MeToo-era women are not the irst to chal­lenge pub­lic ser­vants and win. One brought down a premier in the ‘30s in a case that feels very cur­rent.

StarMetro Edmonton - - Views - ON HOLD­ING POW­ER­FUL MEN TO AC­COUNT Gil­lian Stew­ard is a Cal­gary writer and for­mer man­ag­ing edi­tor of the Cal­gary Her­ald.

Pol­i­tics and sex have long made for good bed­fel­lows — even in staid old Canada.

But likely noth­ing com­pares to the scan­dal that erupted in Al­berta in the 1930s when a young sec­re­tary who worked at the Leg­is­la­ture ac­cused the premier of a three-year “se­duc­tion.”

Premier John Brown­lee re­signed in dis­grace af­ter a jury de­cided he was ly­ing and the sec­re­tary, Vi­vian MacMil­lan, was telling the truth.

Given the times, the fact the jury be­lieved her rather than him is as­tound­ing in it­self.

MacMil­lan, 18 at the time, 30 years younger than the pop­u­lar premier, testi ied that Brown­lee told her that she was pro­vid­ing an in­valu­able ser­vice be­cause his wife didn’t want to have sex any­more and with­out reg­u­lar sex he sim­ply wouldn’t be able to carry on as premier.

For three years Brown­lee had his way with MacMil­lan in his o ice, his car, even in the house he shared with his wife and two chil­dren.

Even­tu­ally, MacMil­lan and her fa­ther brought a state­ment of claim against Brown­lee un­der the Al­berta Se­duc­tion Act. This law orig­i­nally al­lowed a man to sue any­body who im­preg­nated his fe­male ser­vant be­cause the ser­vant would then not be able to per­form her usual du­ties. Ob­vi­ously this an­ti­quated law was about men’s rights, not women’s rights.

And in­deed, when the jury de­cided in MacMil­lan’s favour, the judge, a man of course, im­me­di­ately over­turned the de­ci­sion. Ap­peals were mounted but ev­ery time the judges sided with the irst judge. Un­til the mat­ter came be­fore the Supreme Court, which sided with the jury and ruled in MacMil­lan’s favour.

Why did it take so long for this kind of abuse to be­come a pub­lic is­sue again?

It surely wasn’t be­cause it never hap­pened again.

And yet it was decades later, when Pa­trick Brown, would-be premier of On­tario, was brought down by ac­cu­sa­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct from young women, one of whom worked in his con­stituency o ice. Like Brown­lee, Brown at least had the good sense to re­sign.

In Al­berta, MP Dar­shan Kang is still hang­ing on de­spite rev­e­la­tions of sex­ual ha­rass­ment of his sta . He was kicked out of the Lib­eral cau­cus to sit as an in­de­pen­dent af­ter his con­stituency o ice as­sis­tant, who also hap­pened to be the daugh­ter of a long-time friend, ac­cused him of sex­ual ha­rass­ment which in­cluded bad­ger­ing her with kisses, trick­ing her into go­ing to his apart­ment while she was on a busi­ness trip to Ot­tawa, and try­ing to get into her ho­tel room when she didn’t want him to.

An in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the chief hu­man re­sources o icer of the House of Com­mons con­cluded that Kang had in­deed sex­u­ally ha­rassed his as­sis­tant. Kang still sits as an in­de­pen­dent MP.

A wo­man who was on Kang’s sta when he was a pro­vin­cial MLA has also ac­cused him of sex­ual ha­rass­ment. But so far the pro­vin­cial Lib­eral party has done noth­ing to ad­dress her con­cerns.

An­other Cal­gary MP, cabi­net min­is­ter Kent Hehr has also been ac­cused of sex­ual ha­rass­ment. He re­signed from cabi­net af­ter a wo­man who worked in the Al­berta Leg­is­la­ture when he was an MLA wrote on Face­book that she was afraid to get in an el­e­va­tor with him and that he had once said to her “you’re yummy.”

Hehr is a quad­ri­plegic who inds it awk­ward to even shake hands with some­one and gets about in a mo­tor­ized wheelchair. This has led many of his sup­port­ers to openly ques­tion the al­le­ga­tions.

The fed­eral govern­ment has ap­pointed an in­ves­ti­ga­tor and Hehr has said he sup­ports that de­ci­sion.

Women have gained a lot more con­trol over their lives since Vi­vian MacMil­lan brought down a premier in the 1930s. And yet her story seems so cur­rent.


John E. Brown­lee, left, and Vi­vian MacMil­lan.

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