While we not so patiently waited on U.S. midterm election results on the evening of November 6, another story broke closer to home. Tony Clement, a well-known and long-serving Conservative MP, resigned from some of his duties and said he was being blackmailed after sending an unknown party “sexually explicit” photographs and a video. In a statement, Clement that he sent the images believing the intended recipient was a consenting female.
However, it turns out that the recipient—according to Clement’s statement—was actually “an individual or party who targeted me for the purpose of financial extortion,” and that an RCMP investigation into the matter was now underway.
On November 7, Clement resigned from a number of his roles on parliamentary committees and left the Conservative Party’s caucus at party leader Andrew Scheer’s request.
“I took him at his word that this was an isolated incident. Since then, there have been numerous reports of other incidents, allegations,” Scheer told reporters at the House of Commons that day. “New information became available today that suggests that there are allegations that this is not an isolated incident, and therefore I asked Tony to resign from caucus, and he has done so.”
At the time of Scheer’s comments, no further information existed about additional allegations against Clement. But on November 8, in a lengthy message to his constituents, Clement admitted to multiple “inappropriate exchanges that crossed lines that should never have been crossed,” and noted that “these exchanges led to acts of infidelity.” He also said that in addition to being personally targeted for extortion, a woman with whom he had an encounter was later offered money to disclose personal information—a situation that Clement says he reported to the OPP last summer. He maintains that all of these encounters were “consensual and mutual.”
Also on November 8, the Toronto Star published an article in which two women, both of whom chose to remain anonymous, recounted their experiences with Clement. Both met him online, and both continued on to have “sexual interactions” with him.
One of the women, who is in her twenties, met Clement in 2017 when he started to follow her on Instagram. She told the Star they consensually shared “intimate messages,” but never met IRL.
The second woman, also in her twenties, told the Star that she also met Clement when he started to follow her on social media—liking her photos and sending her DMs that often included the ‘kiss’ and ‘heart’ emoji. They eventually met offline and had an “intimate relationship.”
Both women also told the Star they were contacted by unknown users on Instagram in regard to their relationships with Clement. The first woman says she received a message from an unknown user in July 2018 that warned that Clement “engaged in inappropriate sexual behaviour toward women.”
The second woman says that in May or June of 2018, an unknown account offered her money in exchange for information on Clement.
The Star notes that timing around both accounts “seem to contradict Clement’s initial public statement about when he became aware of an alleged attempt to extort him”—and call into question whether “he fulfilled his legal obligation at the time to notify the Privy Council Office about whether his personal circumstances changed in a way that could affect his security clearance.”
Even before additional information about Clement’s inappropriate online behaviour began to emerge, it seemed clear that he had been “aggressively liking” women’s posts on Instagram for a while, according to several women on Twitter as well as a CBC interview with Canadian journalist Kim Fox.
Every girl in Canada with an instagram was wondering when this would finally happen. https://t.co/fxll7m25Bx
— official religious capybara fact account (@Allisomething) November 7, 2018
Here’s what you need to know.
Who is Tony Clement?
Clement has been involved in Canadian politics since the 1990s, having served at various times as Minister of Transportation, Minister of Health and Long Term Care, and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. He currently remains MP for Ontario’s Parry Sound-Muskoka riding. (After being asked to leave the Conservative caucus, he is now an Independent. In his lengthier November 8 statement, Clement notes that he will “continue to uphold the responsibilities of being [a] Member of Parliament.”)
Clement—who married—is also known for his social media presence. Up until recently, he has been prolific on Twitter and Instagram and has posted pictures of himself Photoshopped onto Drake’s Scorpio album cover and, for some reason, at the dentist.
Multiple women say he’s been inappropriate on Instagram
Soon after Clement issued his initial statement on November 7, several women wrote on Twitter that he had interacted with them on Instagram.
One woman with the Twitter handle Chronically Sarah said that Clement is known for acting like a “friend” and then “turns it sexual.” She also said he tends to message women in their early to mid-twenties.
“All the girls raise their hand if Tony tried anything with you. ME,” she said.
Claire McWatt also said on Twitter that the first time Clement messaged her was “after 1am and I was Chair of the Youth Cabinet.” She goes on to say that she was 23 at the time.
I hope that you believe women. This is a time to believe women. In my own experience – this guy is easily capable of crossing lines and so I'm happy to talk about it publicly here, for anyone who feels they can't. DM me if you need support. I definitely believe you.
— Claire McWatt 🇬🇾 (@ClaireMcWatt) November 7, 2018
And in an interview on CBC Radio’s As It Happens, Canadian journalist Kim Fox told CBC host Carol Off that three or four years ago, Clement would frequently leave a “barrage of likes” on her Instagram account, behaviour she says that other female colleagues of hers also experienced.
Whatever the case, extortion is never OK
This story is still unfolding, but one thing that is certain, stresses Ottawa-based public educator and activist Julie Lalonde, is that being extorted for nude photographs is plain wrong.
When you send a nude pic, you’re giving your consent to the person who is receiving it and usually no one else (unless specified). You trust that photo will stay with the intended party. Consent is obviously removed if the person turns out to be a third party looking to blackmail you.
COMPLEXITY: Get into it!
Tony Clement can be both a creep and someone who has been victimized.
We can, and should, call out how women have known for years that he is trash. We can, and should, also condemn being extorted for their nudes.
Come on, people.
— Julie S. Lalonde (@JulieSLalonde) November 7, 2018
“It sends a bad message to victims [if we act like extortion is OK]”, Lalonde says.
But that obviously doesn’t mean Clement can’t be criticized for his online behaviour. If a stranger is making you uncomfortable on social media, you’re allowed to be upset. And their actions don’t have to be illegal to cross a line. (To be clear, Clement has not been charged with any crime at this time.)
“We have a right to set a boundary regardless of whether it meets a legal threshold,” Lalonde says, adding that women should always feel able to call out bad behaviour.
For a politician who seemingly prides himself on being social media savvy, Clement should have known that an older, powerful man messaging young women late at night is, at the absolute least, creepy (and also creates an unfair power dynamic). But perhaps what’s most shocking about his behaviour is the fact he appeared to think it would go unchecked.
This article was updated throughout November 8, 2018 as new information regarding Clement’s online and offline behaviour became available.
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