Calgary MP Darshan Kang says he will defend his reputation “at all costs” following allegations that he sexually harassed a member of his staff.
Kang, who had remained silent about the matter until Tuesday, released a statement late in the afternoon proclaiming his innocence.
“For the past decade I have dedicated my life to public office,” he wrote.
“Since the allegations of sexual harassment were levelled against me I have been under a tremendous amount of stress and subsequently, I was placed on medical leave.”
Kang then explains that that’s why he has not been seen at public events, adding that he cannot comment on an open, ongoing investigation.
“I continue to proclaim my innocence and will defend my reputation at all costs,” the statement concludes.
The allegations involving the Liberal MP initially surfaced in mid-August. According to Ottawa-based newspaper the Hill Times, a young female staffer at Kang’s northeast Calgary constituency office filed the complaint in June with Chief Liberal Whip Pablo Rodriguez.
Rodriguez has confirmed that he referred the matter to House of Commons chief human resources officer Pierre Parent. Mediation was reportedly attempted to resolve the matter internally, and when that didn’t work, an external investigator was called in to look into the alleged misconduct.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said repeatedly he will not offer any comment until that investigation is completed. Kang remains a member of the Liberal caucus.
“I can assure people that our whip’s office and the human resources of the Parliament of Canada are engaged, as they must be, in this process,” Trudeau said Monday outside Rideau Hall. “I have no further comment to make at this time on the independent process that is being undergone.”
Less than 24 hours later, the Toronto Star reported that Kang had allegedly offered the woman up to $100,000 for her silence. The newspaper quoted the young staffer’s father, who alleged that Kang engaged in behaviour ranging from “unwelcome hugs” and hand-holding to offering the woman wine and pulling on her jacket to try to get her to take it off.
None of those allegations have been proven.
On Tuesday, NDP status of women critic Sheila Malcolmson called for Kang’s immediate dismissal from caucus “until such time as a full investigation can be completed.”
“Mr. Kang should not sit as a member of the governing party,” Malcolmson wrote. “That is exactly the approach the Prime Minister previously espoused and acted upon.”
Kang, who is a former provincial MLA in Alberta, is the third federal Liberal MP to face accusations of alleged harassment since the party formed government in late 2015. Trudeau previously booted Liberal MPs Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti from his caucus after receiving complaints involving the men from two female NDP MPs.
Former fisheries minister Hunter Tootoo later resigned from the Liberal caucus and cabinet of his own volition, after acknowledging that he engaged in an inappropriate but consensual sexual relationship with one of his female staffers.
The prime minister has made it clear there is a zero-tolerance policy in place when it comes to sexual harassment.