Politics

Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet denies sexual misconduct allegations

Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet is denying allegations of sexual misconduct, posted on social media Tuesday.

Allegations posted to social media Tuesday describe alleged incident from 1999

Allegations against Bloc leader Yves-Francois Blanchet were posted Tuesday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet is denying allegations of sexual misconduct that were posted on social media Tuesday.

An anonymous person said the alleged events happened in 1999 in a Montreal bar. It is not known who wrote the post or whether they have filed a complaint with police.

CBC News has not verified the allegations or spoken to the person making them.

Blanchet issued a statement denying the allegations and inviting the person who made them to file a complaint with the authorities.

He said he will continue his professional activities and will not make any other comments.

Reached for comment Wednesday, Bloc Québécois MP Louis Plamondon, the longest serving member of the Commons, said he was standing by his leader.

"I won't comment on the specifics except to say I have complete confidence in my leader and the statement he made," he told Radio-Canada, CBC's French-language service.

Speaking in French, he called the use of social media to anonymously report allegations of harassment a "cowardly act."

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, meanwhile, said in a statement Wednesday that the allegations levelled at Blanchet are "troubling" and women must feel comfortable coming forward with their claims.

"I've always been of the opinion that all allegations must be taken seriously," he said.

"We are currently seeing a wave of denunciations in Quebec that requires a great deal of courage and demonstrates the lack of confidence victims have in our system," Singh added, pointing to a recent surge in the number of women turning to free or low-cost legal aid firms to file sexual harassment complaints.

"It discourages them from complaining, so we must listen, first of all, and change this culture of silence concretely and profoundly."

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he had no comment on the allegations.

Economic Development Minister Mélanie Joly did take to social media Wednesday to commend victims for coming forward with complaints.

"To all the victims of sexual harassment or sexual violence, I hear you and I understand you. It takes courage to speak out," she said in a tweet linking to federal resources for victims of harassment.

A spokesperson for Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he would not comment on the allegations "without more information."

Blanchet, a former provincial politician, led the Bloc to a strong showing in the last federal election, catapulting the party from also-ran status in the last two contests to a third place finish in the 2019 vote.

The party nabbed 22 more seats than it won in 2015 and finished narrowly behind the Liberals in the popular vote in Quebec.

Blanchet has supported the Liberal minority government on some key votes in the Commons but recently has soured on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's leadership.

Blanchet said Trudeau was "acting like a prince" by trying to push through new government programs with little opposition input, citing the government's plans to penalize emergency relief benefit fraudsters and roll out support payments for the disabled.

He has since called on Trudeau to step aside in favour of Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland while the ethics commissioner probes the multi-million-dollar WE Charity contracts.

With files from the CBC's John Paul Tasker

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