Former Manitoba cabinet minister Stan Struthers is facing more accusations Friday from women who said they were tickled by him while he was in office.
“I was working on a project back in 2013. It was a lot of tight timelines and deadlines,” Julie Kentner, a public affairs specialist with the Manitoba Government, told Global News. “He reached over and tickled me in my rib cage and it was really startling.”
Kentner, who first posted about the incident on her Facebook page, said it was an unsettling experience.
“I wish I’d been less shocked and more able to deliver either some kind of physical blow or a blow to Tickle-Me Stan’s career, but not in that moment.”
She said she pulled away from him and quickly finished the meeting. Then she immediately called her supervisors who were “terrific”. She didn’t want to report the incident and they supported her decision.
“I was alone in a room with him. It would have turned into a ‘he said, she said’ kind of process,” Kentner said. “I just didn’t think it was worth the time, effort and potential reputational damage to myself and the effects it could have on my career.”
Kentner said Struthers’ alleged behaviour will not be tolerated. She is the latest woman to speak out about the former NDP MLA. On Thursday his former press secretary, Joelle Saltel-Allard, said he touched and tickled her – often in front of other people.
In 2010, Shannon Van Raes worked for Struthers and said he asked her if she liked being tickled and then put his hands under her skirt and groped her. She said she complained about the behaviour, but was told to grow a thicker skin and suck it up.
“Women don’t know what happens to each other all the time,” Kentner said. “Some women keep it very, very close and very private. Once you hear one woman, including myself, it’s a safer conversation to have.”
Global News attempted to reach Greg Selinger, who was the premier when Struthers was in cabinet, but was told he was out of the country
Struthers has apologized for any interactions that made people feel disrespected or uncomfortable.
Kentner’s full Facebook post on Stan Struthers:
“Many of my Winnipeg friends will have seen this news today, but for those who haven’t, the link is below. Five very brave women came forward and shared their stories about a former cabinet minister known for tickling staff, and I believe them. I believe them, because I was also tickled by this man.
It happened once in 2013, in a one-on-one meeting to edit a document. I was so stunned that I just pulled away, and he stopped. (I wish I’d been less shocked and more able to deliver either some kind of physical blow or a blow to Tickle-Me Stan’s career, but not in that moment.) We finished the edits, I left and I immediately called my supervisors. They were terrific, but agreed not to report it as I requested.
After all, I was a front-line civil servant and he was a cabinet minister. Technically, he held my hard-earned career in his hands. And rather than engage in some sort of long, drawn-out, he-said-she-said process, I chose to say nothing.
The women who came forward today lived with this behaviour over a very extended period of time. It affected their careers, their personal lives. It happened to me once. I’ve come to terms with it and dealt with, and have suffered no real consequences from his actions.
I was lucky. But other women might not be, and so I’ve chosen to share my story. Know that I am okay, but also that it will not be tolerated.”
Posted by Julie Kentner on Facebook
– With files from The Canadian Press