Former staffer says she was sexually assaulted by Ontario legislator: Lawyer
By Michelle McQuigge and Liam Casey
THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO - A former political staffer is alleging she was sexually assaulted by a Liberal member of Ontario's legislature when she was working for him more than a decade ago, the woman's lawyer said Friday.
John Nunziata, who represents the woman, said he is not willing to release the name of the accused, but identified him as a Liberal politician who once held a cabinet portfolio.
Premier Kathleen Wynne said no sexual misconduct allegations have ever been raised against cabinet members who served under her or her predecessor Dalton McGuinty.
Nunziata said his client, who once worked for the Liberal politician as an executive assistant, alleges the sexual misconduct took place around 2006 and 2007.
''She's not doing this for the money or for fame,'' Nunziata said of his unnamed client in a telephone interview.
''She has been hurt by this whole process. Not just the premier's office at the time, but how it was handled at Queen's Park.''
Nunziata, a former Member of Parliament, said the woman shared some details of the allegations in a letter sent to Wynne's constituency office three weeks ago.
The letter, dated Jan. 26, references the man's alleged ''repulsive and adulterous groping, propositioning, and innuendo and chronic inebriation,'' according to Nunziata.
The complainant wrote that she reported her concerns about the man's conduct to human resources, who ultimately directed her to the Liberal Caucus Service Bureau for reassignment.
She ultimately went to work for a different legislative member, but said she was told that no further action would be taken.
''I realize that these egregious breaches of trust and abuses of power were not on your watch,'' Nunziata said the woman wrote in her letter to Wynne. ''What I would like to underscore is that the degradation and humiliation caused by the member and the others in the premiers' office were long lasting. The collateral damage is permanent.''
Wynne expressed similar sentiments on Friday speaking at the International Auto Show in Toronto, praising the courage of women who come forward after years of bearing the pain of such experiences.
She said she herself was not made aware of the allegations when they were mailed to her constituency office, but said the government's process for addressing such allegations immediately took effect.
Wynne said staff reviews the information, engages outside council, and if necessary then hires a third-party investigator to look at the claims, adding that the privacy and wishes of the complainant are always top of mind.
''It's very important to me that whenever there is an allegation, whenever there is a complaint, that that process be engaged and that action is taken,'' Wynne said. ''My understanding is in this case that that's exactly what happened.''
Wynne said the latest allegation had not reached the stage in the process at which she would have needed to personally be notified.
Nunziata said his client is not satisfied with the mechanisms that are currently in place, saying she felt ''uncomfortable'' after hearing from Wynne's lawyer and arguing that he did not constitute a true third party. The lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Nunziata said establishing a transparent process would unleash a flood of other allegations.
''It's one thing in the #MeToo movement to come forward and praise women and men who come forward, but there has to be a process. People just don't want to walk down to the local police station,'' he said. ''If a process is set up, this is just the beginning, there will be many more allegations involving other people within the legislature and within the bureaucracy.''
Accusations of sexual misconduct have already caused upheaval in Ontario politics. Allegations levelled against former Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown prompted his abrupt resignation and touched off a leadership contest due to conclude in March.
Brown vehemently denies the allegations, which were reported by CTV but not independently verified by the Canadian Press, and has recently embarked on a vocal campaign to clear his name. He announced his intention to sue CTV for its handling of the story and has publicly challenged the veracity of the accounts provided by two women.
Nunziata was elected to the federal legislature as a Liberal in 1984, but was eventually tossed from caucus after failing to support his party's budget. He was re-elected as an independent in 1997, but was ultimately defeated in 2000.