Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday November 8, 2014
Uncharted waters on Parliament Hill
Of all the utterances in the wake of yesterday’s revelation that two Liberal MPs have been removed from caucus pending the outcome of an investigation into sexual harassment allegations, perhaps the most prescient was this: This is uncharted territory.
It’s not, unfortunately, that sexual harassment is a new thing on Parliament Hill. Far from it. Those who have worked there confirm by the dozens that it’s a unique hothouse work atmosphere where strange and often inappropriate things happen. Which raises an interesting question. If Parliament is indeed a hotbed of questionable moral and ethical behaviour, why hasn’t the Ottawa press corps written about it before now? Could it be that they’re too close to it, that the press gallery has actually become part of the machine?
What is unprecedented here is what happened after the alleged harassing incidents in which the two Liberal MPs are said to have displayed inappropriate conduct toward two female NDP MPs. They took their concerns to their party leader, Tom Mulcair, who determined the situation would be dealt with internally while safeguarding the identities of the MPs.
Then one of the two took her concerns directly to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, and Parliament Hill hasn’t been the same since. After having senior advisers investigate, Trudeau announced the two Liberals were suspended. The resulting firestorm of controversy led to Mulcair accusing Trudeau of “revictimizing” the already traumatized MPs, who weren’t given any notice of the plan to go public.
Mulcair may be sincere, and he may be playing partisan, but regardless he’s off base. What would he suggest Trudeau have done? Had he kept things quiet, he would have been accused of sweeping the matter under the carpet. That’s not a perception he can afford, nor one anyone should find appropriate given the current climate around sexual harassment.
Trudeau is on solid ground here. If anything, he erred on the side of transparency. He didn’t do anything to identify the complainants. In fact, the circle of people who know their identities is small enough that it’s hard to buy Mulcair’s claim of revictimization.
Will the details of the allegations ever come out? Probably not, as that would tend to identify the complainants. So the two Liberal MPs could be branded without really facing their accusers, which isn’t ideal.
While little is clear in this unfolding story, this much is: Parliament needs a better and less politically weighted process to facilitate this sort of complaint. This one seems ad hoc, imprecise, and probably ultimately unfair to one or perhaps all parties involved. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)