Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a Winnipeg town hall that harassment in the workplace is a serious concern and pledged to look into allegations from a questioner that Canada Post may be fostering such an atmosphere.
Trudeau made the pledge in response to a questioner at the University of Manitoba event who suggested that he had been bullied in the workplace.
“It is not OK, it is never OK, to face situations of harassment or intimidation or bullying in any workplace in this country, but as you say, a Crown corporation, within the responsibility of the federal government — that’s something that I particularly take extremely seriously,” Trudeau said.
“I commit to you that I will follow up on what you are talking about and we’ll try and see if we can make some headway on that.”
Much like other events on the prime minister’s town hall tour, Trudeau was quickly compelled to verbally joust with a heckler, who attempted to shout down the prime minister when he was answering a child’s question about preserving species at risk.
The woman was eventually removed by security.
Faith groups and summer jobs
The evening saw a broad range of questions including one about his government’s decision to require all groups that receive federal summer jobs funding to check a box affirming they respect the values set out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms — including reproductive rights.
It is something that has upset a number of faith groups who have argued that making the affirmation is tantamount to violating their religious beliefs. Trudeau said faith groups have always had a extraordinary and positive impact in their communities and he hoped they would continue to do so.
“No religious group is going to be barred from Canada’s summer jobs on the basis of their beliefs, period. Anyone who tells you otherwise is pushing a political agenda,” Trudeau said.
The prime minister said that any group, religious or otherwise, that is advocating for the exclusion of people from the LGBT community or seeks to reverse a woman’s right to make choices about her reproductive rights, will not be funded by the federal government.
“That is not something the federal government is going to fund. We are not rolling back the clock on women’s rights.”
The prime minister was confronted by a Somali mother, overcome by emotion, who said several of her children had been taken away by child welfare workers in Manitoba and begged for Trudeau to do something to help her get her children back.
Trudeau said that while the provinces are the main actors on the child welfare file, the federal government has certain responsibilities when it comes to child welfare and pledged he would look into her case.
“I will commit that we will follow up on this terrible story,” he said. “I am so sorry for the suffering you have gone through.
“I can’t imagine the suffering your kids have gone through and we will try and look into it, but I can tell you writ large that we know there is a real problem with kids in care with child and family services, not just here in Manitoba but across the country.”
The prime minister was also asked if he would intervene in the case of a gay Nigerian woman who is set to be deported back to her home country, where the questioner said she faced almost certain death.
In his answer Trudeau brought up the case of Abdoul Abdi, a 23-year-old Somali refugee who came to Canada when he was six years old, who is now facing deportation because he served time in jail and does not have Canadian citizenship.
Trudeau was made aware of the case at the Nova Scotia town hall when Abdi’s sister asked him why his government was trying to deport her brother. The prime minister used Abdi as an example of individual cases the federal government is looking into.
Trudeau then told the questioner that he would have Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen look into the details of the Nigerian case, but could not comment specifically on its details.
One questioner applauded Trudeau’s decision to consider pardons for people with marijuana possession convictions once weed has been legalized, but asked the prime minister if he would consider expanding that consideration to dealers and traffickers as well.
“I’ve said that we will look, after the law has been changed, at pardons for people who have been convicted for possession but we are we are not, at this time, thinking about pardons for people trafficking, or pushing or dealing.”
Trudeau’s town hall tour has already seen him host events in the Halifax suburb of Lower Sackville, N.S., as well as London, Ont., Hamilton and Quebec City.
The prime minister will be in Edmonton for another town hall Thursday before hosting his last event in Nanaimo, B.C., on Friday.