As It Happens

Conservative Party official who knew of Rick Dykstra allegations: 'I really just wanted to help'

A woman who says former MP Rick Dykstra sexually assaulted her in 2014 took the allegations to Kym Purchase, then chief-of-staff in the Conservative whip's office.
Rick Dykstra stepped down as president of the Ontario PC Party amid an allegation of sexual assault. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

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A former Conservative staffer says she tried to do right by the woman who is accusing Rick Dykstra of sexual assault.

Maclean's magazine published a story Sunday saying the former Ontario PC Party president allegedly sexually assaulted a parliamentary staffer in Ottawa when he was Conservative MP in 2014.

The report said the incident was known to senior Conservative staffers — including Kym Purchase, then-chief-of-staff in the party whip's office. Still, he was still cleared to run for the party in the 2015 campaign.

Dykstra resigned his position as president of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives on Sunday night. His lawyers told Canadian Press that he "categorically denies" the story. As It Happens has not independently confirmed details of the alleged sexual assault.

Purchase spoke to As It Happens guest host Helen Mann on Monday, saying she did what she could to support the woman emotionally. She says she felt she didn't have the tools at the time to do much else.

Here is part of that conversation.

How did you feel when you learned that these allegations of sexual assault against Rick Dykstra were finally made public, nearly four years after you first learned of them?

I felt, I guess, an immediate sense of anxiety, in terms of how far the story had gotten with respect to the person who had reported it. But I think part of me also relieved.

What was the source of the anxiety?

When I learned of these allegations, the person involved was adamant, quite, quite afraid that the information would be made public.

When did you actually learn of the allegations? 

In the spring of 2014.

Dykstra was a Conservative MP when the alleged assault occurred. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

And how did you come to be involved?

There were friends of hers, some of whom were also staffers on the Hill, who had spent some social time with her on the previous weekend and she had made serious allegations, and so it was indicated to me that there were serious allegations being made.

I called her and I asked her if she would be OK meeting with me and she agreed to do so, so we met later that morning.

You say you wanted to help. What did you want to do?

I wanted to do what she wanted to do. My thought at the time was, if she was telling people, she was probably looking for someone to help her. I didn't know what I could do, but I wanted to see what she wanted. 

And what was your sense of what she wanted from you, what she thought should happen next?

She asked me for my word that I would not do anything further on it.

Did you have any formal tools at hand that you could have carried on, some kind of process, some procedures that you should have perhaps followed, if they had been available to you?

Not at that time, no. 

As you know in the article in Maclean's, she says that she is certain that she asked for a file to be created, presumably one that would have been kept as a record in the whip's office. Is that your recollection?

No, that is not my recollection. My recollection was that she wanted to make sure that there was no leak and no information that got out.

I thought a lot about this. I read that, and I'm troubled by it as well. I really just wanted to help. And when I left that meeting I thought what I was doing was respecting what she asked of me.

So did you share the information with anyone?

I couldn't. It's terrible, but I couldn't.

How much did you think about that? Did it weigh on you?

An awful lot. You know, here's this young woman, early in her career, carrying this burden and what she's most afraid of is that someone is going to find out and her career is going to be ruined before it gets started. 

So it brings us forward to the fall of 2015 and the allegations reach senior Conservative campaign operatives. At that point, they're deciding whether they might drop Rick Dykstra as the candidate for MP. They decided not to do that. Can you tell us anything about that process?

I don't actually know which senior campaign folks knew what at any given time during all of this. A request came in from her lawyer to the whip's office looking for a document, this memo that I did not have. And I subsequently received communication from the party lawyer asking me the same kinds of question you're asking me.

Have you reached out to this woman now this information is public?

I thought about it. But I don't know that I want to do that. I don't want to disturb whatever sort of safe place she's created for herself. She was somebody that I effectively met that day and I don't want to intrude upon her life. I hope she's doing really well.

Do you have regrets about the situation?

I regret that it happened. I regret that she had to go through it. I regret that this went on for so long and now it's coming out and I regret all of that.

But I really just wanted to help and I believed that listening to her story, believing her and then respecting her wishes was the best that I could do to help. And I hope it was. And I don't regret it.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For the full interview with Kym Purchase, click listen above.

— With files from CBC News