Listen to the Sounds of the Game

sounds

If you are a sports fan, May is a great time of year. There is a plethora of choices of sports to watch, read about, follow and discuss. If you want playoff action, there’s a hockey or basketball game every night. Baseball is in full swing. Soccer has come alive. There is a game on my TV every night, and I will admit, once in a while I fall asleep during the height of the action. A few nights ago, I watched a Toronto Raptors’ game with my eyes closed. I was too tired to watch, so instead I just listened. The sounds of the game fascinated me.

Have you ever closed your eyes and just listened to the game? And I mean really just sat down, relaxed and listened? The radio works, but I find the subtle and nuanced sounds the television cameras pick up are even more fascinating.

Basketball 

The Toronto Raptors play game 2 of their playoff series versus the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday evening. I won’t go into the letdown that was game 1 on Tuesday night. But I will share the audio highlights that I enjoyed from last night’s game. The sound I love most during a basketball game is how the athletes’ shoes travel across the freshly waxed and clean hardwood floor.  Some people may cringe, but it’s this sound that tells me that there’s a basketball game going on. Here is an example:

 

I also like the even tempo of the bouncing ball as a player races down the court. My son loves when a ball slides through the net with a perfect swish sound.

Hockey

A hockey game has very different sounds from a basketball game, even though they are often played in the same building. First of all, there’s no shoes or hardwood floor.  The sound of perfectly sharpened skates flying down the ice or suddenly stopping make me smile. Add a stick and puck to the mix and you get a beautiful melody of sounds. How about when the puck hits the crossbar or a player checks another into the boards? Just close your eyes and listen. It’s a wonder to the senses. Listen to the sound of the blades on the ice:

 

Baseball

The sounds of the ballpark. These are special. I went to a Blue Jays game last week, and at one point I closed my eyes so I could take in all the sounds around me. Even if you aren’t paying attention to the action on the field, there’s nothing like the concession vendors who run up and down the aisles yelling, “Beer here, ice cold beer” or “Popcorn, peanuts and Crackerjacks!” On the field there’s the sound of the bat as it makes contact with the ball or the sound of the ball hitting the catcher’s mitt when the player swings and misses. And the umpires. Some of them articulate the word “strike” so well that you can hear it for miles.

Just listen to the crack of the bat and cheers of the crowd in this example. You know it’s a baseball game in an instant.

 

Other Sports

No matter the sport, each brings its own unique sounds. The grunt of the athlete and ball hitting the racquet in tennis. The calls of the quarterback in football. Oh, how I love the sound I hear when skis turn on the snow. How about the swing of the golf club and the sound when it hits the ball?

What are you favourite sports sounds? Post a comment here or on Facebook or Tweet me @AliciaRichler.

We have it within us to Save a Life

life

There is a famous precept in the Talmud that says, “Whoever destroys a single life is considered to have destroyed the whole world, and whoever saves a single life is considered to have saved the whole world” (Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:1 (22a). Not only is that a very powerful statement, but I believe it is true. I also believe it is something we must all internalize and carry with us every day.

I have thought about this line from the Talmud a lot over the past week. The deliberate, murderous attack on innocent people in Toronto last Monday has made me think a lot about how a life can be easily destroyed, but also how a life can be easily saved.

From that attack alone we all know how a life can be destroyed in an instant, and when that life is destroyed it really feels like the whole world is being destroyed too. We question how one person can sink so low, into such misery and desperation, that he can murder not one, but ten people, in a matter of minutes. We question, what has our world become and how is a human being capable of something so despicable? Has our world been destroyed just a little bit more each time a person destroys a single life?

If we focus on the destruction of life it will be hard to think about how we can turn the world around. So instead, as the people of Toronto heal, let’s focus on the second part of the statement, on saving even a single life.

What actions can we all take to try to save a single life? I wish I had a simple answer that I could write about in this space. It is something I have been struggling with for the past week. There are many individuals in our society who are different, who don’t fit in, who feel they sit on the outside. Some people are well adjusted and others seek out dark places to find comfort and belonging.

It could be your neighbour or your brother or maybe someone you work with. I believe that all of us are unique, and we all handle success and failure or joy and grief in different ways. How aware are we of the people around us, in particular, the people who may be silently screaming for help? What small actions can all of us take to show kindness, support or patience when interacting with someone who may be different?

While in no way am I saying that anyone who may not fit the mould in our society or appears to be different is capable of destroying a life. But you never know when an action that you take, by reaching out a helping hand, could potentially save a life. I keep going over in my head all the times I may have slighted a person who may have made me feel uncomfortable or seemed different on the outside to me. Did I do harm? Were my actions, or lack of action, yet another hit on a person who just needed some kindness?

