OTTAWA – Liberal MP Darshan Kang is vehemently denying allegations that he repeatedly sexually harassed a young female staffer in his Calgary constituency office and is vowing to defend his reputation “at all costs.”
Kang issued a statement Tuesday proclaiming his innocence even as a damning new allegation surfaced that he tried to buy the woman’s silence and the NDP demanded that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau immediately suspend the Calgary MP from the Liberal caucus until an investigation is completed.
For the second consecutive day, Trudeau refused to comment on the matter, saying only that it’s being handled through a recently created independent process for resolving such misconduct complaints and that he’ll let the process “unfold as it should.”
But Kang’s vow to exhaust all efforts to defend himself suggests that process could drag on for weeks or even months.
Under a process adopted by the House of Commons in December 2014, when there is no mediated resolution to a harassment complaint, an external investigator is hired to review the facts and interview the complainant, the respondent and any witnesses before determining whether the complaint is partially or fully substantiated, not substantiated or frivolous.
Either the complainant or the respondent can appeal if they’re unsatisfied with the investigator’s final report, requiring an appeal panel to be appointed consisting of one member chosen by the complainant, one by the respondent and an external expert.
There is no time limit on either the investigation or the appeal.
According to Kang’s statement, the allegations against him are currently the subject of “an open, ongoing investigation.” He left little doubt he’ll appeal should the investigator rule against him.
“Since the allegations of sexual harassment were levelled against me I have been under a tremendous amount of stress and subsequently I was placed on medical leave,” Kang said.
“While I cannot comment directly on an open, ongoing investigation, I continue to proclaim my innocence and will defend my reputation at all costs.”
Sheila Malcolmson, the New Democrat critic for women’s issues, called on Trudeau to immediately suspend Kang from the Liberal caucus — as he did with former Liberal MPs Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti when they were accused in 2014 of sexually harassing two female New Democrat MPs.
“I am at a loss as to why he has refused to take similar action in response to these allegations,” she said in a statement, adding that Trudeau’s silence on Kang is at odds with his professed “zero tolerance” approach to sexual harassment.
“That is not the leadership of a feminist prime minister.”
However, the independent process Trudeau is now relying on to sort out the Kang case did not exist when the accusations of sexual harassment were levelled against Andrews and Pacetti.
In the absence of a process, and fearing the NDP would accuse him of covering up the allegations if he did not act immediately, Trudeau suspended the pair while an outside lawyer was brought in to investigate. After four months, Andrews and Pacetti voluntarily resigned permanently from the Liberal caucus, jumping before they were pushed.
Trudeau faced considerable criticism of his handling of the matter, particularly over his decision to bounce the pair from caucus, leaving their reputations in tatters, before the allegations against them had even been investigated.
That experience likely accounts for Trudeau’s apparent relief that he can consign the Kang case to the independent process and keep his own hands clean.
“Over the past two years, we have developed here in Parliament a strong series of processes to deal with harassment allegations and complaints of this type and we are pleased that there is a process in place where there hasn’t been in previous years,” he said Tuesday.
The Toronto Star reported Tuesday that Kang allegedly offered the staffer as much as $100,000 if she didn’t tell her parents about the harassment. The Star cited the woman’s father, who was not named, alleging that Kang repeatedly harassed his daughter over a period of four or five years.
Among the father’s accusations: Kang gave his daughter unwanted hugs, stroked or held her hand, once took her to an apartment where he tried to remove her jacket and followed her the next day to her hotel and tried to get into her room to talk.