‘Ottawa’ Sexual Harassment Complainants Free to Speak Out, Ontario Liberals Say
Ontario’s governing Liberals are denying suggestions that a woman who accused a now-former member of the legislature of workplace sexual harassment is prevented from speaking out about it, and say complainants have not been paid to keep quiet.
Last Friday, Premier Kathleen Wynne revealed that former Liberal MPP Kim Craitor was asked to resign in 2013 after workplace sexual harassment complaints were made against him.
In response to accusations that complainants are muzzled by non-disclosure agreements, Deputy Premier Deb Matthews said Monday, “victims are free to tell their story.”
Craitor, now a city councillor in Niagara Falls, has not responded to several messages from The Canadian Press, but he told the Niagara Falls Review that the allegations were “unfounded and unsubstantiated.”
A woman who worked in Craitor’s office told the paper she disputed his characterization of the allegations as “unfounded,” but that she was bound by a non-disclosure agreement and couldn’t say any more.
Muzzled by the government?
Both opposition parties took that to mean that the woman was muzzled by the government, but Wynne denied that in question period and suggested the woman herself asked for the agreement.
“The woman came forward and she is free to talk and tell her story as she sees fit,” Wynne said. “These questions demean the experience of women who make complaints. When a complainant suggests that a confidentiality agreement be part of a resolution then of course we agree to that.”
Despite Wynne’s claim, the non-disclosure agreement is still under scrutiny at Queen’s Park.
“It does nothing to help survivors heal. Instead, it often protects perpetrators and in this case it prevents embarrassment to the Liberal Party,” said NDP women’s issues critic Peggy Sattler.
Craitor also told the newspaper that the Liberal party paid the complainants “to keep the allegations quiet,” but Matthews says that severance was “completely separate” from any confidentiality agreement.
“The silence the premier has obtained is not meant to protect the victim, it’s meant to protect the premier,” said Laurie Scott, women’s issues critic with the Progressive Conservatives.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she hoped any severance money paid to the complainant didn’t come with strings attached.
“One of the things that we don’t want to see is money exchanged for a person’s right to decide their own course of action when it comes to a sexual assault complaint,” she said.
Employment lawyer Daniel Lublin said confidentiality clauses are common when complaints of workplace sexual harassment are settled. That confidentiality doesn’t always apply equally to all parties, he said.
“The alleged harasser wants the confidentiality,” said Lublin, a partner at Whitten and Lublin. “The complainant usually doesn’t get full confidentiality over the allegations unless that’s requested or negotiated.”
Wynne under pressure to name MPPs
Wynne had been under increasing pressure this week to name caucus members she has had to discipline over accusations of inappropriate behaviour, after she admitted there have been a “couple instances.”
Matthews clarified Monday that a “couple” was indeed two, but the premier refuses to name the second MPP. She has not said how she disciplined that second MPP, or if that person is still a sitting member of the legislature.
The two cases Wynne has dealt with are the same incidents the premier vaguely referred to in November 2014, when she said she had “taken action” against complaints of sexual harassment, though she didn’t say at the time the cases involved MPPs.
Wynne said she named Craitor only because a woman identified herself to the media.
“My concern is for the victims. My concern is for the people whose lives have been so negatively affected by these situations,” Wynne said.
The two cases Wynne has dealt with are the same incidents the premier vaguely referred to in November 2014, when she said she had “taken action” on complaints of sexual harassment, though she didn’t say at the time the cases involved MPPs.