There was a day and age where sex scandals were few and far between . In fact, that’s what made them scandals. Today, it will appear in headlines not once, Jian Ghomeshi, not twice, Bill Cosby, but three times m’lady as it is now screaming from Parliament Hill top. At least it should be, but it’s not. Jian Ghomeshi has already posted bond on the multiple charges that he is facing, but the “little” matter being handled at Parliament Hill? That is occurring at a snail’s pace, if at all. In fact, as the Toronto Star cautioned on Nov. 27, Canada should not expect misconduct allegations to be cleared up soon.
Is the protocol involved with handling sexual misconduct allegations on the Hill some newfangled kind of rocket science that is so complex in nature it needs to be handled at a snail’s pace? Or is the government trying to turn their heads and pretend not to see this one? These are questions that many Canadians are asking right now about this issue.
Canada can rest assured that the people they voted into office know about the scandal, and are certainly wringing their hands about and discussing it at length, but actually dealing with it seems to be an entirely different situation all together. The police didn’t need to think as long as Parliament Hill seems to need to when dealing with Jian Ghomeshi’s victims in Toronto. For some reason the victims in Ottawa are not being granted those same privileges.
Why is that? Like any sex scandal, the Parliament Hill scandal is one that grows in its salaciousness by the day. This one is becoming more scandalous by the moment. The next phase in development of these things normally involves a victim count increasing in size.
How many more will there be once this is all said and done? A more serious question. How many more victims will be made, before this is all said and done?
The most recent allegation was reported by the Toronto Star when a female MP for the NDP alleged that Liberal MP Massimo Pacetti engaged in sex with her “without explicit consent.” She was careful not to use the word “rape” but honestly, what other word is there for that kind of behavior? Liberal MP Scott Andrews is also in a bit of hot water after a different female MP for the NDP has accused him of forcing his way into her home, groping her, and harassing her according to the Toronto Star.
When allegations of this nature were made against Jian Ghomeshi, fired host of the CBC’s show “Q”, a sex crimes unit was assigned to the case and he has not only been charged since, but released on bond. That’s not happening in Parliament. And the Toronto Star is saying, don’t expect anything to happen, anytime soon.
Trudeau has come forward and checked off all of the boxes that are required to make it look like he cares. The Liberal MP’s in question were suspended. And then some paperwork started shuffling and the buck has been getting passed from one desk to the other ever since.
It landed in the hands of Andrew Scheer, Commons Speaker who tossed around the ideas of either using internal resources to look into it, or bringing in an outside party. Trudeau apparently according to the Star is okay with Scheer leading this plan, however they may bring in an outside third party to look into it themselves. In a separate Star report, Mulcair for the NDP was asking Wednesday,
“What exactly is on the table?”
While they do all of this fretting and paper shuffling and talking amongst themselves behind closed doors of Parliament, the scandal grows in intensity in the real world. The politicians are talking amongst themselves and hoping the House of Commons clears it up for them. Clears it up? Or sweeps it up?
The allegations are very serious. One allegation against Montreal based Liberal Massimo Pacetti is as close to rape as you can get without saying the word “rape.” His victim says,
“It was sex without explicit consent.”
The victim has gone to great lengths to not be identified, a factor that many say complicate the process of dealing with it. But how is that? In a separate report the Toronto Star reported that the woman MP that is making these allegations was involved in a sports league of some type with Liberal Pacetti.
The Star reports that on occasion, after an event the Pacetti and the victim would go out to the bar for some drinks. On one of those nights this March, she agreed to join Pacetti in his hotel room. Well, you know what happened next. The victim says,
“I was sitting on one of the chairs at the side of the room. We were talking a little bit and at one point he said, ‘just come to sit beside me’ tapping his bed at the same time.”
The victim says she refused and went to the ladies room. While there, the Star reports she thought about what she should do given the circumstances. She said,
“I just thought I should leave, just drink my glass (quickly) and say, ‘I think I better go’ but when I walked back to my chair, when I passed beside the bed, he grabbed me and I froze after that. I was afraid that things would get worse.”
And they did, worse to the point that this evening has now become part of a national conversation. Pacetti’s response to these allegations is, as you can imagine, political. The Star reports that he wrote that he is,
“Troubled that the complainant chose to air these allegations in the media as this is inconsistent with statements conveyed through her party that privacy and fairness must be respected for both sides.”
