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Liberal MP Darshan Kang proclaims innocence after sexual-harassment allegations

Liberal MP Darshan Kang is pictured in this 2015 file photo. Mr. Kang is facing allegations of harassment from a staff member.

Chris Bolin/The Globe and Mail

Liberal MP Darshan Kang has publicly defended himself for the first time Tuesday from accusations of sexual harassment.

The Toronto Star reported that the Calgary MP had tried to pay a young female staffer $100,000 to stay quiet about her sexual harassment allegations against him.

In a statement, Mr. Kang acknowledged there was an "open, ongoing investigation," but said he was innocent and would defend his reputation.

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"Since the allegations of sexual harassment were levelled against me I have been under a tremendous amount of stress and subsequently, I was placed on medical leave," Mr. Kang said in the statement.

Related: Liberal MP Darshan Kang faces sexual harassment allegations

The Hill Times originally reported that a young female employee in Mr. Kang's Calgary constituency office said Mr. Kang sexually harassed her.

Speaking to The Star on the condition of anonymity, the woman's father said Mr. Kang gave his daughter unwelcome hugs and held and stroked her hand during car rides. The father also alleged Mr. Kang once brought her to an Ottawa apartment, where he allegedly offered her wine and tried to take her jacket off; he alleged Mr. Kang followed her to her hotel the next day and tried to get into her room to talk.

The father said Mr. Kang subsequently offered his daughter a number of payments totalling $100,000 if she did not speak about the allegations with her parents.

When asked on Monday if Mr. Kang would be expelled from caucus, Mr. Trudeau did not directly answer the question.

"I can assure people that our whip's office and the human resources of the Parliament of Canada are engaged as they must be in this process," Mr. Trudeau told reporters at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, where he was unveiling a cabinet shuffle.

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Mr. Trudeau has previously acted when claims of sexual misconduct and harassment of women were made about Liberal MPs. As opposition leader before becoming prime minister, he expelled MPs Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti from the Liberal caucus in 2015 following harassment complaints made by two female NDP MPs. Last year, Hunter Tootoo, Fisheries minister and Nunavut MP, resigned from the Liberal caucus after accusations that he engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a junior female staff member.

The NDP called on Mr. Trudeau to remove Mr. Kang from the Liberal caucus.

"In the past, the Prime Minister has advocated a 'zero tolerance' approach to handling allegations of sexual harassment by Liberal MPs. Yet the Prime Minister has failed to act and refused to comment, even though the allegations against Mr. Kang surfaced weeks ago," NDP status of women critic Sheila Malcolmson said in a statement.

"That is not the leadership of a feminist Prime Minister."

The Conservatives declined to comment when contacted by The Globe and Mail.

The Hill Times, citing Liberal sources, reported that Mr. Kang's staffer approached Liberal whip Pablo Rodriguez with her sexual harassment complaint in June. The Ottawa-based publication said an external investigator was hired to look into the allegations and recently submitted a report on the matter. It reported on Monday that Mr. Kang will be removed from caucus in the "coming days" as a result of the investigation.

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The Prime Minister's Office directed all questions about Mr. Kang to Mr. Rodriguez's office.

"We were made aware of the allegations and referred them, as per the House of Commons process, to the chief human resources officer," said Charles-Eric Lépine, chief of staff to Mr. Rodriguez.

Heather Bradley, director of communications for the office of the Speaker of the House of Commons, said chief human resources officer Pierre Parent cannot comment on human resources files, citing confidentiality rules in the House's harassment policy.

"He will not confirm or deny if an investigation is under way," Ms. Bradley said in an e-mail.

The House of Commons adopted a harassment policy for matters between MPs and their staff in 2014; unionized and administrative staff are covered under another framework. The policy outlines resolution options for harassment complaints and assigns responsibility for discipline to the party whips, who are allowed to hand over management of the complaint to the chief human resources officer if they wish.

The harassment policy requires the House to publicly disclose how often it is used. According to the most recent harassment report, the House of Commons processed 19 cases involving harassment, discrimination or abuse of authority during the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Calls and e-mails to Mr. Kang's Parliament Hill and constituency offices went unanswered. Mr. Kang was elected federally in 2015; before that, he served as a Liberal member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta.

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