Federal labour minister says Canada can build strong working relationship with Trump administration

Click to play video: 'Trump adviser Stephen Schwarzman says administration holds Canada in ‘high regard’'
Trump adviser Stephen Schwarzman says administration holds Canada in ‘high regard’
WATCH ABOVE: Trump adviser Stephen Schwarzman says administration holds Canada in 'high regard' – Jan 23, 2017

CALGARY – Federal Labour Minister Patty Hajdu says it’s possible to forge a strong relationship with the new U.S. government while standing up for values that may be at odds with those of the Trump administration.

The abrupt turnaround in Canada-U.S. relations is dominating discussions as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal cabinet hold two-day retreat in Calgary.

Ministers sought to convey business-as-usual messages during Monday’s session, downplaying concerns about the unpredictable new administration.

Trump adviser Stephen Schwarzman, a good friend of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, told Trudeau and ministers that Canada should not fear any reworking of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

READ MORE: Trump-friendly congressman pushes for one-on-one deal with Canada

Hajdu, who had the Status of Women portfolio before being shuffled into her new role earlier this month, says Schwarzman’s attendance shows a fondness and affection for Canada and she believes the two countries can work well together.

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But she also expressed support for the thousands of Canadians who took part in Women’s Marches over the weekend denoucing the new president.

“Canada stands firm in its values. Having said that, we understand that other countries have different priorities and different focuses,” she said.

“This doesn’t mean we’re going to back away from our fundamental belief in gender equality.”

On Sunday, Trudeau tweeted his support for those who marched: “Congratulations to the women and men across Canada who came out yesterday to support women’s rights. You keep your government inspired.”

Officials in Washington estimated that at least 500,000 turned out for the march in the U.S. capital.

READ MORE: Donald Trump adviser: Canada need not be ‘enormously worried’ about US trade

Roughly 600 Canadian travellers, most of them women, also made the overnight trek on chartered buses from Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Windsor, Ont., to join that march.

“People have a right to stand up and say that they’re disappointed in a policy and a perspective and an approach,” said Hajdu. “In Canada we believe in that right.”

During last year’s presidential campaign there were accusations of sexual misconduct against Trump, while he also came under attack from those who felt some of his comments toward women in general were disrespectful.

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On Monday, Trump signed an executive order reinstituting the ban on providing federal money to international groups that perform abortions or provide information about abortions.

Day 2 of the retreat is expected to feature a panel discussion with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Calgary police Chief Roger Chaffin and representatives from local community organizations, followed by a town hall later at the University of Calgary.

VIDEO: Justin Trudeau’s cabinet retreat underway in Calgary

Click to play video: 'Justin Trudeau’s cabinet retreat underway in Calgary'
Justin Trudeau’s cabinet retreat underway in Calgary

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