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Government Senate leader urges senator Don Meredith to step down

Senator Don Meredith, is pictured in an undated handout photo. A former Conservative senator faces a second ethics probe after an investigation into his office unearthed allegations of harassment and bullying.

HO/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The government representative in the Senate is urging Senator Don Meredith to resign but it remains unclear if the embattled senator can be kicked out for having a relationship with a teenage girl.

The call from Senator Peter Harder for Mr. Meredith to step down comes after Senate Ethics Officer Lyse Ricard found Mr. Meredith, now 52, acted inappropriately and displayed "conduct unbecoming" in having sexual relations with a woman, called only Ms. M in Ms. Ricard's report. The woman was under the age of 18 at the time.

"I'm asking him to resign as a matter of choice, not as a matter of force," Mr. Harder told reporters.

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"Findings have been drawn by the ethics commissioner which are very disturbing."

Mr. Meredith, an ordained Pentecostal pastor, is still facing two ethics investigations: for allegations of harassment that stemmed from a workplace assessment; and another for including his business partner as part of a delegation to the Caribbean.

The Senate ethics committee will now make recommendations to the Senate, which will determine which sanctions, including suspension, to impose on Mr. Meredith. Mr. Harder urged the committee to meet "as quickly as possible."

If Mr. Meredith does not resign, he could be forced to plead his case to the committee and again to his peers in the Red Chamber.

Mr. Harder said it is "debatable" whether Mr. Meredith can be removed altogether, but he could be suspended without pay as seen in the cases of senators Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin.

Mr. Meredith did not respond to phone and e-mail messages on Friday. In a tweet sent Thursday evening, hours before the report into his relationship was released, Mr. Meredith posted a picture of himself with his wife, Michelle. "Every person deserves to be married to a person who is truly their friend. Michelle is mine," he wrote. The Twitter account has since been deleted.

Mr. Meredith was kicked out of the Conservative caucus in 2015 after details of his two-year relationship were reported by the Toronto Star.

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But he was recently welcomed back by the Independent Senators Group, which allowed him to sit on Senate committees, including national security and defence.

Senator Elaine McCoy, the facilitator of the group, said she allowed Mr. Meredith into the group because he had not yet been found guilty of wrongdoing. She said Mr. Meredith has since stepped down from the group and will no longer sit on committees.

"If we went around acting on everybody's allegations, without actually going through a due process to determine what the facts are … we would not be Canadian," she said.

Ms. McCoy said she spoke with Mr. Meredith on Friday but he had not discussed his future in the Senate with his family.

"He had not made up his mind when I talked to him," she said. "It was my personal advice to him that he should, yes. I told him it was the honourable thing to do."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday it's up to Senate leadership to decide on consequences.

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"It is not for me to weigh in on how the Senate should continue to conduct itself, but of course every politician in Canada, senator or MP or at any level … needs to conduct themselves in a way that is worthy of the public trust placed in them," Mr. Trudeau said at a press conference in Houston, where he is attending an energy conference.

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.

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

Conservative Senator David Wells said he's disgusted by Mr. Meredith's conduct and he should resign from the Senate.

"I don't think the Senate is any place for a person of that character. The things that he's done are disgusting. They're wrong by any measure," he said.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Laura Stone is a reporter in The Globe's Ottawa bureau. She joined The Globe in February 2016. Before that, she was an online and TV reporter for Global News in Ottawa. Laura has done stints at the Toronto Star, Postmedia News and the Vancouver Province. More

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