Liberals seek fair process for MP harassment allegations
'It's in everyone's best interest to have this investigated and dealt with expeditiously'
In the fishbowl that is federal politics, how do two suspended Liberal MPs accused of unspecified personal misconduct get their shot at due process?
This is the messy question causing angst within Liberal circles, a week after leader Justin Trudeau suspended Massimo Pacetti and Scott Andrews.
Here's the problem: There is no process for dealing with complaints of harassment between MPs.
Where a person accused in a corporate or public service workplace might have first gone through a confidential investigation or mediation process before being reprimanded, Pacetti and Andrews were outed and ousted right from the starting gate.
Neither the details of the misconduct of which they are accused, nor the names of the alleged victims, have been released publicly.
On Thursday, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair wrote to Trudeau and Prime Minister Stephen Harper urging the parties to develop a sexual harassment code of conduct and appoint a third party to deal with complaints as they arise.
"I know that we are all keenly aware of the responsibility we share in ensuring harassment free workplaces, both in our workplace here in Ottawa and in the wide variety of places of work across this country, and in showing leadership for addressing the issue in a respectful and lasting manner," Mulcair wrote.
'Urgent' decision needed
The tri-partisan, closed-door board of internal economy had already moved up its scheduled meeting to Tuesday to deal with the allegations, which first surfaced last week.
While Liberal MPs support Trudeau's action as the only one he could have taken under the political circumstances, some of them say the men now deserve to have the matter dealt with as quickly as possible.
"There needs to be an urgent decision made by the (committee). They shouldn't have waited a whole week," said Liberal MP Hedy Fry.
"They should have done it, met, as quickly as possible, and get a process in place so that everybody would be able to have an ability to tell their story in a safe and secure and confidential environment."
"I think it's the same whether it's the College of Physicians or anything, you want to find out whether the complaints have any basis to them or not and to get it sorted out as quickly as possible," said Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett.
"I think that's the kindest thing to do in any situation."
Said colleague Rodger Cuzner: "It's in everyone's best interest to have this investigated and dealt with expeditiously.
'Glaring gap' to plug
If the two NDP women choose not to pursue any complaint or mediation, Trudeau will face another political challenge — whether to reinstate the two or not.
As it turns out, women parliamentarians from the different parties had been talking about developing a sexual harassment policy even before the Pacetti and Andrews cases emerged, but they had not yet come up with a formal proposal.
An all-party women's caucus meeting had been discussing the matter following the release of a 2012 document by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) on "gender-sensitive Parliaments."
The Library of Parliament had subsequently done an assessment of the issue in the Canadian context.
"We met before the summer and we said, why don't we take this home to our caucuses and see which things we would like to work on," said Bennett.
"This glaring gap, we should have plugged..."