OTTAWA -- With all major parties launching independent probes into the alleged behaviour of current or past members of Parliament, some female MPs say their male counterparts are "scared" about false accusations.

"There's male colleagues that are really concerned now that they could be falsely accused," Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu said on CTV's Question Period. "They're very worried about things that used to be normal -- hugging and, you know, kissing will now be sexual harassment."

Over the last two weeks:

  • Calgary Liberal MP Kent Hehr resigned from cabinet after being accused of inappropriate sexual comments and an independent investigation is underway;
  • The Conservatives are investigating the 2015 candidacy of former Conservative MP Rick Dykstra and former Ontario PC Party president after Maclean’s magazine reported he was accused of sexual assault in 2014;
  • And the NDP have announced they will investigate third-party claims of "harassing behaviour towards women,” namely staff, levelled against Saskatchewan MP Erin Weir by fellow NDP MP Christine Moore. Based on what’s been made public there is no indication these allegations involve incidents that were sexual in nature.

During a panel on CTV’s Question Period with Evan Solomon, female MPs from all three parties agreed there needs to be a legitimate process and rational heads involved to ensure a fair hearing for those accused of harassment. The MPs said this needs to be done while balancing supporting the women or men that want to come forward as these conversations continue to be had on Parliament Hill.

"People need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour without worrying that they’re going to be the next one to go up in flames," Gladu said. "They’re scared and, you know, they want to make sure that they don’t offend anyone… but the normal things that used to be acceptable, to tell somebody that they look nice, or to give them a hug, they’re afraid now."

Liberal MP Pam Damoff said she’s had similar conversations with colleagues, but countered that "people who are concerned about inappropriate advances are not the ones that are doing anything wrong."

She said the conversation is "long overdue."

Women on the Hill 'expected to just put up with it': Damoff

Damoff worked for an MP on Parliament Hill in the early 1980s and said she was subjected to sexual harassment then, and that what she’s hearing from staffers today indicates not enough has changed.

"I was at an event, a male MP made extremely inappropriate sexual advances towards me and I never told anybody. I didn’t tell my boss, I didn’t tell anyone, because I was afraid and it was just something that as a female in the early ‘80s you were kind of expected to just put up with it, quite frankly," Damoff said.

NDP MP Tracey Ramsey said these conversations have been ongoing in workplaces across Canada for many years, and "it’s about time that it comes to Ottawa."

She said it’s important to have processes in place, which all parties say they are working towards, but when women or men come forward through other means, the question of why needs to be asked.

"We’re dealing with something right now that’s moving very quickly, and it’s very important that we take things seriously and that we do put something in place that will treat these women with respect," Damoff said.

'There’s no question it's harmful': Weir

In the case of the complaint made against Weir, NDP staff does have a unionized procedure in place to address workplace harassment, yet the allegations came to light indirectly, through an email to the entire caucus from a colleague who did not experience the alleged behaviour personally.

As the man who has found himself at the centre of that conversation, Weir said he is aware of how behaviour can be taken out of context.

"There’s always a concern about that in politics. We’re held to a very high standard in terms of our conduct, and rightly so," Weir said in an interview on CTV’s Question Period.

At the time of the interview, no women had stepped forward with specific claims against Weir.

"At this point I don’t know who’s investigating, when they’re investigating, what they’re investigating," he said.

Weir is hoping the process gets underway promptly to clear his name, as he asserts he has not done anything wrong, but is aware his public image has taken a hit.

"There's no question it’s harmful. In this internet age, anytime someone Googles 'Erin Weir' they’re going to come across 'harassment,' but I think that’s why it’s so very important to have a proper investigative process to resolve this," he said.