A former Canadian deputy prime minister waded into a nationwide uproar over sexual violence on Monday by revealing that she was twice assaulted when she was a budding politician years ago.
The shocking disclosure followed the suspension of two MPs by their party over allegations they harassed fellow lawmakers, and the firing of a top radio host over accusations of sexual violence.
The wide publicity generated by these separate cases in Ottawa and Toronto prompted an urgent public debate on sexual violence in society, as well as a rise in the number of complaints.
Among them, former deputy prime minister Sheila Copps, now 61, wrote in a column in the weekly newspaper The Hill Times that she was sexually assaulted by another member of the Ontario legislature within a year of first being elected at the age of 28.
Copps, who would later become deputy to Prime Minister Jean Chretien from 1993 to 1997, said one attack took place in a hotel hallway during a tour of northern Ontario to study violence against women.
“I pushed back on my assailant, kicking him where it hurts, when he tried to force me up against a wall and kiss me,” she wrote.
Copps said she never reported it to police, chalking it up to a “personal misjudgement” by her attacker, a fellow legislator.
In a separate incident 30 years ago, she said “someone I knew also raped me.” In this case she offered no details except to say that she went to police, who gave her assailant a warning.
The clamor in Canada over sexual violence started last month when public broadcaster CBC fired syndicated radio host Jian Ghomeshi over accusations he had engaged in sexual abuse.
Fans were dumbfounded.
The initial accusations had been made anonymously but since then, nine women have come forward with allegations against Ghomeshi, and Toronto police have launched a criminal investigation.
Ghomeshi has said what happened was all consensual “rough sex” of the kind found in erotic romance novels, and is suing the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for wrongful dismissal.
His top-rated arts magazine radio show Q is heard across Canada and in more than 180 cities in the United States — now without Ghomeshi.
CBC head of English programming Heather Conway characterized the allegations as “inflicting an injury on another human being.”
Weeks later, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau made headlines when he sidelined two members of his Liberal Party accused of sexually harassing two New Democrat MPs.
The two lawmakers have denied any wrongdoing, and the case is being probed by the parliamentary Board of Internal Economy.
Details of the allegations have not been made public.