Sask. NDP wants independent investigation into harassment, bullying and gun claims by Speaker

Randy Weekes, the Speaker of the Saskatchewan Legislature, has been asked by the NDP to convene a committee to look into allegations he made against government members and staff. (Adam Hunter/CBC - image credit)
Randy Weekes, the Speaker of the Saskatchewan Legislature, has been asked by the NDP to convene a committee to look into allegations he made against government members and staff. (Adam Hunter/CBC - image credit)

The Opposition NDP is calling for an independent investigation into allegations regarding harassment, bullying and guns made by Saskatchewan Speaker Randy Weekes.

On Tuesday, NDP critic for ethics and democracy Meara Conway sent a letter to Weekes asking him to convene the house services committee.

Conway said the committee can appoint an independent investigator and give the investigator subpoena power. In that case, witnesses would have to testify, under oath, at official hearings.

"The Speaker's allegations are alarming and we know at least one person in the premier's inner circle, if not Moe himself, lied about them," Conway said.

Conway's letter asks Weekes to "urgently convene" the committee. She said it would be up to the committee to appoint an investigator and discuss the terms of reference for an investigation.

"The rule of law must be upheld and the basic principles of workplace safety and accountability must be respected," Conway said in the letter.

Conway told reporters Weekes could call the committee and it could agree to the request or a majority of Saskatchewan Party MLAs on the committee could vote any next steps down.

WATCH | Meara Conway comments on Jeremy Harrison bringing gun into legislative building:

Harrison responds to allegations

On the last day of the legislative sitting, Weekes made a speech that accused government members and staffers of intimidation and sending harassing text messages. Many of the allegations were levelled at now-former government House leader Jeremy Harrison.

"When I became Speaker, the intimidating and harassing text messages began immediately, trying to influence my rulings," Weekes said in the chamber on May 16.

Weekes read a text message sent by Harrison on March 22, 2023: "That's an absolute bullshit ruling. Completely wrong and Iris (the clerk) will tell you that."

Weekes said Harrison stopped texting him last fall but would still text the clerk. Weekes said deputy House leader Lori Carr took over texting him.

"She especially harassed me during the emergency debate on the parental rights motion," Weekes said.

He also claimed an adviser to the premier "lunged at him" in a hallway and an "MLA rushed me at a party function and came very close to head-butting me."

Premier Scott Moe has denied the allegations made by Weekes. Harrison continues to deny allegations made by Weekes including a claim he sought permission to bring a handgun into the assembly.

There has been one exception to the denials.

Initially, Moe said Harrison told him all allegations were "unequivocally false," but six days later Harrison said he informed the premier that he did bring a "long gun" into the legislature about 10 years ago while on his way to go hunting.

Harrison said he did not initially recall the event and apologized to the premier. Harrison resigned as House leader but remains in cabinet.

"I want to apologize to the people who were working in the building when this occurred around 10 years ago. I want to convey that apology sincerely because this was a mistake. This was a bad error in judgment," Harrison said.

"I am accountable though and I look forward to making up for this mistake."

WATCH | Jeremy Harrison comments on harassment allegations:

When asked by CBC on Monday if his text messaging or behaviour was bullying or harassment, Harrison said, "I would say I shouldn't have sent that text [that used an expletive to describe a ruling]."

He said there are "difficult conversations that happen between the Speaker and between the government House leader and the opposition House leader."

He said Carr, named new House leader by Moe on Monday, will ensure things get "back on track."

When asked what responsibility he takes for the breakdown with Weekes, Harrison said, "I think there probably was some responsibility to go around."

He said issues with previous Speakers were worked out behind the scenes, but "unfortunately we ended up in a different place here."

Professor says investigation should happen

A professor who specializes in workplace safety said Moe and the government need to allow for an investigation into the Speaker's allegations of harassment and bullying.

Sean Tucker, a professor of occupational health and safety at the University of Regina, said the accusations made by Weekes warrant proper scrutiny.

"But not investigating this and just leaving this hanging sends all the wrong signals and it doesn't resolve the issue," he said.

Tucker said with Weekes not running in the upcoming election, the role and job of the next Speaker becomes more difficult if the allegations are ignored.

Tucker said employers need to know the standards for them are the same as for those who are elected.

"At the exact time where we've seen amendments to occupational safety legislation come into force that require all employers to investigate complaints of harassment and violence, there (cannot be) different rules that apply to the Legislative Assembly," he said.

Tucker said it does not matter that Weekes did not file a formal complaint.

"Speaker Weekes made his complaint publicly. He didn't go through a process, but he made a complaint. It is in Hansard."

WATCH | Speaker Randy Weekes reads examples of text messages he said he received:

Moe has said he will not call for an investigation.

Tucker said one problem area stemming from the legislation is that the committee normally responsible for reviewing an investigation, the Board of Internal Economy, has Weekes as its chair and Harrison as a committee member.

"It's hard to see how those two individuals can effectively carry out those duties when one would conceivably be a complainant and one would be a respondent."

Tucker said the government and opposition should work with the Speaker to find a way to alter the process so an independent investigation can occur.

"In this case, there needs to be an investigation because these are serious public allegations and the parties should be looking at a modified process."

Tucker said the government needs to "set a good example for workplaces" in Saskatchewan.

"We expect employers, when complaints are made, that they are investigated and the standard for investigation is independent, unbiased, impartial and thorough. That's the standard that's been set and that's the standard that this investigation should meet."