MPs Share Stories of Sexual Misconduct On and Off Parliament Hill in Survey

January 3, 2018 Updated: January 3, 2018

OTTAWA—There have long been obstacles in the path of women seeking to succeed in politics—and some female MPs are now coming forward to share their own experiences with sexually inappropriate behaviour, both on and off Parliament Hill.

The Canadian Press surveyed current female MPs of every political stripe last month to find out the extent to which they had been the targets of sexual harassment, assault, or misconduct of all kinds, including during their time in elected office.

The responses make clear that political Ottawa—long a bastion of male-dominated power relationships—is no stranger to inappropriate behaviour against women, no matter their stature, with social media being the most common source of complaints.

Of 89 current female members of Parliament, 38 chose to respond to the voluntary survey, which sought their input on everything from lived experiences to their views on the global conversation growing out of allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, among others. Anonymity was promised to ensure MPs could share their experiences and opinions without fear of reprisal.

Nearly 58 percent of respondents said they had personally been the target of one or more forms of sexual misconduct while in office, including inappropriate or unwanted remarks, gestures, or text messages of a sexual nature.

That includes three MPs who said they were victims of sexual assault and four who said they were the targets of sexual harassment, defined in the survey as insistent and repeated sexual advances.

Nearly half of respondents—47 percent—said they were subjected to inappropriate comments on social media.

Some of the behaviour documented by the survey appears to have been at the hands of those within the corridors of power.

Twenty-two MPs who said they had personally experienced some form of sexual misconduct in office chose to answer a question about the perpetrators, with five saying it came from an MP from her own party. Ten said it came from an MP in a different political party.

Eight respondents said the perpetrator was a lobbyist, constituent, or other stakeholder known to them through their role in elected politics, while 18 said it was either someone from outside the world of politics or someone who is anonymous or otherwise unknown to them.

The MPs surveyed were nonetheless hesitant to suggest they are worse off than anyone else. Sixty-three percent of respondents said they don’t believe the level of sexual harassment in political circles is any different than any other workplace.

From The Canadian Press