Trudeau's suspension of MPs shows lack of judgement

By Jordan Turner on November 11, 2014

Last week, Canadian Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau announced the suspension of two Liberal Members of Parliament (MP), Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti, of his party caucus over allegations of harassment made by two other MP’s from the opposing New Democratic Party (NDP).  The accusations of harassment were made in a private conversation with Justin Trudeau and were not meant to go public.  NDP party whip Turmel was aware of the accusations of misconduct and the alleged victims clearly stated that they did not wish to file formal complaints as they did not want to destroy the political careers of the liberal MP’s being accused of harassment.   However, Trudeau in yet another example of his complete lack of judgement publicized the harassment allegations and suspended his MP’s prior to any investigations.

The NDP are furious that Trudeau has gone public with the accusations after the alleged victims specifically stated that they did not want the issue to become public.  NDP leader Thomas Mulcair stated: “that was their request and we were not about to override that and make them victims a second time.”  In fact, one of the alleged victims discovered via social media that the allegations had been made public.  Trudeau took it upon himself not only to publicize the allegations but also to suspend his MP’s without divulging any information of what the allegations entailed.   Both Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti have denied all allegations of harassment. Massimo Pacetti, in his statement regarding the harassment allegations indicated that he would fully cooperate with an independent investigation but he had not been provided with any specific details of the allegations that led to his suspension. Thus, Pacetti has been accused of harassment, suspended from his party caucus and never at any point has he been told what exactly he has been accused of.

Trudeau in his public revelation of the alleged harassment has stated that the benefit of the doubt must be given to the alleged victims. “I am aware of how difficult it is for people to come forwards. I believe strongly that those of us in position of authority have a duty to act upon allegations of this nature. It’s 2014. We have a duty to protect and encourage individuals in these situations to come forward. The actions must be fair, but 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.”

Trudeau, in his swiftness to grant the benefit of the doubt to the alleged victims has forgone the bedrock of the Canadian legal system which is based on the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.  Section 11 (d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom states:   “Any person charged with an offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.”  

There is no such law or idea that grants the benefit of the doubt to an alleged victim of a crime.  It is possible that Mr. Andrews and  Mr.Pacetti, might have engaged in some kind of harassment, however, until such time that an investigation is complete the benefit of the doubt is to be given to them, the accused of the misconduct and not the other way around.   Had the alleged victims gone public with the accusations and had decided to make a formal complaint then it would have been a different outcome but in this case the accusations were made privately and were requested not to be made public.  Additionally, the alleged perpetrators were suspended prior to even being informed exactly what they were being accused of doing let alone an investigation into the allegations.

It must also be taken into consideration that the alleged victims are not helpless women or children who are unable or frightened to speak up against harassment levied against them.  This is not a case of a secretary who was afraid of losing her employment after she was sexually harassed by her employer.  These are Members of Parliament who have had the strength to have gone through the rigours of being elected to Parliament and are not in a position where they are being subjected by a more powerful entity.  The alleged victims made a conscious choice not to make the matter public and not to press charges and were not under duress to do so.

Trudeau has single handily potentially ruined the political careers of two of current MP’s based on a private conversation.   Harassment in the workplace is a serious issue.  However, Trudeau in his haste to show his compassion towards women in the workplace used a complete lack of judgement with serious consequences on the careers of members of his own party.   Trudeau published an issue that was specifically requested by the victims not to be published, gave the accusers the benefit of the doubt in contradiction to the bedrock of Canadian law and condemned two members of parliament without informing them of the details of what they are being accused of.   Trudeau, in yet another debacle, has done nothing to protect women or make a safer work environment but has shown once again that he is unfit to lead a major Canadian political party.

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