I really do feel that we have it within us to save a life, even if we don’t know it when we do it. Hold the door for that person struggling to walk up the steps. Smile and make eye contact when someone stops you on the street and asks you a question that is clearly nonsense. Does it make a difference if you hand the homeless teenager a sandwich or hot drink instead of cash? I guess I’m just saying, take a moment to think when you interact with other people. Our actions affect everyone else. If we can all save just a single life then together we can save the whole world.

This is our New Reality

new reality

I wanted to write about the new royal baby today. When I heard the news on Monday morning that Kate gave birth to her third child, I was excited to write about the British royal family. While I’m not obsessed, yes, I’m a fan. But on Monday afternoon I turned on the radio shortly after 2:00 pm. I was in my car, about to leave a parking lot. I couldn’t move. Horror washed over my body. I suddenly felt sick to my stomach. This is our new reality.

In the age of technology, with instant news and lives shared on social media, the details of the horror on Yonge street in Toronto spread rapidly. The world saw videos and photos, heard and read witness accounts, after a man drove a van block after block, on the sidewalk, intentionally murdering people.

I couldn’t focus yesterday, and my heart ached for the people killed and injured and their families and friends. So many questions immediately went through my head, like why did this happen? What was going through this man’s mind when he committed this heinous act? What has happened to our society?

While it did not make me feel any better, I quickly realized that this is our new reality. We often speak of how we live in a modern age, with equality, freedom and justice. In Canada children are raised to be anything and everything they want to be. We are free to speak our minds in public and protest against injustice. People walk down the street and hold their heads high, without fear.

Or not.

When I was a child, at age 5, I walked home from kindergarten most days with my brother. School was s short distance from our house, and we walked home together with a group of kids. We went to the nearby park on our own and played sports on the street. Our parents knew we were safe. When we ran off down the street to play with our friends, our parents knew we would come home. When parents kissed their children good bye in the morning, they knew they would see them that evening, after work.

But that is no longer the reality and hasn’t been for years. I’m scared to let my children out of my sight in public, and I will admit that when I say good bye to my husband in the morning, when he jumps on the subway, I often have a quick, horrifying thought in my head, what if I never see him again? What if the subway is attacked or someone drives up on the sidewalk and hits a crowd of pedestrians?

And then it happened to someone’s husband, or wife, sister, brother, mother, father or friend yesterday. Someone said good bye for the last time.  And I wasn’t surprised. I felt sick, horrified and angry, but I was not shocked. This is our new reality.

Or maybe it’s not new, it’s just evolving. Mentally ill individuals, who for any number of reasons were angry with an individual or society, have used violence on a massive scale to voice their grievances. In some cases, there is a religious motivation, but often not. There was the massacre in 1989 which targeted a group of female engineering students at the University of Montreal. An individual murdered police officers in Alberta in 2005.

And yet, yesterday’s attack was somehow different. Or at least it was different for Canadians. Driving a vehicle, intentionally, into a group of people, is not new. It is a tactic that has been employed for many years to murder innocents around the world. But it was new in Canada and in an instant changed our reality forever.

I wish I could offer some unique insights or an inspirational thought to make us all feel better. But I can’t. What I feel today is sadness, as do thousands of Torontonians. We love our city, and I believe that most of us think the best of all people. Right now, we are coming together to grieve and to pay tribute to those whose lives were lost, to those who were injured and to the first responders who did a tremendous job to help those in need.

Moving forward we need to face our new reality with our heads held high. We must show kindness to our fellow human beings and reach out and support people who suffer from mental illness or who feel they don’t have a voice. I wish that would mean our world would be a better place, but at least we can try.

Do Women Want Gender Parity or Do They Want Recognition?

women

On March 8, every year for over 100 years, we celebrate women around the world. Officially what I have read and learned, it is a day that focuses on the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. That’s a bit vague, but okay. I also know that this day is widely marketed as one that focuses on accelerating gender parity. I will admit that I am not much of an activist and am not drawn to women’s marches or protests. For me, International Women’s Day is a day for reflection and discussion. It’s a day that puts women at centre stage to state our case to the world. As this annual celebration comes to a close, it makes me think, is what we want really gender parity or is it more about recognition?

If one looks at the definition of gender parity, this is it: a numerical concept related to gender equality. In the context of gender equality, gender parity refers to the equal contribution of women and men to every dimension of life, whether private or public.

