From #MeToo to never again: Trudeau, Liberals hold closed-door session on sexual harassment

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other MPs, including one accused of sexual harassment, took part in a closed-door workshop on creating safe workplaces at the Liberal convention in Halifax.

PM joins MP Kent Hehr, Liberal delegates at workshop on creating safe workplaces

Liberal MP Kent Hehr, who is under investigation for sexual harassment allegations, is attending a workshop on safe workplaces at the Liberal Party convention in Halifax. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other Liberal MPs, including one accused of sexual harassment, took part in a closed-door workshop on creating safe workplaces at the Liberal convention in Halifax.

The session, called "From #MeToo to never again: creating safe work environments," was closed to the media so delegates can share personal stories. Liberal MP Kent Hehr, who stepped down from his cabinet post in January pending an investigation into complaints of sexual harassment against him, attended the session along with his fiancée Deanna Holt.

Leaving the hour-long session, Trudeau called it a "great ongoing part of an important conversation."

"It's not one group attending one session that's going to make all the difference, but it's a step further in the right direction and I'm glad we're having this conversation," he said.

Hehr said it was an excellent session about safe workplaces, how to intervene and how to lead by example. 
Kent Hehr, front, was accompanied by his fiancée Deanna Holt at Saturday's media scrum. (Kathleen Harris/CBC)

Arriving this morning, Hehr said it's always good to learn about new best practices. He declined to comment on the status of the investigation.

Meghan Spilka O'Keefe, an Ottawa-based delegate at the Liberal Party convention in Halifax, took part in a workshop on combatting sexual harassment in the workplace. (Kathleen Harris/CBC)

"There's a process in place and I can't comment further," he said. "I'm grateful the process allows all voices to be heard."

Nova Scotia MP Darren Fisher said the workshop was an opportunity to hear individual stories. 

"You get a chance to kind of think about that story in particular and resonate on how it might come to play in your own life," he said.

'Can't deny that it's out there'

FIsher said he has heard of minor incidents, such as people calling women "little lady," but has never witnessed sexual harassment personally.

"I see none of this at all, but I can't deny that it's out there because I see proof of it everywhere. But I don't see it surrounding me. I have not yet," he said.

Ottawa convention delegate Meghan Spilka O'Keefe said the workshop helped equip her with the tools to respond to harassment, as well as how to intervene and be an ally to others.

"I think it speaks to our interest as a party to enhance our tools and capacity to set the stage for #MeToo and making sure we're an inclusive and open society," she said.

O'Keefe, who said she has been targeted by sexual harassment and violence in the workplace, in social spaces and while travelling, was encouraged that the session drew men and women with diverse age and backgrounds.

Manitoba MP Dan Vandal said the fact the Liberals are holding the workshop at the convention shows how seriously the party takes the issue.

"I think it says that we're very aware of the situation, that we're sensitive to the whole issue of creating safe spaces, and it's not something we take lightly. It's something we take very seriously," he said. "Protecting peoples' space and treating people with respect is a foundation of the Liberal Party."

Vandal said he does not believe sexual harassment is more rampant in the Liberal Party than any other political party, but said it is important not to be complacent.