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Ethics officer criticizes Senator Don Meredith over sexual relations with minor

Senator Don Meredith is pictured in an undated handout photo.

HO/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Senate Ethics Officer has found that Independent Senator Don Meredith – an ordained Pentecostal pastor – acted inappropriately and displayed "conduct unbecoming" in having sexual relations with a woman under the age of 18.

The damning report by Lyse Ricard will be submitted to the Senate ethics committee for a decision on what sanctions should be imposed. The committee can demand a formal apology in the Senate, suspension or expulsion from the chamber.

The Senate investigation found that Mr. Meredith offered to help the young woman's parents, promised to appoint her to a committee to recognize the first black soldier in Canada and to get her an internship in the Senate. The woman is identified as Ms. M throughout the report.

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"At all times, Ms. M remained in a position of relative youth and vulnerability. Senator Meredith engaged in a pattern of behaviour that advanced an improper relationship with her, in which there was an obvious imbalance in power between the two," Ms. Ricard wrote.

"Senator Meredith did not treat his relationship with Ms. M as a "personal matter;" rather his conduct toward her was substantially intermingled with his role as a senator."

Ms. Ricard said she believed the then-16 year old Ms. M, who said that Mr. Meredith, 52, had sexual relations with her and sexually explicit chats over social media including masturbation.

"I found Ms. M to be a credible witness. She generally had clear recollections of the interactions she had with Senator Meredith between 2013 and 2015. She was forthcoming in attempting to answer all questions put to her fully and to the best of her ability," Ms. Ricard wrote in her report tabled in the Senate Thursday.

"She was co-operative in locating and providing to my office all text messages, Skype, Viber and e-mail exchanges with Senator Meredith that she had in her possession."

Ms. Ricard said the young woman acknowledged that some messages were deleted because "of her fear that these might be seen by someone else and because she wished to ensure the relationship was kept private."

In her interviews with Mr. Meredith and his counsel, Ms. Ricard found that he was evasive, inconsistent and not credible in his testimony.

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"At one point, he said had no physical sexual encounters with Ms. M before she turned 18 but, at another point, he said if a sexual encounter did happen, it could not have been a specific month (July, 2013)," she wrote. "He denied that certain interactions occurred, asserting that Ms. M was lying about events the documentary evidence before me suggested had actually occurred."

The Senator did not respond to an e-mail request from The Globe and Mail for comment on the report or on whether he would resign.

Mr. Meredith, who founded the Greater Toronto Faith Alliance Learning Centre, was appointed to the Senate by Stephen Harper. He testified he had an abiding interest in helping young people.

"It has been in my heart engrained within me and will [be] with me until I die, to see how we can empower not only young of this nation, but the youth of other nations," he told the Senate Ethics Officer.

Ms. M was a university student in Ottawa at the time of the affair while her parents lived overseas. She was 16 when she met Mr. Meredith at a Black History function.

The two began to communicate with one another using his Senate cellphone even though he denied that it had happened and phone records showed the conversations took place. She informed the senator that she was 16

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"I accept Ms. M's testimony that shortly after their initial meeting, Senator Meredith invited Ms. M to dinner on Valentine's Day, 2013," Ms. Ricard writes. "I accept Ms. M's evidence that Senator Meredith knew three weeks after meeting her that she was 16 years old."

Not long after, Mr. Meredith communicated with Ms. M's parents about potential business dealings and also promised to get her a job as a Senate intern.

The first sexual encounter occurred on June 26, 2013 when she visited him in his office and "Senator Meredith touched her, rubbed her knees, tried to get into her dress, and grabbed her buttocks," Ms. Ricard wrote.

"Ms M told me that during the visit, she asked him why he was doing these things, what was wrong with him and why he would want to cheat on his wife. She said he replied: "I'm a man," the report says.

Ms. M admitted she was confused at the time, believed she was in love with Mr. Meredith but troubled by what she called his interest in pornographic movies and his constant talk about sex. At the same time, she tried to end the relationship in a series of e-mails – which she said he asked her to delete.

The first physical intimacy occurred in July of 2013 at her apartment. There was little interaction between the two until February, 2014 when they began texting one another. He called her "daughter" and she referred to Mr. Meredith as "uncle" and "daddy." He also gave her $200 to straighten her hair.

In April, Ms. Ricard wrote, they began to have sexually explicit chats over Skype where Mr. Meredith would ask her to "take off her top – that this is what adults do."

"During these chats. Senator Meredith progressed from merely 'admiring' Ms. M to masturbating," the report stated. "In describing these interactions, Ms. M told me Senator Meredith 'would be at his GTA Faith Alliance office and he would, like, be half naked, essentially, and kind of masturbate if I took my top off.' "

Mr. Meredith denied ever asking Ms. M to "remove her top or underwear or asking her to touch herself during these chats" and he said he "does not recall masturbating on camera."

The Senate Ethics Office did not believe the denials but in a later interview he said he had "no comment on this evidence when I put it to him," Ms. Ricard wrote. "He declined to comment when I asked him if he had any comment on Ms. M's testimony that he usually masturbated on camera during these chats. I accept these chats took place in the manner Ms. M described."

Mr. Meredith was more forthcoming about what transpired after Ms. M turned 18. He admitted he had intercourse with her in his room at the Chateau Laurier.

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About the Author
Ottawa Bureau Chief

Robert Fife is The Globe and Mail's Ottawa Bureau Chief and the host of CTV's "Question Period with The Globe and Mail's Robert Fife." He uncovered the Senate expense scandal, setting the course for an RCMP investigation, audits and reform of Senate expense rules. In 2012, he exposed the E. More

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