MPs need to consult women, social media companies about online behaviour: Cullen

OTTAWA — Women and social-media companies should be brought into a critical discussion about how parliamentarians conduct themselves online, says veteran NDP MP Nathan Cullen.

Many MPs insist that what they say and do on social media is personal, not part of their professional lives, Cullen said Thursday, but said he simply doesn't buy it.

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Parliamentarians get training that focuses on their day-to-day interactions with other parliamentarians and staff, he said, but it doesn't include enough material on what appropriate online behaviour looks like.

"This aspect of liking (online images), trolling, I don't recall it being talked about," Cullen said after the social-media activity of former cabinet minister and longtime MP Tony Clement came under further scrutiny in Ottawa on Thursday.

"It is another layer but it is striking. This is not the first online sexual story that's happened."

Speaking with women about patterns they observe and how they feel targeted would be valuable, Cullen said.

Companies like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram could also help, he added.

"They're dealing with this as companies and organizations and could be a part of the conversation as to what they've seen," Cullen said.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer kicked Clement out of the party caucus on Wednesday after revelations that he'd shared sexually explicit images with someone who later tried to extort him for money.

Clement issued an open letter to his Ontario constituents on Thursday to apologize to anyone who felt he crossed "online boundaries" in a way that made them feel uncomfortable, without his knowing.

Clement also admitted he engaged in inappropriate exchanges during a time of "personal difficulty and weakness," his actions crossed lines that he shouldn't have crossed, and he engaged in acts of infidelity.

"I am deeply sorry," he wrote. "I want to be clear that at no time have these personal lapses impacted or involved my day-to-day work as a member of Parliament on behalf of our communities. That said, I offer you no excuses for my conduct. I take full responsibility."

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