OTTAWA/TORONTO (Reuters) - Two prominent Canadian politicians stepped down from leadership posts Thursday over allegations about their behavior toward women as the #MeToo social media movement showed growing influence beyond its roots in the United States.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Kent Hehr, 48, had resigned as minister for sport and persons with disabilities while the government investigates allegations that he made inappropriate comments to women.
That announcement followed the resignation of Patrick Brown as the leader of the opposition Progressive Conservative party in the province of Ontario.
Brown stepped down early Thursday morning over allegations he made unwanted sexual advances to two women. He strongly denied the claims, which surfaced late Wednesday in a report on CTV News.
Reuters was unable to verify claims made against Hehr or Brown.
“Harassment of any kind is unacceptable and Canadians have a right to live and work in environments free from harassment,” Trudeau said in a statement. “We believe that it is important to support women who come forward with allegations and that is exactly what our government will do.”
Hehr and Brown are the highest-profile Canadians to see their careers derailed by allegations of sexual misconduct since the victims of sexual harassment and abuse launched the #MeToo social media movement last year.
Trudeau grabbed international attention when he took office in 2014 for naming a gender-balanced cabinet.
Hehr, who in December told reporters he could be “brash and sometimes even inappropriate,” said he supports the investigation and would stay on as a member of the national Parliament.
“Throughout my career I have always tried to conduct myself with respect towards others, and I understand the most important thing is how each individual feels,” he said in a statement.
The resignation of Brown, 39, ended his quest to oust Ontario’s 14-year-old Liberal government and unseat Premier Kathleen Wynne in a June election.
“These allegations are false and have been difficult to hear,” Brown said in a statement. “However, defeating Kathleen Wynne in 2018 is more important than one individual.”
The #MeToo movement began in the United States where allegations of misconduct by prominent U.S. entertainment, politics and media figures have resulted in many firings and forced resignations.
It has gained momentum in Canada in recent weeks, sidelining the careers of a national gymnastics coach and the artistic director of a prominent Toronto theater company.
The leader of Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservatives, Jamie Baillie, resigned on Wednesday after a party investigation concluded he had breached a workplace harassment policy.
Reporting by Leah Schnurr in Ottawa and Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto; Additional reporting by Andrea Hopkins in Ottawa and Julie Gordon in Vancouver; Editing by Bill Trott, Bill Rigby and Jim Finkle