A controversial Conservative senator has been kicked out of the Tory caucus after being arrested following a domestic violence call to police – the second appointee to cause embarrassment for Stephen Harper in recent weeks.
Senator Patrick Brazeau spent the night in a Gatineau, Que., jail and could face criminal charges Friday morning as police investigate a 911 domestic violence call.
Mr. Brazeau and fellow Conservative Senator Mike Duffy are at the centre of a Senate investigation into allegations that they have misused housing allowances designed to compensate senators who have primary residences that are far from Ottawa. Liberal Senator Mac Harb is also part of the probe.
The incidents reflect badly on Mr. Harper, who’s managed during his political career to distance himself from the problems of an unelected, unaccountable Senate by promising to reform it.
The Conservative Prime Minister’s plans to overhaul the Red Chamber are stalled, though, as he waits as long as two years to hear the results of a Supreme Court reference on the matter.
Having appointed a majority of the members in the 105-seat chamber, the Conservatives are left to wear responsibility for the people they, rather than voters, sent to the Senate.
“I think it is known that in light of the serious events that have been reported today, I have removed Senator Brazeau from the Conservative caucus,” Mr. Harper told the House of Commons Thursday. “Obviously, I think our understanding is that these are matters of a personal nature rather than of Senate business, but they are very serious and we expect they will be dealt with through the courts.”
A spokesman for the Gatineau police, Pierre Lanthier, said investigators interviewed the alleged victim after Mr. Brazeau, 38, was arrested, and subsequently obtained a warrant to search Mr. Brazeau’s house in Gatineau. He added that investigators were planning to interview Mr. Brazeau late on Thursday, and would then discuss the evidence with Crown prosecutors.
“The man might be facing charges. If so, he will be appearing in court [Friday] morning,” Mr. Lanthier said.
Mr. Brazeau’s arrest has left the Conservatives red-faced and is fanning public anger toward the Senate – and Mr. Harper’s appointments in particular – at a time when the government has hit pause on reform.
Mr. Duffy, who was appointed in 2009, is facing questions for designating his Prince Edward Island cottage as his primary residence. That allows him to claim living expenses while in Ottawa, even though his home in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata appears to be where he lives most of the year. Mr. Duffy dodged reporters in Halifax on Wednesday and has refused to comment on the matter.
NDP MP Charlie Angus, who criticized both senators during Question Period, said Mr. Brazeau could sit in the Senate as an independent for another 35 years unless further action is taken.
“Kicking him out of the caucus is not good enough,” Mr. Angus said in Question Period. “When is the Conservative government going to take responsibility for Mr. Brazeau, kick him out of the Senate and get every taxpayer’s dime back?”
Mr. Brazeau’s office said Thursday that he would remain in the Senate as an independent. Were he to face charges, he would be placed on leave from the Senate, and though he could still attend sessions, his access to benefits would be curtailed. He would only be suspended if convicted of an indictable offence.
Mr. Brazeau was already a controversial figure when he was appointed to the Senate in December, 2008. An outspoken critic on issues of accountability with respect to first nation leaders, he often butted heads with native chiefs and the Assembly of First Nations.
At the time of his appointment, Mr. Brazeau was the National Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples – a group that advocates for off-reserve aboriginals. The position paid more than $100,000 and he initially wanted to retain that job while also collecting a salary from the Senate of more than $130,000. Mr. Brazeau ultimately decided to step down from the congress.
He often used his platform at the congress to praise the Conservative government’s policies and challenge native leaders who opposed the government. Last month, he mocked Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence during a speech to a Conservative audience, questioning whether the native leader was really on a hunger strike.
Shortly after his appointment, it emerged that the Senator was defending himself against an allegation of sexual harassment made by a former congress employee. The woman, Alisa Lombard, took the accusations to the Canadian Human Rights Commission and later the Federal Court, but abandoned the case in December, 2012.
More recently, Mr. Brazeau has faced questions over whether he acted appropriately in collecting additional compensation available to senators who live far from Ottawa.
With reports from Jane Taber in Halifax and The Canadian Press