As Justin Trudeau made a campaign stop in Ottawa to commit nearly $6.5 billion in new federal funding for mental health services across the country, the Liberal leader also faced questions about one of his candidates creating a toxic work environment.
The allegations, which have been raised in new reporting from CBC News, suggest several unnamed sources have come forward with allegations regarding two-time Kitchener-Centre MP Raj Saini, including unwanted sexual advances and inappropriate comments.
Saini has held the Kitchener-Centre riding for the federal Liberal party since being first elected there in 2015.
"I've said many times and will continue insist that everyone deserves to have a safe workplace, in the public service, in political campaigns, and right across the country in whatever jobs they have," said Justin Trudeau, touting his and his party's record on such issues in the past.
That said, while none of the allegations have been made publicly yet beyond what's been reported by the CBC, the Liberal leader did seem to confirm past issues have come to light.
"Mr. Saini has shared the processes, there have been rigorous processes undertaken that he has shared the details of," Trudeau said. "We know that it is extremely important to take any allegation seriously, which we certainly have, and we always will because everyone deserves a safe workplace."
The allegations seem to stem, at least in part, from social media posts from one of Saini's former senior staffers.
In a post on Twitter, that person suggests she is now campaigning on behalf of the NDP candidate in Waterloo adding "candidate integrity and ethics are important to me."
In a separate post, she goes on to say "treating women with respect" also played a factor in her decision.
Saini and his staff provided the following statements to 570 NEWS on Wednesday:
I take the health and safety of all my staff extremely seriously. As you know, confidentiality in any process like this is paramount. I have never acted inappropriately towards staff or constituents. I have only ever been made aware of one allegation regarding my office. The individual chose not to pursue a formal or informal complaint process. Upon learning of this, I insisted an independent third-party review of my office take place through the House of Commons. The outcome of that review, which was completed in June 2020, found that nothing arose regarding concerns of harassment in the office.
Further, the file was provided to the Waterloo Regional Police after concerns were raised by the House of Commons regarding my personal safety and the safety of my staff. The police, in this instance, took action to mediate the situation and ensure the safety of everyone involved.
Protecting my staff and ensuring they are respected is not something I take lightly. As you can appreciate, I can’t discuss specifics regarding this matter, in order to protect the privacy of all those involved.
LPC Candidate-Kitchener Centre
We, current female and male staff for Raj Saini's MP office, are sharing the following statement in support of Raj Saini.
Raj has consistently treated us with the utmost respect and professionalism, regardless of gender or background. The claims made are wholly inconsistent with our extensive experience working for Raj, both personally experienced as well as witnessed in his interactions with other staff, volunteers, and our community.
We feel fortunate to have an employer who is supportive, understanding, and fair, and who works to ensure a positive and inclusive environment for his team.
- Current staff of Raj Saini