Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is saluting the courage of the women who have levied allegations of sexual misconduct against the former leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative party — even as he grappled with an accusation about one of his own ministers.
Trudeau signalled Thursday he will have more to say about the future of Sport and Disabilities Minister Kent Hehr following an allegation that he made inappropriate sexual remarks while a provincial politician.
Patrick Brown resigned as leader overnight after CTV News reported that two women have come forward with graphic sexual misconduct allegations against him while he was a federal MP — allegations he denies.
“We take these allegations extremely seriously whenever they come up,” Trudeau said Thursday at a news conference wrapping up his visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“My thoughts turn immediately to the women who came forward knowing how difficult it can be, to salute them for their courage, and their leadership.”
Trudeau said he hopes the women who have spoken out about Brown retain support among their friends, families and communities at large.
“I certainly hope their example will resonate.”
The Brown case prompted a woman who once worked at the Alberta legislature to come forward with an accusation about Hehr when he was an MLA a decade ago.
The woman, who was 25 at the time, says Hehr called her “yummy” while in an elevator.
Trudeau said he hadn’t had a chance to speak with Hehr but added: “I will in the coming hours and we will have more to say before the plane lifts off tonight.”
Brown was a Conservative backbencher under Prime Minister Stephen Harper from 2006 to 2015, when he stepped down to run for leader of the Ontario PC party.
Current federal party leader Andrew Scheer said the allegations against Brown must be investigated fully.
“Sexual misconduct, and sexual harassment have no place in Canadian society, especially within our political system,” Scheer said in a statement.
At a meeting in Victoria, Ontario members of the Conservative caucus echoed Scheer’s remarks.
“Mr. Brown did the right thing in stepping down,” said MP Lisa Raitt.
Fellow Ontario MP Marilyn Gladu said she believed the provincial party should take the lead on the Brown issue, but said the federal party would also likely become involved since Brown was a federal MP at the time of some of the allegations.
MP Tony Clement was more blunt, calling the behaviour utterly unacceptable.
“Our staff had to be treated with dignity and respect. We should always keep our policies and procedures respectful.”
Clement said he expected the federal party to have “more discussions about this.”
Trudeau has repeatedly said his government has zero-tolerance for sexual misconduct, and he used his keynote address at the World Economic Forum earlier this week to urge companies and politicians to do more to confront the problem.
“Me Too, Time’s Up, the Women’s March — these movements tell us that we need to have a critical discussion on women’s rights, equality, and the power dynamics of gender,” Trudeau said Tuesday.
“Sexual harassment, for example — in business and in government — is a systemic problem and it is unacceptable. As leaders, we need to act to show that truly, time is up.”