Trudeau did the right thing in dealing with sexual assault allegations against two Liberal MPs
By Patrick Vaillancourt, Senior Columnist
If there was one good thing that came out of the Jian Ghomeshi sexual assault debacle, it was that a global conversation about sexual assault and the conduct that precludes it took place. New allegations are being brought forward against those with fame and financial resources (such as Bill Cosby), and now the issue has been brought up in a fairly embarrassing fashion to the hallowed halls of our national parliament.
A few weeks ago, two New Democratic Party (NDP) members of Parliament came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against parliamentarians of the Liberal Party. The allegations were brought to the Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau, who responded swiftly and suspended both Massimo Pacetti and Scott Andrews from his caucus, pending an independent investigation.
Pacetti’s case involves him hosting an NDP member in his hotel room and engaging in what the anonymous NDP member alleges to be “unwanted sexual advances.” In the end, they both alleged to have engaged in sex, but the NDP member claims to not have given “explicitly consent” to it.
The Andrews incident involves another female NDP MP who claims she was followed home by Andrews. Andrews allegedly forced himself through the door and pinned the woman against the wall. The woman was explicit in refusing Andrews’ advances and he left. Andrews; however, is subsequently alleged to have harassed the MP, most notably calling her a “cockteaser.”
Though the alleged victims in this case have asked that this not be turned into a political football, it is difficult to see how this was possible, especially since they brought their allegations not to Mulcair, their own party leader, but to Trudeau. Now the NDP is going after Trudeau for openly calling for an investigation into the issue and suspending Pacetti and Andrews.
Given the current political climate (less than a year out from the next federal election) and the notion that politics is essentially the art of staying in the public’s good graces, the expectation that Trudeau do nothing when presented with these allegations is quite simply ridiculous.
For the alleged victims and Mulcair to suggest that Trudeau is somehow responsible for the “re-victimization” of these MPs is grossly ignorant and unbecoming. A complaint came to the attention of the Liberal leader which gave him cause to disassociate himself from two members of his own party. It’s not even a political question anymore—I would not support a friend if evidence convinced me that this friend committed an act as heinous as sexual assault.
Trudeau did the right and decent thing out of a menu of terrible options. Had he sat on this information and done nothing, it would have potentially been dug up in the midst of a national election. The Conservative advertising machine would have decimated Trudeau for covering up the whole incident. Any political observer who has seen previous character assassinations of Liberal leaders would agree.
By suspending his members, he demonstrated decisiveness and leadership; by respecting the anonymity of the alleged NDP victims, he demonstrated compassion and humanity; and in bringing the situation to light with the Speaker of the House of Commons, he exposed a rather embarrassing reality that there is no policy or procedure that expressly outlines what to do in cases of sexual or personal misconduct by MPs against other Members of Parliament.