Minister Kent Hehr resigns from cabinet amid misconduct allegations
Kent Hehr, the federal minister for sport and persons with disabilities, has resigned from cabinet pending the outcome of an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday.
“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,” Trudeau said in a statement.
“Today, I accepted the Honourable Kent Hehr’s resignation from cabinet pending the outcome of the investigation.”
The allegations against Hehr date back to his time as a member of the Alberta legislature.
Late Wednesday night, a public servant in Alberta tweeted that she was told “to avoid being in an elevator with Kent Hehr” on her first day working at the legislature. She alleged that Hehr made “verbally sexually suggestive comments” to a number of women, and once told her: “You’re yummy.”
In another statement on Thursday evening, she insisted “this is not a partisan issue.”
“I am not a liberal. I am a survivor -- like so many of my brave sisters who have already shared their stories and given hope and strength to others to do the same,” she wrote.
Another woman told CTV News about an incident at the Liberal caucus Christmas party in December 2015, just a few weeks after Trudeau’s government was sworn in.
CTV News has agreed to protect the woman’s identity.
The woman said she was a guest at the party, where she was introduced to Hehr, who was serving as veterans affairs minister at the time.
She said she bent down to shake Hehr’s hand.
“He pulled me toward him so that it was chest to eye level, since he's in his wheelchair. And he said he was just enjoying the view,” she said. “It was clearly a reference to my chest.”
The encounter left the woman “shocked and surprised.”
In a statement issued late Thursday afternoon, Hehr said he resigned from Trudeau’s cabinet pending the outcome of an investigation because he does not “want to be a distraction to all the good work being done by our government.”
Hehr said he welcomes and respects the investigation process.
“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,” he said in the statement. “It is never okay.”
CTV News asked Hehr for comment on the alleged Christmas party incident. A representative from Hehr’s office said his earlier statement stands.
Hehr said he will stay on as an MP for Calgary Centre.
In what he referred to as Hehr’s “leave of absence,” Trudeau said Hehr’s ministerial duties will be performed by Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan.
When asked about the allegations against Hehr earlier on Thursday in Davos, Switzerland, the prime minister responded by saying that it’s “really important to believe and support any woman who comes forward with allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault and that’s exactly what, my government and myself, we do.”
Trudeau said he’s “unequivocal” in his support for women who come forward.
None of the allegations against Hehr have been proven in court.
With a report from CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Joyce Napier