Hehr tar­get of new dis­re­spect com­plaint

Regina Leader-Post - - CANADA - KRISTY KIRKUP

OT­TAWA • A Cal­gary woman en­gaged in a clas­s­ac­tion law­suit against the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has come for­ward with new al­le­ga­tions about Dis­abil­i­ties Min­is­ter Kent Hehr, say­ing he was dis­re­spect­ful and con­de­scend­ing when she raised her con­cerns directly with him.

Jen­nifer Mc­Crea, who has been fight­ing a suit in­volv­ing a group of moth­ers who say they were de­nied ben­e­fits while on ma­ter­nity leave, says she con­tacted Hehr’s of­fice in Oc­to­ber 2016 af­ter she was en­cour­aged to speak to lo­cal Lib­eral MPs about her case.

Hehr was veter­ans af­fairs min­is­ter at the time and was shuf­fled into the sport and dis­abil­i­ties port­fo­lio by Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau this sum­mer.

“(He was) very con­de­scend­ing,” Mc­Crea said of the Oc­to­ber 2016 in­ter­ac­tion, not­ing she was able to se­cure less than two min­utes of his time.

Mc­Crea also said she specif­i­cally asked him why Ot­tawa is con­tin­u­ing to fight sick women, to which he al­legedly replied “Well, Ms. Mc­Crea, that is the old ques­tion, like ask­ing ... ‘When did you stop beat­ing your wife?’”

“I didn’t re­spond (with) any­thing be­cause my jaw was on the floor,” she said.

“I had never re­ally ac­tu­ally heard of the term that it is a loaded ques­tion ... I was just lit­er­ally (wondering) ‘Who talks like that, let alone ... a min­is­ter or a mem­ber of Par­lia­ment?’”

Mc­Crea said she de­cided to come for­ward about Hehr’s com­ments af­ter hear­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence of thalido­mide sur­vivors this week who said they felt be­lit­tled by Hehr’s ap­proach in a fall meet­ing.

The min­is­ter needs to be more sen­si­tive in his in­ter­ac­tions, Mc­Crea said.

“I was very sym­pa­thetic to that group. I was just like ‘Oh no, he’s done it again,’” she said.

“It lit­er­ally put me back to that con­ver­sa­tion that I had with him where ... he’s go­ing to bowl you over and say what­ever he wants to say.”

NDP Leader Jag­meet Singh ex­pressed shock when he learned of the lat­est al­le­ga­tions fac­ing Hehr on Thurs­day.

“Wow,” Singh said in an in­ter­view. “He can’t be talk­ing about vi­o­lence against women like that. We need our lead­ers to be de­nounc­ing vi­o­lence against women and in no way mak­ing light of it.”

In a state­ment, Hehr said he re­calls the con­ver­sa­tion with Mc­Crea, adding he felt like he was backed into a cor­ner when he was asked why Ot­tawa wants to con­tinue to fight sick women.

“When speak­ing to peo­ple I tend to be very straight­for­ward, how­ever, I un­der­stand my com­ments can be brash and some­times even in­ap­pro­pri­ate,” Hehr said. “I re­gret my com­ments and I sin­cerely apol­o­gize. As I’ve said be­fore, I’m com­mit­ted to tak­ing steps to bet­ter my­self.”

Stephen Moreau, a lawyer in Mc­Crea’s case, said that mak­ing Hehr’s com­ments known at the time would have been an “un­nec­es­sary dis­trac­tion.”

JUSTIN TANG / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Min­is­ter of Sport and Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties Kent Hehr ad­dresses the of­fi­cial in­au­gu­ra­tion of the Canada 150 Rink on Par­lia­ment Hill Thurs­day.

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