A court in Newfoundland and Labrador has rejected separate lawsuits filed by two former cabinet ministers who were kicked out of the Liberal caucus four years ago.
Eddie Joyce and Dale Kirby were also removed from cabinet in April 2018 after harassment allegations surfaced against them.
Both responded by filing separate civil lawsuits against several members of the legislature, alleging the complaints had damaged their reputations and led to financial losses.
In two separate decisions released two weeks ago, Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court Justice Sandra Chaytor dismissed each lawsuit, saying virtually all of the allegations were covered by parliamentary privilege, which meant the court lacked jurisdiction.
In Kirby’s case, Chaytor said allegations of defamation were not covered by parliamentary privilege but were not supported by requisite facts. As a result, Chaytor allowed Kirby to file an amended statement of claim.
When Kirby and Joyce were ejected from caucus in 2018, Kirby was education minister and Joyce was minister of municipal affairs and the environment.
The legislature’s then-commissioner for legislative standards was called to investigate. Bruce Chaulk found that both Kirby and Joyce had breached the legislature’s code of conduct, but he did not find either guilty of harassment.
The incidents described in Chaulk’s five investigation reports included that Kirby allegedly told member of the legislature Pam Parsons, “You’re beautiful and I love you,” before he suggested she should stop being so vocal. As well, both Joyce and Kirby were accused of using profane language toward other members.
One report referenced an interview with Cathy Bennett, a former finance minister, citing a culture of intimidation in cabinet.
Chaulk recommended the legislature reprimand the two men.
Lawmakers subsequently voted to compel both to apologize to the house, though the two maintained they did not breach conduct rules.
In April 2019, a legislature committee released a proposed workplace policy to deal with harassment and bullying after consultations found concerns over gender-based harassment and power imbalances between elected members.
An anti-harassment workplace policy for government officials came into effect in June 2018.