St. Albert politicians are speaking out after sexual misconduct allegations have struck Canadian politics.
St. Albert MLA Marie Renaud and MP Michael Cooper both said that the culture around sexual misconduct needs to change and they are thankful that inappropriate behaviour is being called out and discussed.
“I think this is the reality for so many women. It is unacceptable and it has to change,” Renaud said.
On Jan. 25 allegations surfaced against Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown, which caused him to resign from the party.
On the same day allegations against Calgary Centre Liberal MP and Sports and Disability Minister, Kent Hehr surfaced and he resigned as minister.
Since then Ontario PC Party president Rick Dykstra has stepped down following sexual assault accusations.
Both Cooper and Renaud said that this kind of behaviour is not new to Canadian politics and culture.
“It has been happening forever. What is new and what is good is that this kind of behaviour is getting called out. The fact is that sexual misconduct and harassment are wrong. They have no place in Canadian society and especially within our political system,” Cooper said.
Cooper, who interned in Brown’s office in 2006 said that he never saw any inappropriate behaviour while working for the MPP. He said that he also has not seen any inappropriate behaviour in Ottawa but that it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
“That has never been my experience but that is not to say it doesn’t happen. Given the allegations that have come out it is clear that it is happening,” Cooper said.
Renaud said that she has “certainly” seen this type of culture in Alberta politics and not just while being an elected official. She believes most women in her life would have a story about sexual misconduct.
“I’m sure most women if they looked around their circle of friends and family they would be in the same boat,” Renaud said.
Cooper and Renaud said that these kinds of actions are not unique to politics or one political party and happen in workplaces and social settings across the country.
“I think any time there is a structure where there is a power differential and people don’t feel empowered they are fearful. They are fearful for job loss. There are so many fears and reasons why they don’t come forward: They wont be believed or they will be laughed at,” Renaud said.
Cooper said that all allegations brought forward should be taken seriously and given due process.
“It is equally important that individuals that are accused of sexual misconduct and harassment receive due process,” Cooper said.
Cooper said that some incidents may be handled through the Criminal Code, while other incidents are inappropriate and need to be handled in different ways.
Stories about sexual misconduct continue to surface in politics and the St. Albert MLA said that women have “uncorked the bottle and there is no going back.”
“There is no going back and it’s amazing. You are seeing the solidarity in women and safety in numbers for sure and so people are coming forward,” Renaud said. ‘There is no going back. There is no unhearing these stories.”