Does he really mean both sides, or does he mean, respected for “me”? He also said,
“As with media reports of this nature, in this instance many questions remain unanswered and there is no way to evaluate the veracity of the claims being made. If need be, this matter should go through the confidential process mediated by an independent third party as proposed by the Speaker of the House of Commons. Canadian standards of fairness and the presumption of innocence can then be maintained to arrive at the truth.”
In other words, he is saying, “There is no way you can prove these allegations, and I want it handled quietly.” He is asking Canada to maintain presumed innocence until the truth comes out. Shouldn’t Canada then offer the victims the same freedoms?
Is this MP saying that his benefit of the doubt is more important than the victim’s? These scandals have a tendency to spiral in nature. Will he be asking that about many more women in the future?
Liberal MP Scott Andrews is also a cause of concern in the Parliament Hill sex scandal. This Liberal MP is also asking you to presume he is innocent. The victim does not want to go to the police. In fact both victims are desperately working to make sure they are never identified. Why is that do you figure?
The reason the victims, and any victim of sexual assault, don’t want to be named publicly is because this is a mortifying, horrifying experience to have to go through in silence. Being publicly identified would only make it worse. If there is anything that gives the victims credibility, it is that. No woman wants to come forward and say this happened to them, about anybody.
This is why Bill C- 46, an “Act to amend the Criminal Code and the production of records in sexual offence proceedings” reported the statistic of how in 1999, 78% of these crimes went unreported. No human being ever wants to say this horrible thing happened to them. The victim in the Pacetti case says she doesn’t want to talk to the police because the last time this happened to her, law enforcement warned her it would turn into an ugly “he said she said” situation that she didn’t want to face.
Is that what is happening to her again? Is she being screwed by both the MP and the system? This time, at the highest level of the law? Aren’t we supposed to be teaching our future women leaders to have faith in this system, to believe that it works?
The allegations against MP Scott Andrews are just as severe. After one of the victims discussed the allegations directly with Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, a meeting between NDP whip Nycole Turmel and Liberal whip Judy Foote was held for discovery. Sources familiar with those meetings then spoke with The Canadian Press to provide a little discovery of their own. That discovery led to some very serious allegations linking both Andrews and Pacetti.
On the night in question, a social event was occurring on Parliament Hill. Some MP’s, including Pacetti, Andrews, and the victim, went to Pacetti’s office for a few glasses of wine. Pacetti reportedly left the mini-private soiree, leaving the victim alone with Andrews in the office.
The victim alleges that after wine, MP Andrews followed her home, forced himself into the home, pushed her against the wall and ground himself against her. She reportedly asked him to leave, which he did. Following this event, the victim says that Andrews would verbally harass her, and called her names such as “c&*%teaser” according to the Toronto Star.
Despite the fact that the Liberal MP in question feels the allegations are baseless, he has lawyered up. Lawyer Chris MacLeod who is representing Liberal MP Scott Andrews has said the MP has not been provided with, “any details of the internal summary or any documentation from the Liberal caucus.” Macleod has also said of his client,
“He is in no position to respond to an unknown allegation. Any allegation of misconduct on his part is untrue, and any reporting of the same will be considered libel on the part of you and your office.”
Where it stands now is that the politicians are still trying to decide what to do about it. They are picking fights with each other over who said what first to who and why they should or should not have done that. Meanwhile, there’s a woman who, according to the Toronto Star, says her mental health is deteriorating by the day, and nothing is getting done.
Is there some inside joke that Canada has missed about this? Is Canada supposed to believe this is an isolated incident that is just going to magically disappear as soon as the politicians stop talking about it? This is 2014, not 1905.
Within two years America might have a woman President. Glass ceiling, shattered. At least, it’s supposed to be. Issues like this are supposed to be no brainers. Just ask Jian Ghomeshi what happens when people take the proper protocols after sexual abuse allegations.
This is certainly not an isolated issue. And if the glass ceiling on Parliament Hill is still standing strong, it’s because people are pretending that this is, just an isolated issue. But it isn’t. John Ivison for the National Post chronicled the story of a 22-year-old intern whose life became “incapacitated” after working on the Hill.
Her pen name is Jasmine Ali, an Arab-Canadian who graduated from Carleton University with the fresh-faced idealism that many graduates have when they enter the real world. Her dream was to work on Parliament Hill, and maybe even have a job with an MP.
