Liberal MP Romanado speaks out, disputes Tory MP Bezan's telling of events
Published Tuesday, December 5, 2017 10:53PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, December 6, 2017 12:24AM EST
OTTAWA – Liberal MP Sherry Romanado is speaking out a day after revelations that Conservative MP James Bezan made "sexual" comments about her at a public event, disputing his telling of events.
On May 2, Bezan was posing for a photo with Romanado and another person and said, "This isn’t my idea of a threesome." The incident only came to light Monday when Bezan apologized in the House of Commons for the “inappropriate and insensitive comment."
Bezan later issued a statement saying he had "attempted to apologize" to Romanado a day after he made the remark, “but was not afforded that opportunity."
He also said he made subsequent attempts to apologize -- an offer that was denied, he added.
Romanado told CTV News that Bezan’s claims to have made a number of attempts to apologize are "not very accurate," and that he only apologized in a face-to-face meeting about five months later.
"The first time I spoke to Mr. Bezan since May 2 was Oct. 25. Prior to that I had no communication with him," Romanado said.
Romanado said that she was not aware Bezan was going to be making a statement in the House. She had wanted a public apology to match the public setting in which he made the comments, and had hoped it would come sooner.
She was sitting in her office when she was notified that Bezan had spoken out.
Romanado rose Monday afternoon and gave her own statement, saying that Bezan "publicly made inappropriate, humiliating, and unwanted comments to me that were sexual in nature."
It was after this allegation was made that Bezan issued a further statement of his own, confirming that he had made the "inappropriate and flippant" threesome comment, but said it was intended to be referencing their partisan differences.
"His statement made it sound like, 'I did everything possible, and well, you know, she’s just being irrational,'" Romanado told CTV News.
CHRO review of incident
A day after the May 2 incident, Romanado informed her party’s Whip, Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez. It was May 10 when the House of Commons' Chief Human Resources Officer Pierre Parent received a formal complaint from Romanado and started looking into it.
Upon conclusion of the review of the incident on August 16, the CHRO found that the report "did not support a claim of sexual harassment," and no disciplinary action was recommended against Bezan.
Bezan said he sought mediation, willingly took part in the review of the incident, and apologized in writing to the member, as part of his submission to the CHRO.
Romanado contests that the written apology was not directed at her, as it was addressed to Parent.
Questions remain about what degree of confidentiality was required by the two MPs while the review of the incident was underway, and the details of the resolution process.
According to the Code of Conduct for members when it comes to sexual harassment allegations, "confidentiality is of the utmost importance," and statements made in the House of Commons on specific instances “must respect the confidentiality of the resolution process.”
Bezan declined to be interviewed on camera to respond, but a Conservative spokesperson said that he was advised it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to contact her to apologize, given the CHRO process had been initiated.
Romanado said the process surrounding the CHRO review concluded last week.
Romanado ‘not sure’ she accepts apology
Romanado said while she is glad to have gotten an apology, she’s "not sure" if she accepts it.
She said she hopes Bezan learned about how his words can impact others, and is ready to move on.
"I don’t know why he did what he did, I don’t know why he said what he said, I wish he never said it, I wish I wasn’t sitting here, having to have this conversation, but that’s the reality," she said.
Romanado said that while she thought the process was fair, she thinks it could be improved
"So that it’s supporting both members, not just… the defendant."
New details about the incident
The May 2 incident occurred at an event at Ottawa City Hall, while the two were posing for a photo with a veteran. The annual "To the 'Stan and Back" fundraiser was for veterans and first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder.
She said the pair were speaking and went over to talk to a veteran in attendance. At this time a photographer asked for a photo and the two stood on either side of the unnamed veteran.
It was at this time Bezan made the threesome comment, and followed it up with another, suggesting they make a "sandwich" on either side of the veteran.
"My face just must have hit the floor," Romanado said.
Romanado, who has two sons in their twenties who are in the military, said the comment hit hard because it came from a senior politician who is respected for his defence knowledge, and she was trying to establish credibility on the file.
At this time she had been about three months into her job as parliamentary secretary to the minister of veterans affairs and associate minister of national defence.
"Having a colleague I thought respected me completely dismiss me, in front of a stakeholder, who I have to work with and face at subsequent events and so on, was just mind-boggling to me. I just couldn’t believe that someone would do that. To him it might have been a flippant remark. For me it was not. It really was not," she said.
Romanado said she took the picture and immediately left.
Last 24 hours 'surreal'
Since details of the exchange became public, Romanado has faced considerable backlash on social media, and her office has been flooded with people emailing her.
She said one comment she saw was someone offer to make sure she knew what a threesome was.
"When people come forward, our concerns are: 'Am I going to be believed? Am I going to lose my job? If I keep pushing, am I going to be branded?'" said Romanado.
Since coming forward, she’s had several colleagues tell her they’ve had similar experiences but don’t want to go public.
"People are afraid to live what I’ve had to live through," she said.
While Romanado said she is ready to move forward, she hopes this pushes forward a conversation about harassment on Parliament Hill.
With a report from CTV News' Omar Sachedina