Alberta Liberal Party Leader David Khan is shown in a handout photo. A former Alberta Liberal staffer who says she was groped and sexually harassed by a former MLA says party leader Khan’s promise to investigate was an empty one made for political gain. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Ex-staffer says Alberta Liberals haven’t investigated her sex harassment claims

CALGARY — A one-time Alberta Liberal staffer who says she was groped and sexually harassed by a former legislature member who is now a federal MP says party leader David Khan’s promise to investigate was an empty one made for political gain.

Kirstin Morrell says that five months after Khan promised an internal investigation, she has not heard from him or from any other party official.

“It was a political promise used to get votes or to make his party look good, but (Khan) never followed through, so I don’t have any trust,” Morrell said Friday in an interview.

“I don’t think the Alberta Liberal Party is going to do an investigation. And, if they do, I don’t have a lot of faith that they’re going to do it in a genuine and meaningful way.”

Khan did not respond to requests for comment.

Jonathan Huckabay, the Liberal caucus chief of staff, declined to address the issue or confirm whether an investigation has been launched. The Alberta Liberal Party also refused to comment.

Morrell came forward last August and said she had been groped and sexually harassed by former Liberal legislature member Darshan Kang when she worked for him in 2012 at his Calgary constituency office.

She said he persisted in the behaviour even though he was repeatedly asked to stop, and eventually Morrell left the job.

Morrell said she only came forward in 2017 because she wanted to support another woman who has accused Kang of sexual harassment in his current role as a member of Parliament for Calgary Skyview.

“I would have been perfectly happy to never have to talk to anybody about this … just painting houses in obscurity and nobody knowing my name,” said Morrell, who now works as a painter and contractor in Calgary.

She worked in Kang’s constituency office, which she said is a grey area in politics, because staffers aren’t political but aren’t part of caucus either.

She said she didn’t go to the legislature’s human resources officials with a harassment complaint because she wasn’t sure it would be effective. She also worried the case would somehow become public and politicized. She said she didn’t complain to the party or caucus because didn’t really know any of the higher-ups.

She didn’t go to police, she said, because she knew from her own experience going to authorities after being molested at age 11 that it’s difficult to get justice.

Ultimately, she said, she didn’t want to make waves.

“I was a loyal Liberal,” said Morrell, who unsuccessfully ran for the party in the 2012 provincial election.

“I didn’t want anything bad to happen to my party. I had worked. I had given my money. I’d given my time. I’d given my effort to helping this party because it was something I believed in.”

Kang has stepped aside from the federal Liberal caucus to sit as an Independent and has denied all harassment accusations.

Morrell said no officials from the Liberal party have reached out to her in any capacity.

She said people from other parties have offered her support, but other than three people she knew in the party, “the silence was pretty deafening from the Liberal side.”

Khan, who won the party leadership in June, said on Sept. 1 that there would be an internal investigation.

“The behaviour alleged is repugnant and has no place in society,” he said in a statement at the time.

He said the party would make its findings available to other investigative bodies. The House of Commons human resource officer has been looking into the Kang allegations.

Kang and Kent Hehr worked together in the Alberta caucus until both won seats for the federal Liberals in 2015.

On Thursday, Hehr resigned from his federal cabinet post as minister for sport and disabilities after he was accused of making inappropriate sexual remarks while a provincial politician.

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