Trudeau at UN promotes parental leave for fathers, gender parity

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NEW YORK – Setting aside parental leave that can only be taken by fathers may be a way of improving the flexibility available to young families, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.

The prime minister was explaining his thoughts on gender equality before a clearly approving audience at the United Nations.

He said it is important to encourage parental leave and even single out leave just for dads.

“Not just saying, ‘Oh that it’s parental leave that can be divided as you like’, but actually highlighting – in some cases there’s been successes on this – that, no, no, no, this is a number of weeks that can only be taken by the father of a young child.

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“That goes a long way towards changing the thing.”

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He said he and his government are trying to make Parliament more family friendly, saying it’s time to update an institution “designed for old, white guys.”

Parliamentary travel requirements and sitting hours can be barriers to women with young children, but it is time to challenge institutions and find ways to make them work better, Trudeau said.

Businesses and organizations can be encouraged to be more open to equality, he added.

“One of the things that has shown effectiveness is just making people report explicitly on the gender balance within their organization, within their boards at the highest levels,” he said. “That incentivizes positive behaviour in meaningful ways.”

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The Harper government’s last budget in 2015, included a proposal to change the business corporations act to require companies to either put a gender equality policy in place or explain publicly why they don’t have one.