OTTAWA — Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is standing by his Kitchener Centre candidate who has been accused of inappropriate behaviour directed at female staffers.
While unveiling the Liberals’ campaign platform on Wednesday, Trudeau touted the party’s efforts to combat harassment in the workplace over the past several years and said candidate Raj Saini is following the necessary “processes.”
“We are extremely, extremely strong that everyone has a right to be in a safe workplace. We have improved and increased the processes available within the party, within Parliament,” he said.
“In this case, Mr. Saini has shared details of multiple processes that he’s gone through over the past many months and the efforts that have been made to demonstrate that we are taking this very seriously.”
On Tuesday, the CBC reported four cases from unnamed sources, where Saini allegedly made unwanted sexual advances and inappropriate comments to his female staff.
In a subsequent statement released Tuesday evening, the Liberal candidate denied any wrongdoing, stating that he takes the health and safety of his team “extremely seriously.”
“I have never acted inappropriately towards staff or constituents. I have only ever been made aware of one allegation regarding my office. The individual chose not to pursue a formal or informal complaint process,” Saini said.
He said upon learning about the allegation, he insisted on an independent third-party review of his office done through the House of Commons.
“The outcome of that review, which was completed in June 2020, found that nothing arose regarding concerns of harassment in the office,” he said.
His current staff members also issued a statement noting that Saini has “consistently” treated them with respect and professionalism regardless of gender or background.
“The claims made are wholly inconsistent with our extensive experience working for Raj, both personally experienced as well as witnessed in his interactions with other staff, volunteers, and our community,” they state.
Saini remains clear to run for re-election under the Liberal tent, unlike former Conservative candidate in Nova Scotia, Troy Myers, who was told on Monday by his party to withdraw from the race after sexual misconduct allegations surfaced on Twitter.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said the allegations against Saini are “troubling” and Trudeau’s response is another example of the “culture of cover-ups” within his inner circle.
“We saw this in the Canadian Armed Forces with multiple allegations that went to the prime minister’s office, his chief of staff, the clerk of the Privy Council, the minister of national defence. Everyone knew except Mr. Trudeau apparently. Now we see the same culture of cover-ups taking place with their own paid staff members,” he said.
“I hope to hear a serious response from the prime minister and his team on how this type of cover-up took place.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh echoed the same sentiment Wednesday during a campaign stop in Quebec.
“What I’m really concerned about is the pattern of behaviour of ignoring the concerns of women and that to me is something the Liberal Party has shown again and again,” he said.
Asked whether he would call on one of his candidates to withdraw from the election campaign if similar circumstances were to arise, Singh said his party takes these types of allegations “really seriously.”
“We believe that’s a really important thing to do. As leader I want to make sure that my workplace, the culture I create, is safe so we take all steps possible, we don’t ignore the concerns,” he said.