Former NDP MP Peter Stoffer has been accused of sexual harassment during his time on Parliament Hill.
In an emailed statement to The Chronicle Herald, federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said he is deeply disturbed by the multiple allegations against Stoffer.
“I believe the women who’ve come forward and I want to acknowledge their courage and strength. It’s clear our anti-harassment policies and protections for workers were insufficient and failed to appropriately deal with this behaviour,” Singh said.
On Thursday evening the National Post newspaper reported allegations by Lauren Dobson-Hughes that Stoffer had groped and kissed her on multiple occasions around 2009 when she was working as a staffer in the office of then-New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton.
The Post reported that they spoke with other woman who had similar accusations against Stoffer, as well as other NDP MPs who said they received complaints about him, however no formal complaint was ever raised.
On Twitter, Dobson-Hughes said she hopes her speaking out helps expose the systemic failure of even acknowledging sexual harassment as an endemic problem in politics.
“Many, many people knew and witnessed harassment by this person. Female caucus members warned staff and each other about it (no male MP or senior staff ever warned me about another man),” she said in a Tweet.
Stoffer, who served as the MP for Sackville-Preston-Chezzetcook for 18 years until he was defeated in the 2015 election, told The Chronicle Herald on Thursday evening that he has “never sexually abused or physically harassed anyone.”
“If somebody feels something was inappropriate, there was no intent on my side,” he said.
Stoffer emailed a letter to The Chronicle Herald on Thursday afternoon before the allegations were made public saying that over
the past few months he has realized that his “humour and friendly demeanour” may have been interpreted in a manner that was not intended.
When initially contacted by The Chronicle Herald, Stoffer said he wasn’t aware of any complaints of inappropriate behaviour.
He said the recent wave of allegations against a number of high-profile political figures in the wake of the #metoo movement, including former Liberal cabinet minister Kent Hehr as well as Jamie Baillie and Patrick Brown, the former leaders of the Nova Scotia and Ontario PC parties respectively, made him reflect on his own behaviour and prompted him to write the letter But Singh later confirmed allegations against him.
He said the NDP will continue to review, renew and expand its policies regarding harassment at all levels.
“My office will respond to any complaint we receive regardless of when the event occurred. How we proceed will be based on the wishes of the person affected by these acts,” Singh said.