Former senator says he is 'absolutely not guilty' of sexual assault

Embattled former senator Don Meredith will take on his accuser in court and tells CBC News he is "absolutely not guilty" of sex crimes.

Don Meredith's first day in court will be Oct. 27

Don Meredith leaves a Senate committee in Ottawa in this April 2017 file photo. Meredith faces four criminal charges related to allegations of sexual assault. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Embattled former senator Don Meredith will take on his accuser in court and tells CBC News he is "absolutely not guilty" of sex crimes.

Meredith's criminal defence attorney, Mustafa Sheikh, said Meredith "will fight the charges against him," suggesting he won't negotiate a plea bargain with the Crown.

"At this time, Mr. Meredith only wishes to say that he is absolutely not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing," Sheikh said.

Meredith's first day in court will be on Oct. 27.

Ottawa police laid four charges against Meredith, 58, earlier this month — three counts of sexual assault and one count of criminal harassment in connection with incidents alleged to have happened in 2013 and 2014.

According to court documents, Meredith is alleged to have engaged in "threatening conduct" that caused a person to fear for their safety.

The documents also describe at least three separate occasions when Meredith is alleged to have sexually assaulted the complainant in contravention of section 271 of the Criminal Code.

The police have said the complainant is an adult.

Eight former Senate staffers and a parliamentary constable have alleged Meredith acted inappropriately toward them while he was serving in the upper house.

That alleged behaviour included unwanted kissing and touching and exposure of his penis, along with yelling and aggressive behaviour in the office. The Senate ethics officer investigated these claims as part of a years-long probe and found them credible.

The former senator is also alleged to have had a sexual relationship with a teenage girl.

Meredith's lawyer raised concerns about an effort at the Senate to strip him of his "honourable" title — which, as a former senator, he holds for life — and other privileges.

Quebec Sen. Josée Verner, with the support of a number of other senators, introduced a motion last week to claw back these parliamentary perks.

Sen., Josée Verner is spearheading an attempt to strip former senator Don Meredith of his privileges. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Two of Meredith's alleged victims spoke to CBC News about the motion, imploring the current slate of senators to cut ties with him once and for all.

They say his alleged conduct, and the resulting criminal charges, demand a strong response from the upper house.

But further debate on the motion was blocked after some senators raised concerns about its constitutionality.

Sheikh said any move by the Senate against his client could threaten his day in court.

"The presumption of innocence is one of the fundamental pillars of our criminal justice system. It should not be a principle that should be treated lightly on any front and preemptive actions to discipline Mr. Meredith would only serve to politicize this matter and devalue the legal process," Sheikh said.


John Paul Tasker

Senior reporter

J.P. Tasker is a journalist in CBC's parliamentary bureau who reports for digital, radio and television. He is also a regular panellist on CBC News Network's Power & Politics. He covers the Conservative Party, Canada-U.S. relations, Crown-Indigenous affairs, climate change, health policy and the Senate. You can send story ideas and tips to J.P. at john.tasker@cbc.ca.

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