50234

Canada  

MP sex survey says?

There have long been obstacles in the path of women seeking to succeed in politics — and some female MPs are now coming forward to share their own experiences with sexually inappropriate behaviour, both on and off Parliament Hill.

The Canadian Press surveyed current female MPs of every political stripe last month to find out the extent to which they had been the targets of sexual harassment, assault or misconduct of all kinds, including during their time in elected office.

The responses make clear that political Ottawa — long a bastion of male-dominated power relationships — is no stranger to inappropriate behaviour against women, no matter their stature, with social media being the most common source of complaints.

Of 89 current female members of Parliament, 38 chose to respond to the voluntary survey, which sought their input on everything from lived experiences to their views on the global conversation growing out of allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, among others. Anonymity was promised to ensure MPs could share their experiences and opinions without fear of reprisal.

Nearly 58 per cent of respondents said they had personally 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.

That includes three MPs who said they were victims of sexual assault and four who said they were the targets of sexual harassment, defined in the survey as insistent and repeated sexual advances.

Nearly half of respondents — 47 per cent — said they were subjected to inappropriate comments on social media.

"It's particularly good moment for us to show leadership, to take advantage of the spotlight that we have on Parliament Hill, to affirm that sexual harassment can happen in any workplace, not only on the Hollywood casting couches," said New Democrat MP Sheila Malcolmson, who said she opted to speak publicly out of a sense of responsibility.

Some of the behaviour documented by the survey appears to have been at the hands of those within the corridors of power.

Twenty-two MPs who said they had personally experienced some form of sexual misconduct in office chose to answer a question about the perpetrators, with five saying it came from an MP from her own party. Ten said it came from an MP in a different political party.

Eight respondents said the perpetrator was a lobbyist, constituent or other stakeholder known to them through their role in elected politics, while 18 said it was either someone from outside the world of politics or someone who is anonymous or otherwise unknown to them.

One MP, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect her personal privacy, said that while she has never experienced sexual harassment on Parliament Hill, she has heard her male colleagues share many jokes and remarks of a sexual nature about female MPs and employees.

Despite her best efforts to make clear that the jokes — which her colleagues find trivial — are unwelcome and inappropriate, they have not stopped.

The MPs surveyed were nonetheless hesitant to suggest they are worse off than anyone else.

Sixty-three per cent of respondents said they don't believe the level of sexual harassment in political circles is any different than any other workplace.

There was a higher number of MPs who said they had either witnessed, or been told about, sexual misconduct targeting another woman in their entourage, be it a staffer, page, intern, House of Commons employee or MP.

Two-thirds of respondents said such behaviour had occurred rarely, while another four said it happened often.

The vast majority said they had never heard about the same things happening to a man, although six respondents did say they had either witnessed or been told about sexual misconduct directed at men in their entourage. They described the instances as rare.

"The best friend of violence is silence, so if someone ever says, 'You're going to embarrass me,' that person is not there to help you," she said.



More Canada News

Canada
50130
Parliament Hill
Parliament Hill Webcam
46573
Recent Trending
50584
Okanagan Oldies
44767
Castanet Proud Member of RTNDA Canada
48177



47299