Kent Hehr, Liberal cabinet minister, accused of sexual harassment

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

 

Kent Hehr, the Liberal minister for sports and people with disabilities, is being accused of making sexually suggestive comments to female political staffers during his years in the Alberta legislature.

Hehr abruptly cancelled a press conference scheduled for Thursday morning after a question posed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by Global News prompted him to say that he would be speaking with Hehr shortly regarding allegations that were levelled against him late Wednesday by a provincial political staffer.

Kristin Raworth, an Alberta public servant, posted a thread on Twitter late Wednesday night following a stunning press conference in which former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown preemptively denied allegations of sexual misconduct that would minutes later be revealed in a CTV News report.

The CTV report stated that two women, who were not named, alleged sexual misconduct on the part of Brown in two incidents roughly a decade apart.

The first allegation was from over 10 years ago and involved a now 29-year-old woman who said that while she was in high school, Brown propositioned her during a tour of his home and allegedly asked her to perform oral sex, which she did briefly.

Brown resigned several hours later.

In her tweets following the publication of those allegations, Raworth said she wanted to add her own story of sexual harassment to the growing avalanche of voices in the #MeToo movement and described inappropriate comments she alleges Hehr made to women, including herself, in elevators in the Alberta legislature.

At a press conference marking the end of his visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday morning, Trudeau was asked about the allegations and why, in light of them and in light of past accusations of inappropriate and condescending behaviour, Hehr remains in Liberal cabinet and caucus.

Trudeau stressed the importance of believing women who come forward with stories of sexual harassment.

“Obviously, as I’ve said many times throughout this week, it’s really important to believe and support any woman who comes forward with allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault and that’s exactly what my government, myself, do,” he said.

“I don’t need to remind anyone of the positions I’ve taken since the very beginning of my leadership on issues surrounding this. I’ve been unequivocal of my support for women who step forward with allegations of this nature and that continues.”

Trudeau said he expects to have more to say on the matter shortly.

“I haven’t yet had the opportunity to speak directly with Kent,” he said. “I will in the coming hours, and we will have more to say before the plane lifts off tonight.”

Moments later, officials cancelled a press conference with Hehr that was scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. in Toronto to announce new funding for people with disabilities.

It is not yet clear how Hehr will respond or whether he will resign as a result of the allegations.

Global News has reached out to his press secretary asking for comment and was told the office would respond as soon as possible, but has not yet received clarification on the question.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley called on governments to act and implement to prevent sexual harassment, noting that the stories coming out now have been the realities of women across the country for far too long.

“Owing to the bravery and resolve of women speaking out, we are finally facing a reality that unfolds daily in the lives of countless women. Generations of people have worked to get us to this point and no longer will they be sidelined and dismissed,” Notley said in a statement.

“It matters how we treat one another. The changes we make today have to last. Governments at all levels have a duty to lead: with better resources and supports to protect victims, laws that create healthier workplaces, and safe avenues for people to speak out. Enough already. We can change. Let’s change together.”

Meanwhile, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi  said little when asked about the allegations against Hehr but said it was positive to see the support more broadly that individuals feel that they can come forward to share their stories.

“I don’t know anything about it so I can’t say much about it,” he said. “I think that it is great that we live in a community and a time in history where people are feeling comfortable coming forward, because everyone deserves to be safe in their workplace, in their homes, in the community. And I think that’s something that everyone in public life shares.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also weighed in, saying the party had discussed the need to support women and help make it easier for them to come forward during their caucus retreat in Ottawa over the past two days.

“We need to believe survivors. That’s a starting point,” he said. “We also need to acknowledge the courage it takes to come forward.”

In December, Hehr was accused by a group of thalidomide survivors of making “degrading” comments to them during meetings.

He denied making one of the statements the victims accused him of and said two others they had flagged were misinterpreted.

Shortly after that accusation, he came under fire again for comments he was alleged to have made to two activists in Calgary and Nova Scotia who came to him seeking assistance while he was minister for veterans affairs.

He apologized to the woman in Calgary, but denied the accusation from the woman in Halifax.

The accusation is the latest against Canadian politicians.

On Wednesday, Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie was forced to resign following an investigation into “allegations of inappropriate behaviour.”

Prior to that, Liberal MP Sherry Romanado accused Conservative MP and defence critic James Bezan of making “inappropriate, humiliating and unwanted comments” to her at a public event in the spring of 2017, which prompted him to apologize.

Claude-Éric Gagné, the deputy director of operations in the Prime Minister’s Office, was also put on leave last month following allegations of inappropriate behaviour that prompted a third-party investigation, which remains underway.

Liberal MP Darshan Kang is also on leave — though his is medical — after allegations surfaced in August 2017 that he had sexually harassed a young female staffer and then offered her money to stay quiet.

Kang has denied those allegations and was not immediately kicked out of the Liberal caucus despite calls from critics who say Trudeau should give him the boot, as he did to two MPs in 2014.

He ultimately resigned from caucus at the end of August.

Montreal MP Massimo Pacetti and Newfoundland MP Scott Andrews were removed from caucus by Trudeau swiftly following allegations made by two female NDP colleagues, and some have used those examples to question why Trudeau has not kicked out King or Hehr from caucus over their respective allegations.

Hehr holds one of the three Liberal seats in Alberta.

Hehr’s win in 2015 was a major breakthrough for the party in downtown Calgary.

Source :

Global News

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