She saw that dream come true, but she was quick to learn the true meaning of “be careful what you wish for.” As a result of her work with an MP on Parliament Hill, Jasmine would soon become “incapacitated” in daily life after being subjected to abuse in the highest offices of the land. Not only was she mentally and emotionally incapacitated after having one of her dreams come true, she also tried to kill herself two times.
It has been 8 years since Jasmine suffered abuse on Parliament Hill, and she has only just come out now fearing “repercussions.” She, if anyone in Canada, probably believes these recent Parliament Hill victims the most. She refers to her work on the Hill as one that occurred in a “culture of sexual harassment.” Not being able to go public with her allegations, Jasmine took to writing.
John Ivison for the National Post has had a lot of experience himself working on Parliament Hill. When he heard about Jasmine, he says, knowing what he knows about the Hill, he wasn’t all that surprised. In the National Post Ivison wrote,
“Having met with [Jasmine] and having been around the Hill for long enough to know the imbalance of power that exists between mainly male MP’s and senior staffers, and mainly female interns, I found her story entirely plausible.”
Jasmine told John how she felt during these experiences, and what her life has looked like since. She said,
“I was incapacitated completely for a couple of years….I recovered slowly, but my twenties were a lost decade of life thrown into the garbage bin.”
How does that make Canada feel to know that someone that they voted for, made a Canadian woman feel this way? Incapacitated. This isn’t 1905. And this isn’t Haiti. This is Canada, our home, our native land. The True North, strong, and free. Why are the folks in the highest offices of the land being allowed to get away with this? That glass ceiling on Parliament Hill is not going anywhere until something is done.
8 years ago Jasmine arrived on Parliament Hill, a fresh political science graduate, with a dream of making a difference in the land of the True North strong and free. She landed in the office of a Liberal MP, who she has chosen not to name. Her abuser was a supervisor in the office. On her second day on the Hill she was allegedly told by her abuser,
“Parliament is not a place for women. Parliament is a men’s locker room where it is about whose THING is bigger.”
Jasmine reports that when he said that, he pointed to an erect body part, and then asked her out for a date. Because every woman wants to go out on a date with a guy that just told her there is no upward mobility in her chosen profession because she’s a woman. By week two on her new and exciting career, things got worse for Jasmine. She was then told by the same supervisor,
“Women can’t sue for sexual harassment on the Hill. It is the one place exempt from sexual harassment laws, as no woman has ever won an action.”
Jasmine was 22 at the time. She didn’t know if the supervisor was correct on that matter. But, as a university graduate, she did know enough to know that launching a lawsuit was “career suicide” as Ivison writes. Ivison also says her abuse was not limited to abuse verbal in nature.
The supervisor in question allegedly attempted to touch Jasmine on more than one occasion, and “squeeze in.” His advances were rejected, and when they were, the undermining and humiliation began. She was made to wash the dishes. He passed her real work off as his own, and he allegedly did everything he could to undermine her with the Liberal MP she was working for.
He also told her all of that would stop if she would only have dinner with him. She filed a report with the Liberal MP in question. She got fired. She also got a diagnosis for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She wrote,
“A doctor told me PTSD is a result of trauma plus helplessness….I felt like a zebra on the savanna surrounded by hungry lions.”
Jasmine has since rebuilt her life, is the owner of her own tech company, and has upgraded her education. For her, there is somewhat of a happy ending, but that happy ending does not include justice. How can a Canadian woman have faith in our system after we have done this to her? And Jasmine knows she is not alone.
She said when she attended a Question and Answer session at Carleton University on the topic of politics and gender, she was shocked. During the session, a woman talked about how she had also been the subject of sexual abuse on the Hill. When that happened, Jasmine says,
“I saw five other hands go up with people saying, ‘this happened to me too’ or to someone they knew.”
John Ivison reported that he contacted “all three main parties” in politics to discuss sexual abuse and sexual harassment and their policies on those matters on the Hill. He says,
“None wanted to talk specifics, reinforcing the idea that they believe this is private business better off handled inside the political family.”
The Liberals have stated that this falls in the House of Commons process, and that they have a formal process that deal with this sort of thing so that they can “create a welcoming and positive work environment.” This is not something that Jasmine has evidence of however. She says when she went to the Liberal Human Resources Department in 2006, she was told “nothing could be done.”
