House of Commons has ‘robust’ harrassment policy, says report prompted by Raj Saini allegations

December 2, 2021
House of Commons has 'robust' harrassment policy, says report prompted by Raj Saini allegations
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A new review of the way the House of Commons investigates harassment allegations against MPs has concluded the process has “no shortcomings,” according to a summary presented to an all-party committee today.

The review by the Commons’ chief human resources officer was ordered after MPs questioned the handling of an allegation against former MP Raj Saini, who stepped down as a Liberal candidate during the election campaign.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner asked the House of Commons to examine whether its policy on workplace harassment was sufficient to end a “culture of sexual misconduct” in Parliament.

The review’s findings — presented today to a meeting of the Board of Internal Economy, which oversees the administration of the Commons — concluded “no shortcomings were detected in the policy or procedure” or “in the management of concerns in general.”

Government House Leader Mark Holland, who sits on the committee, said the report showed the system for investigating harassment allegations against MPs and Commons employees is “robust.”

But one of the female senior staffers who came forward and alleged Saini mistreated her disagrees. She said she wasn’t allowed to take part in the workplace assessment, even though her concerns were what prompted the review. 

“What was the policy and procedure? Nobody ever contacted me. What kind of a policy and procedure excludes every complainant?” she wrote in an email.

CBC News spoke to the woman earlier this year when the allegations against Saini went public. Fearing career reprisals, she asked CBC News to keep her identity confidential.

“It should be fundamental to any investigation to hear from the people who were harassed and abused,” she said.

Numerous allegations against Saini

CBC News reported at the end of August on allegations against Saini. Seven sources with knowledge of the claims spoke about four different instances of the then-member of Parliament allegedly making unwanted sexual advances or inappropriate comments toward Liberal staffers.

Saini has denied the allegations.

CBC News agreed not to identify the sources with direct knowledge of the allegations because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the matter, or were concerned about career reprisals.

Several sources said four female staffers reported to a senior Liberal that Saini had been “handsy” and was “touching” them during a Liberal holiday party in 2015.

Sources said a senior member of the government brought those concerns to the Prime Minister’s Office and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford. The Liberal Party told CBC News in a media statement that “it has no record or knowledge of the matter.”

Sources said one staffer was uncomfortable with Saini following her around at events, while another expressed concerns about being called into his office late at night.

One former senior staffer alleges Saini put his hand on her thigh several times during car trips and repeatedly mistreated her during her time working for him.

She alleges Saini’s treatment contributed to her mental distress. She said she tried to take her own life by overdosing on pills in Saini’s office in March 2020.

She said Saini alerted mental health services, and paramedics were sent to his office to take her to hospital.

According to a letter written by a House of Commons lawyer, the staffer sent a series of text messages and emails to Saini threatening to sue him, file a human resources complaint or go public with her claims if he did not apologize.

Saini said an “independent third-party review” of his office conducted through the House of Commons last summer cleared him of harassment allegations. It’s that review the Conservatives called into question.

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