Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, speaks during an event on workplace harassment and violence prevention fund in Toronto on Friday, July 5, 2019. Hajdu remembers encountering an angry — and racist — person at the doorstep. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Lahodynskyj

Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, speaks during an event on workplace harassment and violence prevention fund in Toronto on Friday, July 5, 2019. Hajdu remembers encountering an angry — and racist — person at the doorstep. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Lahodynskyj

Campaigns strengthen harassment training in the wake of #MeToo movement

The #MeToo movement revealed Canadian politics is not immune from these issues

Patty Hajdu remembers encountering an angry — and racist — person at the doorstep.

“I hit a door where someone said, ’Oh, you’re a Liberal?’” Hajdu, the federal employment minister seeking re-election in Thunder Bay, Ont., recalls of her experience in the 2015 campaign.

“(He) went on to make some of the most horrifically racist statements about Indigenous people that I have heard in a long time — and I’ve heard a lot.”

She says she told him that his views were repulsive and that the conversation was over.

One of her young volunteers was surprised by her response and asked whether she was really allowed to do that.

“It stunned me that he didn’t know,” she says.

Ensuring that everyone involved in an election contest is aware of their rights and responsibilities when it comes to discrimination and harassment, sexual or otherwise, is part of new mandatory training sessions for all Liberal candidates and campaign managers across the country.

The #MeToo movement revealed Canadian politics is not immune from these issues and that the people, often young volunteers, who do a lot of the grunt work to run the party machines are particularly vulnerable — and demanding better.

ALSO READ: #MeToo at work: B.C. women share horrifyingly common sexual assaults

The Conservatives are also running the biggest training program in party history as part of their response to a report on how former Conservative MP Rick Dykstra remained on the ballot in 2015 even after party insiders learned he had been accused of sexual misconduct. He has denied wrongdoing.

The New Democrats also have an anti-harassment policy, but did not say whether they are doing extra training for candidates when The Canadian Press asked.

Dallas Thompson, who runs a consulting firm that has been helping U.S. political campaigns to develop anti-harassment policies, says campaigns often know little about human resources, given they pop up to fight an election and then disappear once the votes are counted.

“They are not built for the long term, and so they lack a lot of the traditional structure, which other workplaces have,” says Thompson, the founder of Bright Compass. “(That) oftentimes leads to workers not being as protected as they could be.”

She says sharing best practices on things like alcohol consumption at after-hours events or dating in the workplace can help save campaigns from having to reinvent the wheel — or flail about in a crisis.

A “Safe Campaigns” online training module developed by the Liberals touches on how politics can be different from the average workplace.

“Social activities are a key part of political culture — it’s how we form relationships and build a sense of community,” says one of the slides from the training. “But the rules apply there too.”

It also urges campaign leaders to “amplify” the voices of those who appear to be repeatedly dismissed or ignored, making sure to give them credit for their ideas — a practice commonly promoted by feminists and other social-justice advocates.

“What we want to have are respectful organizations and a campaign is no different,” says Hajdu.

The Conservative Party of Canada updated its own workplace anti-harassment and discrimination policy in July, and it also has a code of conduct for volunteers, campaign staff and those who work for electoral district associations.

Spokesman Cory Hann says the party is putting the finishing touches on an anti-harassment policy that will apply specifically to candidates in the Oct. 21 election, and expects to be done in time for the campaign to officially begin.

Julie Lalonde, a public educator who often conducts anti-harassment training, says that since it is not feasible for political parties to thoroughly vet the thousands of volunteers who stream into local campaign offices, it is important to have robust policies that can force problematic people to leave.

“That’s an issue when you’re talking about being desperate for folks to help with your campaign,” she says.

“Oftentimes, a huge reason why people don’t get the boot is they need those volunteers.”

Arezoo Najibzadeh, executive director of the Young Women’s Leadership Network, helped create a toolkit for campaigns seeking to make their environments safer for staffers and volunteers.

She says it can be as simple as making sure to avoid sending young volunteers to knock on doors alone and giving them bus tickets or other ways to get home or otherwise leave risky situations quickly.

“We’ve had stories of indecent exposure or sexual harassment that volunteers have experienced while they are door-knocking,” she says.

Najibzadeh says efforts to understand why harassment is happening can be more effective than any policy on how to respond to it.

“I believe that sexual violence, like every other form of oppression and violence, is a cultural one and policies can only go so far as to reacting to allegations and stories of sexual violence once survivors do come forward,” Najibzadeh says.

“I don’t think that political parties or a lot of political spaces have been proactive in ensuring that we are addressing this issue at its roots,” she says.

ALSO READ: Province launches sexual violence prevention campaign at B.C. universities, colleges

Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Town Council squashes mask bylaw

The bylaw did not make it past first reading, after a 4-3 vote defeated the motion

Sylvan Lake RCMP are looking for the identity of the suspect who stole from over 40 resident mail boxes. (Photo Courtesy of Sylvan Lake RCMP)
Over 40 mailboxes broken into at Sylvan Lake apartment building

Sylvan Lake RCMP are investigating the incident and searching for the identity of the suspect

File photo by Red Deer Advocate
Town Of Sylvan Lake temporarily lays-off 30 staff members

Thirty part-time staff members at the NexSource Centre have been laid off until January

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed eight additional virus-deaths Monday afternoon including one in central zone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Central zone up to 1,249 active COVID-19 cases

Red Deer sits at 257 active COVID-19 cases

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals

A logo for Netflix on a remote control is seen in Portland, Ore.,Aug. 13, 2020. Experts in taxation and media say a plan announced Monday by the government will ultimately add to the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jenny Kane
‘Netflix tax’ for digital media likely to raise prices for consumers, experts say

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales

Gaming content was big on YouTube in 2020. (Black Press Media files)
What did Canadians watch on Youtube during isolation? Workouts, bird feeders

Whether it was getting fit or ‘speaking moistly,’ Canadians had time to spare this year

A teacher places the finishing touches on the welcome sign at Hunter’s Glen Junior Public School which is part of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Sept. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Hindsight 2020: How do you preserve a year many Canadians would rather forget?

Figuring out how to preserve the story of the pandemic poses a series of challenges

Team Manitoba celebrate after defeating Team Ontario to win the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Moose Jaw, Sask., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Curling Canada wants Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park to be a curling hub for the season’s top events. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calgary facility set to become curling hub during pandemic

Curling Canada has provisional approval for Calgary’s hub-city concept from Alberta Health

Ash and Lisa Van carry a freshly cut Christmas tree while wearing personal protective masks at a Christmas Tree Farm in Egbert, Ontario, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Cole Burston
‘Everyone wants a tree and they want it now’: Christmas tree sales on pace for record

Anticipated demand for Christmas trees has sparked a rush by some to purchase more trees wholesale

A scene from last year’s Light the Night fundraiser at the Stettler Town and Country Museum. This year’s rendition is on a drive-through basis only, but it still promises to be a not-to-be-missed seasonal highlight. (Independent file photo)
Stettler Town and Country Museum hosts ‘Light the Night’

This year’s rendition is drive-through only, but will still prove to be a dazzling display

Most Read