After accusations of assault were made against members of the Canadian government, like Jamie Baillie and Patrick Brown, with resignations following, the issue of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s alleged misconduct 18 years ago has resurfaced in the media.
At the Kokanee Summit Festival in August 2000, the then 28-year-old Trudeau was accused of groping a female reporter. News of this incident has also been published in an editorial by Creston Valley Advance in 2000, despite the woman asking that the story not be published.
The Canadian Conservative MP Michelle Rempel compared the incident to that of Hollywood director Harvey Weinstein’s because Trudeau did not recall the event.
When asked if he was inappropriate he claimed: “I don’t think so.” He added: “I’ve been very, very careful all my life to be thoughtful and to be respectful of people’s space and people’s headspace as well.”
Rempel claimed that Weinstein says the same statement over again, just like Trudeau is alleged to be doing. Her logic infers that the Prime Minister is a violator since he cannot recall an event like this. Is comparing Trudeau and Weinstein valid?
There has been a wave of women speaking out about their sexual abusers, even years later, thanks to the #MeToo movement.
At the time of the event, Trudeau allegedly told the reporter: “I’m sorry. If I had known you were reporting for a national paper, I never would have been so forward.” It goes without saying that groping is groping; it does not matter who the woman is or what her role is.
There has been a wave of women speaking out about their sexual abusers, even years later, thanks to the #MeToo movement. tweet
Trudeau always talks about consent; and now people are questioning his legitimacy, with good reason. Many people are calling him a hypocrite since reports of the alleged event have resurfaced.
Trudeau defended himself and told CBC News in an interview: “I’ve been very, very careful all my life to be thoughtful and to be respectful of people’s space and people’s headspace as well.”
It is not foreign in politics to use past events to weaken an opponent; in this case, the conservatives, in natural competition and political opposition, are fighting against Trudeau, the leader of the Canadian Liberal Party. The Liberals and Conservatives of Canada are the two main fierce competitors in the nation’s politics, constantly in debates in the House of Commons of Parliament. The conservatives often use Trudeau’s personal life into their arguments, like how much he spends on a gift or how he presents himself.
Fighting sexual abuse is highly tied to feminism, and according to those who oppose Trudeau, the feminism is an act and a coverup for Trudeau’s mistakes. Continuing with his image as a feminist, according to Trudeau, he has been fighting against sexual assault for 25 years. (He has always been in the public eye because of his father, former PM Pierre Elliott Trudeau). “This is something that I’m not new to. I’ve been working on issues around sexual assault for over 25 years,” he confirms.
Justin Trudeau continued: “My first activism and engagement was at the sexual assault centre at McGill students’ society where I was one of the first male facilitators in their outreach program leading conversations — sometimes very difficult ones — on the issues of consent, communications, accountability, power dynamics.”
For all the sexual allegations that have been levied against members of the Canadian government, Trudeau says his party is “doing the best that [they] can.” When a code of conduct for the members of the House of Commons, was suggested, Trudeau claimed it was an “interesting” idea.
The real question is, though, will it be applied soon before sexual harassment takes more of a toll?
Finally, Trudeau says he has been reflecting on the incident for the past couple of weeks: “I’ve been reflecting very carefully on what I remember from that incident almost 20 years ago and again I feel — I am confident — that I did not act inappropriately. But part of this awakening that we’re having as a society, a long awaited realization, is that it’s not just one side of the story that matters.”