NDP not yet investigating complaints against Stoffer

The federal NDP is not planning to launch an investigation into how the party handled allegations of sexual misconduct against former MP Peter Stoffer — at least not right now.

NDP spokeswoman not ruling out a future investigation

Former federal MP Peter Stoffer talks to reporters to address sexual harassment allegations in Halifax on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018. Stoffer denied the claims but apologized for actions that might have been interpreted as inappropriate. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

The federal NDP is not planning an investigation into how the party handled allegations of sexual misconduct against former MP Peter Stoffer — at least not right now.

New Democrats have been looking inward after several women who worked for the party came forward in recent days alleging Stoffer acted inappropriately toward them — allegations that included reports of touching and kissing.

At least one told the National Post that her complaints were raised with senior party leaders after two alleged incidents in 2006 and 2009, but they essentially were ignored.

Stoffer, who held the Halifax-area riding of Sackville-Eastern Shore from 1997 to 2015, has acknowledged some of his actions may have caused discomfort and has apologized for that. But he has denied sexually assaulting or physically abusing anyone.

Party spokeswoman Sarah Andrews said Monday NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has opened his door to anyone who wants to share their experiences, but there are no current plans to dive into the allegations against Stoffer.

"I wouldn't say an investigation has been absolutely ruled out. As of now, one hasn't been launched," Andrews told The Canadian Press.

"Caucus hasn't had a chance to meet yet, so they'll be meeting on Wednesday. I imagine it will come up as a topic of conversation. And we're monitoring the situation. It might evolve."

Former NDP MP speaks after allegations of inappropriate behaviour 6:04

Singh recently launched an investigation into allegations of harassment against current New Democrat MP Erin Weir, after caucus colleague Christine Moore said she had heard of some female staffers raising concerns about harassment. Moore had not personally experienced the alleged harassment herself.

Potential complainants have been given until Feb. 20 to come forward with specific allegations. Weir has denied any wrongdoing.

Conservatives reviewing policies

Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer also has ordered an external investigation into how former MP Rick Dykstra was allowed to run as candidate for the party in 2015 despite senior party officials knowing that he had been accused of sexual assault.

Dykstra has denied the allegations, which have not been tested in court or independently confirmed by The Canadian Press.

New Democrats say their party is focused on strengthening its anti-harassment policies in lieu of an investigation, and the issue will be a major focus inside caucus and at the party's biennial policy convention in Ottawa later this week.

NDP MPs will receive sensitivity training from an outside presenter in the coming weeks, Andrews said, while a briefing has been scheduled with the House of Commons' director of human resources to create and sustain a safe workplace.

The party is also offering a 45-minute online course to all its MPs, along with small group sessions.

Meanwhile, delegates at the policy convention starting Friday will be presented with an updated anti-harassment policy that has been in the works for several months and will include guidance for raising and handling complaints.

"We realized that our policy wasn't sufficient in many contexts. It was a policy that was mostly made with conventions and these types of gatherings in mind," said a senior party official, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

"But it was incomplete when it comes to office relationships, campaign offices and stuff like that. It will define more clearly what is acceptable and what isn't, especially what isn't. Because the ultimate goal is to still prevent it from happening at all."

The party also plans to hold training sessions for delegates who want to attend, the official said, and will increase the number of "anti-harassment co-ordinators" and make them more visible during the convention.