Following a spate of high-profile political resignations, Labour Minister Patty Hajdu claims she’s “heard many stories” regarding sexual misconduct in Ottawa.

“I talk to many political staffers, many of them who are young,” Hajdu told CTV Question Period’s Evan Solomon in a wide-ranging interview that airs Sunday. “I heard many stories: stories of a whisper network where women tell each other about which people to avoid, and which people to avoid particularly, and in close spaces or when there’s alcohol involved.”

Many of those staffers, Hajdu said, are new to their careers and in precarious positions.

“This is something that occurs, especially in sectors like ours where there is high power differentials: people with a lot of power and conversely served by people with very little power,” Hadju, who also served as Minister of Status of Women between 2015 and 2017, said. “So it is an environment ripe for harassment.”

Canada's political scene has been rocked by a series of sexual misconduct allegations this week, leading Ontario MPP Patrick Brown to step down as his province’s PC leader, Jamie Baille to resign from Nova Scotia’s legislature and forfeit his position as that province’s PC leader, and Calgary MP Kent Hehr to leave his position as minister for sport and persons with disabilities.

Hajdu, who told Question Period that it is currently difficult for political staffers to come forward with such allegations, is also the driving force behind Bill C-65: legislation that seeks to crack down on harassment in federal workplaces, including parliament.

The bill, which was first introduced in November, is scheduled to be debated in the House of Commons on Monday, when MPs return to Ottawa for the first time this year.

“The biggest change for political staffers is that they would be treated like all other federally-regulated employees, in that they would have the protection of the Canada Labour Code to address the issue of harassment and sexual violence,” Hajdu said of the proposed legislation.

If passed in its present form, Bill C-65 would give workers and their employers a clear course of action to deal with allegations of bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct. The legislation would also exert pressure on employers to combat unacceptable behavior and punish those who don’t take it seriously while enforcing strict privacy rules to protect victims of alleged harassment or violence.

“This has been a bit of an HR, or I suppose a policy-free zone for -- well -- forever, actually,” Hajdu said. “So, political staffers have not had recourse to have their concerns taken in any way that’s standardized through the Code. This proposal, this legislation, says that they deserve those same protections.”

With files from CTV News’ Rachel Aiello

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