Update: Cleared of sex-assault complaint, Sklavounos to return to Quebec legislature
MONTREAL — A member of the Quebec legislature recently cleared of sexual assault allegations that prompted his ouster from the Liberal caucus promised Thursday to be more careful with regard to his “passionate” and “spontaneous” behaviour.
In making his first public comments in more than three months, Gerry Sklavounos announced he’ll return to the legislature next week but did not address the allegations that led to his political hiatus.
A woman alleged last fall that Sklavounos, 42, assaulted her twice in 2014 when she was 19 and working as a hostess at a Quebec City restaurant.
That led Premier Philippe Couillard to kick him out of caucus.
The file was referred to the Crown prosecutor’s office, which announced last week no crime had taken place and said Sklavounos would not be charged.
The criminal complaint also set off other allegations of improprieties involving Sklavounos against employees at the national assembly.
Sklavounos refused to address the nature of his relationship with the sexual-assault complainant on Thursday, but said he’d had time to reflect on his conduct with employees at the legislature.
He offered “sincere regret for anybody I may have offended or whose feelings I may have hurt,” adding that, “I’ll be more reserved in the future.”
Sklavounos, who was accompanied by his wife Janneke at the news conference in his Montreal riding of Laurier-Dorion, described himself as “spontaneous” and “friendly.”
“I’m a passionate guy,” he said. “I like to talk, I like to make people laugh, I like to be the clown, I like to charm. Occasionally, I like to give a polite compliment.
“What I realized is depending on where you are, sometimes that’s not appropriate.”
Couillard said recently he wouldn’t consider readmitting Sklavounos to the fold until he felt convinced the longtime politician demonstrated a “personal initiative” to correct his behaviour and show good conduct toward women.
Sklavounos said he hunkered down at home after his Oct. 20 removal from caucus and conducted a “deep personal introspection” surrounded by people ready to help him.
He also said he identified as a Liberal at heart but that the decision about his return to the Liberal caucus is out of his hands.
On Thursday, the premier said no decision has been taken.
“The first people I want to talk to is the Liberal caucus, my colleagues,” Couillard told reporters in Bromont, Que.
“Mr. Sklavounos can sit as an Independent in the near future. His return to the Liberal caucus is neither automatic nor immediate.”
Sklavounos has represented Laurier-Dorion since 2007 and some members of the Liberal riding association stood with him Thursday.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press
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