Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says he’s “deeply disturbed” by allegations of inappropriate behaviour levied against longtime former New Democrat MP Peter Stoffer.
Singh promised In a tweet Thursday evening that the party will continue to “review, renew and expand” its harassment policies in the wake of the allegations, which were first reported by the National Post.
“I believe the women who have come forward and I want to acknowledge their courage and strength,” Singh tweeted.
“It’s clear our anti-harassment policies and protections for workers were insufficient and failed to appropriately deal with this (alleged) behaviour.”
Singh’s statement followed a report in the National Post that cited three women who allege Stoffer acted inappropriately toward them.
One of them, Lauren Dobson-Hughes, accuses the former Nova Scotia MP of grabbing and kissing her without her consent on two separate occasions in 2006 and 2009.
Dobson-Hughes, who was an NDP staffer at the time of the alleged incidents, told the newspaper several other MPs and senior staff were present at the second alleged incident “but nobody batted an eyelid.”
Stoffer did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Canadian Press, but he told the Post that he did not recall any of the alleged incidents. He also denied any past sexually inappropriate behaviour.
Stoffer was reportedly well-liked among his peers and was a perennial winner of the “Most Collegial” title in an annual ranking by Maclean’s magazine.
But according to Dobson-Hughes, that collegiality often crossed the line into inappropriateness. She told the Post that Stoffer would often ask her “creepy question” about her love life and relationship status.
Dobson-Hughes alleged that when those comments escalated into physical advances, she went to her boss at the time, former MP Dawn Black.
Black told the newspaper she took the complaint to then-NDP Leader Jack Layton, but was “disappointed” that Layton delegated the task to then-NDP caucus chair Judy Wasylycia-Leis instead of taking it up with Stoffer himself.
Stoffer denied having any knowledge of that happening.
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Dobson-Hughes told The Canadian Press last month that sexual harassment was “rampant” on Parliament Hill. She detailed an incident where a male New Democrat MP allegedly grabbed and kissed her without consent, but did not name him.
She confirmed to The Canadian Press late Thursday that the alleged incident she detailed last month is the same as one described in the National Post story about Stoffer, although she told the news agency it happened in 2007.
Dobson-Hughes decided to name names, she said, “because I wanted to be part of a thoughtful, broader piece that wasn’t about me, but was about moving the conversation forward, and making change in how we deal with sexual harassment.”
The Dutch-born Stoffer was first elected to Parliament in 1997, and held his suburban Halifax riding until his defeat in the 2015 election that saw the Liberals sweep Atlantic Canada.