QUEBEC — Yves St-Denis, a Liberal member of the Quebec legislature, has been forced to leave the ruling Liberal caucus following allegations of sexual misconduct.
According to 98.5 FM and Cogeco News, the MNA for Argenteuil reportedly sent a photo to a female Liberal employee that appears to show a man receiving fellatio from a woman.
The employee told Cogeco journalist Louis Lacroix that it happened shortly before the 2014 provincial elections after a conference call that brought together candidates from the Laurentians area north of Montreal.
Says photo was from pornographic movie
In his defence, St-Denis, 54, said the photo was not of him, but is actually a picture of a pornographic movie he had been watching, and that it was supposed to be a joke.
Cogeco also reported that St-Denis is accused by other party employees of verbally abusive behaviour, including sexually charged comments.
Both the Quebec Liberal Party and National Assembly have opened investigations into the claims.
Sources told The Canadian Press that St-Denis was told he would be expelled at a caucus meeting Tuesday afternoon if he didn't leave of his own accord.
Tuesday morning, St-Denis sent a news release announcing he was stepping down.
The MNA has represented the riding of Argenteuil, north of Montreal, since 2014. He will now sit as an independent. His replacement as parliamentary assistant to the Quebec labour minister is expected to be announced in the coming days.
Complaint filed in December
Liberal caucus whip Nicole Ménard, who enforces caucus discipline, confirmed that she received a call from his employee on Dec. 1. Ménard "strongly advised her to file a complaint" and referred her to the National Assembly's harassment policy.
She did not, however, meet with St-Denis to ask about his version of events.
Québec Solidaire spokeswoman Manon Massé questioned why the Liberals waited for the story to come out in the media before acting.
"It's called sexual harassment. This is what women live at many moments in their lives and it must stop," she said.
While Liberal colleagues were mostly silent about the case, cabinet minister Robert Poëti said St-Denis' resignation from caucus was necessary. "Under the circumstances, with what I heard this morning, it's an excellent decision," said Poëti.
What a pervert!Nathalie Roy
Opposition politicians were less restrained. "Sending pornography to an employee? What a lack of judgment. What a pervert!" said Coalition Avenir Québec MNA Nathalie Roy at a press conference.
The Quebec Minister for the Status of Women Hélène David, who has been stressing the importance of denouncing sexual harassment, said there is "zero tolerance" for this type of behaviour.
David defended Ménard's choice to refer the employee to a complaints process, but conceded that the process can always be improved.
Unruly legislative behaviour
Some elected officials said they had problems with St-Denis' partisan behaviour in the past.
His behaviour during question period was so disruptive that the party had to move his seat in the National Assembly.
A ruckus caused by St-Denis in 2016 was so unruly that Québec Solidaire leader Amir Khadir came to the defence of a CAQ colleague in the legislature. Khadir called St-Denis a "goon" and accused him of "harassment" after the incident.
St-Denis is the third member of the Liberal caucus to be forced out due to allegations of sexual misconduct. MNAs Gerry Sklavounos in 2016 and Pierre Paradis in 2017 were also removed.
The two men are still sitting as independent members of the legislature and have not been charged with any wrongdoing. Neither of them have confirmed if they plan to run again in this year's provincial election.
With files from The Canadian Press
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