OTTAWA—Two female New Democrat MPs alleging misconduct at the hands of two of their Liberal counterparts shouldn’t be pushed to lodge formal complaints, no matter how serious their allegations might be, their leader says.
It is up to the two women to decide when and if they want to participate in any sort of investigative process, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said Wednesday.
“Nobody has the right to decide in the place of a victim what they do and at what speed,” Mulcair said.
Mulcair’s continued defence of the women’s refusal to participate came after The Canadian Press revealed that NDP MP Craig Scott, a former law professor, told the Liberals that one of the misconduct incidents—as it was described to him—amounted to an allegation of sexual assault.
Multiple sources say Scott issued that assessment during a behind-the-scenes meeting on Oct. 30 with the Liberal and NDP whips, to which he had accompanied one of the alleged victims.
In a written statement Wednesday, Scott accused the Liberals of breaching the confidentiality of the meeting. He did not confirm or deny having characterized the incident as an allegation of sexual assault.
“I attended a meeting with the Liberal whip at the request of, and in order to help and support, a friend and colleague,” Scott said.
“My good faith contribution to this meeting was confidential. This good faith has been breached and confidentiality deliberately broken in a way that further disrespects and puts pressure on the victim.”
Scott further added that victim rights must be respected “whether the matter is civil, criminal or disciplinary.”
It was the seriousness of the allegations that prompted Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau to suspend Massimo Pacetti and Scott Andrews from his caucus, despite their denials of any wrongdoing.
Trudeau has refused since then to elaborate on the nature of the complaints, which he has described only as involving “serious personal misconduct.”
Trudeau agreed Wednesday that the women should not face “undue pressure” to participate in a confidential, third-party investigation into the alleged misconduct, as offered by Andrew Scheer, Speaker of the House of Commons.
Nevertheless, he said he wants to give them a few days to reflect on the Speaker’s offer before deciding how to proceed with his two suspended MPs, who’ve been left in limbo.
“It is our hope that the Speaker’s process will be picked up but we are also looking at other alternatives for this,” Trudeau said.
If the women continue to balk, Liberal insiders say one option would be to have a neutral third party investigate the allegations, using details from notes taken by a Liberal staffer during the whips’ meetings with the alleged victims.
Trudeau acknowledged that’s an option, although he said it would not be “ideal” to proceed without the participation of the complainants.
So, far, there’s been no indication the women will change their minds.
Mulcair said he doesn’t know if the women might take up the Speaker’s offer because he hasn’t spoken to them about it. From the outset, he said the alleged victims never wanted the matter to become public and, like Scott, he accused the Liberals of disrespecting their wishes and breaching confidentiality.
“There was a very concrete, hard and fast undertaking that if they accepted to speak with the Liberal whip and a couple of others, that that confidentiality would be respected in every way,” Mulcair said.
“It has not been and I’ll let you ask them why it hasn’t been.”
Trudeau countered by pointing out that the whole affair began when one of the NDP MPs complained directly to him about the conduct of the two Liberals. Both women then agreed to take part in discussions with the whips of the two parties.
“I recognize that a process was begun when the individuals in question came forward and shared the issue
with the leader of another party,” Trudeau said.
“I mean, we cannot get away from the fact that a complaint was lodged.”
In written statements the day they were suspended two weeks ago, Pacetti and Andrews said they would co-operate fully with an independent investigation and expressed confidence that they’d be exonerated.
In his home province of Newfoundland and Labrador on Wednesday, Andrews told reporters he’s looking forward to a speedy resolution of the matter “in the very near future” and that he intends to run for re-election in 2015.
However, Trudeau has also suspended the candidacies of both MPs.