Give us a brief summary about your time at Lakehead. What were your most vivid memories?
I was an adult student when I began my studies at Lakehead University. I had two children and I knew that the only way forward was to finish the university degree that I had started years before at York University.
One of the things I most vividly remember was the challenge that I faced balancing work, parenthood, and studies at the same time. But I also remember the kindness of many of the professors that understood the pressures that older students sometimes face. I will always be grateful for getting a second chance to study as it did indeed change not only my life, but the lives of my children.
How do you feel it prepared you?
The undergrad that I chose to focus my studies was anthropology. Part of the challenge that I had when I studied the first time at York University was a lack of focus and a lack of understanding about the various fields of study. But at Lakehead I was fortunate to take an introduction to anthropology course with Professor Paul Driben and I knew then that this field of study was diverse and fascinating and something that could have application in many different fields of employment.
That early understanding of humankind, culture and society has provided me with a rich context for many of the diverse positions I have held throughout my career. And now as a politician, the ability to observe without judgment is critical to understanding the variety of constituents that I serve both in my riding and across the country.
With just over a year in politics, what have been some of the highlights in your role?
Just winning the election was an incredible highlight! But of course being asked to serve in cabinet by the prime minister was also an incredible honour. As Minister of Status of Women, some highlights included launching the long called for inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women, and doing the preparation work to create a federal strategy to address gender-based violence. I also was proud to play a strong role in ensuring that my colleagues seriously consider gender implications in all of their work. When women and girls in Canada succeed, it is good for all of us and helps our economy thrive!
I'm also very proud of the work that I've done to ensure that Ottawa understands the needs and the incredible resiliency of the residents of Northern Ontario. I look forward to continuing the strong advocacy for our region and playing a critical role at the cabinet table in making sure that everyone has an opportunity to succeed.
When you were approached about your new role, what were your thoughts? How did you feel?
When the prime minister asked me to take on the new role of Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, I was very honoured that he had so much confidence in me to do this very important work. I was very excited to take on the file because I believe that having access to well-paying, decent work is critical to healthy and happy communities. This new role is critical to our goal of maintaining a strong middle class and helping those who are working so hard to join it gain the skills they need.
Explain your new portfolio and what your new role will entail.
I'm very excited about my new portfolio. It is an opportunity to ensure that Canadians have the best opportunity to gain the skills they need and secure good well-paying jobs across the country. I'm also looking forward to the opportunity to work with my colleagues on ensuring that we grow the middle class and help those who are working hard to join it.
I am fortunate that I've had a background in labour through my experience running an organization that had a strong union presence. I'm looking forward to working with employers and unions to ensure a strong vibrant workforce for Canada today and into the future.
What has been the most suprising thing you've learned in your life and/or career?
My uncle used to say about me that I was never afraid to drive. I didn't know what he meant at the time, but what I have realized is it might be one of my greatest strengths. My ability to be passionate about my work has led to a career path that I could never have predicted! The greatest surprise that I have learned is that no matter what you are doing, you should try your best to leave the work in a better place than when you get it. By putting your heart into your work you can achieve all kinds of things you never imagined!
Do you have any advice for future students based on your experiences in life and work?
The advice I have for students of all ages is to stay focused on the here and now. Sometimes we all have the tendency to project into the future and focus on goals that are in some cases many years away. Goals are important. But what I have learned is that by trying our best at the task right in front of us, whether it is school, employment or volunteering, we have the best opportunity to make a difference and along the way discover new opportunities and interests that open new doors.