OTTAWA - Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said it could still be possible to investigate complaints against the two MPs he suspended from caucus even if the two unidentified NDP MPs who shared the allegations refuse to participate.
“We have already taken extensive notes on what the individuals in question shared about the incidents,” Trudeau told reporters Wednesday.
“It was the basis for our decision to suspend the two MPs in question, so there is certainly information that we can follow up, but at the same time that would not be ideal and I will wait to see if we will have a formal process,” Trudeau said.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau suspended MPs Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti from the Liberal caucus Nov. 5 over unspecified allegations of “personal misconduct” toward two unidentified female New Democrat MPs.
Andrews and Pacetti have both denied the allegations and have expressed confidence they will be exonerated.
At the time, Liberal Whip Judy Foote wrote a letter to Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer asking for “the involvement of a neutral third party trusted by all concerned” to investigate the allegations, which sources have said are sexual in nature.
Scheer responded Tuesday, mentioning that “external experts” had been offered to both the Liberals and the NDP, apparently as part of the informal conflict resolution process the secretive all-party board of internal economy adopted as an interim harassment policy for MPs and their staffers Tuesday.
“The resources of the House Administration as well as external experts in this field have been offered to both your office and the Whip of the other party involved. The Members may wish to avail themselves of these resources, all of which place a particular emphasis on maintaining confidentiality and impartiality,” Scheer wrote.
At the same time, Scheer suggested this process could not happen without the co-operation of the two NDP MPs involved.
“The most successful resolution of any harassment complaint relies on the willingness of all involved parties to come together to address the issues,” Scheer wrote in a letter to Liberal Whip Judy Foote on Tuesday.
The unidentified female NDP MPs who made the allegations — one directly to Trudeau while they travelled together on a bus Oct. 28 — have made it clear they do not wish to proceed with a formal complaint at this time.
“We can only go at the pace that they want to go at. They are the ones who decide that,” NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said Wednesday.
That leaves the future of Andrews and Pacetti in doubt, as they were suspended from the Liberal caucus pending the outcome of an investigation that might never take place.
Trudeau said he is going to give the complainants a few days to think about whether they want to take advantage of the new process before deciding what to do next.
“I do want to allow time for reflection and thinking through what obviously is a very difficult issue,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau said he believes “a process was begun” when one of the NDP MPs approached him directly with her allegations.
“We cannot get away from the fact that a complaint was lodged,” said Trudeau, who has said he felt “a duty to act”.
NDP sources have said the two MPs remain upset by how their complaints were handled and do not wish to share their experiences in any way at this time.
It remains unknown exactly why one of the NDP MPs — without the knowledge of the other — went to Trudeau with her complaint, but the NDP says neither of them wanted any of it to become public.
“We all have informal conversations and we all have the right to bring things up to our colleagues even if they are from another party, even if they are a party leader,” NDP status of women critic Niki Ashton said Wednesday.
“It was made very clear to the Liberal Party that these victims did not want this to become public,” Ashton said.
“We should respect that. We should have respected it when it first happened. And we need to continue to respect that,” Ashton said.
Foote had also asked the board of internal economy, which handles many administrative matters on Parliament Hill, to establish a process for dealing with complaints between MPs.
On Tuesday, board of internal economy decided to refer that matter to the Commons committee of procedure and house affairs, but also adopted interim measures including an informal conflict resolution process that was already available to Commons employees.
Meanwhile, Andrews told local media in Long Harbour, N.L. Wednesday that he plans to run in the next federal election.
Trudeau said that as of right now, it would not be under the Liberal banner.
“We have suspended the candidacies of the two individuals in question pending the unfolding of various investigations and discussions over the following weeks,” Trudeau said Wednesday.
“We will make a determination in the future as to whether they will be candidates for us next year. For now they will not be candidates for us next year,” Trudeau said.