Canadian fallout from Weinstein effect has hit hardest in Quebec’s glitterati world

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But expect the ripple effect to result in more allegations and more charges. That is a good thing.


First published on Monday, October 23, 2017 in The Hill Times.

OTTAWA—When does the punishment outweigh the crime?

The Harvey Weinstein debacle continues to spill over into other sectors. Just last week, two iconic Quebec entertainment moguls suffered similar fates, losing public support, contracts and credibility after two separate journalistic exposés of predatory proportions.

First, a La Presse article cited 11 different individuals alleging sexual harassment by television star and producer Eric Salvail. Most spoke out on condition of anonymity and only one went public, with claims that the star made several direct advances, and fired him when they were spurned.

The second string of allegations involved the commissioner of the Montreal 375th anniversary celebrations, and founder of Just for Laughs. Gilbert Rozon resigned from both posts after a Le Devoir story, citing complaints of inappropriate behaviour from nine women. It was subsequently broadcast that Rozon is facing police investigation for an incident alleged to have occurred in Paris 23 years ago.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre issued his own twitter statement on the allegations, distancing himself and his administration from Rozon and reinforcing his support for all victims. He minced no words, saying he was shocked about the allegations and he would not “defend the indefensible.” Coderre, who is facing an election is less than two weeks, underscored the fact that Rozon was actually appointed to the post by previous mayor Gerald Tremblay.

Rozon also stepped down as vice-chair of the Metropolitan Montreal Chamber of Commerce.

Montreal police chief Philippe Pichet tweeted an invitation to all victims to come forward, retweeting a police force tweet that “we are listening.”

To date, the Canadian fallout from the Weinstein effect has hit hardest in the Quebec glitterati world. But expect the ripple effect to result in more allegations and more charges.

That is a good thing.

But some good people could also get caught in the crossfire. It was 18 months ago that the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau lost its first minister.

And the resignation was not the result of public discontent or ministerial misfiring. Rather, it was a self-imposed withdrawal from the Liberal cabinet and caucus to clean up a messy personal life.

Fisheries minister Hunter Tootoo was one of the early stars in the Trudeau firmament. A northern Indigenous leader with more than a decade of political experience under his belt, Tootoo was a natural minister who revelled in the challenge of aboriginal reconciliation.

A residential schools survivor himself, he had fought the odds and become a strong voice for Nunavut and Northern Canada in a cabinet of urbanites.

But while things were humming on the political front, his personal life was a mess.

By his own admission, he was drinking heavily and began an inappropriate relationship with an assistant, and concurrently with her mother.

Because of these transgressions, Tootoo stepped down from his cabinet post and withdrew from the Liberal caucus to seek treatment for alcohol abuse.

His rehabilitation involved counselling and attending sobriety meetings, and since his resignation from caucus, Tootoo has successfully completed an alcohol rehabilitation program and has a clean bill of health.

Tootoo has been working hard as an Independent member of Parliament, logging millions of kilometers of travel time, and visiting all 25 fly-in communities in his riding. He was the first Member of Parliament in history to do so.

During his period as an independent, nine ministers, including the prime minister have visited his riding.

Two parliamentary committees have been convened there and he has been joined by high-profile ministers like Navdeep Bains and Catherine McKenna, during his time as an independent.

Tootoo has many Liberal friends and supporters, including new Newfoundland minister Seamus O’Regan, who followed a similar alcohol rehabilitation route before being named to cabinet this fall.

It should come as no surprise that Tootoo would like to re-join the Liberal team.

The decision on his potential return is in the hands of government whip Pablo Rodriguez, who has previously assumed responsibility for ethical breach investigations of other Members of Parliament.

At an early summer meeting on the issue, Rodriguez deferred a decision until some testy tax matters had been disposed of.

Tax issues have obviously subsumed the government agenda since that time.

Tootoo’s return would be welcomed by colleagues, many of whom have pleaded his case in caucus. Tootoo would love to prepare for the next election as a Liberal.

He could also be a huge help in the ambitious reconciliation agenda being proposed by the government.

Reconciliation is not exclusive to racial healing. Political parties also need to forgive.


Sheila Copps is a former Jean Chrétien-era cabinet minister and a former deputy prime minister. Follow her on Twitter at @Sheila_Copps.