What did Ethel Blondin-Andrew do and why did she do it?
This post was written by MJ on 31st July 2002
Those are the urgent but ugly questions to crawl out of last week’s news Michel Chretien, the adopted aboriginal son of the Prime Minister and his wife, is again in trouble with the law for allegedly sexually assaulting an 18-year-old girl after a night of heavy drinking.
Blondin-Andrew, Liberal Member of Parliament for Western Arctic, allegedly called the victim’s mother, “a long-time acquaintance”, three times and “warned that a trial could smear her family’s reputation in the news media and offered to pay to send family members to a healing circle,” according to the latest story in the Globe. The Globe says the mother believes Blondin-Andrew was trying to get the mother to hush her child up.
Blondin-Andrew’s talks with her old friend sound worse when you go back to the initial source.
The NorthernNews Service first broke the story. Here’s what appeared in the Yellowknifer July 26:
On the night of the alleged attack the victim said she and Chretien were drinking heavily with another friend. Her entire body shaking and her voice quivering, the victim told Yellowknifer the attack occurred after the third party left for the evening.
The victim said she was in a state of shock for about a week after the assault. Then last Friday she decided to break the silence and tell her mother what had happened to her.
I was so scared, said the complainant, still trying to accept that a long-time acquaintance had violated her.
On Wednesday the complainant and her mother decided to file a complaint with the Yellowknife RCMP detachment. But not before contacting the Prime Minister's office in Ottawa to inform him the attack had occurred.
The mother left a message with the PMO and soon after received a call from Western Arctic Liberal MP Ethel Blondin-Andrew. The complainant's mother is also a long-time acquaintance of Blondin-Andrew.
I think she was trying to put pressure on me to not press charges, because she almost did it (convinced her not to), said the mother.
When I first spoke to Ethel she was really heartbroken and everything ... then she said you and I go back a long time.'
I just spoke to the Prime Minister,' she said, and then she told me he is the Prime Minister, he has all the power and he will fight this case for Michel. Then she told me that a lot of dirty things are going to come up about your past and the media will be there.'
I almost changed my mind (about pressing charges) because of that, said the complainant's mother.
The mother said Blondin-Andrew called her home three times Wednesday, asking many questions. She said Blondin-Andrew then offered to pay for the victim's family to attend a healing circle.
At the end of their final conversation the Liberal MP said she would stand behind the Prime Minister no matter what the cost, said the mother.
What happened? Did a mother upset over her daughter’s story misunderstand an old friend reaching out? Did Blondin-Andrew, an old ally of the Prime Minister and listed as supporting him in the leadership review, make the calls freelance, trying to put out a fire in her own riding? Did she do it on the request of the Prime Minister, who said in a statement they would “continue to stand by Michel,” get Blondin-Andrew to explore how the problem might be made to go away?
I’m no lawyer nor cop, but if the mother’s account is true, Blondin-Andrew’s actions look, if not legally actionable, politically odious: A top Arctic politician, the government’s top minister for youth, the highest-ranking female aboriginal Liberal politician, leaning on the distraught mother of a sexually-abused teenager.
For her part, Blondin-Andrew has engaged counsel and so far not responded to opposition MPs demands that she explain her actions. This is not the first time Blondin-Andrew has been accused of ethical lapses: In 1996, Reform MPs called for her resignation after it was revealed she put $7,902 in personal charges, including trips to Mexico, New York City and Hawaii, on government credit cards. Back then, Chretien rose to her defense, calling the affair a “minor error made by the minister.” Blondin-Andrew paid back the entire amount.
(Predictably, this story provides another example of either the cowardice of CanWest-owned editors or hollowness of the Asper family’s promise to give their newsrooms free rein: These serious allegations have yet to rate any coverage in the Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, National Post or Vancouver Sun.)
Update: A Gaz copy editor wrote me to say a “balanced story” ran in the at least two papers, the Citizen and the Gazette yesterday.