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Manitoba ticklegate apology

A former Manitoba cabinet minister is apologizing after women came forward alleging he touched and tickled them and made inappropriate remarks while he was in government.

Stan Struthers, who was in cabinet for more than a decade while the New Democrats were in power, says he recently learned his behaviour made former colleagues and staff feel disrespected.

"I am sorry," he said in a statement Thursday. "I apologize for any interactions I have had that have been inappropriate and that have caused any person to feel disrespected or uncomfortable.

"My intention was never to treat women as anything other than equal and respected."

Joelle Saltel-Allard said he used to touch her when she worked for Struthers as his press secretary between 2009 and 2011.

"I would be working with him in his office and he would come and touch me or tickle me, often in front of other people," she told The Canadian Press.

Saltel-Allard said that during a car ride to a news conference, Struthers put his hand on her knee and talked about sex acts he would enjoy. That prompted her to lodge a complaint with her boss who took it up the chain of command.

"It was relayed back to me that I basically had to shut up and suck it up," she said. "They weren't going to do anything. There was an election coming up and nobody was going to take any action in regards to my complaint."

Saltel-Allard said she became stressed and anxious, and eventually took a three-month mental-health leave. She decided not to return to the legislature.

"I really felt like I was insignificant and my complaints weren't respected or even acknowledged. You really don't feel like working in that type of environment," she said.

"It becomes very toxic — just the fact that nobody would even acknowledge what I had to say or what I was going through. It was a struggle and it eventually led me to leave."

Karen Peters, a community activist, told the CBC that Struthers tickled her countless times when he was conservation minister and serving with her on a sustainable development roundtable. She said the touching also happened in front of other people, including other members of the legislature.



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