Federal New Democrats are calling for the immediate dismissal of a Liberal MP following allegations that a female staffer was sexually harassed and then offered money to keep those allegations a secret.
Darshan Kang, the first-term MP for Calgary-Skyview, is said to have offered $100,000 to a 24-year-old woman who worked in his Alberta constituency office to sweep her concerns about four to five years worth of unwanted sexual touching under the rug, according to what the staffer's father told The Toronto Star.
He denied the allegations in a statement released on Tuesday. He also said that he was now on medical leave due to the stress of the situation.
"For the past decade, I have dedicated my life to public office," Kang said in the statement. "Since the allegations of sexual harassment were levelled against me, I have been under a tremendous amount of stress and subsequently, I was placed on medical leave."
None of the allegations have been proven, and a federal investigation into Kang's behaviour is reportedly underway.
"As a result of this leave, I have not participated in public events," Kang continued in the statement, according to CBC News. "While I cannot comment directly on an open, ongoing investigation, I continue to proclaim my innocence and will defend my reputation at all costs."
Until that investigation is complete however, Sheila Malcolmson, the NDP critic for the status of women, is calling for the MP's removal from caucus.
"In the past, the Prime Minister has advocated a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to handling allegations of sexual harassment by Liberal MPs. Yet the Prime Minister has failed to act and refused to comment, even though the allegations against Mr. Kang surfaced weeks ago," she said in a Tuesday press statement. "That is not the leadership of a feminist Prime Minister."
Earlier in the day, Kang's office declined to provide a comment for this article, as it is "referring all questions to the whip's office." A spokesman for Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer declined to comment.
He tried to "force open the door"
According to The Toronto Star, the alleged victim is not speaking on the record with media without consulting her lawyer. Her father however, granted an interview with the publication on the condition of anonymity, and detailed his daughter's experience.
In an article published Tuesday, he told The Star that over a period of four to five years, Kang gave his daughter unwanted hugs, and stroked and held her hand during car rides. Once, he allegedly brought her in a taxi to an apartment in Ottawa, where he offered her a drink and pulled at her coat in an effort to have her remove it.
The next day, her father alleged, Kang followed his daughter to her hotel from Parliament Hill and tried to "force open the door" of her room so they could talk. After returning home and speaking with a family member, he added, she decided to inform her boss in Kang’s office of the alleged harassment.
“She’s very, very upset,” he said in the interview with The Star. “She has so much...on her brain and she cannot sleep at night.”
Kang reportedly made several offers in exchange for the woman's silence, which ranged from $5,000 and grew to a series of payments adding up to $100,000. The latter included a down payment of $30,000 up front, The Star reported.
Prior to his election in October 2015, Kang was a provincial politician, representing the Alberta Liberal Party in the legislature from 2008 until 2015. The woman had been working for Kang since she was 20, her father told The Star, and then she stayed in that job after the Liberal made the switch to federal politics.
Human resources department "engaged"
The federal government is aware of the allegations against Kang, and in a media scrum on Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said both the whip's office and Parliament's human resources department "are engaged." He did not provide details on whether a formal investigation has been launched, as reported by The Hill Times on Sunday, or what a formal investigation would entail.
"Over the past year and a half, we created as a Parliament a number of formal processes where there were no formal processes before to deal with allegations, including allegations of misconduct or harassment," he told reporters.
"I can assure people that our Whip’s office and the Human Resources of the Parliament of Canada are engaged, as they must be, in this process, and I have no further comment to make at this time on the independent process that is being undergone."
Pablo Rodriguez, chief government whip in the House of Commons, did not respond to requests for an interview personally, but his chief of staff, Charles-Eric Lépine, sent the following email statement:
"We were made aware of the allegations and referred them, as per the House of Commons process, to the Chief Human Resources Officer."
Pierre Parent, chief human resources officer for the Commons, said he wasn't "allowed" to discuss the situation with media, and referred National Observer to Heather Bradley, director of communications for the office of the Speaker of the House.
Bradley could not immediately be reached for comment, but as The Star reports, Hamilton Liberal MP Filomena Tassi has already flown to Calgary to interview the alleged victim.
Prior to the allegations against Kang, and the October 2015 federal election, Trudeau kicked out two of his own following similar accusations of sexual harassment. In fall 2014, allegations surfaced that Montreal MP Massimo Pacetti had sex with an NDP MP without her explicit consent, and that Newfoundland and Labrador MP Scott Andrews had sexually harassed another NDP MP.
Trudeau suspended those party members immediately following the allegations, and in March 2015, permanently expelled them following the completion of an independent investigation into the claims. The NDP MPs were never named publicly.
With regard to the allegations against Kang, the NDP's Malcolmson is calling for the same treatment — dismissal pending the results of an investigation.
"That is exactly the approach the Prime Minister previously espoused and acted upon; I am at a loss as to why he has refused to take similar action in response to these allegations," she said.
Who is Darshan Kang?
Kang is one of only two Liberal MPs in Calgary — the beating heart of Alberta's oil and gas industry. The other is Kent Hehr, Trudeau's former veterans affairs minister, who was named minister for sport and persons with disabilities during a cabinet shuffle on Monday.
Prior to his political career, Kang worked as a real estate agent and a journeyman welder. According to his website, he has a pre-medical degree from the University of Indore in India, where he lived until 1970, when he immigrated to Canada.
The MP has been a backbencher since his election in October 2015, and has not previously landed into any significant national headlines or media coverage. He surfaced in May however, to criticize a report suggesting that the federal government move about a third of the National Energy Board's (NEB) staff from Calgary to Ottawa, and spoke with National Observer.
The NEB regulates Canada's pipeline proposals, and the recommendation to move its board of directors further away from industry and closer to lobbyists on Parliament Hill, struck a bad chord with many Calgarians. He told National Observer that he already had, and would continue to speak with "whoever" in order to keep the regulator in Calgary, "the only place" where it belongs.
"We have already been working on this," he said at the time. "Minister of Energy — whoever we need to approach, we've been approaching them... If we need to make improvements, we should make them here."
Editor's note: This article was updated at 7:05 p.m. ET on Aug. 29 with new comments from a statement released by Darshan Kang