Over the course of one week in late January, all three federal political parties found themselves dealing with harassment allegations, and launching subsequent investigations.
Six weeks later, where do those investigations stand?
It turns out that all three are still underway. Neither the Conservatives, the NDP nor the Liberals will offer a timeline as to when results are expected.
At this point, only the Conservatives have vowed to make those results public.
WATCH: NDP leader Jagmeet Singh suspends SK MP Erin Weir
Randi Rahamim, principal at Toronto-based crisis communications firm Navigator, says in her experience, it’s expected that an investigation can take up to three months to complete.
“What’s not reasonable is that appointing an external investigator should take weeks upon weeks,” she told Global News. “That’s not fair to the alleged victim, and that’s not fair to the person being accused.”
On Tuesday, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer announced lawyer Carol Nielsen would head up the independent investigation into Rick Dykstra’s MP candidacy in the 2015 campaign.
That announcement came six weeks after Dykstra was accused of sexual assault against a young female staffer in 2014. He denied any wrongdoing through his lawyers.
WATCH: What and when did Tories know about Rick Dykstra?
New research from Navigator shows more than 70 per cent of Canadians expect an investigation into harassment claims to begin immediately.
“Taking longer than a week or two max to identify someone to begin an investigation is doing a massive disservice not only to the individuals accused or even to the individual alleged victims, but it actually does a bigger disservice to the entire movement,” Rahamim said.
“It makes it seem like people are not taking these issues seriously and are potentially falsely accusing individuals or not getting to the bottom of things.”
The Conservatives tell Global News the party is “taking the time to get this right,” said director of communications Cory Hann.
“Finding someone with the experience and credentials to take on such a review is not something we were going to rush. It was important to ensure the review would be professional, and taken seriously, and we weren’t interested in risking not getting that by hurrying the process,” Hann said in an email.
Both the Liberals and the NDP announced who would be leading their reviews much earlier in the process.
On Feb. 1, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh announced Regina-Lewvan MP Erin Weir would be temporarily suspended from his duties following accusations he harassed female NDP staffers.
The accusation came from Quebec NDP MP Christine Moore based on what others had told her. At the time, no direct victims had come forward.
University of Ottawa law professor Michelle Flaherty is heading up that investigation and she had until Feb. 20 to gather information.
In an article published March 13, the Hill Times reported Weir hadn’t yet spoken with Flaherty.
Weir’s office ignored multiple interview requests by Global News throughout that week. Asked at a public event Saturday if he had spoken with the investigator yet, Weir wouldn’t answer.
“I’m not really in a position to speak about the investigation,” Weir told reporters in Regina. “Although I am confident I haven’t harassed anyone, and that the process will clear my name.”
Sunday the NDP told Global News that Weir had in fact spoken with Flaherty.
“She is now working on her report,” NDP chief of staff Willy Blomme said in a statement.
“We are committed to a fair, transparent and independent process, and therefore neither the Leader’s office nor the Parliamentary Leader’s office has knowledge of information received.”
When asked whether he had been made aware of specific complaints, Weir said, “I certainly haven’t been given the name of specific complainants.”
There’s even less information about the investigation into harassment allegations against Liberal MP Kent Hehr. He resigned from cabinet on Jan. 25 pending the results of an investigation by lawyer Christine Thomlinson. Hehr remains in the Liberal caucus.
The Prime Minister’s Office won’t comment about a timeline in his case.
WATCH: Is Trudeau giving Kent Hehr a Free Pass?
Part of the opacity in these cases can be attributed to a lack of procedures around harassment allegations on Parliament Hill, which have come under the spotlight in the #MeToo era.
When asked why Hehr was allowed to remain in caucus, when four MPs facing similar accusations were previously booted out or allowed to resign, the Prime Minister referenced such a lack of rules.
“I don’t have a rulebook that’s been handed down by Wilfrid Laurier as leader of the Liberal party on how to handle these situations,” Trudeau said during a press conference in Ottawa in January.
“Every case will be different.”
The Liberals have introduced Bill C-65 to try and streamline the complaint process. After she introduced the bill for second reading in the House of Commons in January, Employment Minister Patty Hajdu told reporters workplace harassment on the Hill has been a “crisis” for a long time.
C-65 mandates federally regulated workplaces to have sexual misconduct policies in place and act on complaints. For the first time, staffers on the Hill would be included under the Canada Labour Code protections.
WATCH: Michelle Rempel says anti-harassment bill isn’t enough, more severe codes of conduct needed
“People are very concerned about due process,” Navigator’s Rahamim says.
“Because a lot of the allegations are coming through social media, people accused are essentially being tried long before any formal legitimate investigation is taking place.”
She says investigating quickly is key.
“There’s a real risk to significant reputational harm that could be contributed to by the employers — in this case, the political parties involved.”
Rahamim says dragged-out investigations could also present some “potential future legal issues” for employers.
“It’s almost too little, too late,” she notes. “The narrative is already set. The damage has already been done and there’s been a long period of time where people are no longer talking about it. Quite honestly, after the fact, they’re not going to be as interested as when the allegations came out.”
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