NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says he will not apologize for dismissing critics of his handling of the Erin Weir case as “privileged,” despite a call for him to do so from the provincial NDP Leader in Saskatchewan.
Ryan Meili said the federal NDP Leader’s pointed comments earlier this week, focused on Saskatchewan members of the party, were unfortunate and out of line as an attack on members of the NDP political family.
“I disagree with those comments and I think that he should address that and speak more respectfully to the members," Mr. Meili said in a phone interview on Thursday from Saskatoon.
The provincial party leader’s rebuke came as the federal NDP caucus, in Surrey, B.C., wrapped up a three-day meeting aimed at developing a political strategy to engage voters for the upcoming 2019 election and preparing for the upcoming fall sitting of Parliament.
Mr. Singh ejected Mr. Weir from caucus in May after sexual-harassment allegations against the Regina MP. An independent investigation commissioned by the party upheld several complaints of harassment and sexual harassment against Mr. Weir. More than five dozen former Saskatchewan NDP MLAs and MPs signed a recent letter raising concerns about Mr. Singh’s handling of the case.
In response to the letter, Mr. Singh said on Tuesday, “I am not going to change my decision because people in a position of privilege want to intimidate me.” On who was intimidating him, Mr. Singh cited “some folks in Saskatchewan."
Mr. Meili, who said he is generally supportive of Mr. Singh, believes the NDP Leader should apologize for those comments.
“I don’t believe that’s a group of privileged people," Mr. Meili said. "He may disagree and he has every right to disagree with the points they are bringing forward, but he shouldn’t dismiss them out of hand.”
But Mr. Singh said on Thursday he would not apologize. Of his critics, he told reporters they are “using a position of privilege to do good work for the community,” but added, "to use that position to try to have a change of position when it comes to harassment is not going to happen.”
Asked specifically about Mr. Meili’s concerns in an interview, Mr. Singh told The Globe and Mail he is focused on the people who have been “silent for so long” and unable to express their concerns.
“I am focused on making sure those people who have not had a voice have a voice and we make sure the workplace is safe for those people who haven’t had their voice heard,” he said.
Mr. Meili said he does not have all the information in the Weir case, but he noted that if Mr. Singh does not apologize to Saskatchewan New Democrats, “I would think that was a missed opportunity to improve the conversation.”
Mr. Weir has said he has taken measures to atone for the complaints and said this week he will defy Mr. Singh’s decision to disallow him from seeking an NDP nomination for next year’s federal election.