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Leaders set tone for misconduct: Singh

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OTTAWA—NDP leader Jagmeet Singh says he personally has discussed the issue of sexual misconduct with his caucus members, and that his party has a zero-tolerance policy for such behaviour.

It's vital for someone in a leadership role to send a strong message about unacceptable behaviour, Singh said yesterday—a view shared by former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose.

“It is something that I need to show leadership on—I have and I will continue to do so,” he noted in an interview.

“It is important for a number of reasons,” Singh added.

“I set the tone of the party and that's why it is so important for me to make sure that I make it clear in our party that there is zero tolerance for any form of sexual misconduct, of harassment.”

It's important that political party leaders send a message—particularly to men—that sexual misconduct won't be tolerated, Ambrose said earlier this week.

Leadership involves letting members of an organization know where the boss stands while clear sexual harassment policies are relayed with guidance on how to use them, she added.

“Say to the men in your party, 'Look, I know I am not speaking to all of you but if there's any kind of this behaviour, it has to stop—and if we found out there is some of it, it is going to come out and we are going to deal with it,'” Ambrose stressed.

Singh said he agrees with veteran NDP MP Nathan Cullen that male MPs should be playing a more active role in eradicating misconduct from politics.

“Men play a particularly important role in addressing the gendered nature of this misconduct,” he noted.

A recent CP survey of female MPs found 58 percent of respondents personally had been the target of one or more forms of sexual misconduct while in office, including inappropriate or unwanted remarks, gestures, or text messages of a sexual nature.

Thirty-eight of 89 of current female MPs participated in the voluntary, anonymous survey, which also found 47 percent of respondents had been subjected to inappropriate comments on social media.

Singh called the survey findings unacceptable and disturbing, as well as a sad reality for far too many women in all kinds of workplaces, including the political realm.

“Women have experienced some form of sexual misconduct in their lives, in general, and on top of that, in their places of work,” he said.

“It is not acceptable anywhere, but we shouldn't see it in our democratic institutions . . . the reality is it is there, and it is everywhere.”

The NDP is working on enhancing its training on harassment issues, Singh added, noting anyone who comes forward with a complaint about past or present behaviour will see it dealt with according to their wishes.

The party has had an anti-harassment policy in place for about two decades, he said.

Singh also cited the experience of Lauren Dobson-Hughes, a former party staffer who described being accosted and kissed by a much older NDP MP in front of witnesses on the Hill in 2007, illustrates why more needs to be done to address unacceptable behaviour.

“We have an example right in front us,” Singh noted.

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