July 3, 2018 9:46 am
Updated: July 3, 2018 3:34 pm

COMMENTARY: The facts about what Justin Trudeau can’t remember

WATCH: No memory of 'negative interactions' says Trudeau of 18-year-old groping allegation

A A

Seeing as facts are now apparently the front and demarcation lines between left and right in Canada, it’s perhaps the right time to look at the facts behind an 18-year-old allegation of groping against Justin Trudeau.

READ MORE: No memory of ‘negative interactions,’ Trudeau says of groping allegations from 18 years ago

Fact: Justin Trudeau was in Creston, B.C., in August of 2000 to attend the Kokanee Summit to raise funds in honour of his brother Michel, who died in an avalanche in the region.

Fact: The Creston Valley Advance — a local paper with a staff of four (publisher, editor, two reporters) — sent their only female reporter to cover Trudeau’s visit on behalf of the National Post.

Fact: The Advance published an editorial after the Kokanee Summit accusing Trudeau of “groping” and inappropriately “handling” their reporter.

Fact: The same editorial quotes a “day-late” apology from Trudeau himself: “I’m sorry. If I had known you were reporting for a national paper, I would never have been so forward.”

Fact: The reporter subjected to Trudeau’s “groping” told her then-editor and then-publisher about the incident. The publisher recalled the reporter being “distressed.” For his part, the editor said “whatever physical touch or whatever had occurred in that moment was definitely not welcome and definitely inappropriate.”

One more fact: Justin Trudeau remembers none of this happening.

Not that Trudeau forgets the day itself, mind you. When asked Sunday about the events in question, Trudeau replied: “I remember that day in Creston well, it was an Avalanche Foundation event to support avalanche safety. I had a good day that day. I don’t remember any negative interactions that day at all.”

Well, then. The good news is the prime minister’s words are far more definitive than those of his office, who for weeks said only the prime minister “didn’t think” he had any “negative interactions” in Creston. Now we finally have Trudeau’s best recollection: it was a “good day,” with no recollections “at all” of “groping.” In other words, sorry Advance reporter, editor, and publisher, the prime minister says you have your facts wrong. Indeed, our feminist prime minister says you’re lying, whether inadvertently or explicitly.

READ MORE: Justin Trudeau on why Kent Hehr remains in caucus amid groping allegations: ‘Every case will be different’

This is the point in the debate where a vast online army of supposedly fact-friendly Trudeau-supporting partisans will claim victory. Fine. But let’s make sure we understand the acrobatics we’re being asked to perform.

To dismiss the so-called “Kokanee Grope,” you must:

  • Dismiss the paper and its reporting (i.e. believe it’s fake news).
  • Ignore the apology attributed to Justin Trudeau (more fake news).
  • Ignore the contemporaneous accounts from the editor and publisher (which are detailed, sourced by multiple outlets, and on the record).
  • Or simply believe that whatever happened wasn’t all that serious, and that Trudeau gets to be judge, jury, and pardoner when he hasn’t afforded that luxury to others in his party facing similar questions about their conduct.

If you can square yourself with that — with all of that — then you’re as blind a partisan as those you accuse on the other side of being. You’re also as unwedded to facts — and skeptical of the media — as a Trump supporter.

What’s particularly grotesque is that Trudeau is now placing the whole weight of his office — and his defence — on the person who reported on his visit to Creston and was subjected to the “groping.” Trudeau is betting she won’t come forward again to contradict him. Is that safe — or wise?

It’s a fact the now-former reporter is being approached by media and that Trudeau’s office isn’t commenting as to whether it — or its proxies — have spoken with her. When contacted by one outlet, the reporter asked that her name not be used and that she not be contacted about the story again. Does that sound like someone who thinks the Kokanee Summit was a “good day?” Or merely someone who has no interest in reliving the past?

One thing her response isn’t, is a denial, which puts her and Trudeau at odds. Given the victim’s absolute right to remain silent, the attention must stay with Trudeau, who didn’t allow any followup questions after delivering his response to the Creston allegations.

READ MORE: Justin Trudeau, Kent Hehr attend Liberals’ sexual harassment training session

If nothing “at all” happened, if it was a “good day,” why not answer questions until the cows come home? Why is the 2000 version of Trudeau on the record apologizing for events that day? If the words of the apology aren’t his, why isn’t Trudeau pushing for a retraction on such a serious allegation? If there is a dispute as to what happened, why is Trudeau’s word better than, say, Massimo Pacetti’s? Or Scott Andrews’? Or Darshan Kang’s? Or Kent Hehr’s?

Despite Trudeau’s denial, there is more to be learned. Thanks to new CBC reporting we now know the reporter was interviewing Trudeau when he touched her. “It was a brief touch,” according to her then-editor. “I would not classify it or qualify it as sexual assault.”

Clearly nobody did. There might even be a suitable explanation. If we’re about facts in this day and age, why not establish them — definitively — in this case?

Absent a third-party investigation, who are we meant to believe? The words of a reporter, editor, and publisher with nothing to gain, or those of a prime minister with potentially everything to lose?

Andrew MacDougall is a London-based consultant, columnist and commentator. He was director of communications for former prime minister Stephen Harper.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Report an error

Comments

Want to discuss? Please read our Commenting Policy first.