Justin Trudeau says a "duty to act" led him to suspend two members of his Liberal caucus after allegations of "personal misconduct" were made by two members of Parliament from another party.
The Liberal leader, who on Wednesday morning evicted MPs Massimo Pacetti and Scott Andrews from the party pending an investigation, spoke to reporters after a lengthy caucus meeting.
He did not confirm that the allegations made against Pacetti and Andrews were those of sexual harassment. The Huffington Post Canada has learned allegations of that nature were made by two female members of the NDP. Both Pacetti and Andrews deny any wrongdoing.
Trudeau said he learned of serious accusations on Oct. 28 and instructed party whip Judy Foote to meet with the two MPs and their whip two days later. He has now asked the Speaker of the House of Commons to investigate the matter.
Trudeau said he understands how difficult it is for people to come forward in these situations.
"It’s 2014," Trudeau said. "We have a duty to protect and encourage individuals in these situations to come forward."
The Liberal leader said action going forward must be fair, yet decisive.
"It must be sensitive to all affected parties, but recognizing how difficult it is to do so, it must give the benefit of the doubt to those who come forward," he said.
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Trudeau also said Parliament needs clear guidelines and procedures for allegations of this nature, as there is no process in place to deal with complaints like this between MPs.
"It's time that this workplace, like other workplaces across the country, had a process whereby these issues can be aired and dealt with," he said.
Trudeau would not elaborate on what Pacetti and Andrews are specifically alleged to have done or if he felt the police should be involved.
"It is important that the people who come forward with allegations be given the opportunity to act and to make their own choices," he said.
The candidacies for both Liberal MPs in the next federal election have been suspended.
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair also addressed the media after a caucus meeting Wednesday afternoon, saying he was "deeply saddened" by the allegations.
"We believe that it is the duty of all MPs, whatever their political party, to take action to ensure Parliament Hill, like any workplace, is safe and secure and free of this type of violation," Mulcair said.
The NDP leader said he would not make further comment in order to respect the privacy of all concerned.
Speaker Andrew Scheer's office has released a statement saying he takes the matter seriously.
"He has directed the House Administration to make available all internal resources to the individuals involved," his spokeswoman Heather Bradley said in a release.
"The Speaker has also directed that the matter be taken up at the Board of Internal Economy at the earliest available opportunity."
Andrews, 39, was first elected in 2008 in the Newfoundland riding of Avalon. He recently served as the Liberal critic for access to information, privacy and ethics. He released a statement Wednesday afternoon welcoming an investigation.
"I intend to fully cooperate with answering any and all questions from an independent third-party investigator," the statement reads. "I am confident such a process will find that no harassment has occurred."
Pacetti, 52, has represented the Montreal riding of Saint-Leonard-Saint-Michel since 2002. He also released a statement saying he did not know the specific details of the allegations against him but believes an investigation will exonerate him.
"Until such time, I will sit in the House of Commons as an independent Member, and continue to represent the citizens of my riding," he said in the statement.