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Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau reveals his party's election platform during the federal election campaign in Toronto on Sept. 1, 2021.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

The NDP and Conservatives are accusing Justin Trudeau of a pattern of ignoring sexual misconduct complaints, as the Liberal Leader defended for a second day a candidate who faces several allegations of inappropriate behaviour, saying “multiple processes” were followed to investigate the claims.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh both drew a link between a report that the Prime Minister’s Office didn’t adequately pursue a misconduct complaint against a sitting Liberal MP and the sexual harassment allegations that engulfed some of Canada’s highest-ranking military members earlier this year.

“This is a pattern with Mr. Trudeau and his office: no accountability and a culture of cover-up. We saw this in the Canadian Armed Forces. ... Now, we see the same culture of cover-up was taking place with their own paid staff members,” Mr. O’Toole said on Wednesday in Ottawa.

CBC News on Tuesday reported that concerns were raised with Mr. Trudeau’s office dating back to 2015 about Raj Saini’s behaviour toward young female staffers, which included four allegations of unwanted sexual advances or inappropriate comments. The Globe and Mail has not independently verified all of the allegations, which Mr. Saini denies.

On Wednesday, a former senior staffer in the Liberal government publicly slammed Mr. Trudeau’s defence of Mr. Saini.

“I am beyond disappointed by how the PMO & party has handled this,” Sharan Kaur, who was Bill Morneau’s deputy chief of staff when he was finance minister, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “The PM’s response is victim blaming & is unacceptable. I’m embarrassed of my team today.”

Ms. Kaur said she wouldn’t comment further when contacted by The Globe.

Mr. Saini said in a statement on Tuesday that he has never acted inappropriately toward staff or constituents. He said he was only made aware of one allegation and that the individual did not pursue a formal or informal complaint. Mr. Saini added that a third-party review of his office conducted through the House of Commons “found that nothing arose regarding concerns of harassment in the office.” Mr. Saini’s campaign did not respond to follow-up requests on Wednesday for a copy of the third-party review.

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On Wednesday, Mr. Trudeau again stood by Mr. Saini, a two-term MP who is running for re-election in the Southwestern Ontario riding of Kitchener Centre. “We are extremely, extremely strong on ensuring that everyone has a right to being in a safe workplace,” Mr. Trudeau said when asked why Mr. Saini remained in the Liberal caucus.

“Mr. Saini has shared details about the multiple processes that have been gone through over the past many months and the efforts that have been made to demonstrate that we are taking seriously every single concern that is raised,” the Liberal Leader added.

The party did not say what these processes were, and referred The Globe to Mr. Saini’s Tuesday statement, which describes only one investigation through the House of Commons. In the statement, he also said concerns regarding his safety were raised in that probe and forwarded to the Waterloo Regional Police. A police spokeswoman said the force can’t comment because of privacy issues.

The House of Commons policy says if an allegation is substantiated against a member of Parliament, the report is sent to the Board of Internal Economy. The board is Parliament’s governing body. It meets behind closed doors and is currently dominated by Liberals.

“We make sure that there are proper, rigorous processes that everyone gets to go through when they come forward with concerns and allegations,” Mr. Trudeau said on Wednesday.

When asked whether a third party should investigate the allegations, Mr. Trudeau said, “We always draw on independent processes to follow up on issues that come forward.”

CBC News reported that the complaints against Mr. Saini date back to the Liberals’ holiday party in December, 2015. The news outlet said four female staffers reported to a senior Liberal staffer that Mr. Saini and former Liberal MP Marwan Tabbara were allegedly acting inappropriately. In June, 2020, Mr. Tabbara resigned from the Liberal caucus after he was charged with assault, breaking and entering, and harassment.

A Liberal source who was at the 2015 Christmas party told The Globe on Tuesday that several staff reported Mr. Saini and Mr. Tabbara acted inappropriately and were touchy with young female staff. The source said a senior Liberal raised the concerns with Mr. Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford, but Ms. Telford later said there was nothing further to investigate.

The Globe is not identifying the source because they were not permitted to disclose the internal government matters.

Asked about Ms. Telford’s involvement, Alex Lawrence, a spokesman for the Liberal campaign, said, “we have no records or knowledge of this matter.” Ms. Telford did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Saini’s campaign did not respond to questions on Wednesday about whether Ms. Telford spoke with Mr. Saini about any concerns or allegations after the 2015 party.

In 2017, Mr. Trudeau said his government has a “zero tolerance” policy for sexual harassment on Parliament Hill. In 2020, Mr. Trudeau did not say whether that policy was still in place.

Mr. O’Toole said a Conservative government would have zero tolerance for misconduct and sexual harassment.

The NDP said someone facing the same allegations as Mr. Saini could not have been a candidate for the party.

“The powerful example of how the Liberals continue to ignore women is in the Canadian Forces. This is a pattern of behaviour,” Mr. Singh said. On Mr. Saini’s case, he said, “these concerns were raised and this example raised some time ago and then nothing was done to follow up.”

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