against the government's efforts.

"I suppose there will always be resistance and I would anticipate that," she said. "It will be my job to call that resistance out."


Canada's approach to difficult NAFTA negotiations not about to change

Trump NAFTA Dilemma 20170504

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with US President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

As Canada, the U.S. and Mexico prepare to head back to the NAFTA negotiating table, the government's parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs says there was never any expectation that negotiating with President Donald Trump would be easy.

"It's not for the faint of heart," Andrew Leslie told The House. "You do need nerves of steel."

Leslie said Canadian negotiators have no intention of walking away from talks with the country's biggest trading partner, despite Trump's unpredictability and the Americans' insistence that they will not budge on the demands they've laid out.

"Our approach so far has been calm, has been reasoned, has been measured," Leslie said. "We push back hard in private, we don't necessarily do so in public, because that's not what friends do with one another."

Leslie added that Canada has been open about certain U.S. demands they find unacceptable and that leaders and negotiators are waiting to see what the US proposes as next steps.

"But we're not wavering in terms of our approach."

Even with the possibility of NAFTA being on the brink, Leslie said the government's U.S. engagement strategy has been successful so far. It's created tangible positive outcomes for Canadians, such as an increased volume of trade between the two countries, he noted. 

"We've added close to 500,000 jobs in the last two years," he said. "A significant portion of that is based on our exports to trading partners, and our biggest trading partner is the United States."

While Leslie is touting Canada's approach to engagement with the White House, opposition parties on Parliament Hill say the Liberals aren't quite hitting the right note in Canada-U.S. relations.

"I don't think Canada's interests have been advanced very well," Erin O'Toole, the Conservatives' foreign affairs critic, told The House. "I think, you know, NAFTA being on edge, it illustrates that perhaps they're allowing the relationship to be weakened somewhat."

Hélène Laverdière, the NDP's foreign affairs critic, said Canada needs to be tougher on Trump and in NAFTA negotiations.

"Straight from the beginning, we said that the Canadian government had to stand firm. Stand firm in the defence of our interests, stand firm in the defence of our principles, our values," she said.


Opposition highlights concerns with Ottawa's new immigration plan

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen. (CBC)

The Conservative and NDP immigration critics aren't all that impressed with the government's new multi-year immigration strategy.

This week, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen released the government's plan to raise the number of immigrants from three streams — economic immigrants, family reunifications and refugees — to 310,000 in 2018, 330,000 in 2019 and then to 340,000 in 2020.

The 2017 target is 300,000.

Hussen said the new targets will help offset Canada's aging population and strengthen the economy.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel and the NDP's Jenny Kwan spoke to The House about what they argue are big holes in the Liberal government's plan.

Rempel said these immigration goals are focused on numbers, but fail to address how the government will help newcomers integrate into Canadian society with language training and resources to find jobs.

"How do we take those people from all of those different streams, and then match them with the employment needs in the country?" she said.

"When we just focus on numbers in immigration policy, that's where I think we really fail," Rempel added. "We have to treat these numbers as what they are, which is people."

Kwan said the Liberals' targets simply aren't enough.

"We have an aging population... people are having less babies," Kwan said. "We rely on the immigration to ensure that we have healthy communities, strong communities and…to ensure that we have strong economies."

She added that the NDP has been calling of immigration target to be at least one per cent of the Canadian population, at about 350,000 individuals a year.

"In fact the conference board of Canada…went to say that the number should be 450,000 and that's also echoed by some of the advisors from the government side as well," Kwan said.

"So this levels plan, if just strictly talking about the numbers, falls short."

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