Trudeau hires an expert on keeping matters ‘confidential’

Cynthia Petersen has been asked to ‘conduct an independent, fair and confidential investigation’

(Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

(Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

The lawyer hired by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau to probe the misconduct allegations that led him to suspend two MPs from his caucus is experienced with “informal” and “confidential” ways of dealing with such complaints.

Cynthia Petersen was named today by Trudeau’s office to take on the sensitive task of looking into allegations levelled by two female NDP MPs, who have remained anonymous, against the two male Liberal MPs, who have been named and say they’ve done nothing wrong.

Petersen is a partner at the Toronto firm Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP, but the key experience qualifying her for the Liberal job is likely that she has served as the Law Society of Upper Canada’s “discrimination and harassment counsel” since 2002.

Last spring, in a lecture at the University of Ottawa’s law school, Petersen explained the approach of the law society’s Office of Discrimination and Harassment Counsel. According to an account on the law school’s website, she described the office as “an alternative avenue, which is an informal, confidential way of dealing with complaints.”

And confidentiality seems to be the watchword in the investigation the Liberals have asked her to oversee. Kate Purchase, a spokeswoman for Trudeau, said in an email that Petersen will “conduct an independent, fair and confidential investigation that will result in the production of a confidential report.”

That report, the statement distributed by Purchase added, will be delivered to Trudeau to help him decide whether to allow the two suspended MPs, Scott Andrews of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Massimo Pacetti of Montreal, back into his caucus, and let them run as Liberals in next year’s election.

Petersen’s report to Trudeau is meant to “set out findings of fact related to the disputed allegations of misconduct and any related allegations that may come to light during the course of the investigation.” The lawyer will be available as early as the Christmas break to interview “any of the four MPs who wish to participate”—wording that suggests there is no advance guarantee that all the MPs will be talking to her.

Petersen’s lecture at the University of Ottawa last spring, called “Preventing and responding to discrimination and harassment in the legal profession: progress and challenges,” was specifically about lawyers grappling with problems in their own workplaces. In the legal profession, at least, she reportedly said, those lodging complaints increasingly “have more insight into their rights, and a greater willingness to do something about the experiences that they’ve had.”

Along with her behind-closed-doors law-society work, Petersen has been a prominent courtroom lawyer, arguing in the Supreme Court of Canada on major Charter of Rights and Freedoms cases, including several landmark cases involving gay and lesbian rights. Her official biography, on her law firm’s website, says her role with the law society involves providing “confidential information and advice to individuals who have complaints of discrimination or harassment against lawyers or paralegals in Ontario.”


Trudeau hires an expert on keeping matters ‘confidential’

  1. The little boy who overstepped himself by caving into a feminist hysteria has now taken the high road and properly turned the matter over to an independent authority. His old man once said something about the bedrooms of the nation and his old lady once went on a wild romp with the Stones. But this is today and the past is not important. The fact is he cannot hold a candle to his old man, or most of the other ex Prime Ministers of this country.

    • 1. None of the political leaders today can hold a candle to Pierre Trudeau. It is just that Justin Trudeau is the only one we compare to his father. That is fortunate for Harper and Mulcair.

      2. You clearly do not know much about the sexual assault laws in this country. One of those NDP MP’s alleged she was raped. I hardly think Trudeau can ignore that. The fact you trivialize a rape by comparing it to legalizing consensual sexual practices says a lot more about you than it does about Trudeau.

      3. From the start Trudeau said he was going to turn this over to an independent 3rd party.

      Your points would more effective if you did your research.

      • The complainant should be asked if the rape happened before or after she offered a condom to the male perp. This entire matter stinks. Trudeau as usual shot first with the intent to aim later. Imagine this clown as The PM of Canada. It would be laughable were it not so sad.

        • Providing a condom is irrelevant if there is no consent. Look up the SCC decision in Ewanchuck if you do not believe me.

          Basically what you are saying is Trudeau should have ignored the actual law, and instead applied your sexist and ignorant notions to the issue. Frankly, I prefer a Prime Minister who applies the actual law.

          Go back and try again.

    • “But this is today and the past is not important..” So why did you bring it up??

  2. I’m not a lawyer, but from what I can understand, their is a chance the liberal party could face some kind of litigation over this, it may come under tortious act. The fact these accusations were leveled and took place in within the liberal party, its up to the party to try and protect itself from any future tortious act. These NDP members could sue under tortious act at anytime, because the liberal party didn’t protect these MPs from this kind of assault, and they had an obligation to do so, whether they had any policy in place or not. It’s also possible the federal government could be sued, under the tortious act for not protecting these MPs from sexual assault while working on parliament hill. The federal government has an obligation as well to keep all members of parliament and its employees safe, whether physical assault, sexual assault, terrorism, or any kind of threats to its daily functions on all government property, and its democracy. I think it was right for Trudeau to make this decision today, it may put a template in place for future sexual assaults within the government or other political parties.

    • Me thinks you are a little tortious today. It is obvious you are not a lawyer

      • And yet, CB at least takes the time to learn something instead of spitting the kind of ignorant and sexist screed you prefer.

        In fact, had Trudeau received these serious allegations and done nothing, and had the liberal MP’s in question subsequently assaulted other people, Trudeau very well could have been the subject of a law suit. It is all speculation of course, but at least CB’s speculation is grounded in reality.

        You should try that some time!

Sign in to comment.