Politics

Senator Don Meredith referred to ethics officer after reports of affair with teen

Senator Don Meredith, already under review and no longer a part of the Conservative caucus, could face disciplinary sanctions pending the outcome of a fresh Senate investigation over allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a young woman that began when she was a teen.

Senate government leader 'deeply concerned by the serious nature of the allegations'

Senator Don Meredith kicked out of Conservative caucus after an Ottawa teenager told her story to the Toronto Star 2:20

Senator Don Meredith, already under review and no longer a part of the Conservative caucus, could face disciplinary sanctions pending the outcome of a fresh Senate investigation over allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a young woman that began when she was a teen. 

Senate government leadership announced Thursday morning that the matter "will be referred to the Senate ethics officer."

"Senator [Claude] Carignan is deeply concerned by the serious nature of the allegations against Senator Meredith," according to a statement released by the Senate government leader.  

Meredith was ousted from the Conservative caucus Wednesday night, which was confirmed shortly after the Toronto Star reported that an 18-year-old woman alleged she had an inappropriate sexual relationship with Meredith that began when she was 16.

The teen told the Star that the relationship began with chats online that became suggestive in nature, and progressed to include sexual intimacy, including intercourse after she turned 18.

In a letter from Senate Speaker Leo Housakos to Senate ethics officer Lyse Ricard sent Thursday morning, Housakos wrote that the conduct described in the Star report is "incompatible with the position of senator.

"It also suggests that Meredith may have improperly used his position of trust and authority as a senator."

Possible 'disciplinary sanctions'

Housakos wrote that, if proven, the conduct calls for "disciplinary sanctions to be imposed."

The letter concludes by asking Ricard to undertake a preliminary review to determine if an inquiry is warranted. 

Meredith will remain a sitting senator "pending the outcome of this investigation," according to a statement by Housakos released at the same time as the letter.

When we see the amount of people that are under scrutiny ... there must be something better that can be done to make sure you have outstanding citizens- NDP justice critic Francoise Boivin

The Criminal Code defines the age of consent in Canada as 18 if sexual activity occurs in a relationship of authority, trust or dependency.

The 50-year-old Meredith has been embroiled in controversy as of late.

An independent workplace assessment is underway after rumours of harassment and bullying in Meredith's office that concern at least four employees. 

The Senate initiated the review in February, prompted by a high staff turnover rate. 

An outside firm is investigating and is expected to report back to the Senate's steering committee on internal economy, budgets and administration next week.

'A dangerous situation'

Many of his former Conservative colleagues did not offer comment. Others kept theirs short. 

"I only have one word: revolting," said Conservative Senator Marjory LeBreton. 

Parliamentarians react to allegations Senator Don Meredith had a sexual relationship. Meredith left the Conservative caucus Wednesday. 0:31

"I'm certainly glad he's not a part of our caucus anymore," said Conservative MP Michelle Rempel on her way into the House of Commons. 

House of Commons government whip John Duncan said "those are very serious allegations."

NDP justice critic Francoise Boivin said that, as a lawyer, she's "perplexed, to say the least," but would let Meredith have his day in court.

"You really have to look into the facts, but it could be any time you're in a position of authority on somebody, the line is very thin between sexual harassment and is it a voluntary relationship," she said.

"That's what the whole process will be able to uncover. But it's a dangerous situation. It was taking chances to do such a thing if it happened."

Questions over Senate appointment process

This latest scandal emerging from Canada's upper chamber renews questions over how senators are appointed.

"When we see the amount of people that are under scrutiny ... there must be something better that can be done to make sure you have outstanding citizens," said Boivin.

Senator Larry Smith said there is "an opportunity with the modernization of the Senate that we can create a superior process.

"These are the type of things that we don't have to make constitutional change with. They're the type of things that are created by blue ribbon panels by key representatives," he said. "It can be done relatively easily and professionally and successfully to help make sure that the quality of people is consistent that we bring in.

"But let's not forget there's a lot of great people in the Senate, although there's been difficult situations in the past two years."

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