An Alberta minister says he was not conscious of allegations made in a lawsuit filed against the office of the premier of Alberta by his former chief of employees.
Minister of Jobs, Financial system and Innovation Doug Schweitzer’s former chief of employees Ariella Kimmel, in a press release of declare filed Oct. 1, alleges sexual harassment and fabricated rumours of her leaking tales to the media in addition to heavy ingesting by ministers and senior staffers contained in the legislature.
Kimmel alleges repeated makes an attempt to have her points addressed had been ignored, earlier than she was ultimately fired this previous February.
Not one of the allegations has been confirmed in courtroom. A press release of defence has not but been filed. Schweitzer is just not named within the lawsuit.
Whereas talking at an unrelated information convention Thursday, Schweitzer was requested concerning the allegations made within the lawsuit. He mentioned whereas he has not learn the assertion of declare, plenty of what he learn within the information protection on Wednesday was new info to him.
“Fairly a little bit of it was new to me, significantly in relation to my colleague — all of that info was new to me yesterday,” mentioned Schweitzer.
“I discovered rather a lot yesterday in that report. When she got here on as my chief of employees I had by no means labored along with her earlier than. We constructed a relationship over time the place I got here to belief her. I nonetheless belief her to today. She was a superb staffer. I used to be a reference for her. I’d work along with her once more any second, any day. I consider in her. She is devoted, she works extremely onerous.
“Sexual harassment is a matter that we’ve got to take fully severely in any office. We’ve to ensure we maintain ourselves to a excessive normal in authorities, significantly while you’re ready of management. And I wish to ensure that we ship that sign to employees and individuals who work within the legislature, individuals who work for the federal government of Alberta, that sexual harassment is just not acceptable, interval.”
Amongst different issues, the lawsuit alleges that Ivan Bernardo — a principal secretary in Premier Jason Kenney’s authorities — made a sexually inappropriate remark to one among Kimmel’s feminine employees members.
“Mr. Bernardo checked out this feminine’s physique and instructed her ‘I haven’t seen you on this flooring earlier than as a result of with a physique like that, I’d have seen you!’” the assertion of declare reads.
The following day, Kimmel reported the incident to the chief of employees to the well being minister, in addition to the premier’s director of points administration, in accordance with the doc.
A couple of month later, on Nov. 17, Kenney’s principal secretary met with Kimmel and allegedly instructed her Bernardo “was not going to be fired” and had determined to depart his submit by the tip of the yr.
In a press release Wednesday, Bernardo mentioned it might be inappropriate to remark because the matter is earlier than the courts.
Former Alberta UCP staffer alleges sexual harassment in lawsuit towards premier’s workplace
“When it got here to a scenario involving Ivan Bernardo, I heard rumblings — like third and fourth hand,” Schweitzer mentioned Thursday. “By the point I heard about it within the legislature, it was already being regarded into by way of the HR course of and thru the premier’s workplace. Once more, plenty of that info was new to me yesterday.”
The federal government responded to the allegations in a press release Wednesday, saying Bernardo has not been a authorities worker since December 2020 and the choice to finish Kimmel’s employment was unrelated to the issues contained within the assertion of declare.
The federal government mentioned it can provoke an impartial assessment of human useful resource insurance policies for political employees, “making certain that processes are clear and that each one employees are totally conscious of procedures and insurance policies.”
The allegations had been introduced up within the legislature once more Thursday throughout query interval. NDP MLA Janis Irwin mentioned it’s “merely unbelievable” that the minister didn’t know concerning the complaints.
“There’s two situations in my thoughts: both the minister is totally unaware of what’s taking place in his personal workplace, which is troubling in itself, or he’s deliberately deceptive Albertans. Which is it?”
Affiliate Minister of Standing of Girls Whitney Issik responded, saying the province has zero tolerance for sexual harassment within the office.
“We beforehand mandated obligatory respect within the office coaching for all authorities staff, together with political employees,” she mentioned, reiterating the province will assessment human sources insurance policies.
The NDP additionally discovered that Bernardo left authorities and ended up at a regulation agency engaged on a authorities file by way of Alberta Well being Companies. Well being Minister Jason Copping mentioned he has spoken with the AHS CEO and board chair about it.
“They’ve indicated to me that they’ve requested the agency for which this particular person labored for, that they be faraway from the AHS file whereas this matter is being addressed,” he mentioned. “This can be a severe problem and we’re taking it severely.”
Steps to sort out office abuse and harassment
Kimmel’s lawyer Kathryn Marshall was unable to answer Thursday’s new political developments, however made it clear in a press release that “no political staffer ought to ever be fired from his or her job for blowing the whistle on sexual harassment, as was completed on this case.”
Schweitzer added that he’ll see to it that the federal government assessment is thorough.
“Hopefully that could be a strong train for us to ensure that we catch any points if there are, and ensure there are penalties if there’s discovered to be sexual harassment by way of that assessment. Hopefully there are penalties that include it,” he mentioned.
“It additionally sends a sign to the federal government of Alberta as nicely that we wish to interact with frequently that we take these conditions very severely,” he mentioned. “We wish to maintain ourselves to the best potential normal.”
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