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

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, receive flu shot. Photo via Government of Alberta
COVID-19: One more death in central zone

Ponoka County on province’s watchlist

Photo submitted/ Millet In Bloom
Town of Millet declared Best Blooming Community

The Town of Millet is being recognized for their efforts to meet the challenges of 2020.

Many rural municipalities were concerned about a proposed reduction to their industrial revenues, but Alberta’s Municipal Affairs minister has come up with an alternative solution. (Photo contributed)
Province and rural municipalities agree on a plan to support Alberta’s energy industry

Creating new wells or pipelines would result in a three year ‘tax holiday’

Paved path to the accessible dock at Agur Lake Camp. Photo submitted/ Debbie Schneider.
B.C. Camp extremely grateful for a Calmar Business’ generous donation

B.C.’s only fully accessible campground floored by a Calmar Business’ generosity.

Executive Director of Agape Kate Halas (left) receives $1000 from Sgt. Eric Christensen (right) on behalf of Agape. Photo/ Shaela Dansereau.
Former Wetaskiwin Peace Officer wins provincial award; gives back to Wetaskiwin community

Eric Christensen has won the Alberta Association of Community Peace Officers Award of Excellence.

In this photo provided by Shannon Kiss, smoke from the CalWood Fire billows, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, as seen from Gunbarrel, Colo. (Shannon Kiss via AP)
‘First guys out:’ Western Canadian air tanker fleet busy despite drop in wildfires

CEO believes wildfires have become more dangerous in recent years as people live closer to where they start

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

robbery
UPDATE: Suspect identified in early morning shooting

Rimbey RCMP had responded to a complaint of an armed robbery at the Bluffton City General Store

Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen (Alberta government photo)
Big boost for Alberta college agriculture research

The $2-million agreement to benefit Lethbridge College’s applied research team

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Canadian couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Employee Sophia Lovink shows off a bag of merchandise in Toronto on Thursday, June 11, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Canada gets C-average grade on 2nd year of cannabis legalization

Cannabis Council of Canada releases report card on federal government and legalization

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada-USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. Restrictions on non-essential travel between Canada and the United States are being extended until at least Nov. 21. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
Non-essential travel restrictions at Canada-U.S. border extended to at least Nov. 21

The restrictions do not apply to those providing essential services in either country

(The Canadian Perss)
Banff wolves have lower survival rate due to hunting, trapping outside park boundary

Researchers looked at 72 radio-collared wolves in the national park from 1987 to August 2019

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Miramar Regional Park in Miramar, Fla., Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is still hopeful about the Keystone pipeline if there’s a change in government in the U.S. next month, saying Alberta has been engaging with American officials from both sides of the aisle. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Carolyn Kaster
Alberta premier says he’s still hopeful about Keystone, even if Biden elected

The Alberta government has agreed to invest about US$1.1 billion as equity in the project

Most Read