SASKATOON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he respects the decision of Calgary MP Darshan Kang to step away from the Liberal caucus while sexual harassment allegations against him are investigated.
But Trudeau won’t say whether he personally asked Kang to resign.
Kang said he’s leaving the governing party’s caucus to focus his efforts on clearing his name.
He resigned from caucus Thursday night, shortly after The Hill Times reported that a woman who worked in Kang’s constituency office when he was a member of the Alberta legislature has come forward alleging she was sexually harassed.
The woman alleged in an interview that Kang grabbed her breasts, among other inappropriate behaviour, and would not desist in the harassment despite repeatedly being asked to stop.
Kang, who was elected federally in 2015, is already under investigation after a young woman who worked in his federal constituency office complained in June of sexual harassment.
That woman’s father told the Toronto Star earlier this week that Kang allegedly offered the staffer as much as $100,000 if she didn’t tell her parents about the harassment. The Star cited the woman’s father, who was not named, alleging that Kang repeatedly harassed his daughter over a period of four or five years.
Among the father’s accusations: Kang gave his daughter unwanted hugs, stroked or held her hand, once took her to an apartment where he tried to remove her jacket and followed her the next day to her hotel and tried to get into her room to talk.
When asked about Kang Friday, Trudeau said the House of Commons has a processes for investigating harassment complaints that respects both the complainant’s and the respondent’s rights.
Under that process, adopted in December 2014, when there is no mediated resolution to a harassment complaint, an external investigator is hired to review the facts.
Either the complainant or the respondent can appeal if they’re unsatisfied with the investigator’s final report.
“The whip’s office in my party has been engaged in this process and we are allowing this process to unfold as it must. I won’t have anymore comments to make on this specifically other than to say that I respect Mr. Kang’s decision to step away from the Liberal caucus while this process is being undergone,” Trudeau said.
“As a feminist, I am pleased that there is a process in place and I am allowing that process to unfold as it must.”
Sheila Malcolmson, federal NDP critic for the Status of Women, accused Trudeau of hiding behind process.
“He should have taken action when he first learned of these troubling allegations instead of dodging questions for three weeks,” she said in a statement Friday.
Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan said the allegations are “deeply concerning.”
“The behaviour alleged is repugnant and has no place in society,” Khan said in a statement Friday afternoon.
He said the party will do an internal investigation and relevant information will be passed on to all those bodies that are investigating.
“Until there is any additional information or findings by an investigative body, we will not be making any further comment on this matter.”
A spokesman for the Speaker of the Alberta legislature said that office only became aware of the Alberta allegations through the Hill Times report and could not comment further because it’s a human resources matter.
Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press