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Newfoundland and Labrador | Court dismisses lawsuits brought by two former ministers



(Saint-Jean) Two former provincial ministers of Newfoundland and Labrador expelled from the Liberal caucus four years ago have seen their lawsuits thrown out by a court.

Eddie Joyce and Dale Kirby were removed from their roles in April 2018 after harassment allegations against them surfaced.

Both countered the claims by filing separate civil lawsuits against several members of the legislature, arguing that the complaints damaged their reputations and resulted in financial loss.


Former Newfoundland and Labrador Minister of Education Dale Kirby

In two separate decisions released two weeks ago, Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court Justice Sandra Chaytor dismissed each lawsuit. She claims virtually all of the allegations were covered by parliamentary privilege, which meant the court had no jurisdiction.

In Mr Kirby’s case, Justice Chaytor argued that the defamation allegations were not covered by parliamentary privilege, but were not supported by the required facts. Accordingly, the magistrate allowed Mr. Kirby to file an amended statement.

When the two politicians were kicked out of caucus in 2018, Mr Kirby was education minister and Mr Joyce had the municipal affairs and environment portfolios.

The then Legislature’s Commissioner for Legislative Standards was called in to investigate. Bruce Chaulk concluded that Messrs. Both Kirby and Joyce had breached the legislature’s code of conduct, but he found neither guilty of harassment.

Incidents described in the commissioner’s five investigation reports included Mr Kirby allegedly telling MP Pam Parsons, “You look beautiful and I love you”, before suggesting she should stop being so vocal. In addition, the two ex-ministers were accused of using foul language towards other members.

One report refers to an interview with Cathy Bennett, a former finance minister, citing a culture of intimidation within the cabinet.

Commissioner Chaulk recommended that the legislature reprimand both men.

Lawmakers then voted to force the two elected officials to apologize to the assembly, although both maintained that they had not broken any rules of conduct.

In April 2019, a legislative committee released a policy proposal to address harassment and bullying after consultations revealed concerns about gender-based harassment and power imbalances between elected officials.

A workplace anti-harassment policy for public servants came into effect in June 2018.

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