On the heels of the Jian Ghomeshi scandal, who was fired from CBC for alleged sexual assaults, two Liberal MPs have been expelled from the party. The connection? Both of these cases deal with sexual assault allegations against public figures and what it means to make these kind of allegations.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau promptly expelled Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti after two individuals from the NDP party spoke up with allegations of sexual misconduct. Although some would argue that immediate expulsion is somewhat rash, Trudeau certainly sent a strong message, and it’s one that I think resonates much further than just the bounds of parliament.
In many cases, we look to government systems to lead the way for important issues. Sometimes they’re warranted and sometimes they can lead us astray. I think Trudeau’s message, “as an institution we will protect and encourage people who come forward with serious allegations of this type,” is certainly pivotal for anyone trying to make their voice heard. This is of increasing importance of the current gender imbalance in representation within the Canadian government and offers possible reasons for why this imbalance exists. The actions taken in this case could make government positions more approachable for all, now that we have precedent, meaning this is one step closer to making positions in government safer spaces.
NDP leader Thomas Mulcair added to this sentiment, saying, “Here on Parliament Hill and in every workplace, women have a right to be in a secure work environment. Everyone who works in these places has a right to be in a secure work environment, free of harassment.” Furthermore, Mulcair mentioned that all parties should become involved with these issues to show that harassment is being taken seriously by governing bodies as a whole. This proposed display of solidarity shows Canada that if nothing else, all of the parties on Parliament Hill agree that workplaces should be made safe for all individuals.
These allegations have also brought greater awareness to the need for more policies covering workplace harassment, particularly in parliament, but also applied to other work environments. Liberal party whip Judy Foote noted that there is no precedent for dealing with allegations between party members. It will be interesting to observe the proceedings of these allegations, particularly to see what sort of precedent is set.
No matter the outcome of the proceedings, this process will hopefully prove itself to be highly valuable as an example of how allegations of sexual harassment should be dealt with effectively. As these allegations come further into the public eye, the public could become increasingly aware of these types of issues within their own workplaces. It could challenge their beliefs about what is and is not acceptable behaviour at work, while also discerning that victims do not have to remain silent. If these allegations proceed in a just and unbiased manner, hopefully the resounding idea regarding methods to deal with sexual harassment in Canadian workplaces can be based on a model provided by the leaders of the country.