Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Tougher Workplace Harassment Rules Would Help Protect Political Staffers: Hajdu

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Tougher Workplace Harassment Rules Would Help Protect Political Staffers: Hajdu

Article excerpt

New harassment rules would help staff: Hajdu


OTTAWA - It is too early to begin claiming the pendulum is in danger of swinging too far the other way when it comes to concerns over sexual misconduct on Parliament Hill, as young political staffers remain especially vulnerable to abuse, says Labour Minister Patty Hajdu.

"We're not there yet," Hajdu said in an interview.

"I would say that we would be there when I would talk to young staffers and they wouldn't have any experience of harassment or sexual violence or when staffers would tell me that no, there is no one they are uncomfortable getting into an elevator alone with," she said.

"These are the kinds of stories that I am hearing from young staffers -- that there is a whisper network on the Hill," she said. "They do know which MPs to avoid and which MPs, when they've had too much to drink, are kind of 'gropy' and which are not."

She also said that if male politicians, who still have most of the power, are beginning to question where the limits are, it's a good thing.

The Canadian Press surveyed current female MPs from all political parties last month to find out the extent to which they had been the targets of sexual harassment, assault or misconduct of all kinds, including during their time in elected office.

More than half of respondents to the voluntary, anonymous survey -- 58 per cent -- reported having personally experienced one or more forms of sexual misconduct during their time in politics, but the results also suggested the problem is much bigger.

Seventy-six per cent of respondents said they had either witnessed, or been told about sexual misconduct targeting another woman, including a staffer, page, intern, House of Commons employee or MP.

Thirty-eight of the 89 female MPs participated in the survey.

Hajdu said she did not want to minimize the experiences of any of her colleagues, but noted they have a lot more power when it comes to standing up for themselves than the people who work in their Parliament Hill, constituency and ministerial offices.

The Liberal cabinet minister said these staffers are often young, inexperienced and in jobs considered precarious at the best of times. …

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