Calgary MP Kent Hehr is defending the decision not to release an investigation report on his conduct following allegations of sexual harassment.
“People involved are aware of the findings and that’s the way the system works,” the former Liberal cabinet minister said in an interview Thursday with CBC Radio’s Calgary Eyeopener.
“The process in place, it has private information. People have concerns raised, and I think it’s a legitimate way for the people involved to take place in this — and I think there are legitimate privacy concerns.”
The Prime Minister’s office hired a lawyer to investigate complaints about Hehr’s conduct toward two women. On Wednesday, it announced the investigation had concluded.
Hehr was allowed to remain in the Liberal caucus but not permitted to return to his post as a cabinet minister, which he had held since his election in 2015.
But as the report remains secret, its findings and reasons for Hehr keeping his party status are unknown.
‘Public has a right to know’
Any “legitimate privacy concerns” shouldn’t stop the release of the investigation’s findings, according to Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch, an organization that advocates for government accountability.
“You can describe a situation and say this happened without saying where and exactly who it was that he was with,” said Conacher, who teaches in the University of Ottawa’s law school.
“The public has a right to know those details to be able to judge whether Kent Hehr should remain in the Liberal caucus and in office as an MP.”
He said the Liberal Party should release the report, redacted to protect the complainants, and “much more importantly,” ensure an independent process for complaints that adequately protects whistleblowers, which he said the proposed Bill C-65 does not.
‘Truly sorry,’ Hehr says
Hehr resigned from cabinet earlier this year after Kristin Raworth of Edmonton published a series of tweets alleging he made women feel unsafe at the Alberta legislature when he was an MLA. She said he made suggestive comments, such as, “you’re yummy.”
Raworth said she had been warned to avoid getting in an elevator with him at the legislature, where he was an MLA from 2008 to 2015.
A second complaint was made by another woman, who alleged he touched her inappropriately at an event.
Hehr said the touch was “unintentional,” and that as a C5 quadripelgic he wouldn’t have felt it.
The report, announced Wednesday, has been withheld. But according to Hehr, it found he did not “act in an inappropriate fashion” with the woman who said he touched her. Instead, he said it determined “incidental contact occurred.”
“I didn’t know it happened, I didn’t mean for it to happen. I’m truly sorry. I just didn’t know,” Hehr told the radio show.
He said he did not know that happened, and with regards to the alleged comments in Alberta, he said he doesn’t remember meeting the woman. He did not say what the report found in that case.
“I said right from the start that I believed in the #MeToo movement, that it was important to have these situations investigated, for complaints to be taken seriously,” Hehr said.
“You needed to have a system where people felt comfortable to come forward and that’s what I tried to do, to remain true to that process.”
Hear more on Kent Hehr’s plans after the investigation:
Hehr was elected in 2015 to represent the federal riding of Calgary Centre. Before resigning from cabinet, he was in charge of the sport and persons with disabilities portfolios, and prior to that, he was minister of veterans affairs.
Hehr was a junior hockey player before he was shot as a bystander in a drive-by shooting, leaving him a quadriplegic. He then pursued a law degree, started a legal practice and became a disability activist before entering politics.
‘Much more judicious’
The investigation has taught him two lessons, Hehr said. First, he said he must become more aware of how his disability is perceived and thus work to make people feel comfortable around him.
Second, he said he must be more careful in conversation. Last winter, he admitted to being “brash” and “inappropriate” at times after a Calgary mother complained about his language during a meeting.
“I have an extremely casual conversation style, and this is with people I’ve known for 40 years or, frankly, four minutes,” Hehr said.
“And I think I have to be much more judicious in that, given that I’m a Member of Parliament, I’m 48-years-old and that things move pretty quickly.”
‘This will change me’
After the investigation’s completion was announced, Hehr said it was the prime minister’s decision not to invite him back into cabinet.
He remains in the Liberal caucus, and said he is proud to do so and will continue working for his riding.
“I think your strengths are your weaknesses, as my dad always says, but you got to build from here,” Hehr said.
“I believe this will change me in many ways and in a positive fashion and, yes, there’s going to be some scars here.”
Hehr would not say if he plans to run in the next federal election.
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.