But is that realistic? Gender parity is about numbers – equal numbers, across all parts of life, all around the world. While in theory it may be something nice for our society to aspire to this, I think it is simply idealistic and a fairy-tale. It is not going to happen. And quite frankly, I don’t think it has to happen.

I would love to celebrate women every day. We are great. And we are different from men in so many ways. Our bodies are physically different. We think differently and definitely behave differently. We internalize our experiences in such different ways. And that’s okay.

I don’t think either men or women are better than the other. Each gender contributes to the world, but I don’t think they do so in the same way. Numerically, in the workforce, yes, they should be equal. No doubt. If a 35-year-old woman with ten years’ experience puts in an 8-hour day as an accountant she should be compensated the same way her male colleague, also a 35-year-old-accountant with ten years’ experience, is paid.

I think where I disagree with many people is the notion of equal contribution of women and men in every dimension of life, whether private or public. Men and women do not have to be equal in every dimension of our lives. Because of the vast differences between men and women that I stated above, I believe that it is not possible to be equal at everything.

A wise friend of mine (yes, of course a woman) discussed this very issue with me today. We talked about how men and women see themselves in the world. When you get to a certain age, how does a man versus a woman view their accomplishments and contributions to society?

For the most part, the men I know measure success on career advancements and their contributions to their profession. Losing a job, not getting a promotion or failure in a business venture means he is not successful.

The women in my inner and even outer circle measure success very differently. No doubt, my female friends and family are ambitious and want to achieve great things in their careers. But for most of them, life is about more than that. Whether it be running a household or supporting a close group of friends, women see the big picture. If one part of their life has stalled, they pick up the pace somewhere else. Women balance a career and all that life throws at them.

And women do it well. On International Women’s Day, heck every day, we want to be recognized for being different from men. I’m not saying we are always better or that we deserve more. In some parts of life, for sure, we demand equality. But we also demand the recognition of being different and the respect we deserve for who we are.

So, happy International Women’s Day to all my female friends and family. May you go from strength to strength, and be recognized for that strength. Every day.

Million Dollar Reality on my Television

reality

Have you ever watched the real estate show Million Dollar Listing LA? I had seen it a few times a number of years ago and randomly came across it this week. It’s all about brokering big deals and displaying big drama in Los Angeles, California. If it wasn’t reality TV then I would be sure that someone with great creative skills and writing abilities was scripting these people. But oh, they are for real. This show is in full juxtaposition to the other reality happening right now in Los Angeles: wildfires.

As I randomly surfed the TV channels last night I came across both a new episode of Million Dollar Listing LA as well as live news coverage of the wildfires that are ravaging parts of Los Angeles. It occurred to me that the same homes, which may have sold recently for $5 million or $16 million, which were built for the uber rich with no expense spared, may be up in flames right now.

I know that the whole city of LA is not under threat to burn down, but parts of well-known exclusive neighbourhoods, such as Bel-air and Ventura, have gone up in flames. I read an article on CNN last night that explained how a number of factors, including low humidity and high winds, have all come together to contribute to this very dangerous situation.

A fire doesn’t care if a home is in an exclusive neighbourhood or a tenement. It rages on and destroys everything in its path, which is what is happening all over LA right now. But I just keep thinking back to Million Dollar Listing last night, and I know that some of the homes featured on that show over its 10-year run are probably a pile of ashes right now.

Southern California is a beautiful place, and I enjoyed a trip there about 15 years ago. For the most part, the climate is temperate and the landscape is beautiful, which is in part why the area has attracted millions of people over the last 150 years. It is the land of brilliance and creativity and yet also frivolity and foolishness. What is considered serious and important on the reality show Million Dollar Listing LA makes me want to laugh out loud. Then again, these featured brokers could never have known when the current season was being filmed that their beloved city was about to be hit with the worst wildfires in the region’s history.

The wildfires across LA are unfortunately a reality, and they are no laughing matter. They are to be taken quite seriously. I hope the hard-working firefighters get the blazes under control soon, and that the city can come to together to clean up and rebuild. I don’t doubt it that the people of Los Angeles are resilient. I hope that they stay safe, and I am sending them my best wishes.

There’s Doping at the Olympics. Really?

doping

Were you as shocked as I was yesterday when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) publicly admitted that there’s a doping problem in Russia? Didn’t you always think, like I did, that the Olympics are where clean and honest sport comes together in a show of strength and fair play? Now I know the truth: there’s doping at the Olympics. Really?

