2 Canadian politicians quit amid sex misconduct claims

Minister, Ontario opposition leader affected as #MeToo movement spreads from the US

Ontario's Progressive Conservative Party leader Patrick Brown (left) and national Cabinet minister Kent Hehr are the highest-profile Canadians to see their careers derailed since the #MeToo movement began.
Ontario's Progressive Conservative Party leader Patrick Brown (above) and national Cabinet minister Kent Hehr are the highest-profile Canadians to see their careers derailed since the #MeToo movement began.PHOTOS: REUTERS
Ontario's Progressive Conservative Party leader Patrick Brown (left) and national Cabinet minister Kent Hehr are the highest-profile Canadians to see their careers derailed since the #MeToo movement began.
Ontario's Progressive Conservative Party leader Patrick Brown and national Cabinet minister Kent Hehr (above) are the highest-profile Canadians to see their careers derailed since the #MeToo movement began.PHOTOS: REUTERS

OTTAWA/TORONTO • Two prominent Canadian politicians have stepped down from leadership posts over allegations about their behaviour towards women, as the #MeToo social media movement showed growing influence beyond its roots in the United States.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday announced that Mr Kent Hehr, 48, had resigned as minister for sport and persons with disabilities while the government investigates allegations that he made inappropriate comments to women.

"As a government, we take any allegations of misconduct extremely seriously, and we believe that it is important to support women who come forward with allegations and that is exactly what our government will do," Mr Trudeau said in a statement.

"I accepted the Honourable Kent Hehr's resignation from Cabinet pending the outcome of the investigation," he said.

That announcement followed the resignation of Mr Patrick Brown as the leader of the opposition Progressive Conservative Party in the province of Ontario.

Mr Hehr and Mr Brown are the highest-profile Canadians to see their careers derailed by allegations of sexual misconduct since victims of sexual harassment and abuse launched the #MeToo social media movement last year.

Mr Trudeau grabbed international attention when he took office in 2014 for naming a gender-balanced Cabinet.

Mr Hehr, who last month told reporters he could be "brash and sometimes even inappropriate", said he supports the investigation and would stay on as a member of the national Parliament.

"Throughout my career, I have always tried to conduct myself with respect towards others, and I understand the most important thing is how each individual feels," he said in a statement.

The resignation of Mr Brown, 39, ended his quest to oust Ontario's 14-year-old Liberal government and unseat Premier Kathleen Wynne in a June election.

"These allegations are false and have been difficult to hear," Mr Brown said in a statement. "However, defeating Kathleen Wynne in 2018 is more important than one individual."

The #MeToo movement began in America where allegations of misconduct by prominent US entertainment, political and media figures have resulted in many firings and forced resignations.

It has gained momentum in Canada in recent weeks, sidelining the careers of a national gymnastics coach and the artistic director of a Toronto theatre company.

The leader of Nova Scotia's Progressive Conservatives, Mr Jamie Baillie, resigned on Wednesday after a party investigation concluded he had breached a workplace harassment policy.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2018, with the headline '2 Canadian politicians quit amid sex misconduct claims'. Subscribe