Senator offering to cover legal fees for staffers who allege harassment
Published Tuesday, February 6, 2018 6:19PM EST
OTTAWA –Independent Sen. Marilou McPhedran has set up a unique forum for current and past Senate staffers who want to discuss their experiences of harassment in the workplace, and is offering to cover the cost for those who want legal counsel.
The Manitoba senator has opened up the offer to any staff member that has worked for a Senator or in the Senate administration since 2006.
In an interview on CTV’s Power Play, McPhedran said that while the Senate does have some procedures in place, the missing piece is "a safe and confidential place where expert consultation can take place for the person who has experienced the harassment, where in their own words, in their own time, they can talk to a lawyer."
In an effort to fill this gap, she has set up a confidential email address -- email@example.com -- that she said only she has access to, for people who wish to share their experiences.
As well, McPhedran, who worked as a human rights lawyer before being appointed to the Upper Chamber, has put a bilingual lawyer on retainer using her Senate office budget to consult on any potential cases that come forward.
It will be up to each person who emails in their stories to determine for themselves if they want further actions taken, or if sharing their experience with someone is enough.
The senator said that often times there are more resources available to the alleged perpetrators than there are to the accusers.
"This is for them," she said.
McPhedran believes that the Senate, and Parliament Hill as a whole, could potentially have a problem with harassment. She said in the time she’s been a senator, she’s heard from people in this regard.
"I believe where you build institutions, where you have a great deal of privilege that resides with only a certain number of people within the institution, that that’s an enabling environment," she said.
In a Facebook post discussing her plans, McPhedran said that if the information provided by the survivors "reveals systemic inadequacy in Senate policies, practices and procedures relating to the prevention of sexual harassment in the Senate environment," then she may present recommendations for changes based on her and her lawyer's findings.
"To do better, we need to know what happened in past cases. We don’t necessarily need to know names and other identifying details but to fix a broken process, we need information about what has actually happened in the recent past," she said in the post.