Skip to main content

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he's dealing with sexual harassment allegations in his caucus on a "case-by-case basis" as Parliament Hill continues to grapple with the fallout from serious accusations of wrongdoing.

During a news conference on Parliament Hill on Tuesday, Mr. Trudeau was asked why Kent Hehr, the former sport and persons with disabilities minister, remains in caucus after resigning from cabinet over allegations of sexual misconduct.

"I don't have a rule book that's been handed down to me from Wilfrid Laurier as leader of the Liberal Party on how to handle these situations," Mr. Trudeau said.

"This is new for organizations to have to deal with in this way and we are doing the best that we can on a case-by-case basis," he said.

Mr. Trudeau said that while every case will be different, "it's essential to start from a place of belief and support for anyone coming forward with stories or allegations of harassment or assault."

Mr. Hehr resigned his cabinet post last week after allegations of sexual harassment during his time in the Alberta legislature emerged on social media. Law firm Rubin Thomlinson is investigating the former cabinet minister's conduct for the government. Liberal whip Pablo Rodriguez told reporters Sunday that a second complaint against Mr. Hehr, which involves allegations of groping during his time in Ottawa, has also been sent to the law firm.

Claude-Eric Gagné, a senior member of Mr. Trudeau's office, is also being investigated by Rubin Thomlinson because of allegations of inappropriate behaviour. He has been on leave since late last year.

Mr. Trudeau noted Tuesday that Parliament – like many other organizations – is working to establish processes and support systems for the handling of harassment allegations. On Monday, the House of Commons agreed unanimously to fast-track Bill C-65, which proposes amending the Canada Labour Code to address sexual harassment in federally regulated workplaces, including Parliament Hill.

Liberal MP Filomena Tassi, the deputy government whip, on Tuesday gave notice of a motion in the Procedure and House Affairs committee to conduct a review of the MP code of conduct on sexual harassment.

Asked about the #MeToo movement which has empowered women around the world to speak up against harassment and assault, Mr. Trudeau said society's approach to sexual misconduct allegations has changed since he became a volunteer with McGill University's sexual-assault centre 25 years ago.

"This reflection continues for us all," he said.

Mr. Hehr is one of four prominent political figures accused in recent days of sexual impropriety. Former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown resigned last week after CTV reported on allegations of sexual misconduct involving two young women, which he denies, while Nova Scotia PC leader Jamie Baillie stepped down amid sexual-harassment allegations.

On Sunday, Rick Dykstra resigned as president of the Ontario PC party after Macleans reported on allegations that he sexually assaulted a young Conservative staffer in 2014, when he was a federal MP. The report said that Conservative Party officials decided to keep the allegations against Mr. Dykstra private and allowed him to run in the 2015 election. Mr. Dykstra's lawyers have denied the story.

Mr. Trudeau has previously overseen a number of departures from his caucus and his cabinet in controversial circumstances. In 2016, Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo resigned as fisheries minister, citing the need to seek treatment for an alcohol problem. It was only after The Globe and Mail revealed he had had an affair with a female aide that he admitted he had a "consensual but inappropriate" relationship.

Calgary MP Darshan Kang quit the Liberal caucus in August in response to allegations that he sexually harassed some of his employees in both his Alberta constituency office and when he was in provincial politics. Mr. Kang has denied the allegations.

As Liberal Leader before becoming Prime Minister, Mr. Trudeau suspended MPs Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti from the Liberal caucus in 2014 after harassment complaints made by two female NDP MPs.

Justin Trudeau says he is in uncharted territory when it comes to dealing with allegations of misconduct within his party. The Prime Minister made the comments when asked why Kent Hehr is still a member of the Liberal caucus.

The Canadian Press

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

Follow the author of this article:

Check Following for new articles