Legislative Report (28 February 2007)

The Carriere Affair

“The time is out of joint”
(Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5)

The Rotunda at the Saskatchewan Legislature has seen more than a few strange acts of political theatre. Few stranger than this week, when a nervous NDP cabinet minister was forced to come out and admit that taxpayers would be forking over $275,000 to a former long-time supervisor who was accused of sexually harassing women in the workplace. Some in the media have described it as one of the largest ever settlements in a civil suit in Saskatchewan history. The NDP minister had little to say about why the payment was made, why the lawsuit prompting the payment was not being pursued or why this was all happening now. He had nothing to say about the women who complained about the harassment, and had to share a compensation package worth less than half of what was given to the man they lodged complaints about. It was just the latest chapter in a case replete with unanswered questions and missing information.

Here’s what we do know about the matter. Murdoch Carriere was the former director of forest fire management for the government of Saskatchewan. In February of 2003, Mr. Carriere was given new duties as a senior advisory after serving a three-month suspension. Neither the suspension nor the harassment allegations became public knowledge until media coverage began in April of that year. That’s when it was also revealed that an independent outside investigator had prepared a report that concluded “harassment did occur”.

When the matter became public, people began asking some serious questions: Why did Mr. Carriere continue to hold a senior position with the NDP government? Why wasn’t Mr. Carriere immediately fired when the harassment allegations were found to be true? Why was he shuffled-off to another department of government? Who was protecting him? Once again, the NDP failed to take the correct course of action until they were caught. Only after the case became public was Mr. Carriere was fired. But now, because of the NDP’s bungling and mismanagement, the taxpayers of Saskatchewan once again have to pay for the mistakes that were made by Lorne Calvert and his government.

Mr. Carriere was found guilty on two counts of assault and received a six month suspended sentence. The nine women who made allegations against him split the sum of $135,000 in compensation. The one man who is responsible and almost escaped with his job and his career intact is now getting $275,000.

The only remaining question appears to be this: Why is this fair? What happened to zero tolerance of sexual harassment in the workplace?

If you have a question about this report or any other matter, just Contact Lyle.

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