Petition to force government response on PM groping allegation

by Rachel Gilmore,

– A new e-petition is set to force the government to respond to a sexual misconduct allegation against the prime minister from nearly two decades ago.

The petition, which first opened for signature on Aug. 1 and is buried in Parliament’s e-portal for official petitions, points out that since Justin Trudeau became party leader five years ago, four Liberal Party members have resigned or been removed from caucus over alleged sexual misconduct.

It then calls for Justin Trudeau to “be held to the same standards as he has set for his caucus” – and identifies Trudeau as facing an allegation of his own.

“Allegations of sexual misconduct against Justin Trudeau and his dismissive attitude toward them are both unacceptable and have resulted in a loss of confidence in him by the citizens of Canada,” the petition says.

The Prime Minister’s Office refused to directly address the e-petition. A spokesperson for the PMO told CTV News they had “nothing to add to the PM’s public comments on this.”

The prime minister publicly addressed the allegation more than once, most recently during a July 5 press conference.

“I’ve been reflecting very carefully on what I remember from that incident almost 20 years ago… I feel, I am confident that I did not act inappropriately but part of this awakening that we are having as a society, a long-awaited realization, is that it’s not just one side of the story that matters. That, the same interactions can be experienced very differently from one person to the next and I am not going to speak for the woman in question,” Trudeau said at the time.

“I do not feel that I acted inappropriately in any way, but I respect the fact that someone else might have experienced that differently.”

Petitions that amass 500 signatures by the time they close require a government response within 45 sitting days, according to the parliamentary e-petition website.

E-petitions can regularly amass tens of thousands of signatures, and in this case almost 3,000 people have signed the petition in the two weeks since its publication – which means the government will have to table an official response in the House in mid-January.

‘Who does this serve?’

The allegation in question emerged in June when an 18-year-old editorial from the Creston Valley Advance surfaced. In the article, a 28-year-old Trudeau was accused of “inappropriately handling” a young female reporter at an event in Creston, B.C. just under 20 years ago.

The alleged victim later broke her silence “in response to mounting media pressure” to stand behind the claim, but also to say she wouldn’t be pursuing it any further.

“I have had no subsequent contact with Mr. Trudeau, before or after he became Prime Minister,” her statement said.

According to Julie Lalonde, an educator who has provided anti-harassment training to Liberal and NDP MPs, the victim’s reluctance to pursue the allegation is something the petitioners should have considered.

“If someone is not wanting to come forward, does not want to participate in the process, and she said that as far as she’s concerned she accepted his apology and she’s over it… who does this serve?” Lalonde said.

Any Canadian citizen or resident can submit an e-petition provided it’s in line with the requirements established by the rules and practices of the House of Commons. In this case, the petitioner is listed as Craig Rowe from Brockville, Ont.

In order for the e-petition to be published, however, a member of Parliament must sponsor it. Conservative MP Michelle Rempel, who has been outspoken on Twitter about the allegation against the prime minister, agreed to put her name on this particular petition.

Rempel’s decision to sponsor the petition didn’t impress Lalonde.

“I think it shows the partisan nature of this particular story and I think it’s deeply inappropriate to keep dragging this woman out,” Lalonde said.

“This is why women do not come forward in any realm of society, because… our story gets taken away from us and used by others.”

Rempel’s office did not respond to multiple requests for an interview and instead sent an excerpt from the House of Commons e-petitions website.

“In accepting to present a petition, a Member is not necessarily agreeing with the opinions or request set out in the petition,” the excerpt says.

However, Rempel has previously tweeted out similar concerns to those expressed in the petition.

“I’ve watched Trudeau turf caucus members over sexual harassment allegations, even when the alleged victims didn’t want him to take action,” she tweeted on July 30.

In the same thread of tweets, Rempel goes on to say Trudeau “didn’t apply the same criteria he used for everyone else to himself.”

The e-petition remains open for signatures until Nov. 29.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Categorised in: