Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that as leader of the Liberal Party, he is “continually informed” of internal party investigations into allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct.
The remarks came during a daily briefing with journalists in which Trudeau faced questions about whether he was aware MP Marwan Tabbara, facing criminal charges, was at the centre of an investigation by the Liberal Party into allegations of sexual harassment when the MP was approved to run for the Liberals in the 2019 federal election.
“I am continually informed as leader of the Liberal Party of investigations of allegations of processes going forward and that have existed,” Trudeau told reporters Friday. “We always ensure that there is a rigorous process in place whenever there are any sorts of allegations brought forward.
“We put in place rigorous processes, rigorous training and rigorous procedures to follow in any case of complaints or allegations,” he added.
“Those steps are always followed.”
The prime minister declined to answer questions in detail, citing “confidentiality” around investigations into allegations of inappropriate touching and unwelcome sexual comments directed at a female staffer by the Kitchener South-Hespeler MP.
“We make sure that all the steps are followed, that the conclusions are adhered to, that the recommendations are fulfilled,” he said. “And of course, that confidentiality, which is so important in this situation and in all of these situations, is respected.”
The CBC reported Friday that an internal investigation before the October election by the Liberals determined some of the allegations were substantiated. The party approved Tabbara as a Liberal candidate last year after an unusually long six-month vetting process.
The CBC also reported, citing an anonymous source, that claims about inappropriate conduct involving Tabbara and a female staffer had been reported to the Liberal Party several times in the past five years.
The same source told the public broadcaster that senior officials in both the Trudeau government and the Liberal Party knew about the claims and that one of the individuals who was aware of the allegations is now working at the Prime Minister’s Office.
Trudeau has said he has a zero-tolerance policy on sexual misconduct in the workplace and that women who come forward with complaints of sexual assault and harassment must be supported and believed.
According to the Liberals’ “Respectful Workplace policy” — which applies to all candidates, staff and volunteers — allegations of harassment can be informally resolved. However, the national director of the party can launch an investigation if a formal complaint is submitted.
During an investigation, both parties are interviewed and allowed to submit evidence. If a claim is substantiated, disciplinary measures include a warning, suspension or termination, according to the policy. Complaints can also be resolved through an apology, mediation or additional training.
In April, Tabbara was arrested by officers with the Guelph Police Service and charged with two counts of assault, one count of breaking and entering and committing an indictable offence and one count of criminal harassment related to a separate incident.
Trudeau said his office only became aware of the criminal charges after media reports on June 5. Guelph police have defended their decision not to publicize the MP’s name following his arrest, as they did not believe Tabbara posed a significant risk to the public.
Tabbara made a brief court appearance Friday morning via videoconference, but his proceedings were adjourned until Aug. 28.
The Ontario Court of Justice has pushed back all criminal matters where the accused is out of custody by 10 weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Kitchener South-Hespeler MP has left the Liberal caucus but is still sitting as an MP.
“Other than to state unequivocally that every incident of violence is unacceptable and inexcusable, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further while this matter is before the court,” he said in a statement following his arrest.