Senator Don Meredith avoided public view as he made his way to a closed-door Senate ethics committee to face his peers for the first time since the release of a damning ethics report detailing his sexual relationship with a teenage girl.
Mr. Meredith and his lawyers met with the committee on Tuesday, almost a month after Senate ethics officer Lyse Ricard released a report that found the Pentecostal pastor breached two sections of the Senate ethics code in his relationship with a young woman that began when she was 16. Ms. Ricard, who did not find the senator to be credible, found that Mr. Meredith had two sexual encounters with the woman before she turned 18, including intercourse when she was 17, but Mr. Meredith said he only had sex with her after she turned 18.
It is now up to the Red Chamber to decide Mr. Meredith’s fate, and it remains unclear whether the Senate has the power to expel him, although he could face suspension without pay.
The ethics committee, made up of five senators, will continue to deliberate and make recommendations as to which penalties, if any, Mr. Meredith should face. The Senate as a whole will then vote on the recommendations at a later date.
The chair of the committee, Conservative Senator Raynell Andreychuk, said the work is complex and the committee will move as quickly as possible, but offered no clear timeline on when a decision would be made.
“Everything is under consideration,” she said after the meeting.
Many of Mr. Meredith’s colleagues have been calling for him to resign in the wake of the report, but Mr. Meredith’s lawyer said the senator is waiting for due process to play out.
“The senators that are speaking openly and publicly about this – I think they should be urged not to,” Mr. Meredith’s lawyer, Bill Trudell, said after the meeting. “I don’t think that people should prejudge.”
Mr. Trudell said he hoped to provide the committee with more information in the future. He said Mr. Meredith, currently on sick leave from the Red Chamber, wanted to appear in person.
“The senator took breaks, health breaks, and so it was professional and respectful and helpful to everyone,” he said.
Mr. Meredith was able to slip into the meeting without facing reporters, who were prevented by parliamentary security from waiting for him near elevators that led to a back entrance to the committee room. A camera was later allowed into the area, but a CBC reporter said she was distracted by a man presenting himself as a staff member, who said Mr. Meredith would take questions, as the senator then left the room. A member of the Parliamentary Protective Service, which handles security on Parliament Hill, also stood outside Mr. Meredith’s office door.
Victoria Deng, a spokesperson for Senate Speaker George Furey’s office, said in an e-mail that reporters were restricted from the area at first “to ensure that the movement of senators, staff and visitors was not impeded, and for health and safety reasons.” The man who stopped the CBC reporter is not believed to be a Senate staff member.
Mr. Meredith told the Senate ethics officer that what happened with the woman, named only Ms. M in the report, is a personal matter and is unconnected to his duties as a senator.
But Ms. Ricard found that Mr. Meredith’s contact with the woman was “substantially intermingled” with his role as a senator, including her use of his Senate cellphone, his inviting her to his Senate office and his promises to get her on a committee to recognize the first black soldier to receive the Victoria Cross.
Independent Senator André Pratte said Tuesday that Mr. Meredith has lost the right to sit in the Senate, although he said it’s not entirely clear if he can be removed. “The way Mr. Meredith has acted did reflect very poorly on the Senate, by using his position as a senator to lure a young woman into an improper relationship,” he said.
Independent Senator Anne Cools said she is withholding judgment until she sees the committee’s report. She added that she found Ms. Ricard’s 30-page report “a little salacious.”
“It is one person’s opinion,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s senators’ opinions that will matter.”Report Typo/Error