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The Liberal Party Just Lost Two MPs to Sexual Harassment Allegations

Shock is reverberating through Parliament Hill after news broke yesterday that Liberal leader Justin Trudeau supsended Liberal MPs Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti over sexual harassment allegations from two NDP MPs last week.
Justin Ling
Montreal, CA

​ ​Trudeau acted quickly and decisively yesterday. Photo ​via WikiMedia Commons.

​​​Justin Trudeau booted two members of his party yesterday, to the surprise of everyone—including the accused, and accusers.

The Wednesday-morning shitstorm was created after news broke that Trudeau was kicking out Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti over sexual harassment allegations, brought to him by two NDP MPs the week prior.

Here's what we know so far: An MP approached Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau on October 28, about sexual harassment directed at her from one of his Liberal MPs. Trudeau pulled in party whip (yes that's a real job title in Canadian politics) Judy Foote, and the two contacted Nycole Turmel, the NDP whip. Somewhere in-between, a second MP came forward to make allegations about sexual harassment coming from another Liberal MP. Four of them—the whips, and the two accusing the harassment—held a meeting on October 30.


A week later—yesterday—Trudeau told his MPs he was suspending Andrews and Pacetti from caucus and cancelling their nominations to run again. Trudeau wouldn't confirm additional details, simply calling it "serious misconduct." Neither MP was present for the announcement, and both have maintained that they haven't been confronted with the details of the allegations against them. They, of course, maintain their innocence.

Trudeau's swift housecleaning was carried out unbeknownst to the two NDP MPs who brought their complaints to Trudeau in private. The Liberals did inform the New Democrats of the plan in advance.

The NDP lashed out at Trudeau last night, with Turmel accusing him of "re-victimizing" the two MPs. The two women in question were reportedly not at all pleased with his decision.

Now, the issue will be looked at by the top secret Board of Internal Economy. That committee, staffed by MPs from the three main parties, meets in secret and is sworn to confidentiality. They'll be tasked with figuring out what to do next.

Making all this painfully more complex is that nobody really knows how workplace harassment laws apply to Parliament—a fact allegedly conveyed to one parliamentary intern by a Liberal MP who had rubbed his cro​tch against her.

In a 2005 case before the Supreme Court—Canada v​. Vaidthe justices on the top bench decided that members of Parliament enjoy immunity from lawsuits, if they're doing their job, but that employees can file workplace grievances in some cases.


So while the Court opened the door for a hypothetical sexual harassment lawsuit, it's not exactly clear-cut.

One of the most amazing things is how long it's taken for a case like this to come forward.

Just about every staffer, MP, and journalist on Parliament Hill has a story about sexual harassment. Grabbed asses, catcalls, unrequested advances—par for the course.

Personally, I've seen every manner of cringe-worthy smooth talk coming from middle-aged male MPs—from all parties—levied at 20-something female staffers and journalists. Usually it's just talk, but sometimes the flirting gets touchy-feely.

According to sources on the Hill, a common justification for why the harassment isn't reported is that no female MP, journalist, or staffer—the harassment is almost always against females—wants to be "that girl." Coming forward is equated with a sign of weakness, and nobody on the Hill wants to look weak, as if they can't handle the pressures of Parliament.

To that end, some MPs deal with it themselves—"street justice"—or lodge complaints internally. The whips of each caucus are responsible for internal party disputes.

But the power imbalance between staffers and politicians is pretty rank. It means that harassment from MPs often goes unreported as women gawk at what appears to be an inconceivable task—that is, trying to bring a sexual harassment complaint against the guys who run the country. Either that, or they grit their teeth and bear the unwanted attention, out of fear that reporting it would jeopardize their career. One factor in the calculation is also that accepting an MP's unwanted advances could ultimately help young staffers' careers.


One Hill denizen says she's seen her fair share of innocuous, run-of-the-mill flirtation that she can put up with—but cites about five cases where things went too far, and crossed the line into serious harassment.

Either way, the culture of chauvinism on the Hill has been around for a while, and it doesn't seem to be improving.

In the backdrop of yesterday's events was the ongoing saga of Jian Ghomeshi. Many of the women who have come forward about the former CBC host's alleged sexual violence said they were afraid of speaking publicly, as it could jeopardize their careers, or that they may become the subject of media attacks.

Not unlike the culture in Ottawa.

Depending on how the investigation proceeds, Pacetti and Andrews could find themselves kicked out of not just the Liberal Party, but out of Parliament itself.

On top of all this, for the past few days, Parliament has been figuring out what to do with Dean Del Mastro: the guy who has been charged and found guilty of flagrantly bypassing election-spending caps. He was kicked out of the Conservative Party in 2013—opting to call himself an "Independent Conservative"—but was allowed to keep his seat until a judge ruled on his case.

He was found guilty last week, so the House of Commons—the NDP and Liberals at first, with the Conservatives joining the cause later on—moved to suspend him.

Del Mastro beat them to the punch yesterday, amid the chaos around the sexual harassment allegations, and delivered a tearful goodbye as he resigned his seat.

For those keeping score at home, that leaves the House of Commons with seven independent MPs.