QUEBEC – Quebec Deputy Government House Leader Gerry Sklavounos stepped down from the Liberal caucus on Thursday after a young woman alleged she was sexually assaulted by someone in the party.
Premier Philippe Couillard issued statement confirming Sklavounos will sit as an independent member of the legislature.
“In light of the information published today in the media regarding an accusation of sexual assault, I am announcing that (Sklavounos) has stepped down from caucus,” Couillard said.
At a Universite Laval vigil Wednesday evening in support of victims of alleged sex crimes at a student residence, a woman said she was assaulted while working as a hostess at a Quebec City restaurant in the summer of 2014.
In a Facebook post that has since been deleted, the woman wrote that the person she alleges assaulted her was a Liberal member of the legislature.
Couillard says he’s taking the matter seriously and has asked the party whip to launch an immediate internal investigation into the allegation.
Quebec City police confirmed a complaint was filed and that an investigation is ongoing.
Sklavounos could not immediately be reached for comment.
The woman wrote on Facebook that the sitting politician allegedly blackmailed her to not pursue the complaint, but that she ended up filing one with police a year later.
She said in the social media post the investigation went nowhere and she said she ultimately lost her job because she alleges the politician was an old friend of the restaurant owner.
The woman said she has been marked for life by the event – both physically and psychologically.
Parti Quebecois Leader Jean-Francois Lisee suspected a “cover-up” and called for two investigations – one into the assault allegation and another on any attempt to conceal the affair.
Couillard told reporters earlier on Thursday the matter will be treated with the highest priority.
“This is a very delicate question,” he said. “I’m not the police, I’m not a judge, I’m not even a lawyer, but I just want to tell Quebecers that to me this is significant, not only significant, but crucially important for our society.”
Rosalie Genest, a close friend of the complainant, told a local radio station the young woman suffered injuries stemming from the 2014 assault allegation.
Lise Theriault, the minister responsible for the status of women, said she was shocked by the woman’s allegations.
“No one is above the law,” Theriault said, adding her caucus colleague would not have any favourable treatment should the allegations be confirmed.