Weir Seeks to Appeal Investigation
posted by Erin Weir on September 19, 2018
September 19th, 2018
Regina–Lewvan MP Erin Weir is requesting an external appeal of Jagmeet Singh’s harassment investigation based on its lack of due process.
“I have never wanted to prolong this situation by appealing or taking legal action,” said Weir. “Instead, I made a good faith effort to participate in the process set out by Mr. Singh, apologize to those who felt uncomfortable, and complete all the remedial actions discussed with me.”
In the past two weeks, Singh has repeatedly stated that the investigation’s findings of standing too close, talking too long and having an argument make Weir a threat to workplace safety. Meanwhile, many others have raised serious concerns about the investigation’s lack of due process and expansive interpretation of harassment.
“Having an outside authority such as the House of Commons’ Chief Human Resources Officer or the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal review the investigation process and report could resolve this controversy,” said Weir.
“Regardless of what an external appeal may determine, I apologize to those who felt uncomfortable and will be more attentive in future. What I do not accept is being expelled based on a single investigator’s discretion without an appeal.”
The Canadian Human Rights Act, the longstanding NDP staff collective agreement, and the NDP Policy on Discrimination, Harassment and Sexual Violence adopted earlier this year all provide appeal procedures.
Rather than using any of those processes, Singh’s office invented its own process to gather and investigate complaints against Weir. Its terms of reference directed the investigator to follow “the investigation process set out in sections 3.3.6, 3.3.7 and 3.3.8 of the House of Commons Policy on Preventing and Addressing Harassment.”
Singh’s office excluded the appeal procedure set out in sections 3.3.9, 3.3.10 and 3.3.11 as well as other due-process provisions of the House Policy. Weir was never notified of any opportunity to appeal.
Earlier this year, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs recommended expanding the appeal procedures in the Code of Conduct for Members of the House of Commons: Sexual Harassment. The NDP’s representative on the subcommittee, MP Sheila Malcolmson, supported this amendment as well as adding other due-process provisions such as a one-year limitation period.
In Weir’s case, all of the incidents investigated were from more than a year beforehand. No complaints were made under any of the above processes until after Singh had invited them through his special investigation.
Grounds for Appeal
Points for an external review to consider include:
1.) The investigation began by soliciting anonymous complaints. Singh’s office emailed all 250 federal NDP staff. Extensive national media coverage of Singh declaring that he would “believe survivors” and suspending Weir at the outset of a “harassment” investigation created a presumption of guilt and led people to retrospectively reinterpret past interactions with Weir through that lens.
2.) The complaints obtained were immediately escalated to a formal investigation. There was no opportunity for mediation, even after MPs Christine Moore and Weir jointly proposed it to Singh.
3.) The complaints were never presented in such a way that Weir could properly respond. The summary provided to him contained no names, cited years rather than specific dates, and did not mention specific locations for some complaints.
4.) Rather than evaluating each complaint separately on its own merits, the investigation report lumped complaints together. The “sexual harassment” finding was based not on upholding any particular complaint, but on concluding that Weir probably stood too close and talked too long because some people said so. The “harassment” finding was based on taking witness testimony from a rejected complaint and then using it to uphold a different complaint.
Over the years, several New Democratic MPs have crossed the floor or opted to sit as independents. But perhaps the only other New Democratic MP expelled from caucus by a federal leader was Manon Perreault, who was convicted of public mischief in 2015. A criminal conviction requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt (and could be appealed).
The investigator appointed by Singh found that, on a balance of probabilities, Weir engaged in conduct “on the less serious end of the harassment and sexual harassment spectrum.” If one investigator interprets complaints as probably reaching the lower end of a spectrum, another investigator examining the same complaints may well reach a different conclusion.