Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accepted the resignation of Kent Hehr, his minister of sport and persons with disabilities, Thursday after allegations of sexual harassment emerged on social media.
Mr. Trudeau said Mr. Hehr was resigning from cabinet pending the outcome of an investigation by law firm Rubin Thomlinson. Mr. Hehr will remain a member of the Liberal caucus.
"As a government we take any allegations of misconduct extremely seriously, and we believe that it is important to support women who come forward with allegations and that is exactly what our government will do," Mr. Trudeau said in a statement. "… Having a process that can address these allegations while at the same time offering support and a safe space for those who come forward is important and something Canadians expect."
"I encourage all women who have felt uncomfortable or who have experienced harassment of any kind to continue to come forward. It is never okay," Mr. Hehr said in his resignation statement.
Late on Wednesday, Alberta public servant Kristin Raworth raised allegations on Twitter about Mr. Hehr's conduct around women during his time in the Alberta legislature. Her comments came after Conservative party leaders in Ontario and Nova Scotia were hit with separate allegations of harassment and resigned their positions.
Ms. Raworth said Mr. Hehr's conduct would be a test of Mr. Trudeau's leadership on the issue.
"I was told to avoid being in [an] elevator with Kent Hehr. He would make comments. He would make you feel unsafe," said Ms. Raworth.
"He is now a federal cabinet minister. In the government of a man who claims to believe in gender equality. So let's test that @JustinTrudeau. I'm not alone in my experience and I know so many women have experienced this. So get rid of him."In a statement posted Thursday to Facebook after Mr. Hehr's resignation, Ms. Raworth said her experience reflects that of many women in the political world.
"I assure you that this isn't just my experience. It's the experience of many people who experience sexual harassment in political work," she said. "Mr. Hehr resigned today, but this can't be the end of the conversation. Because this isn't about him. Or me. We need to continue to support survivors and we need to continue to make politics a place for women."
Mr. Hehr will be replaced by Science Minister Kirsty Duncan, who will handle both portfolios.
Rubin Thomlinson is already investigating allegations of inappropriate behaviour by a senior member of Mr. Trudeau's office, Claude-Eric Gagné, who is on leave from his position as deputy director of operations.
In a speech to about 1,000 people earlier this week in Davos, Mr. Trudeau was applauded as he spoke about the #MeToo movement, the women's march for equal rights and the notion that "time's up" for offenders.
"When we receive those complaints, we must take them seriously," Mr. Trudeau said. "As women speak up, it is our responsibility to listen and, more importantly, to believe."
On Thursday, Mr. Trudeau said his priority was to offer support to victims after being asked to comment on the resignation of Patrick Brown as the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.
"It's extremely important that we make absolutely clear that sexual harassment, sexual assault, is unacceptable. We take these allegations extremely seriously whenever they come up. Obviously, my thoughts turn immediately to the women who came forward, knowing how difficult it is, it can be, to salute them for their courage and their leadership," Mr. Trudeau said at a news conference.
Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said his party has a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment.
"Serious allegations were raised [in relation to Mr. Hehr ], and I do believe it's incumbent upon each member of Parliament to take these allegations seriously and for political parties to make sure that when these types of accusations come forth, they are handled in a way that treats them with the gravity they so rightly deserve," he said.
Mr. Hehr has previously made news for his confrontational dealings with various stakeholders, including during his time as minister of veterans affairs and as minister of sport and people with disabilities.
Mr. Hehr's departure from cabinet comes at a key time for local Calgary politicians, who are mulling whether to bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics. They must secure a promise from Ottawa that the federal government will help fund the bidding phase. Mr. Hehr, a recognizable face in his home city, had been the minister responsible for the file. Calgary expected the federal and provincial governments to announce their respective financial decisions within roughly two weeks.
If Ottawa rejects Calgary's pitch, Alberta's Olympic push will be over. The city estimates it would cost between $25-million and $30-million just to bid for the Games.
Mr. Trudeau has previously overseen a number of departures from his caucus and his cabinet in controversial circumstances.
In 2016, Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo resigned as fisheries minister, citing the need to seek treatment for an alcohol problem. It was only after The Globe and Mail revealed that he had had an affair with a female aide that he admitted he had a "consensual but inappropriate" relationship.
Calgary MP Darshan Kang quit the Liberal caucus in August in response to allegations that he sexually harassed some of his employees in both his Alberta constituency office and when he was in provincial politics. Mr. Kang has denied the allegations.
As Liberal leader before becoming Prime Minister, Mr. Trudeau suspended MPs Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti from the Liberal caucus in 2014 following harassment complaints made by two female NDP MPs.
With files from Justine Hunter in Victoria