My apologies for my rather sarcastic comments above. Honestly, I am not surprised at all by yesterday’s announcement from the IOC that Russia has been banned from the 2018 winter games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. It’s not because a few Russian athletes were found guilty of doping. Doping is a state-run industry in Russia, and after years of investigation the hammer has finally come down.

I have been reading stories about just how deep doping is entrenched in Russian sport. There is some sick desire to always win. Young athletes must be living in a culture where they are forced to break the rules and destroy their bodies just to be number one. It saddens me to know that there are probably hundreds, maybe thousands, of talented young Russian athletes whose dreams have just been crushed.

Do 16-year-old skaters and 21-year-old skiers deserve to be thrown out of the Olympics before they even have a chance to compete? Did these athletes scheme and plan behind the scenes so they can stand on the podium in February? I doubt it. Unfortunately, they are part of a very broken system that demands cheating in order to win.

And the IOC made it clear this must stop. Doping is unacceptable, ever. It’s terrible that hundreds of young, hard-working, talented Russian athletes will not be allowed to compete at the Olympics in a few months. They are caught in what may seem like an unfair system. But the IOC had no choice. The Russian Olympic Committee didn’t just break the rules for years, it laughed at them and stomped on them.

I am intrigued by the IOC’s attempt to reach out to individual athletes from Russia, to separate individuals from their country that sponsors doping. I see this as a message to these young athletes, in particular those who have managed to stay out of the doping controversy (dare I say, are verifiably clean?) that they are welcome at the 2018 Winter Olympics. If these individuals qualify to compete (based on criteria outlined by the IOC), they are welcome, but not as Russians.

These athletes won’t see a Russian flag and they won’t hear the Russian anthem. They will participate as athletes who do not represent any country. But if they agree to these rules and compete using only their abilities and relying on hard work, then I believe they will be warmly accepted by the Olympic community.

IOC President Thomas Bach said it well yesterday, when he noted that the long-time Russian doping represented an “unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games.” So, I hope that integrity returns to the Olympics. This is just a start.

Inappropriate Behaviour is Never Appropriate

I have carefully followed and monitored the news coverage and analysis over the last two months of men, who for the most part were in positions of power, and used that power over women. I have read a lot and thought about this often. I have kept my thoughts to myself and taken it all in. But I will say it loud and clear today: inappropriate behaviour is never appropriate.

There is one thing I want to make clear before I write more. I have never personally been the victim of inappropriate behaviour, harassment or sexual assault. I have worked with many men over my 15 year plus career, and all of them, from the CEO of the company to my boss to my colleagues, have always treated me with respect at all times.

My first job in media, at a sports radio station, where I was surrounded by men, I was never exposed to any inappropriate behaviour. I worked closely with some big names in sports, and quite honestly, my experience was very positive. And that’s the way it’s been for me as I moved into television and then into communications.

But I think my story is unique. I think I am lucky that I have worked for and alongside some good men, who always treated me appropriately. Other women have not been so lucky. And that makes me angry.

It is unacceptable for a man, especially one who is in a position of power, to behave in an inappropriate manner around a woman. Harassing a woman is awful, and assaulting her is revolting.

Women have put up with this for thousands of years, all over the world. Men, who for the most part are bigger and stronger than women, have wielded power over them and abused them. It is important to note that not all women through history have been the victim of inappropriate behaviour, but they have been in the minority. And until now women’s cries for help went unheard.

Coming forward and speaking out against harassment or assault takes tremendous courage. I applaud every woman who has filed a complaint or who has faced the man head on who may have behaved inappropriately towards her. Women in ancient times to the Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution to the 21st century have tried to speak out. And now everyone is listening. Loud and clear. Finally.

But I also think that we need to be careful. I believe that there aren’t just a few good men around but there are many great men. Most men know what is appropriate and what is not and they know how to treat women respectfully. They are equally revolted by sexual harassment and assault. They just know what’s right.

It is never too late to speak out. Women are learning that now. There is strength in one voice or many. I hope this is just the beginning of a new world we are living in where men treat women with respect and women can speak out when they don’t.

Bandwagon Grey Cup Fan

grey cup

I love sports and have a particular interest in baseball. I do enjoy watching other professional sports, especially with my son, such as hockey, basketball and soccer. But I will admit that I don’t know much about football. Whether it is the CFL or NFL, with their different rules and nuances, I just don’t get it. I don’t watch football games. But I do watch the championship game each year. I guess that makes me a bandwagon Grey Cup fan.

