Canadian Lawyer InHouse

August/September 2021

Legal news and trends for Canadian in-house counsel and c-suite executives

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Page 16 of 43 15 services and governance at Toronto District School Board. James Petrie, chief legal officer at NB Power adds: "I wish there was clearer guidance from government, so that we do not have to expose ourselves to potential arbitrations, human rights complaints, or potential litigation." Legal departments are focusing on mental health awareness more than ever before, as stress and anxiety have plagued many people throughout the pandemic crisis, and burnout has become commonplace. Robert Ellis, chief legal officer and senior vice president, sustainability and compliance at Celestica notes that anxiety around returning to the office is a new trend which needs to be carefully managed. "I think it is important to give reassurance and communicate well in advance of making any changes that are going to require people to go back to the office in a way that they are not comfortable with," he says. Legal departments should take a lead in working to remove the stigma surrounding mental health issues, according to Lilac Bosma, SVP and general counsel at HSBC Bank Canada. "With the mental health struggles I have seen during COVID, it is a good opportunity to raise the issue and to normalize these conversations," she says. ESG matters are also critical as organiza- tions strive to meet the demands of stake- holders and customers. Bosma's team at HSBC is at the forefront of developing sustainable finance products, while Ellis' team at Celestica is working to help the organiza- tion meet measurable sustainability targets in a number of different areas, including greenhouse gas emissions. Diversity and inclusion are growing priorities for all of our panelists as they strive to improve hiring policies, to eliminate discrimination within their own organizations, and to hold law firm partners accountable for their own policies. "I think my first premise is that people have soft-pedaled it for too long," says Av Maharaj, chief administrative officer, VP legal, corporate affairs and HR at The Kraft Heinz Company. "People, especially in legal groups, have put up roadblocks because of our overarching conservatism. I think we in legal have an opportunity to challenge our groups, and our companies, to do more." INHOUSE: What concerns you the most about the post pandemic recovery phase for your business? And what role is the legal department playing in ensuring a smooth transition? Maharaj: There are lot of questions that are top of mind. Things like what are the obliga- tions of employees returning to work? What are the obligations regarding vaccinations? What are the safety protocols? I think there is a lot of uncertainty, and your employee base has a lot of questions, and so this is an opportunity for the legal group to really add value and help employees. Our legal group is actually leading the return to office, figuring out the protocols, figuring out when we are doing it and how we are doing it. PANELISTS Av Maharaj chief administrative officer, VP legal, corporate affairs and HR, The Kraft Heinz Company, the third largest food and beverage company in North America James Petrie chief legal officer, NB Power, New Brunswick's electric power utility Leola Pon general counsel, executive officer, legal services and governance, Toronto District School Board Lilac Bosma senior vice president and general counsel, HSBC Bank Canada, the Vancouver- headquartered Canadian subsidiary of the British multinational banking and financial services company Robert Ellis chief legal officer and senior vice president, sustainability and compliance, Celestica, a Toronto- based multinational design, manufacturing and supply chain solutions company "The focus on mental health became very, very important and it still is, because as we come out of the pandemic, we are going to have different mental health issues that we are going to need to deal with." Av Maharaj, The Kraft Heinz Company

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