National Newswatch

TORONTO — Liberal MP Karen McCrimmon says she's heartened to see condemnation from female politicians of all political stripes about a vulgar joke an Ontario politician made about her at a recent fundraiser.

Jack MacLaren, a Progressive Conservative member of the Ontario legislature, told a joke at a recent "men's night" cancer fundraising event about a married couple, inserting the names of McCrimmon and her husband, with a punchline about oral sex.

Nobody laughed, McCrimmon said.

"When he told that joke, you could see it on their faces," she said in an interview. "They were mortified and after that little piece of the evening was over ... I had 30 or 40 people come up and apologize."

MacLaren sent McCrimmon a "heartfelt" apology in an email Wednesday, she said. But that was only after a newspaper article about it spurred controversy. The event in Carp, Ont., took place on March 24.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel, Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne and Andrea Horwath, the province's NDP leader, are among those who denounced MacLaren's comments and expressed support for McCrimmon.

"This is how I'd like to see it go," McCrimmon said. "We can have differences of opinion between political parties, but there are some principles and the principles of behaviour and how we treat each other that should be the same regardless of what political party you're from."

McCrimmon, who was a longtime member of the Canadian Forces and the first woman to command a flying squadron, said it's not the first time she has been in such a situation.

"I've learned how to deal with things like this, but I think he needs to apologize to those people (in Carp)," she said. "I think that's even more important than apologizing to me...The last thing I would want is any of this to reflect on them."

Although MacLaren was in the Ontario legislature for question period Wednesday, he left before it ended, avoiding reporters who gather outside the house every day to ask questions of politicians as they emerge. Staff in his office directed questions to the party's media representative.

Patrick Brown, leader of Ontario's Conservatives, said he has "zero tolerance" for misogynist comments, but now that MacLaren has apologized he won't face any caucus sanctions.

Lisa MacLeod, another member of Brown's caucus, sent McCrimmon a message on Twitter, saying she was sorry McCrimmon was subjected to the so-called joke.

"I wanted to make sure that Karen knew that was not the view of the Progressive Conservative Party or caucus and that I wanted her to know I felt very badly that it had happened and she was placed in that situation," MacLeod said later.

Many Conservatives have contacted her, particularly those from MacLaren's riding, to say they are frustrated and upset, MacLeod said.

Wynne said the incident was not as shocking as it should be in 2016 as "we all know that those attitudes are still among us."

"That kind of comment is part of the culture that allows for the abuse and mistreatment of women," she said.

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

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