Trudeau says Liberals 'doing the best that we can' amid sexual harassment allegations
Party trying balance support for victims while giving accused due process after Kent Hehr allegations, PM says
Amid allegations of sexual misconduct in his own caucus, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government is "doing the best that it can" to balance support for victims while giving the accused their due process.
Late last week, Trudeau accepted Kent Hehr's resignation from cabinet pending an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment.
Kristin Raworth alleged 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.
"I don't have a rule book handed that's been handed down to me from Wilfrid Laurier as leader of the Liberal Party on how to handle these situations. This is new for organizations to have to deal with in this way," said Trudeau Tuesday when asked why Hehr still sits as a Liberal.
"We are doing the best that we can on a case-by-case basis, starting from a space of respect, of support, of belief."
Trudeau also said the party needs to have due process. An outside firm is handling the Hehr investigation.
Asked about own conduct
"We are moving forward as many organizations are now doing and are having to do to establish processes where before there were no processes," Trudeau said.
The same firm is investigating Claude-Éric Gagné, deputy director of operations in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office, after allegations of inappropriate behaviour surfaced in December. He is on a leave.
Darshan Kang, resigned from the Liberal caucus last fall amid allegations of sexual harassment toward a woman at his constituency office in Calgary. Kang has denied any wrongdoing.
Since then, another woman has come forward with allegations she was groped and sexually harassed by Kang when he was an Alberta MLA.
Kirstin Morrell told The Canadian Press that five months after the party promised an internal investigation, she has not heard back from officials in the provincial party.
Before he took office as prime minister, Trudeau suspended, and later kicked out, Liberal MPs Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti from caucus after allegations of sexual harassment were raised.
Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef said the Liberal government is leading the way, globally, on addressing gender-based violence.
"We are listening to these stories," she said. "We are taking them seriously. Of course, every case will be different."
When asked whether the #MeToo movement has him reflecting on his own conduct, Trudeau pointed to his past volunteering with the sexual assault centre during his time at McGill University.
"I led conversations with fraternities, sororities, residences, school groups, activity groups on issues of consent, of power dynamics, of date rape," he said. "And we always know there is more reflection and more engagement to be had."
The prime minister was also asked about a blog post suggesting a "very powerful" man would soon be exposed during the #MeToo wave.
Trudeau denied knowing who the rumour was about.
Trudeau's comments came after at announcement that Canada would officially recognise the UN's International Decade for People of African Descent.
"This means learning more about the issues that affect black Canadians, including improving research and data collection, so we can better understand the particular challenges they face," said a statement from Trudeau's office.
With files from the Canadian Press