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Peter MacKay says he's seen no harassment in Parliament or his party

11/07/2014 01:00 EST | Updated 01/07/2015 05:59 EST
Justice Minister Peter MacKay says he's pleased to see a "mature discussion" on harassment, but that he's never seen anything like that in the Conservative Party or in Parliament.

Asked how the Conservative Party handles complaints similar to the one Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau says he received from two New Democrat MPs, MacKay suggested he wasn't aware of any.

"Well, to my knowledge, I haven't seen anything like this, quite frankly, within our party, let alone Parliament," MacKay responded Friday in Toronto.

"So it has been a tremendously eventful number of weeks to say the least, and it has kind of rocked Parliament off its moorings,

The justice minister noted there's no process on Parliament Hill for dealing with allegations of harassment levelled against MPs, but says there should be a "zero tolerance approach."

MacKay hasn't been immune from criticism on that front, however — in 2006, then Liberal MP Mark Holland alleged MacKay referred to MP Belinda Stronach as a dog. MacKay and Stronach had dated before she crossed the floor from the Conservatives to the Liberals.

MacKay denied he'd made the remark and said the Liberals were trying to distract "from their own inadequacies."

Being 'outed' doesn't help, Raitt says

Trudeau referred the complaints to House Speaker Andrew Scheer, who directed them to the Board of Internal Economy, a committee of MPs that meets in secret to discuss the administration of the House.

Scheer has offered the services of the House's chief human resources officer, and the House has promised confidentiality to the complainants, his spokeswoman said.

NDP whip Nycole Turmel met with Scheer on Thursday and was told the women needed to make formal complaints.

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt tweeted a link Friday morning to the federal government's harassment resolution policy. The policy doesn't apply to MP offices.

"It can be difficult to find your voice and talk about a personal injustice — being 'outed' when you do doesn't help," Raitt wrote on the social networking site.

The NDP has complained that the MPs who spoke to the Liberals about their concerns didn't know Trudeau would react in so public a manner, and didn't warn them in advance.

The issue is complicated by the fact that one MP approached Trudeau and outed the other, who hadn't wanted to go public.

CBC News reported Thursday that both New Democrat MPs reported the incidents to NDP staff, with one complaint going to Turmel. Both MPs refused to go public or formalize complaint.

Lack confidence to come forward

Health Minister Rona Ambrose also referred to a workplace policy against sexual harassment. Speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon, she said few people know the facts of the complaints.

"I think we’ll have to wait for those to emerge, but I’ve been involved in this issue my whole life, and what I tell people is to educate yourself," she said.

"I think people need to know what [sexual harassment] is, what it looks like, and that creates a confidence in not only the person that might experience it so they know how to come forward. A lot of young people do not have the confidence to come forward. There’s a lot of vulnerable young women and men that are in many workplaces across the country that need to gain that confidence."

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