Senator Colin Kenny has withdrawn from the Liberal caucus amid allegations that he sexually harassed a former Senate staffer.
The Senate has opened an investigation into Mr. Kenny’s conduct but a spokeswoman refused to comment on the nature of the complaint against him. The allegations – which Mr. Kenny denies -- come after months of controversy over improper expense claims by some senators and growing questions about the relevance and independence of the Red Chamber.
The CBC reported on Thursday that a former assistant to Mr. Kenny alleged he had sexually harassed her and that she spent half of her time assisting him with his personal affairs rather than Senate business.
Pascale Brisson, Mr. Kenny’s former aide, told the broadcaster that the senator made sexual comments at work, asked her to wear high-heeled shoes at work and would sometimes put his hand on her waist when the two were meeting alone.
Mr. Kenny denied the allegations in a statement released Friday. “The allegations against me are without merit. I very much look forward to the resolution of this issue,” he wrote.
He said he is unable to comment publicly on the conditions of the investigation until it has been completed.
Kate Purchase, a spokeswoman for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, said Mr. Kenny informed the office on Wednesday that he was withdrawing from the caucus effective Nov. 13, “pending the outcome of an investigation by the Senate administration.”
Mr. Kenny worked as a staffer in Pierre Trudeau’s office from 1969 to 1979 and was appointed to the Senate by Mr. Trudeau in 1984. He is known for his work on national security issues and is a former chair of the Senate committee on national security and defence.
Ms. Brisson is not the only person to have complained about Mr. Kenny’s behaviour. In 2001, former Liberal MP Carolyn Parrish was chair of the Canadian delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Brussels, which Mr. Kenny was involved with.
Ms. Parrish said she was approached by the Assembly shortly after she became chair with concerns that Mr. Kenny had been giving unwanted and unsolicited attention to NATO clerks and women from other delegations. One former clerk had quit her job and a second was at one point receiving up to 60 phone calls a day from Mr. Kenny, Ms. Parrish said. Mr. Kenny later resigned from the delegation voluntarily, she said.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.