John Ivison for the National Post has a wealth of experience with the Hill. He has an idea on how frequently this happens, and what can be done to stop it. He says,
“Anyone who has been around the Hill for any length of time knows abuse takes place. But the culture that fosters it is unlikely to change unless brave young women can come forward and face their abusers without fear of repercussions.”
What would also be very helpful to Canadian women right now is the comfort that the members that hold those highest offices not just express, but actually demonstrate a willingness to do something about it. The phrase “Liberal MP” seems to be cropping up a lot with these allegations. This means, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has an opportunity to be a real hero here.
Does he want to actually get the women’s vote? Or does he want to just say things, to make it look like he is doing something that makes him worthy of the women’s vote?
Jasmine’s story, and the stories of the alleged victims of Pacetti and Andrews are not isolated cases. It would be foolish to think otherwise, and it would be foolish to believe any politician that believes otherwise. It seems that anyone that has any experience on the Hill knows the truth about Parliament Hill.
Ian Capstick, President of Media Style has an impressive resume, and a not so impressive list of allegations against the Hill as well. He served as NDP Press Secretary between the years of 2004 and 2008, he has also been a Parliament assistant to Sheila Copps, and also worked with several Liberal cabinet members. In an interview with CBC “Power and Politics” early November, he chronicled some startling allegations himself. According to the Huffington Post, Capstick told CBC,
“I have been both sexually touched and harassed on Parliament Hill during my time as a political staffer by male members of Parliament. At the time did I think it was awful? Yes. Did I laugh it off with friends of mine in a kind of machismo way? Yes. Why did I do that at the time? Because I felt powerless.”
Capstick says the touching happened so many times he had to tell the offendor it was inappropriate. To some that sounds like no big deal. But when was the last time you had to put your foot down with your boss and tell them they were being inappropriate? What if that person was a member of Parliament? One might use the word “powerless” as well.
Capstick hasn’t named anybody, because he knows full well the media storm and repurcussions of doing just that. He will become victimized all over again, just like the women that have gone to Trudeau with their own allegations. Trudeau has promptly and succinctly suspended the most recent MP’s that are facing allegations, but is that enough?
And, will Justin Trudeau have a caucus left if the allegations keep rolling at their current pace. Also, what is the real agenda for Justin Trudeau here? Does he want to actually do something about his people, and be the leader that he claims to be? Or does he just want to make the best political move? As iPolitics reports,
“It would be hard to believe that there was not also a political calculation in Trudeau’s decision to put Andrews and Pacetti on ice until the matter can be properly investigated. Female support is one of the keys to Trudeau’s chances of becoming Prime Minister.”
Trudeau should not risk not acting expeditiously on this matter. And, if the women’s vote is something so serious to him, he needs to do the right thing, not say the right thing. He claims that he is on it. In other words, it’s political. And the political people are handling it.
Did the political people not hear that there are people saying they are victims here? Perhaps the victims need to speak louder to our Members of Parliament. Victims of Jian Ghomeshi went to the police. There’s another idea. Instead, the perception is that our Members of Parliament are just staying as quiet as possible in the hopes that it all goes away, quietly.
A lot of people in Canada think that, is the wrong thing to do to a fellow Canadian who is telling you they are a victim. Aren’t the people we put into office supposed to protect us?
But they say they are. So guess who is investigating this sex scandal between the MP’s in Parliament? The Internal Economy Board. Guess who is on the Internal Economy Board? If you guessed MP’s, you are right. We know very little about the “Internal Economy Board” because they don’t like to say a lot of their business out loud.
In fact, very little of the work that they do is made public. That includes a full reporting on the amounts they pay out to MP’s when settling legal matters. Perhaps someone needs to do a little internal economy review on the Internal Economy Board process itself. Or perhaps an entire Parliamentary review is in order. Ian Capstick says,
“People have been harassed both physically and sexually on Parliament Hill for a very long time.”
That means, it is going to continue if something is not done about it. It is not a matter of “if” more victims will be created, but “when.” This report chronicles the stories of 9 hands, 9 people that say they have been victimized on the Hill. These are the voices that can help to stop this problem. There is obviously more voices that need to join to strengthen that conversation. The louder those voices are, the faster something will get done.
Watch the video here where the CBC talks to an MP about just how frequently this happens on the Hill, and why.
Is Canada really okay with that? Is Canada really okay with the notion that “Parliament Hill is not a place for women”? What do you think should be the next development in this situation?