Over the years, numerous people have tried their best to explain football to me. In particular, I want to give credit to the amazing group of people I worked with at Rogers Sportsnet almost 15 years ago. They tried their best to explain downs to me. I learned about fumbles, touchdowns, field goals and so much more. I will admit that I did not internalize much of it. Maybe I just didn’t understand football.

But you don’t have to know anything about football or even be a big fan of the game to enjoy the Grey Cup, the annual Canadian Football League championship game. Watching a bunch of grown men run back and forth on a frozen field, in minus ten temperatures and snow falling sideways, is entertaining. I don’t think I have ever actually watched a Grey Cup game in its entirety. I always watch the team introductions, coin toss and national anthem. Usually I  watch the first half on and off, and I do enjoy the half-time show. But my attention usually drops off after that. The game just keeps going, and the clock keeps stopping.

This year my interest was piqued a bit more than usual as I joined the bandwagon in Toronto and cheered on the mighty Argonauts. I’m not always a homer (Go Canes Go!), but for the most part I support Toronto teams. And how could you not love the underdog Argos?

Yes, I only watched the first half. It was a busy Sunday night in our house and there was no way I could continue to watch the whole game. I wasn’t in the group of people who gave up on the Argos early on and walked away. I believed in them and their abilities but just didn’t have a chance to watch. But I’m glad they won the Grey Cup!

From what I saw of the game, my favourite part, which was so Canadian, was the singing of our national anthem. It was so creative. You just have to watch it.

Another great part, you have to figure, was when the Argos kicked the field goal and won the game 27-24. They were behind the whole time and came through in the final minutes to win it all. Thanks to the internet I learned about the new Grey Cup champions via an alert while I put the baby to bed.

So the CFL season is over. The NFL season is in full swing, and I really have no idea who’s been winning and who has been tanking. But like the Grey Cup, I will turn on my TV and watch the Superbowl on February 4th. Or at least I will watch some of it. And I will cheer on the winning team. That’s what a good bandwagon football fan should do.

#GivingTuesday

#givingtuesday

The 2017 Holiday season has arrived. Halloween is over and the kids consumed more sugar in one night than they do in a typical month. Our American friends ate their turkey with all the fixings on Thursday and Thanksgiving has passed.  Black Friday triggered the official start of the season of buying, consuming and capitalism at its best. Cyber Monday, yesterday, brought out the best in technology and yes, more buying and consuming. Which brings us to today, Giving Tuesday, or more commonly spelled, #GivingTuesday.

We all own too much, we buy too much and we always feel we just need too much. From the ten-pound diaper bag full of supplies for the baby to the children’s playroom overflowing with toys to my own closet stuffed with clothing I barely wear, we have too much. We consume too much.

For me, #GivingTuesday is a breath of fresh air. After days of over-consumption (food and shopping!), I welcome a day to give. Founded in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y in New York City and the United Nations Foundation, this annual international day of giving has raised and moved hundreds of millions of dollars.

In the age of technology, this movement gained momentum almost overnight. And yes, like so many other things, it has its own hashtag. The internet and social media has given #GivingTuesday a tremendous platform to just do good. And I love that.

Okay, I will admit that my email inbox was overwhelmed this morning by requests from many organizations asking me to give them a donation. They are all worthy causes, and I do want to support them. I also got a ton of emails from the same retailers who bombarded me with Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales to now join them in giving back today.

Charitable organizations and businesses are asking me to “celebrate” with them, to use this as an “opportunity” to give and to be “part of something big.” They are all correct, that in the craziness of the Holiday season we should take a moment to pause, to stop buying and just give.

Giving does not necessarily mean handing over money. It could also mean that you can give of yourself and your time. My life is busy, and as I have written recently, often overwhelming. All those emails and social media posts are reminding me to slow down and maybe think of someone else who is more overwhelmed than I am. It reminds me that no matter how much I am balancing in my life and all the stresses I am facing, I can still help someone else.

I am not able today to give money or time to every charity that solicits a donation from me. But I will definitely give to some of them and through this blog I hope I can pay it forward and encourage all of you, my loyal readers, to participate in #GivingTuesday today. Make a donation to a charity that is close to your heart. Volunteer your time. Help a friend. Be kind to a stranger. That’s what today is all about. Let’s do something good. We will all be better off.

Maternity Leave is not all that it’s Cracked up to be

maternity leave

I have three wonderful children who are the loves of my life. Like many women, I dreamed of being a mother for many years and consider myself lucky every day that I was blessed with such an incredible family. My third child, Nessa, my little miracle, did not come so easily, and I am thankful every day for her being in my life. I chose to take maternity leave with each of my three children, which I feel is a privilege given to Canadian women. However, while many people see maternity leave as a great benefit, it can also have damaging consequences to a woman’s job and career aspirations.

