Liberal whip Mark Holland told reporters that the "buck stops with me" when asked about his party’s handling of sexual misconduct complaints against incumbent Raj Saini.
Saini is no longer running for Kitchener Centre after dropping out on September 4 due to the allegations against him. Seven sources with knowledge of the claims divulged four different instances of Saini allegedly making unwanted sexual advances or inappropriate comments.
Holland confirmed Wednesday that he was made aware of sexual harassment allegation, but he declined to discuss whether he contacted the Prime Minister’s Office concerning Saini, reported Global News.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not confirm whether he was told of the complaints about the incumbent.
"I've said many times and will continue [to] insist that everyone deserves to have a safe workplace, in the public service, in political campaigns, and right across the country in whatever jobs they have," said Trudeau, touting his and his party's record on such issues in the past.
The Liberal Party has a "Respectful Workplace Policy" for all candidates, staff and volunteers to prevent harassment in the workplace and on the campaign trail. It stipulates that the consequences of harassment include a warning, suspension or termination of employment. There are also non-disciplinary options available — an apology, mediation or additional training.
"Mr. Saini has shared the processes. There have been rigorous processes undertaken that he has shared the details of," he said. "We know that it is extremely important to take any allegation seriously, which we certainly have, and we always will because everyone deserves a safe workplace."
Holland took responsibility for the party's handling of the matter Wednesday, stating, "the buck stops with me."
He added: "I had the opportunity to look at the case."
Despite the uncertainties of the public on the party's commitment to its policy, Holland said he had "extraordinary confidence in that process."
The complainant, a former Liberal staffer, was given "all the options of where to go" to pursue the matter, according to Holland. This is believed to have included the option of mediation.
Saini faced allegations that he harassed a female member of staff, who then attempted suicide. The former MP for Kitchener Centre vehemently denied the allegations.
Saini added that he was only made aware of one of the allegations, who he said: "chose not to pursue a formal or informal complaint process." He claimed to have recommended an independent third-party review of his office that later dispelled the allegation.
"As the son of immigrants and a person of colour, I have the strongest appreciation for Canada’s values of inclusivity, fairness and due process," values that he writes, "[gave] me the opportunity to pursue a higher education, develop a business of which I am proud, and serve the highest calling, that of a Member of Parliament."
Beyond the release, Saini said he could not discuss the details because of privacy concerns.
The Liberal chief whip expressed concern that a "trial" was taking place in the court of public opinion, with key people involved unable to speak out. "There is no fair hearing of the facts because the matter is behind an iron wall," he said.
"The trial that is happening with these matters, I think, is unfortunate," Holland added. "People’s careers are on the line. It’s exceptionally important that we be careful how we treat these things."