Canadian lawmaker quits security oversight panel over sexting

OTTAWA (Reuters) - A leading member of Canada’s main opposition party, who was also a former cabinet minister, has resigned from parliament’s national security oversight committee after admitting he sent explicit pictures and video to someone he had never met.

FILE PHOTO: Canadian Conservative legislator Tony Clement pictured in the House of Commons in Ottawa, December 4, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File Photo

Conservative legislator Tony Clement said he shared the material with “someone who I believed was a consenting female recipient,” according to a statement he issued late on Tuesday.

“The recipient was, in fact, an individual or party who targeted me for the purpose of financial extortion,” added Clement, who was the party’s spokesman on justice issues.

Clement had high level security clearance as a member of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, an oversight body set up in 2017, and had access to highly classified information.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and government security agencies are investigating, Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer said on Wednesday.

After initially saying Clement would remain in the Conservative caucus, Scheer later changed his mind and announced he would leave the parliamentary group.

“I took him at his word that this was an isolated incident,” Scheer told reporters. “Since then, there have been numerous reports of other incidents, allegations, so in that respect I’ve asked Tony to resign from caucus so that he can respond to these allegations.”

Stephanie Carvin, an assistant professor and security expert at Ottawa’s Carleton University, said the case was extremely unfortunate for the committee.

“It’s the kind of thing security agencies really worry about in terms of blackmail material,” she said on Twitter.

Clement, 57, is married with three children. He held three ministerial posts in the Conservative government that was in power from 2006-2015 and twice made unsuccessful runs to lead the party.

Clement remains a member of parliament and Scheer would not rule out the possibility of his running again in a federal election due in October 2019. Clement apologized to his family and said he would seek help.

In January, two prominent Canadian politicians stepped down from leadership posts over allegations about their behavior toward women as the #MeToo social media movement spread beyond the United States.

Reporting by Steve Scherer and additional reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Susan Thomas and Sandra Maler