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Cabinet minister took complaint up ladder, found 'comfort' in way it was handled

Eileen Clarke said she discussed the issue with her superiors and with human resources. (Justin Samanski-Langille / Free Press files)</p></p>

Eileen Clarke said she discussed the issue with her superiors and with human resources. (Justin Samanski-Langille / Free Press files)

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/2/2018 (872 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A Manitoba cabinet minister said Thursday she felt "great comfort" when the premier assured her a misconduct complaint from an individual at the legislature was being dealt with.

Manitoba Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Eileen Clarke did not provide any details about the complainant, the allegation or the accuser, but said the individual approached her.

"As a cabinet minister, it was brought to my attention and rightfully so," Clarke told the Free Press. "Individuals have to know that there are places where they can go that they’ll be taken seriously."

Clarke said she discussed the issue with her superiors and with human resources.

"I don’t know what disciplinary action exactly was taken, that’s confidential," she said. "But I do know that it was dealt with.

"And I had the opportunity at one point, I just asked (Premier Brian Pallister) if he was aware, and he made it very clear that he was. And I was very satisfied that the issue that I had taken forward on behalf of someone else was not only recognized, but that it was being dealt with and I found great comfort in that."

On Wednesday, Pallister responded to questions from reporters about whether he was aware of any sexual harassment or misconduct complaints that had been made against a member of his government.

He acknowledged two separate allegations had landed on his desk since becoming premier after the April 2016 provincial election. Both complaints were dealt with to the complainants' satisfaction, he said.

Clarke wouldn't say whether the complaint she advanced came from someone working in her office. She said, however, that she isn't sure why the person chose to approach her.

"I never asked that question, but I felt good about it that they did," she said. "I think that’s what’s important. I think individuals that are struggling or have been treated badly with any type of harassment, I think they need to know that there is people that they can go to and be respected because I understand the vulnerability of it.

"As women, whether it’s municipal government or provincial government, we are a small group compared to our male colleagues."

Clarke was elected as the MLA for Agassiz in 2016. Before that, she served eight years as the mayor of Gladstone and was an active member in the Association of Manitoba Municipalities, according to her website.

Clarke said she's noticing a generational shift in politics, where behaviour that people formerly got away with — like "making blond jokes and making jokes about weight" — is no longer being tolerated.

"There was so much of it in my early years as a young woman and even as an adult, and now more of an elderly woman. It’s just not funny anymore. It’s not a joke," she said. "People have to be responsible for what they say and they have to be responsible for their actions."

Wednesday, Pallister said provincial politics is "no longer an old boy's club."

"I’ve done everything I can and continue to work at it to advance the roles of women in our province, to strengthen the responsibilities that we have to relate to each other as people," he said. "So we have to change that culture. The old culture of locker-room talk in the caucus is gone.

"I’m an affectionate guy. Hugging and touching someone who wants to be touched... who needs a human touch — you wouldn’t want to eliminate that from our relationships with one another. But unwanted touching of other people is not on."

The premier also noted that anyone making a misconduct complaint does not have to worry about their career.

"Never will there be negative consequences for anyone who raises a concern in terms of their career advancement, in terms of reprisals against them. That’s not acceptable," Pallister said. "We must cultivate a culture of openness around dealing with these issues."

jessica.botelho@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @_jessbu

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Updated on Thursday, February 15, 2018 at 7:08 PM CST: Updates story

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