Woman speaks out about sexual assault allegations against Sklavounos
A woman from Quebec City was front and centre Friday after the allegations levelled against Gerry Sklavounos.
Alice Paquet claims she was sexually assaulted by the Liberal MNA for Laurier-Dorion.
At a vigil at Laval University this week, Paquet spoke up to say she had been sexually assaulted by an MNA two years ago while she worked at Quebec City restaurant Louis Hebert.
Exhausted, Paquet said she is receiving both support and criticism, but she said she has no regrets about coming forward.
She said she is facing a lot of questions.
“It's more like, ‘Why did she want to go to his room?,’” said Paquet’s friend Maitee Saganash, who stood by Paquet’s side at a news conference Friday.
Paquet alleges two years ago, she met Sklavounos at the restaurant, then went to his room.
She told Radio Canada they kissed, but added, “It's not because we embrace that it should lead to sex."
She also said that while she doesn't remember saying "no," she definitely didn't say "yes."
Paquet said she went to the politician’s room again a few weeks later and said Friday she didn’t feel comfortable to talk about the details at this time.
She reported the incident to police but the investigation has not progressed, apparently because Paquet did not co-operate with the investigation.
Paquet told Radio Canada that police investigators contacted her repeatedly but she did not return their calls, though has now decided to speak with them.
She also said she hopes sharing her story will inspire other women to break their silence.
A matter of consent
The notion of consent can be confusing, said Debbie Trent of the Montreal Sexual Assault Centre.
“Sometimes it’s very confusing. Sometimes there are situations where you feel you said yes, or you feel you said no, or there are situations where you feel that you can’t or you’re afraid, or you’re not able to freely consent,” she said.
Sklavounos was not responding to interviews Friday, and avoided media as they waited outside his office in the Villeray district and his home in Ahuntsic.
The only comment he made was on Thursday evening to the Journal de Montreal, where he said he's “completely innocent” and that he has "never, never sexually assaulted anyone.”
There are no criminal charges against him.
More allegations; opposition wants his resignation
Opposition parties are calling on the now-independent MNA Sklavounos to resign amid more allegations of inappropriate behaviour.
“Sincerely, how can he be present at the national assembly with all the allegations against him,” said Quebec solidaire MNA Francoise David.
The CAQ's critic for the status of women said the Liberals have to answer some questions after reports in Le Devoir that Sklavounos has acted inappropriately with a number of young women who worked at the National Assembly, including employees, pages, and political staffers.
These young women are not named in the articles, but they claim he made suggestive comments, sent text messages and just generally made them feel uncomfortable with his behaviour.
Le Devoir also reported that at some time between 2012 and 2014 when the Liberals were in opposition, the Liberal party whip was informed that Sklavounos allegedly acted inappropriately with a political staffer in Pauline Marois’s government.
Roy is now asking who in the Liberal Party knew about these allegations, and when they knew.
She also wants to know why nobody in the party took action if Sklavounos had this reputation.
"Only on that basis, that discredits the National Assembly, that discredits the work of MNAs. It's a shadow over us and for the population who are looking at us and I think it's going to be impossible for him to work," said Roy.
“This (MNA) right now, he is still at parliament and he still can vote about laws that concerns our security as citizens as women,” said Saganash.
Support for Sklavounos
Montreal city councillor Mary Deros is a long-time friend of Sklavounos and said while she sympathizes with victims of sexual assault, she is having trouble believing Sklavounos could commit such a crime.
“At no time did I ever see any inappropriate action by him,” she said.
Restaurant under criticism
The restaurant where Paquet said she met Sklavounos is coming under fire.
Very popular restaurant with politicians and on the main street Grande Allee, Louis Hebert is within walking distance from the National Assembly.
Also an inn, there are rooms upstairs from the restaurant.
In a Facebook post earlier this week, Paquet claimed there was pressure on female staff at the restaurant to dress a certain way, and give politicians the ‘royal treatment’ because they're important people.
She also wrote that the Sklavounos was an old friend of the restaurant's owner.
The restaurant management issued a statement Friday afternoon saying they are "profoundly shocked" by these allegations and strongly condemn any form of sexual violence against women. They said they would never condone this type of behaviour no matter how important or influential the client may be.
They also said they train their staff to give impeccable and personalized service, but also remind them to keep a healthy distance from clients.