Two more NDP staffers say their complaints were stifled

Bouchra Taibi and Melanie Bellemare say the party wrongfully dismissed them and tried to convince them not to file a complaint

OTTAWA – Two more former NDP staffers who say they were unfairly dismissed have accused the party of trying to convince them not to file a complaint against the elected members who employed them.

Bouchra Taibi, who was working for New Democrat MP Helene Leblanc, and Melanie Bellemare, who was working for MP Francois Choquette, both accuse the party of wrongful dismissal. Taibi filed a lawsuit in the summer while Bellemare is expected to do so by Dec. 31.

Taibi’s case involves allegations of harassment in the workplace. She alleges that one of her former colleagues verbally harassed her and Leblanc didn’t intervene.

“She (Leblanc) questioned my ability to handle stress while at the time said she appreciated my professionalism enormously. So there was really a double standard,” Taibi told The Canadian Press in an interview.

The NDP is also alleged to have neglected trying to resolve the alleged harassment of Taibi, according to documents filed Aug. 26 in Quebec Superior Court.

For her part, Bellemare claims Choquette dismissed her without good reason after he had told her he was satisfied with her work.

“Everything was going really well, I was only getting praise, and then all of a sudden I was taken to human resources, saying that there were things I needed to change in my work,” Bellemare said.

A few weeks later, Bellemare says she was fired.

According to Bellemare, Choquette was critical for failing to make adjustments to her work, even though the nature of her job had changed — she moved from Ottawa to his Quebec riding office to replace another employee.

The women also say the union representing NDP employees didn’t do an adequate job of defending their interests.

None of the claims have been proven in court.

Valerie Dufour, an NDP spokeswoman, declined to comment on the cases, since they “could end up before the courts.”

The allegations bring to mind the case of Fabiola Ferro, who filed a statement of claim earlier this month against New Democrat MP Sylvain Chicoine for wrongful termination.

In documents filed Nov. 7, Ferro alleges she faced a “toxic” and “humiliating” work environment rooted in sexism. She says the party offered her a new job on the condition she agree not to sue Chicoine and the NDP.

Like Ferro, Taibi and Bellemare claim the party tried to stifle their attempts to come forward.

“When the union representative was aware of what was going on (my dismissal), it was decided to file a grievance,” Bellemare said.

“But before filing it, he said that human resources offered me four weeks salary in exchange for my silence, in exchange for dropping my grievance.”

Taibi, whose career as a NDP staffer was punctuated by work stoppages due to mental and physical fatigue, alleges a similar attempt was made by the party in her case. She said the NDP offered her part-time work in exchange for dropping her grievance.

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