I also firmly believe that the new expanded parental leave, announced yesterday by the Federal government, will potentially cause further damage to a woman’s career.

Under the current system, a person (or couple) can take a leave from work for a total of 12 months following the birth of a baby (or start that leave up to 8 weeks before the child is born). During that period, a new parent (or parents) qualify to receive up to 50 weeks of employment insurance from the Government of Canada. I believe that comes out to up to $543 per week. Some employers top up pay for some or all of that time as well. Under the expanded leave, a total of 18 months can be taken off, but the financial benefits are not increased (just spread out thinner over a longer period of time).

I want to put the financial benefits of maternity leave aside. What I want to focus on is the job one “leaves” and what happens the next day after a woman has left the workplace to focus on her new baby. This has happened to me three times.

Each time I had a new baby I chose to go on maternity leave from a full-time job. I was at one place of employment when my first two children were born and another organization when my third child was born. As a communications professional, I worked in fast-paced demanding jobs with a lot on my plate. And I loved it. I knew that with the massive workload I had that someone else had to either take over my job or a group of people had to fill in for me while I was away. Life went on and work had to be done whether I was there or not. That’s the case for all women who go on maternity leave.

So, what happens when a woman is away from the office for just a few weeks, a few months, 12 months or now as many as 18 months? As I said, life goes on at work, people fill in and the organization creates a new normal. When my son was born in 2007, I was away for 8 months. When my daughter was born in 2010 I was away for 11 months. And the organization where I was employed went on and my colleagues worked hard and filled in for me.

After my first maternity leave I returned to my same job and went on with my day-to-day responsibilities. In fact, a few months later I even got a promotion. I worked hard and did my best to balance the demands of my job with the needs of my baby. I assumed the same thing would happen in 2011 when I returned to the same job after my second maternity leave.

But I was wrong. The organization where I worked was planning massive changes and a rebranding while I was away, and those changes were implemented weeks after I returned. I was told my job was eliminated.

I had just come off 11 months of maternity leave and had received almost 50 weeks of employment insurance benefits. I did not qualify to receive any more and thought that in Canada there was a system in place to protect young mothers who chose to take a leave from work to care for their young children. Our jobs, we were told, were protected, so that we could go away for a year and return to work. I understood that my exact job did not have to be given back to me but that a job equal to mine had to at least be available to me. It was, for a few weeks, then it was gone. Why? Because if an organization, for or not-for-profit, does a massive reorganization, it is not required to retain women on maternity leave. It is allowed to eliminate those jobs.

I was lucky that I quickly secured another job in 2011, one I loved very much. I received a number of promotions over the next few years, and by 2016, when Nessa was born, I managed a team of people and oversaw many files and projects at the company. While I did not make a final decision on how long I would be away from my job, I knew I wanted to take at least 4-5 months of maternity leave to spend time with my new baby.

When the baby was not quite 3 months old I was informed that my job had been eliminated. This time there was no company reorganization that I knew of. Various people had filled in for me, there was a new normal and they didn’t need me anymore. It didn’t matter that I was respected by my colleagues and made contributions to the organization over the previous five years. Out of sight, out of mind. So what if the Government of Canada had a maternity leave program? My employer didn’t care. My job was gone.

According to some research I found from Statistics Canada, which looked at the increasing maternity leave benefits from 1971 onwards, I read that “one aim of the 2000 amendment was to enable working parents to care for their infant longer and still allow them secure re-entry into employment” It added that “after the extension of parental benefits, all provinces and territories revised their labour codes to give full job protection of 52 weeks or more to employees taking paid or unpaid maternity or parental leave.”

Financial benefits aside, maternity leave was created, in-part, so that women could feel confident that they could walk away from a job to care for a baby knowing their job was secure and protected. But that is not the case. And the longer a woman is away from her job, potentially up to 18 months with the new expanded leave, the less security and protection she has.

If the Government of Canada is going to expand its parental leave program then it also needs to put in place strict rules that protect those parents’ jobs when they choose to take a leave to care for young children. As long as employers can eliminate a job during or soon after a maternity leave then it is not a true benefit. Canadian women need to know their careers can grow and their jobs are secure when they become new mothers and attempt the very difficult task of a balance between work and home. Until that happens, there is no such thing as a true maternity leave.