OTTAWA – An NDP MP who levelled misconduct allegations against a Liberal colleague says she would be interested in participating in an independent House of Commons harassment probe, but doesn’t feel it’s been made clear how she should proceed.
The woman, who spoke at length to The Canadian Press on Tuesday, also explained that she doesn’t want to reveal her name or go to police out of concern for the long-term impact it will have on her life and that of her family.
“It’s not a question of shame. From the moment your name goes public, and the way the media works today, you’ll never get out of it,” said the NDP MP.
“Maybe years from now, if I have children, they’re going to find that on the Internet and I will have to talk to them about it. Revealing your name means losing complete control over when you’ll have to deal with the subject again.”
Her story — which she said she’s sharing to regain a sense of control — is part of a swath of new information that has emerged around the explosive allegations she and another female colleague made privately against a pair of Liberals.
Their unproven allegations prompted Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau to suspend Massimo Pacetti and MP Scott Andrews from caucus earlier this month citing “serious personal misconduct.”
In the case allegedly involving Pacetti, the woman says she and the MP were at a sporting event together in March. She considered the francophone parliamentarian from Quebec a friend.
After a night with a large group at a bar, Pacetti allegedly invited her for a nightcap in the hotel where he stays while in Ottawa.
“It was already 2 a.m., so I thought, another hour isn’t going to be a big deal, it’s already late,” she said.
Once in the room, she says she sat in a chair while Pacetti sat on the bed. Eventually, she says Pacetti patted the spot on the bed beside him, asking her to sit with him.
“I said no, I’m good here in my chair. I went to the bathroom to try to find a solution, to leave,” she said.
When she returned to get her purse from the chair, she alleges Pacetti pulled her to him as she passed by. The MP won’t go into the precise details of what happened next, other than she froze, and blocked out the situation. She said she had previously been the victim of a violent sexual assault.
She alleges it was sex without her explicit consent.
“I felt used. I felt like there was a total absence of consideration,” she said.
During a confidential meeting with the Liberal and NDP whips, multiple sources have told The Canadian Press that the woman acknowledged she did not explicitly say no to Pacetti and that she provided a condom. In the interview she refused to comment on those details.
For days afterward, she said she was in pain and had trouble sitting down. She has seen a therapist, and taken time off of work.
Is she alleging rape then? The MP said she’s no expert in criminology, and so doesn’t want to put a legal label on it.
In an email statement, Pacetti said he has continued to maintain his innocence since the allegations first surfaced and to refrain from speculation in the media “in order not to prejudice any persons or institutions seized with adjudicating this matter.”
“I am troubled that the complainant chose to air these allegations in the media as this is inconsistent with statements conveyed through her party that privacy and fairness must be respected for both sides,” the statement continued.
“As with media reports of this nature, in this instance many questions remain unanswered and there is no way to evaluate the veracity of the claims being made. If need be, this matter should go through a confidential process mediated by an independent third party as was proposed by the Speaker of the House of Commons. Canadian standards of fairness and the presumption of innocence can then be maintained to arrive at the truth.
“I reaffirm my innocence and I will not comment on this matter in the media any further.”
The woman MP eventually shared her allegations with Trudeau before the funeral of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo in Hamilton late last month. Multiple sources say she also revealed her concerns about a situation involving a colleague who had allegations against Andrews.
Two separate sit-down meetings ensued with the NDP and Liberal party whips. The one MP said she shared all the details about her allegations against Pacetti, and said very clearly she did not want to go public.
“All that I said was that I hoped that if they were able to launch an investigation to know whether there had been other victims of these two people, and if there was other inappropriate behaviour by these two people,” she said.
“They told me it was very difficult to do an investigation. And then afterwards I said that basically what I wanted was that it not happen to somebody else.”
A week later, Trudeau held a news conference announcing the ouster of Andrews and Pacetti.
She said hearing that morning that Trudeau was about to hold a news conference, not knowing what he was going to say, was extremely stressful.
But could Trudeau have left Pacetti in caucus after hearing her allegations? Is there some merit to the argument that he could have feared the NDP would later accuse him of inaction?
The woman says that Trudeau could have taken other actions, telling the men to “stay at home, I don’t want to see you,” until the matter was investigated. She also feels that the letter Trudeau subsequently sent House Speaker Andrew Scheer asking for an independent investigation could have formed the basis of confidential action behind the scenes, before any suspension.
“We couldn’t have said that he didn’t do anything since he would have written that letter,” she said.
Sources familiar with the women’s complaints told The Canadian Press the separate incident involving Andrews allegedly started at a social event on Parliament Hill before the woman, Andrews and Pacetti went from there to Pacetti’s office, where they drank some wine. Eventually, Pacetti left, leaving Andrews and the woman alone.
According to sources, the woman alleges that Andrews followed her home, forced his way through her door, pushed her against a wall, groped her and ground his pelvis against her. She ordered him to leave. He did.
Afterwards, sources say the woman alleges that Andrews repeatedly verbally harassed her, calling her a “c-kteaser.”
Andrews has denied any misconduct but sources say he has not yet given a detailed rebuttal to the woman’s complaint.
In an email, lawyer Chris MacLeod, who is representing Andrews, said the MP was not provided with “any details of the internal summary or any documentation from the Liberal caucus” about the complaint against him.
“He is in no position to respond to an unknown allegation,” MacLeod told The Canadian Press.
“Any allegation of misconduct on his part is untrue, and any reporting of the same will be considered libel on the part of you and your office.”
The NDP MP said she was willing to engage with an independent, confidential process offered by the Speaker of the House of Commons, but it isn’t clear to her what she would need to do to get that going.
Scheer’s office has said the “resources of the House administration as well as external experts in the field” have been offered.
“Right now, we don’t even know how to go about it,” she said.
“When we get to the issue of how that will work concretely…we don’t even know what we would do if we wanted to benefit from it or participate in it.”
Meanwhile, Trudeau is now trying to find a professional with expertise resolving harassment complaints in private sector workplaces to investigate, using notes taken by the Liberals during the confidential meetings with the alleged victims, whose names are widely known in parliamentary circles but have not been published by any media outlet to date.
The second woman would not speak to The Canadian Press. Neither Pacetti nor Andrews would agree to an interview.
In the meantime, the reputations of Pacetti and Andrews, both married men, have been shredded and New Democrats have furiously denounced Trudeau for making the matter public, against the wishes of the two women.
Trudeau has insisted he had a duty to act after one of the women directly complained to him late last month.