Patrick Brazeau returns to Senate after 3-year legal saga

Senator Patrick Brazeau returned to his seat in the Red Chamber today after a lengthy legal battle over his living expense claims.

Quebec politician cleared to go back to work after fraud, breach of trust charges dropped

Patrick Brazeau returns to the Senate on Tuesday. Charges of fraud and breach of trust were dropped in July. (CBC)

Senator Patrick Brazeau returned to his seat in the Red Chamber today after a lengthy legal battle over his living expense claims.

"I feel like a rookie going to hockey training camp," he said. "I look forward to it. I'm excited. And it's a good day for my family and I."

Brazeau announced his return on Twitter Tuesday morning, saying that after more than 3½ years he was officially going back to the Senate chamber.

Charges of fraud and breach of trust against Brazeau were withdrawn by the Crown in July, clearing the way for the Quebec senator to return to work.

The RCMP had alleged Brazeau fraudulently claimed his primary residence was in Maniwaki, Que., 135 kilometres north of Ottawa, in order to collect a housing allowance meant for senators who live outside the National Capital Region​.

Brazeau was on a leave of absence from the Senate with pay, but his access to Senate resources was restored after the charges were dropped.

A Senate spokesperson told CBC News that Brazeau, who was having his pay garnisheed, reimbursed a total of $56,946. The "offsetting" payments concluded this May.

He said the ordeal has taught him to be patient. But he looked forward to returning to work without partisan ties and as "nobody's puppet."

As for recouping finances, Brazeau said the matter was in the hands of his lawyer.

Other charges

Senator Pamela Wallin's expenses had been investigated by the RCMP, which decided not to lay charges. 

Senator Mike Duffy was charged with 31 offences relating to his expenses, but he was acquitted on all charges.

Charges against retired senator Mac Harb were later withdrawn by the Crown.

Brazeau, Duffy and Wallin are members of the Independent Senators Group. The 15-member group issued a news release today pushing for "equal rights and obligations" for all senators whether or not they belong to a political caucus or a parliamentary group.

The group is calling for an overhaul of membership on committees to better reflect proportional standings in the Senate.

"This initiative is especially important on the eve of the appointment of new senators, for whom current arrangements do not provide voting seats on committees," the notice reads.

Chamber co-ordination team

Senator Elaine McCoy will serve as the group's facilitator until June 2017, while Frances Lankin, Elaine McCoy, Pierrette Ringuette and Don Meredith make up the "chamber co-ordination" team.

Meredith is the subject of an investigation by the Senate ethics officer amid allegations of workplace harassment in his office. A spokeswoman for the ethics officer said that process is now in the "inquiry stage" but could not say how long it is expected to take.

Meredith resigned from the Conservative caucus in June 2015 after the Toronto Star published allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl. 

Brazeau pleaded guilty to assault and possession of cocaine last year and received an unconditional discharge. A charge of sexual assault was dropped because of insufficient evidence.

The senator is scheduled to appear in court Oct. 26 to answer a charge of refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test related to an incident that took place April 3.