Manitoba NDP MLA accused of harassment expects to be reinstated

Mohinder Saran was suspended from attending caucus meetings after claim of workplace harassment

WINNIPEG – A Manitoba politician who was the subject of a sexual harassment complaint is taking sensitivity training and expects to be fully reinstated into the Opposition NDP caucus, his lawyer said Thursday.

Mohinder Saran was suspended from attending caucus meetings in November following a formal complaint that he had harassed someone in the workplace.

His lawyer, Bill Gange, said the legislature’s human resources branch had concluded its probe and Saran was fully complying with its decision.

“Mr. Saran was advised that a recommendation had been made that he take a course in sensitivity training in workplace behaviour,” Gange wrote in a letter to media outlets.

“Mr. Saran has commenced the course and expects to have complied with the recommendation by early January. At that time, Mr. Saran expects to be readmitted to the NDP caucus.”

Gange said Saran was not admitting to any wrongdoing. Neither Gange nor the NDP, nor legislature speaker Myrna Driedger, have revealed details of the accusation Saran faced.

“It’s a confidential process … and I’m going to respect that,” Gange said in an interview.

“There obviously is a difference of interpretation of what happened and Mr. Saran co-operated to his fullest ability.”

One party source told The Canadian Press last week that Saran was accused of making “inappropriate overtures, inappropriate comments” to a subordinate that verged on propositioning and that, because of the power imbalance, “someone’s livelihood was potentially at stake.”

The NDP made no commitment to reinstating Saran Thursday and said he had faced a similar accusation years ago that had been dealt with informally.

“As previously stated, caucus will evaluate Mohinder Saran’s status once the process is complete,” read a written statement from the NDP caucus.

“We recently became aware of an allegation made several years ago against Mohinder Saran. We are aware of only one formal complaint to the human resources branch.”

The earlier complaint involved a person who was transferred to work in the offices of then-premier Greg Selinger — a series of bureaus both in the legislature and a nearby office building.

Selinger was unaware of the complaint at the time and learned of it in recent weeks, caucus spokesperson Rachel Morgan said.

Saran was first elected in 2007 and later played a key role in helping Selinger survive an internal revolt when five senior cabinet ministers called on him to resign.

In early 2015, Saran helped deliver 117 delegates to Selinger’s leadership campaign from his constituency in The Maples in north Winnipeg. At the ensuing leadership convention, Selinger hung on to his job by 33 votes and, weeks later, elevated Saran to cabinet in the housing and community development portfolio.