Politics

Senate taps former judge to determine 'financial awards' for Don Meredith's alleged victims

The Senate has tapped a former Quebec appeals court judge to determine appropriate “financial awards” for the alleged victims of former senator Don Meredith.

Six former Senate employees and a parliamentary constable have alleged Meredith acted inappropriately

The Senate has picked a former Quebec appeals court judge to determine how much the alleged victims of former senator Don Meredith should receive in 'financial awards.' (Colin Perkel/Canadian Press)

The Senate has tapped a former Quebec appeals court judge to decide on appropriate "financial awards" for the alleged victims of former senator Don Meredith.

Louise Otis, an adjunct law professor at McGill University and an arbitrator, will begin evaluating each of the cases this summer.

Otis also serves as an assessor in the settlement of a class action lawsuit brought against the Royal Canadian Mounted Police by women who were harassed and discriminated against while working or volunteering for the Mounties between 1974 and 2019.

Meredith resigned from the Senate in 2017 as his former colleagues were preparing to expel him over a Senate ethics officer (SEO) report that detailed his inappropriate relationship with a teenage girl.

A subsequent SEO report concluded Meredith also engaged in behaviour that constituted harassment and sexual harassment in the workplace.

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

The alleged behaviour included unwanted kissing and exposure of his penis, along with yelling and aggressive behaviour in the office.

Pierre Legault, the Senate ethics officer, spent almost four years probing the claims. He ruled in June 2019 that Meredith had engaged in behaviour that constituted harassment and sexual harassment.

"Ms. Otis will take all facts contained in the report of the Senate ethics officer as true and proven. Employees will have the opportunity to present additional information, should they wish to do so," the internal economy committee said in a statement Tuesday.

"The work is expected to be completed by the fall. The extent of employee participation may affect the time it takes for Ms. Otis to conclude the evaluation process."

Last month, more than three years after Meredith's resignation, Independent Sen. Sabi Marwah, the chair of the internal economy committee, publicly expressed "regret" over the experiences of some Senate employees while Meredith was in the Red Chamber.

"Mr. Meredith's misconduct warrants an unequivocal condemnation from the Senate and from all senators," Marwah said.

Ontario ISG Senator Sabi Marwah, the Chair of the Internal Economy committee, spoke in the red chamber on Thursday. 2:19

Since the SEO report on Meredith, the Senate has mandated anti-harassment training for senators and staff.

The internal economy committee also has developed a new anti-harassment policy but, four months after it was drafted, the Red Chamber as a whole has not yet adopted the framework.

About the Author

John Paul Tasker

Parliamentary Bureau

John Paul (J.P.) Tasker is a reporter in the CBC's Parliamentary bureau in Ottawa. He can be reached at john.tasker@cbc.ca.

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