Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has responded to allegations that he groped a female reporter 18 years ago, saying he doesn’t recall “any negative interactions that day at all.”
Trudeau, who has long spoken out against sexual harassment, briefly addressed the matter when asked by a reporter on Sunday at an event in Regina, Saskatchewan.
The question concerns a charity fundraiser that Trudeau, then 28, attended in Creston, British Columbia, before he launched his political career. Trudeau is the son of late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
Trudeau attended the fundraiser to support avalanche safety.
An unsigned editorial that appeared at the time in the Creston Valley Advance newspaper said he apologized for inappropriate “handling” of the woman. The editorial did not provide any details, but said Trudeau “blatantly disrespected” the reporter.
The Prime Minister said Sunday: “I remember that day in Creston well … I had a good day that day; I don’t remember any negative interactions that day at all.”
Trudeau’s office on Monday reiterated his stance.
“As the Prime Minister has said before, he has always been very careful to treat everyone with respect. His first experiences with activism were on the issue of sexual assault at McGill (University), and he knows the importance of being thoughtful and respectful,” the office said.
CNN did not contact the reporter because she told CNN partner CBC News that she did not want her name to be used and did not want to be contacted about the story.
The allegation resurfaced last month after Canadian political commentator Warren Kinsella tweeted a picture of the editorial and used the #MeToo hashtag.
Valerie Bourne, former publisher of the Advance, told CBC News that she spoke with the reporter in 2000: “My recollections of the conversation were that she came to me because she was unsettled by it. She didn’t like what had happened. She wasn’t sure how she should proceed with it because of course we’re talking somebody who was known to the Canadian community.”
Bourne said, “I would not classify it or qualify it as sexual assault.” But she said that Trudeau’s alleged actions were “definitely not welcome and definitely inappropriate.”
Earlier this year, Trudeau was asked by CBC Radio whether any of his actions could have been misconstrued.
“I don’t think so,” the Prime Minister said. “I have been very, very careful all my life to be thoughtful, to be respectful of people’s space and people’s head space as well.”
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this year, Trudeau said sexual harassment “is a systemic problem and it is unacceptable.”