(Quebec) The President of the National Assembly, Nathalie Roy, defended her institution, which is criticized by Catherine Fournier. The latter denounced the lack of support and “solidarity” she received in the wake of the criminal charges filed against the former PQ Harold LeBel, who sexually assaulted him in 2017.
“Nobody said anything, nobody really asked questions. I felt a great lack of solidarity towards me, ”explained Ms. Fournier in an interview with La Presse. She lamented that despite the “sensitivity” of the General Secretariat of the Assembly, only a few “adjustments” were offered to her so as not to meet Harold LeBel as part of his duties after his indictment. He had been ordered not to approach his victim, but could continue to sit in the Assembly.
For her part, President Nathalie Roy believes that “the office of the National Assembly did not wait” and “modified and improved its regulations to help, among other things, people who are victims of psychological harassment and sexual harassment” .
She also added that a “new compliance commissioner” is due to take office when Parliament returns. This position was created following the adoption of a law in June 2022, at the very end of the last legislature. He is “is responsible for dealing with situations of incivility, conflict and harassment involving a Member, a member of his staff, a staff member of a cabinet of the National Assembly as well as any other person provided for by regulation of the Office of the National Assembly.
But Ms. Fournier wants the reflection to go further. “I don’t think the National Assembly has opened up that reflection on what should be done when a member is criminally charged, especially in a case of sexual assault. I am aware that it is delicate, since there is the presumption of innocence which is always important, but at the same time, formal charges, it is not trivial,” she said.
However, some MPs believe that things have to change. The Minister of Justice and parliamentary leader of the Coalition avenir Québec, Simon Jolin-Barrette, believes that the National Assembly will have to have “clear rules”. “There could be a reflection in collaboration with the President of the National Assembly. I think it’s important, from the moment we are living through a situation like this, that the elected officials who are victims can carry out their work in complete peace of mind and ensure that they are not embarrassed within the framework of their work,” he said in a scrum.
When MP Harold LeBel, under criminal charges, nevertheless came to sit in the National Assembly, the interim leader of the Liberal Party, Marc Tanguay, did not experience any discomfort. “That’s not a question I had. It’s not a question I have,” he said.
But he recognizes, however, that a reflection must take place on what to do when an elected official is criminally charged. “When you are criminally charged, it is an exceedingly serious step. You are facing a criminal trial. Now, the way to have practices and to manage that in the National Assembly, I think that we should review that. I dare to hope that there will be a serious reflection internally, at the National Assembly, which will be done, then perhaps, if necessary, to have modifications to our practices, “he said. -he says.
The parliamentary leader of Québec solidaire, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, felt unease when he saw the presence of Mr. LeBel in the corridors of the National Assembly. “I felt a certain uneasiness and I perceived it also in colleagues,” he said.
“I heard Catherine’s words, I listened to them, and I invite the National Assembly to begin this reflection. It was a situation that was unusual, that was new at the time. And me, what I hear is a female deputy telling us that she did not feel sufficiently supported by the institution. You have to hear that, then you have to start a reflection so that in the future, because, unfortunately, it could happen again,” said Mr. Nadeau-Dubois.
He recognizes, however, that there are “constitutional guidelines, legal guidelines that make this situation complex to manage for the institution”.
PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon believes that the situation was “not obvious”. “In any workplace, this means that the alleged victim, then the workplace, will no longer be in contact with the employee, except that in the National Assembly, the person remains elected. And this title of elected official, it is protected by a framework, it is framed by the law and then the constitution, ”he said.
But he expects “that to change.” “When there is something to improve, then the courage of someone — in this case, here, Catherine Fournier who went through this process — leads us to conclusions that seem quite clear to me, namely there’s a framework that’s not there,” he said.