Calgary MP Kent Hehr resigns from cabinet over sexual harassment allegations
Kent Hehr, Calgary-Centre MP and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, has resigned from the Trudeau cabinet on Thursday pending an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct.
The allegations state that Hehr made ‘sexually suggestive’ comments to women while serving in the Alberta legislature as the representative of Calgary-Buffalo from 2008 to 2015.
On Thursday afternoon, Hehr made the decision to resign from cabinet while the investigation into the incident is ongoing, saying that he didn’t want to be a ‘distraction’ to the government.
He also encouraged women to speak up about any sort of situation where they’ve been made to feel uncomfortable.
“The conversation our society is having is a very important one. I encourage all women who have felt uncomfortable or who have experienced harassment of any kind to continue to come forward. It is never okay,” he said in his statement. “Throughout my career I have always tried to conduct myself with respect towards others, and I understand the most important thing is how each individual feels.”
Prime Minister Trudeau also commented, saying that he accepted Hehr’s resignation and added that his duties would be covered by Kirsty Duncan in his absence.
“Harassment of any kind is unacceptable and Canadians have a right to live and work in environments free from harassment. As a government we take any allegations of misconduct extremely seriously, and we believe that it is important to support women who come forward with allegations and that is exactly what our government will do,” Trudeau said in his statement.
A number of residents in Kent Hehr's riding say that it's disappointing to hear about the allegations.
"It's not shocking to me because I feel that people are standing up against that kind of stuff and they aren't accepting that kind of behaviour anymore. People aren't tolerating flirtatious behaviour anymore; they’re trying to put a stop to it," said Melissa Sparrow, who grew up in Calgary-Centre.
Sparrow says that people should not be so quick to judge him as it's still before the court.
"I think that he has a right to a fair trial. I think that he should be held accountable for anything that he does wrong and if he is [found guilty of] sexual harassment, then it’s unacceptable."
Affan Tahir says that situations like the one facing Hehr can be prevented.
"It starts from the early school, that’s where we can make a difference and that’s where the problem lies. I think that’s where we can improve."
He says that Canada is often a place that people around the world look up to and we should make sure to set a good example, now more than ever.
"If that’s happening in a country like ours, it certainly should be looked into fiercely and punished, if found guilty."
Lori Williams, political scientist at Mount Royal University, says the situation is another source of bad news for Hehr and the Liberal Party.
"He is the cabinet minister from Calgary and the government has before it another difficult dilemma in terms of what it does."
She says that it's especially critical given that Hehr is a politician.
“There’s a difference between insensitivity and awkwardness part of a regular civilian. It’s quite different when you’re a politician and your job is basically to be a good listener, to hear from people who have concerns,” says Williams. “The consequences for not meeting that standard are worse.”
While the gravity of these allegations is much worse that the controversies that Hehr has been involved in in the recent past, Williams says there is a point of no return.
“This doesn’t quite fit in to the rest of the things that we’ve been speaking about historically, but it is a pattern of insensitivity that, politically, is pretty costly. At some point, if the severity or number of complaints reaches that critical mass, I don’t know what that is, [but] I think the Prime Minister is going to have no choice.”
Hehr will be staying on as the MP for Calgary-Centre. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
(With files from Kathy Le and CTVNews.ca)