‘Our gov­ern­ment ... failed them’

Winnipeg Sun - - FRONT PAGE -

Man­i­toba NDP Leader Wab Kinew is ask­ing for­mer premier Greg Selinger to re­sign his leg­is­la­ture seat so the party can move on from al­le­ga­tions that a long­time for­mer cabi­net min­is­ter tick­led and groped fe­male em­ploy­ees.

Selinger apol­o­gized Tues­day fol­low­ing ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tions by nu­mer­ous women against Stan Struthers, an NDP cabi­net min­is­ter from 2003 to 2014. The women said Struthers touched them in front of others, but Selinger said he never wit­nessed any in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour.

“Our gov­ern­ment and po­lit­i­cal party failed them,” Selinger said. “Too many suf­fered in si­lence for too long. I want to apol­o­gize so that the voices of these women can be heard.”

Selinger said al­le­ga­tions that have come to light made him sick and he wishes more had been done un­der his watch.

“I wish that these in­ci­dents of sex­ual ha­rass­ment were brought to my at­ten­tion. The grotesque in­ci­dents that have been brought to light dur­ing the past few days hap­pened un­der my watch,” he said.

“As such, I must take re­spon­si­bil­ity for our in­ac­tion in ad­dress­ing these in­ci­dents.”

Kinew said that means Selinger should re­sign.

“It’s not about pun­ish­ment. It’s not about dis­ci­pline or hold­ing him ac­count­able. It’s re­ally more about turn­ing the page,” Kinew said. “I think it’s time for him to go.”

Kinew him­self has faced al­le­ga­tions of do­mes­tic violence, which he has de­nied. He has said he is an “im­per­fect ally.”

“I don’t want this to be­come a witch hunt or a purge,” Kinew said.

Selinger said he’s open to an “exit strat­egy,” but will de­cide that in con­sul­ta­tion with his con­stituents.

Shan­non Van­raes, who worked with Struthers, said last week she was on a flight with him in 2010 when he asked if she liked be­ing tick­led.

Van­raes said she told him no, but she said Struthers put his hand un­der her skirt and later made sex­ual com­ments. Later that year, she said, he got down on the floor, grabbed her foot and pulled it to­ward his crotch.

Joelle Sal­tel-al­lard said Struthers used to touch her when she was his press sec­re­tary be­tween 2009 and 2011. She said he put his hand on her knee while they were driv­ing and talked about sex acts he would en­joy.

Struthers, who has de­clined interview re­quests, is­sued a writ­ten state­ment last week apol­o­giz­ing “for any in­ter­ac­tions I have had that have been in­ap­pro­pri­ate and that have caused any per­son to feel dis­re­spected or un­com­fort­able.”

Both women say they lodged a com­plaint with their boss, Jay Branch, and were told he took it to Selinger’s for­mer chief of staff, Michael Bala­gus. Both say they were later in­formed they would have to “suck it up.”

Bala­gus has de­nied he was told about the com­plaints. At­tempts to reach Branch have been un­suc­cess­ful.

An­other gov­ern­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tions worker, Julie Kent­ner, said Struthers tick­led her dur­ing a meet­ing in 2013 while they were dis­cussing a doc­u­ment. Kent­ner said she told su­per­vi­sors and they took her se­ri­ously, but she later de­cided not to pur­sue the mat­ter for­mally.

Selinger said two women came for­ward with con­cerns about Struthers to his chief of staff, Jeremy Read, in 2015, but the women didn’t want to take the com­plaints fur­ther.

Selinger said he directed Read to make it clear to Struthers that any sex­ual ha­rass­ment had to end.

CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

For­mer premier Greg Selinger is apol­o­giz­ing after nu­mer­ous women have come for­ward al­leg­ing for­mer cabi­net min­is­ter Stan Struthers, inset, sex­u­ally ha­rassed them.

KINEW Calls for ac­tion

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