Trudeau says zero tolerance on misconduct toward women applies to him as well

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he has been respectful of women and is confident no one will be able to accuse him of the kinds of behaviour that have brought down several high-profile politicians this week.

In CBC Radio interview, PM says recent high-profile cases aren't about compliments taken the wrong way

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sat down with Chris Hall, host of CBC Radio's The House in the Library of Parliament. (Marc Robichaud/CBC)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says women who come forward with complaints of sexual assault and harassment must be supported and believed.

And he's confident no one will be able to accuse him of the kinds of behaviour that have brought down several high-profile politicians this week.

"I've been very, very careful all my life to be thoughtful, to be respectful of people's space and people's headspace as well," he told CBC Radio's The House, in an interview airing Saturday.

When asked if any of his past actions could be misconstrued, Trudeau said he didn't think so.

"This is something that I'm not new to. I've been working on issues around sexual assault for over 25 years.

"My first activism and engagement was at the sexual assault centre at McGill students' society where I was one of the first male facilitators in their outreach program leading conversations — sometimes very difficult ones — on the issues of consent, communications, accountability, power dynamics."

PM speaks to CBC about harassment

6 years ago
Duration 1:15
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Chris Hall the host of CBC Radio's The House

The international #MeToo movement that has hit Hollywood producers, Capitol Hill and boardrooms has wafted into Canadian politics.

Last week, Trudeau accepted Kent Hehr's resignation from cabinet pending an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment.

Kristin Raworth alleged on social media that Hehr made the inappropriate comments — which included calling her "yummy" — when he was an Alberta MLA a decade ago and she was an employee at the legislature.

Hehr remains in caucus.

Hehr's resignation came hours after Patrick Brown stepped down as leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party following allegations of sexual misconduct. 

In Tuesday's interview with CBC's Chris Hall, Trudeau said his government is trying to balance listening to victims and giving the accused due process, but he made a point of saying the recent allegations are cases where women felt unsafe in their work environment.

'No frivolous approaches'

"These are not just compliments that were taken wrong, or comments that could have meant nothing. There are situations in the cases that we're discussing these days that fundamentally made women unsafe in the work environment, unsure about themselves and truly affected their lives," he said.

"There are no frivolous approaches that have been highlighted so far."

An independent investigation into Hehr's behaviour will be conducted.

Trudeau said if allegations surfaced against him the same standards would apply.

Brown allegedly made sexual advances toward a 19-year-old staffer who was drunk during his time as a federal MP, according to one of two women whose accusations of sexual misconduct led to his resignation as leader of Ontario's Progressive Conservative party early Thursday. 

He categorically denies those allegations.

The day before, Nova Scotia PC leader Jamie Baillie was forced out as party leader and later resigned his seat in the legislature after allegations of workplace sexual harassment.

Asked if he thought that MPs should have to sign a code of conduct when they take their place in the House of Commons, Trudeau said Canada's Olympic Athletes must sign a code of conduct before going off to represent Canada and that the idea was interesting. 

"I think it's a very interesting idea that people who represent their communities and represent Canada in this place should really be accountable to a code of conduct," Trudeau said.