OTTAWA — A senator drew laughs Tuesday after she made an eyebrow-raising remark downplaying the issue of sexual harassment in Canada’s Senate.
During a debate discussing the Senate’s policies on handling complaints, Independent Sen. Anne Cools asked a colleague to produce evidence to prove that sexual harassment is a problem.
Cools asked Sen. Frances Lankin, who had been speaking on the topic, for her definition of sexual harassment. “And what evidence is there before us that there is a culture in this place or problems with sexual harassment to begin with?” Cools asked.
“Most senators are too old anyway, and long past the age — so let’s rule out most of them.”
That remark brought on some laughs from other senators.
According to the Senate’s prevention and resolution of harassment in the workplace policy, sexual harassment is defined as: “any conduct, comment, gesture or contact of a sexual nature, whether on a one-time or recurring basis, that might reasonably be expected to cause offence or humiliation, or might reasonably be perceived as placing a condition of a sexual nature on employment, training or promotion.”
I have evidence of first-hand stories on the part of women who believe that they have been victims.Sen. Frances Lankin
Lankin responded that she believes sexual harassment is a problem in the Senate because employees have told her so.
“I have had a number of women staff come to me and talk to me about experiences that they’ve had and asked for advice about how to handle it,” she said. “In this case, I have evidence of first-hand stories on the part of women who believe that they have been victims.”
Cools founded one of the country’s first women’s shelter in 1974, according to her Senate biography. She was appointed to the Senate by former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau in 1984.
The Toronto senator did not respond to a request for comment before publication.
Senate’s slow response to workplace harassment allegations
A HuffPost Canada investigation published last year revealed workplace harassment complaints were filed against former senator Don Meredith in 2013. The nature of the complaints, filed by members of his staff, detailed incidents from alleged bullying to sexual touching.
These complaints prompted a third-party investigation, which prompted the Senate Ethics Officer to make a preliminary review to see if the allegations merited an inquiry.
More from HuffPost Canada:
Senator Don Meredith Harassed, Sexually Abused Staff For Years, Say Former Aides
Source:: The Huffington Post – Canada Travel