By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG – A former Manitoba cabinet minister accused of sexual harassment was offered a path back into the Opposition NDP caucus Tuesday, although details and deadlines were not yet worked out.
Mohinder Saran will no longer be barred from attending caucus meetings if he apologizes to the complainant and agrees to take part in some sort of reconciliation with her, caucus chairman Rob Altemeyer said.
“Apologies would be, I would think, a clear part of it — apologies to the complainant, to our caucus from Mr. Saran,” Altemeyer said following a 6 1/2-hour closed-door caucus meeting.
“But reconciliation is about more than that as well. It’s about healing, it’s about understanding and it’s about finding a path so that everyone can move forward.”
Saran was suspended from caucus meetings in November following a formal complaint that he had harassed someone in the workplace. The NDP and Saran have not disclosed any details, but a party source told The Canadian Press that Saran was accused of making inappropriate comments and overtures to a subordinate that verged on propositioning her.
The legislature’s human resources branch investigated and Saran’s lawyer, Bill Gange, said Saran agreed with the branch’s recommendation that he undergo sensitivity training.
Saran has declined to comment. Gange said last month that Saran expected full reinstatement but, on Tuesday, said he was unclear on exactly what the caucus is seeking.
“I am trying to clarify what it is that the NDP caucus wants. Until we understand that, it is difficult to make any comment,” Gange wrote in an email.
Altemeyer said the decision on reconciliation was supported unanimously. Caucus was not allowed access to the human resources investigation report and relied on submissions from Saran’s lawyer and caucus members who had talked with the complainant, Altemeyer said.
He added that reconciliation may not require the complainant, who no longer holds the same job, to meet face-to-face with Saran.
The complainant also has the right to refuse any reconciliation, Altemeyer added.
“We would then still need to see from Mr. Saran an indication, probably in the form of an apology, that he is attempting to reconcile with the complainant.”
Saran was first elected in 2007 and, in 2015, played a key role in helping then-premier Greg Selinger survive an internal coup by five cabinet ministers.
Saran helped deliver 117 delegates to Selinger’s leadership campaign from his constituency in The Maples in north Winnipeg. At the ensuing leadership convention, Selinger hung on to his job by 33 votes and, weeks later, elevated Saran to cabinet.