NDP pushes Trudeau to drop Liberal candidate accused of inappropriate behaviour
Raj Saini denies making unwanted sexual advances or inappropriate comments to young staffers
The NDP says Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau needs to drop southwestern Ontario candidate Raj Saini in light of allegations of inappropriate behaviour toward young female staffers that spanned his six years in office.
Seven sources with knowledge of the claims told CBC News of four different instances of Saini allegedly making unwanted sexual advances or inappropriate comments.
Saini said he has never acted inappropriately toward staff.
NDP candidate Lindsay Mathyssen, who is running for re-election in London-Fanshawe, held a press conference Wednesday morning to call on Trudeau to block Saini from running as a Liberal candidate.
"Justin Trudeau did what he has done so many times before — he stood by his man," she said.
"By refusing to live up to his words [by removing] Raj Saini as a Liberal candidate, Mr. Trudeau is sending a loud, clear and chilling message to women across Canada."
Mathyssen added that while she doesn't often agree with Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole, she thinks O'Toole did the right thing by believing the woman at the centre of the allegations against Troy Myers and dropping him as a candidate earlier this week.
PMO says it has no record
According to multiple sources, four female staffers told a senior Liberal staffer that Saini — along with former Liberal MP Marwan Tabbara — acted inappropriately by "touching" or being "handsy" with young female staffers at the Liberals' 2015 holiday party.
The sources said that information was shared with a senior member of the government, who brought the concerns to the Prime Minister's Office and Justin Trudeau's chief of staff, Katie Telford.
The Liberal Party told CBC News in a statement "it has no record or knowledge of the matter."
"There have been multiple allegations against this candidate and clearly they haven't been addressed properly," said Mathyssen.
WATCH | Liberal allowed to seek re-election despite claims of inappropriate behaviour
One former senior staffer who last year filed a Canadian Human Rights Commission complaint against Saini alleging unwelcome advances and harassing behaviour said it's upsetting that the party is allowing Saini to campaign again as a Liberal in Kitchener Centre.
The staffer said she raised concerns about Saini's behaviour over the past year and a half and that her experiences in his office contributed to her mental distress, culminating in her attempt to take her own life in his office in March 2020.
According to multiple sources, Saini later followed another junior Liberal staffer around at several functions and asked for her phone number.
In a third case, a female employee reported she felt very uneasy about Saini calling her to his Ottawa office late at night — in some cases around 10 p.m. — and brought an employee with her from another MP's office so she wasn't alone with him, according to another source. The Liberal Party also said it had no knowledge of this matter.
O'Toole says party needs a 'serious' response
Trudeau said the party is following an independent process to review the claims.
"This is something that Canadians expect. We make sure that there are proper, rigorous processes that everyone gets to go through when they come forward with concerns and allegations," he said Wednesday.
"In this case, Mr. Saini has shared details about the multiple processes that have gone through over the past many months and the efforts that have been made to demonstrate we are taking seriously every single concern that is raised."
WATCH: Trudeau defends decision to keep Raj Saini as candidate
O'Toole said that this case, coupled with the Liberals' handling of sexual misconduct allegations in the Canadian Armed Forces, point to a culture problem within the party.
"These are very serious allegations and troubling allegations. We need to make sure Parliament Hill is a place where people can come to serve their country, work in politics free from allegations and intimidation and workplace incidents," he said.
"I hope to hear a serious response from the prime minister and his team on how this type of coverup took place."
Tabbara was allowed to run in the 2019 federal election despite a party investigation into allegations of sexual harassment made against him in the previous mandate.
Tabbara later left caucus after police charged him with break and enter, assault and criminal harassment in an unrelated case last year.