MP Erin Weir Investigation Deeply Flawed
May 3, 2018
With NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh finally responding to the investigation report, Regina–Lewvan MP Erin Weir is speaking out about the investigation’s flawed process, its exaggerated findings and Singh’s reaction to them.
“I’m proud that the NDP has a longstanding process through our staff union for employees, interns and volunteers to file harassment grievances,” said Weir, who has never been subject to such a grievance or to a complaint under the House of Commons anti-harassment policy.
On February 1, Singh suspended Weir and announced a separate process to investigate him after MP Christine Moore e-mailed a vague accusation in reply to his candidacy for NDP Caucus Chair. In a CTV interview with Evan Solomon broadcast on February 4, Weir expressed concern about the prospect of an open-ended process soliciting complaints and then packaging whatever it could into a harassment finding. Yet he remained optimistic and continued to participate in the investigation in good faith.
On February 6, Singh’s chief of staff e-mailed some 250 federal NDP staff, inviting them to contact the investigator. Female staff at Weir’s Regina office also received cold calls from Singh’s office soliciting complaints.
This combination of public announcements, media coverage and internal communication about a “harassment” investigation in which Singh would “believe survivors” led people to retrospectively reinterpret past interactions with Weir through that lens.
Despite this solicitation, there were no complaints from anyone over whom Weir had any authority. Indeed, the only specific complaint upheld by the report came from a former staff member in the NDP Leader’s office who had asserted authority over Weir. (She made her complaint public earlier this week.)
“While this anonymous complaint was presented in sufficient detail to deduce who and what it was about, other complaints were presented without names, dates, places or detailed descriptions of alleged activity,” noted Weir. “This lack of basic information made it impossible to properly respond and fell far short of what would have been required by the House of Commons anti-harassment policy.”
Without upholding any particular “sexual harassment” complaint, the investigator made a general finding of “sexual harassment” that Weir had probably sat or stood too close to people at social events and engaged them in conversation more than they wished to speak with him.
“Before the investigation, I had no idea I had done anything unwelcome. When I read a summary of complaints, it became clear that I was sometimes slow to pick up on social cues,” said Weir. “Although I still do not know who these complainants are, I apologize to anyone who felt uncomfortable because I stood or sat too close or spoke with them more than they wished to talk with me.”
The investigator noted that Weir ceased his advances when a complainant stated she was not interested and that the incidents that give rise to these findings fall on the less serious end of the spectrum.
Upon reading the report, Singh decided to reinstate Weir based on his willingness to participate in conciliation with any complainants who opt to do so and complete training – an opportunity for self-improvement Weir immediately welcomed.
Singh and Weir agreed to this resolution on April 19, the day after Singh publicly disclosed that he had the report. Singh’s office eventually scheduled the announcement for April 27, but then delayed it until, on the morning of May 1, the former Leader’s office staff member made her complaint public.
“When CBC contacted me, I declined to comment, immediately informed Singh’s office and sought guidance on whether he or I should respond,” explained Weir. “Singh’s office provided no guidance and, when CBC put out its story that afternoon, I felt compelled to respond to the complaint that had been made public, while being careful not to name the complainant.”
When Singh’s chief of staff asked Weir to stop commenting that evening, he complied. Singh then notified Weir just before midnight on May 2 that he is being expelled from caucus, not because of the report’s findings but because Weir commented publicly and Singh deemed that unacceptable. Expulsion is a vastly harsher punishment than applied to many other New Democratic MPs who have, at times, commented publicly without the Leader’s explicit authorization.
Despite a deeply flawed investigation, Weir made a good faith effort to participate in the process and to coordinate his response with Singh. Given the nature of the report’s findings, Singh’s initial decision to reinstate Weir was correct and constitutes the only just outcome.