The #metoo movement is picking up steam in Canada, and it looks like politics is the first place it hit.
In the past couple of months, we have seen politicians stand down and staff leave in response to allegations of harassment and sexual abuse; some because they are the culprit, and others because of the culprit.
Although in Alberta, as of the writing of this editorial, it appears that the only person who has gotten in trouble is UCP MLA Jason Nixon, after it was revealed in December that he fired a female worker in 2005 after she complained of harassment at her worksite, on the other side of the country, it is another story.
Ontario is less then five months away from an election, and it’s PC party is under interim leadership after former leader Patrick Brown was forced to resign after being accused by two women of sexual misconduct in incidents dating back to when he was a federal MP and staff members quite when he initially refused to resign. The party has set an ambitious date of March 10 to choose a new leader.
Federally, MPs from all parties have had accusations leveled against them, with some more recent examples being Rick Dykstra, a former Conservative MP that was accused of sexual assault in 2014 but party officials allowed him to run anyway, with an investigation into why being launched; Kent Hehr, Liberal MP and former minister of sport and persons with disabilities who resigned from cabinet pending an investigation into sexual harassment allegations; and NDP MP Erin Weir, who is temporarily suspended from duties pending the outcome of an investigation sexual harassment allegations.
Although applause must be given for action being taken, one cannot help but wonder what took so long for action to be taken, considering how in some of these cases there were multiple victims, the incidents were known and/or some time had passed since then.
And now, with the Weir case being latest, some people have started scratching their heads and wondering why NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is jumping the gun on this.
Weir’s case is unusual in that an investigation is being launched not because someone can forth alleging ‘So-and-so did this to me’, but rather it was through a third party, another NDP MP, who sent out an email to the party caucus with the allegations. As of press deadline, no one has stepped forth with allegations against Weir.
Weir is quoted as saying, “I am confident that I have not harassed anyone and welcome a prompt investigation to clear my name”.
Singh was recently quoted saying that the presumption of innocence “is strictly about the procedures in court”, so it looks like he’s walking the walk here with the Weir situation. With both the Liberals and Conservatives taking some time before announcing investigations — after victims came forward with their allegations — Singh could certainly be called proactive on this issue.
Could it be called blowing the problem out of proportion, especially since no victim has yet to come forth? In the court of public opinion, it’s better to be seen as overtly cautious then doing nothing at all. Every political party’s reputation is tied to its members, so if even one acts inappropriately, there it goes down the drain.
Additionally, the issue of sexual harassment, assault and abuse should be on the minds of everyone right now. The #metoo reckoning is centuries in the making. According to a now infamous Globe and Mail report that came out in 2017, one out every five sexual assaults reported to police were considered unfounded — or did not happen — and out of those cases that were deemed founded, less than half resulted in a criminal charge, half of those charges resulted in prosecution, half of those prosecutions resulted in convictions. By the time the judicial process has ended, about 0.3 per cent of all founded sexual-assault reports lead to a conviction. Given that according to sexualassault.ca, only six out of 100 cases are reported to police, how one in four North American women will be sexually assaulted at some point in their life and how over 80 per cent of sexual assault victims are women, that means the number of those getting away is astronomical.
In the wake of this, there has been a fair amount of men wondering how they can work around females and worrying about whether their interactions can be constructed as harassment.
To them, consider this; just treat your fellow coworkers, neighbours, strangers, et all as human beings. It does not take a genius to know that at work, you should be professional and not propositioning your co-worker or employee.