POLITICS
01/30/2018 15:48 EST | Updated 01/30/2018 18:23 EST

Trudeau Says Reflections From #MeToo Movement 'Continue For Us All'

The prime minister said it is "essential" that women are believed.

Adrian Wyld/CP
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks on Parliament Hill on Jan. 30, 2018.

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked Tuesday if the #MeToo movement has prompted him to reflect on his own past behaviour.

He told the CBC that he doesn't think anyone will be able to accuse him of acting improperly.

"I've been very, very careful all my life to be thoughtful, to be respectful of people's space and people's headspace as well," Trudeau told journalist Chris Hall, in an interview recorded for CBC Radio's The House.

The prime minister pointed to his experiences, 25 years ago, as one of the few male volunteer facilitators at the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students' Society.

The work taught him a lot, Trudeau told reporters earlier in the day on Parliament Hill. As a student, he shared important conversations with friends and colleagues about consent, aggression, and the "power dynamics" that can exist.

"Those reflections continue for us all," Trudeau said.

"... I am deeply pleased that after so much time, not just in my life but in all of our lives, we have reached a point where the conversations being had in workplaces like this one and communities across this country are real, are grounded, are leading to reflection and learning."

The prime minister said he was also pleased to see support for women "who have too long faced systemic and constant discrimination, sexism, and harassment and assault."

Trudeau elaborated on comments he made to the Liberal caucus Sunday, telling reporters that it is "essential" that women are believed when they come forward with allegations of harassment or assault.

"This, in itself represents a significant change in society in the way we engage with things and that is the first place we need to be," he said. "We obviously need a process that flows from there and that's something we're all working very, very hard on ensuring gets done right. But the first instinct and the first place to be needs to be supporting and believing."

Ducks questions about why Kent Hehr remains a Liberal

However, the prime minister sidestepped questions about why this his former minister for sports and persons with disabilities, Calgary MP Kent Hehr, remains in the Liberal caucus.

Adrian Wyld/CP
Kent Hehr is shown during question period in the House of Commons on Oct. 30, 2017.

Two women have come forward with allegations that Hehr behaved improperly in their presence.

One woman, Kristin Raworth, alleged that when Hehr was an Alberta MLA, he called her "yummy" while they were alone in an elevator. She said Hehr was known to make improper remarks.

Another woman, a staffer for another Liberal MP, told several news outlets, including The Globe and Mail and CBC, that Hehr groped her during the Liberals' Christmas party in 2016.

Trudeau said each case of alleged misconduct is different.

"I don't have a rule book that's been handed down to me from Wilfrid Laurier, as leader of the Liberal party, on how to handle these situations," he said. "This is new for organizations to have to deal with in this way and we are doing the best that we can on a case by case basis."

In a statement, Hehr said: "Throughout my career I have always tried to conduct myself with respect towards others, and I understand the most important thing is how each individual feels." His office said he is not making any additional comments regarding the second allegation.

The Prime Minister's Office has hired an external law firm, Rubin Thomlinson, to investigate the accusations. Its lawyers are also looking into allegations that PMO deputy director of operations, Claude-Eric Gagné, acted inappropriately towards women. Gagné has been on a leave of absence for the past three months.

Trudeau's spokeswoman Chantal Gagnon would not say whether the federal government or the Liberal Party of Canada is picking up the tab for the legal services.

"Given the investigations are ongoing, we won't comment further in order to protect the integrity of the process," she replied in an email.

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Trudeau's spokeswoman Chantal Gagnon would not say whether the federal government or the Liberal Party of Canada is picking up the tab for the legal services.

"Given the investigations are ongoing, we won't comment further in order to protect the integrity of the process," she replied in an email.

Since becoming Liberal leader in 2013, Trudeau has turfed four MPs from caucus over allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

In August, Calgary MP Darshan Kang quit the Liberal caucus over allegations he sexually harassed a young female staffer in his constituency office. A second woman later came forward saying she too had been harassed when Kang was a member of the Alberta legislature.

In 2016, Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo was asked to resign from cabinet and caucus after having a consensual but improper sexual relationship with a staff member.

Prior to becoming prime minister, Trudeau removed MPs Massimo Pacetti and Scott Andrews from caucus after he learned of complaints involving two female NDP MPs. Pacetti quit politics and Andrews was defeated in 2015 after running as an independent.