OTTAWA—Former NDP MP Peter Stoffer is facing allegations of harassment from multiple women, with one former staffer saying “many, many people” witnessed incidents of harassment and failed to act.
Lauren Dobson-Hughes, a former New Democrat staffer, described two separate incidents of unwanted groping and kissing from Stoffer to the National Post. Two other women spoke to the newspaper confidentially, detailing inappropriate behaviour or lewd comments.
Dobson-Hughes said the first incident was reported to the office of then-NDP leader Jack Layton, but Stoffer was not reprimanded.
“Many, many people knew and witnessed harassment by this person. Female caucus members warned staff and each other about it” but no male MP or senior staff ever made a warning about another man, Dobson-Hughes wrote in a Twitter post late Thursday night.
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When reached by the Star, Dobson-Hughes said she did not wish to discuss the matter further.
“Failure to act on harassment is not about due process. It actually involves leadership taking a risk to protect men. Not only are men’s electoral chances and careers prioritized over women’s safety, but political parties actually expend political capital to protect men,” her statement read.
Dobson-Hughes told the Post that, on two separate occasions, Stoffer grabbed her around the waist, pulled her close to him and kissed her. The second incident is alleged to have happened in a lobby next to the House of Commons, where opposition politicians and staff congregate between House duties.
“He pulled me really close and groped my waist and then kissed me so hard right on my cheek near my mouth that it left saliva drooling down my cheek,” Dobson-Hughes told the paper.
When reached by the Star last week, Stoffer categorically denied harassing or assaulting anyone. The Star was not aware of specific allegations against Stoffer at the time, but was pursuing the issue of harassment on the Hill after allegations against provincial and federal politicians.
Stoffer has denied the specific allegations to the National Post, but could not be reached by the Star Thursday night.
“The reality is that if anyone is making accusations against me, either in terms of harassment or assault in any way shape or form, that is simply wrong,” Stoffer said in the interview last week.
“I can be accused of, say, some bad jokes. Maybe some sick humour, but in that regard (concerning harassment) no. I’ve never done anything of that nature in my past.”
Stoffer, who represented the rural Nova Scotia riding of Sackville—Eastern Shore from 1997 to 2015, described his previous occupation as a “country gentleman” on the official parliamentary website. He was well-known and well-liked on the Hill, winning multiple awards for his collegiality.
He was also a mainstay in Ottawa’s official party circuit, helping to organize the now-discontinued “All Party Party,” a cross-partisan fundraiser involving drinking and dancing with politicians, staff, journalists and other Hill denizens.
Stoffer’s office was also a well-known after-party spot, featuring a pool table, a dart board, and a well-stocked bar.
It was at one of those after-parties that one woman, speaking to the Post confidentially, claimed that Stoffer asked her to sit on the pool table to distract his opponent during his shot.
In a statement Thursday night, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the party is reviewing its policies to protect staff and MPs from harassment — while acknowledging those policies were insufficient in the past.
“I believe the women who came forward and I want to acknowledge their courage and strength. It’s clear our anti-harassment policies and protections for workers were insufficient and failed to appropriately deal with this behaviour,” said Singh, who restated the party is currently reviewing those policies.
“We are committed to changing the culture in and around Parliament Hill. Men in positions of power must take responsibility for creating safe spaces free from any form of harassment or sexual violence.”