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Sexual exploitation, drinking at the office supported by Brazeau, former employee claims

New Senator Patrick Brazeau - who is facing a sexual harassment complaint before a human rights tribunal - condoned a work atmosphere at the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples in which sexual exploitation and drinking on the job was common, according to a grievance filed by a second former employee.

Jade Harper, now 25, worked on contract as an events co-ordinator in late 2007 and early 2008 and said she was so troubled by the atmosphere in the office that she filed a three-page grievance directly with Mr. Brazeau, the organization's national chief.

"There was a lot of drinking at the office," Ms. Harper said. "Once I put my grievance in, I would get the dirty looks in the office. No one would talk to me. Patrick wouldn't ... They just totally shut the door on me completely."

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In Ms. Harper's grievance, which she submitted last March, she claims she was exploited by an older, senior employee with whom she had a personal relationship, and that Mr. Brazeau allowed employees to drink in his office.

"I feel that the people I trusted most to advocate and stick up for what's right and wrong have let me down," Ms. Harper wrote in the March 5 letter. "I believe that alcohol and sexual exploitation are both issues that we are trying to fight as an organization, meanwhile both issues continue to be supported at the CAP office."

Ms. Harper said she decided to speak publicly about her experience after a story in yesterday's Globe and Mail. In that report, Mr. Brazeau and other board members rejected claims in a sexual harassment filing from an unidentified former employee. That complaint, which covers the same period as Ms. Harper's allegations, is currently before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

Mr. Brazeau and a majority of the congress board said this week that they hired an outside mediation firm to investigate the original complaint, and the report found Mr. Brazeau did not breach the organization's harassment policies.

When contacted yesterday about Ms. Harper's allegations, a spokesman for the congress said Ms. Harper's grievance was also taken seriously and was "resolved to the satisfaction of the board."

Spokesman Al Fleming said Ms. Harper's allegations are false. "This is viewed as a part of a purposeful and unsuccessful attempt to try to discredit the national chief," he wrote in an e-mail, which was copied to congress lawyer Michael Chambers. Mr. Fleming said that both women were offered mediation services.

"However, by the time the matter was concluded, both involved parties had left the congress as their contracts had ended, coinciding with the end of the fiscal year for which funding for their services had been provided," he wrote.

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Mr. Brazeau is seeking to remain national chief of the congress, a group that advocates for off-reserve natives, even though he was appointed last month to sit as a Conservative Senator.

The complaint before the Human Rights Tribunal claims Mr. Brazeau sexually harassed a female employee in late 2007 and early 2008.

That woman's name is not being released by the tribunal, but Ms. Harper said she supports her allegations.

If Mr. Brazeau is successful in his bid to stay on as national chief while sitting in the Senate, he will be drawing two six-figure salaries, both at taxpayers' expense.

The congress's financial statements show Mr. Brazeau's salary was $100,170 in the last fiscal year, plus $5,422 for expenses. His new job pays $130,400, with the possibility of further compensation for duties such as chairing a committee or caucus.

The congress's annual revenue of $5.5-million comes largely from seven federal departments.

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A spokesman for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said holding both jobs appears to be an obvious conflict and would also amount to double dipping in the public purse.

"At the end of the day, if the money's coming from taxpayers, it's double dipping of a kind," he said. "To actually be a member of the government that he's advocating to would strike me as inherently conflictual."

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