Montreal

Montreal-area Liberal MNA leaves caucus over sexual assault allegation

Gerry Sklavounos, member of the National Assembly for Laurier-Dorion, has resigned from caucus following an allegation of sexual assault, Radio-Canada sources say.

Gerry Sklavounos serves as member of the National Assembly for Laurier-Dorion

Gerry Sklavounos, the deputy house leader under Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, has resigned from the Liberal caucus. (Quebec Liberal Party)

A Montreal-area Liberal member of Quebec's National Assembly has resigned from caucus following an allegation of sexual assault, sources tell Radio-Canada.

Gerry Sklavounos, the deputy house leader under Premier Philippe Couillard, has been serving as the member of the National Assembly for Laurier-Dorion since 2007.

In a statement, Couillard confirmed Thursday evening that Sklavounos had been asked to leave caucus. 

Couillard and other members of the Liberal caucus declined to answer any questions about the allegation at an event in Toronto.

Sklavounos's departure from caucus follows an allegation made a day earlier. 

Alice Paquet made the claim while speaking publicly Wednesday at a vigil at Laval University in Quebec City to denounce a series of recent alleged assaults in one of the university's dorms.

Alice Paquet says she was sexually assaulted by a Quebec Liberal MNA when she was working as a restaurant hostess in Quebec City in 2014. 1:15

Paquet said the assault by a member of the legislature happened in 2014, while she was working as a restaurant hostess. She did not name the attacker.

Her allegation has not been proven and no charges have been laid. Sklavounos did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a Facebook post written after the vigil, Paquet alleged that the politician blackmailed her and told her not to tell anyone because no one would believe her.

I was scared, and at every moment during a sexual encounter, a person must feel totally at ease.- Alice Paquet

She said she ended up filing a complaint with police a year later and that she was asked if she knew what she was getting into and whether she was sure she said no.

"No, I'm not sure I said no. But without saying yes, it's no. I was scared, and at every moment during a sexual encounter, a person must feel totally at ease," she said.

She said she was hurt both physically and psychologically, harm she believes she'll have to deal with for life.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard has asked the party whip and someone from his office to investigate the allegation. (Clement Allard/Canadian Press)
The Facebook post has since been deleted.

Sklavounos, 41, practised criminal law as a legal aid lawyer and as a private practice attorney before entering politics. He was first elected in 2007 and has been re-elected three times.

Since leaving the Liberal caucus he will now sit as an Independent. 

Sklavounos is married with two children.

Police confirm complaint filed

​Quebec City police confirmed they received a complaint in March 2016 regarding the same allegations made at the vigil.

"We received a complaint in the spring. The investigation is ongoing and there have been no arrests in this file," said spokesman Étienne Doyon.

A friend of Paquet, Rosalie Genest, said in an interview the alleged assault has been difficult to live with.

"She's doing better," she told CBC News. "She's getting a lot of support so we're all with her."

'Crucially important': Couillard

Before Sklavounos was publicly identified, Couillard told reporters the allegations would be treated with the highest priority and that he would have his office and party whip conduct an investigation.

"This is a very delicate question,'' Couillard said. 

"I'm not the police, I'm not a judge, I'm not even a lawyer, but I just want to tell Quebecers that to me this is significant, not only significant, but crucially important for our society.''

New Parti Québécois​ Leader Jean-François Lisée said there should be two investigations, one into the allegation itself and the other into a possible "coverup" involving the Couillard government.

Nathalie Roy, a member of the Coalition Avenir Québec, was in the crowd Wednesday night when the young woman spoke.

"My heart stopped when I heard her say this person sits in the National Assembly,'' Roy said.

"If a police officer tells you, 'It's not worth it, he's stronger than you' — what she was saying yesterday — that's unacceptable.''

With files from Ainslie Maclellan, Ryan Hicks and The Canadian Press