Jagmeet Singh rejects Erin Weir's bid to return to caucus

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has rejected a bid from ousted MP Erin Weir to return to the federal caucus — a move that has drawn sharp criticism from party stalwarts in Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan MP was expelled over allegations of harassment, sexual harassment

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has rejected a bid by Saskatchewan MP Erin Weir to return to the caucus. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has rejected a bid from ousted MP Erin Weir to return to the federal caucus — a move that has drawn sharp criticism from party stalwarts in Saskatchewan.

The Regina MP was expelled from the NDP caucus in May 2018 after the conclusion of a third-party investigation into harassment and sexual harassment complaints.

After working with a trainer to find ways to make amends, Weir met with Singh in June and asked to return to the caucus.

That request was rebuffed by the NDP leader this week. Singh said he does not believe Weir understands the harm he caused, or that he will change his ways.

"I am not confident that the harassing behaviour will not be repeated," Singh wrote in a letter to Weir. "I will not be reinstating you to the Federal NDP caucus and will not approve your candidacy to run for the NDP in 2019."

That decision, which was first reported by CTV News, has angered former NDP politicians from Saskatchewan, the party's birthplace.

A letter signed by a group of 68 former NDP MPs and MLAs criticized Singh's handling of the situation, accusing him of flouting proper procedure and acting on "hearsay." It said Weir had sufficiently convinced his trainer that he now "gets it" and had made efforts to apologize and make amends to those affected by his actions.

"A fair and objective examination of the details involved simply does not support either the leader's characterization of the conduct complained of or the extreme harshness of the public shaming and banishment deemed by the leader to be fair and appropriate responses," reads the letter.

Calls for Weir's reinstatement

The group is calling for Weir to be reinstated in the party.

The NDP said the third-party investigator found one claim of harassment and three claims of sexual harassment against Weir were sustained.

The report, which was not released publicly, defined the sexual harassment claims as acts of a sexual nature "that might reasonably be expected to cause offence," a statement from the NDP said at the time.

"The report found that when Mr. Weir was told his advances were unwanted, he stopped," said the statement.

In his own statement at the time, Weir said the investigator found that he probably sat or stood too close to people at social events and tried to talk to them when they didn't want to talk.

Failure to note social cues

The letter from the 68 former politicians said the generalized finding of 'sexual harassment' in a context of failing to pick up on social cues should be distinguished from things like unwanted touching, leering or explicit remarks.

Pat Atkinson, a longtime former Saskatchewan MLA and cabinet minister who signed the letter, called the decision "devastating" for Weir, a fourth-generation party member who has supported the NDP since he was 13.

'We think that this whole thing got blown up beyond proportions,' says former Saskatchewan NDP MLA Pat Atkinson. 8:37

"He worked really incredibly hard to become an MP, and we hadn't had any MPs since 2000. Then all of a sudden he's thrown under the bus," she told CBC News.

Atkinson called it a "major mistake" by the leader, adding it could have both electoral and legal repercussions.

"There's no humanity. This is the man who talks about love and courage. I don't see a lot of love at the moment, and I certainly don't see any courage, and certainly no humanity."

Singh's letter said his decision to remove Weir from caucus was not taken lightly, but that he is not satisfied the MP has taken the necessary steps to rectify the harm caused.

MP Erin Weir represents Regina-Lewvan. (CBC)

"I have not seen evidence of a genuine understanding of how your behaviour needs to change or an expression of regret and remorse for describing sustained findings of harassment as 'trumped up,'" he wrote. "I have not seen you take responsibility publicly for very publicly harming the reputations of your former caucus colleagues, nor work sincerely at repairing the trust and confidence that was broken."

Singh hasn't been available for comment so far today.

'Erin was the one that sunk those chances,' says Sheila Malcolmson. 8:20