After federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau insisted on Sunday that the proper process was followed in examining staff allegations of sexual misconduct toward former Liberal MP Raj Saini, the federal Conservatives are calling for further answers.
They're accusing Trudeau of continuing to “evade accountability,” arguing he may be more “personally implicated” in the ongoing scandal than he has indicated.
Speaking during a policy announcement in Markham over the weekend, Trudeau said he was aware that his answers regarding the allegations of sexual misconduct made toward Saini are “unsatisfactory,” though he maintained that “respecting the process, respecting people's privacy and respecting the integrity of the approach” needs to be the approach taken in addressing the serious allegations.
“We had a process that we went though on the allegations that came forward a year ago, and the independent rigorous conclusion was that we could proceed with Mr. Saini as our candidate,” said Trudeau.
“Recently, very recently, perhaps linked to the visibility of this issue in the news ... there (has) been new information that came forward that have resulted in Mr. Saini no longer being our candidate.”
When questioned by members of the media, Trudeau refused to elaborate on the nature of those new allegations, when he became aware of those allegations or how many had come forward.
Trudeau was also asked if he regretted waiting so long to make the decision to no longer have Saini as a member of the Liberal party caucus, and if he felt he’d let down those who came forward with allegations and the Liberal supporters of Kitchener Centre.
Conservative candidate Michelle Rempel Garner has since followed up on a letter sent to House of Commons clerk Charles Robert last week, citing information from both the CBC and the Waterloo Region Record regarding the conduct Mr. Saini’s staff in handling the allegations made against the former MP.
Writing to the clerk, Rempel Garner said that report argues that Saini’s Liberal caucus colleagues were allegedly aware of the allegations of misconduct, and “may have interfered in the proper application of the Board of Internal Economy’s Members of the House of Commons Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Policy.”
“The Record reported that Mark Holland, Liberal Party Whip and long-time member of the Board of Internal Economy, allegedly suggested the staffer enter into mediation with the employer who she says seriously harassed her,” wrote Rempel Garner.
“The article also alleges that the staffer felt this course of action was inappropriate in view of the gravity of her experience.”
The Conservative candidate argues that there is an “inherent power imbalance” when staff are directed to take a specific action by their party whip, as she said that proper application of the house’s policy on workplace harassment and violence prevention should have prevented that from occurring.
“The Policy itself makes quite clear ... that a complaint will be investigated, instead of being steered into mediation with an accused perpetrator, if that is what the complainant wants,” wrote Rempel Garner.
“Mediation is a voluntary process, agreed to by both partied, that is used to resolve conflicts. Both parties must agree to mediation and accept the mediator.”
In that article, the Record also reported that the employee contacted Waterloo Liberal incumbent Bardish Chagger for assistance in addressing the situation.
The federal Conservatives are now calling on Trudeau to provide further information on the process of exploring those allegations made by staff against Saini, as well as his own knowledge of when those allegations were raised, whether he was aware of them when campaigning alongside Saini, and why the Liberal leader made the decision to defend Mr. Saini for over a week.
In addition, the Conservatives have also asked Trudeau if he’s aware of allegations against any other Liberal candidates.
Saini has denied the allegations of misconduct levelled against him by his staff, issuing a statement on Saturday that called them “defamatory,” as he said he was in the process of consulting legal council to “review all options” in challenging them.