Sen. Don Meredithâs lawyer used the example of child marriages during a television interview Friday to rationalize his clientâs sexual relationship with a teenager.
Selwyn Pieters appeared on CTVâs âPower Playâ to defend his clientâs relationship with a minor as a âconsensual, sexual relationship.â
âI mean, in some cultures, people marry at 12. You have very old men marrying people at 12, so I donât buy this thing about power and about protecting and all that sort of stuff,â he told host Mercedes Stephenson.
â CTV Power Play (@CTV_PowerPlay) March 17, 2017
In a follow-up tweet, Pieters clarified his remarks.
I do not condone child marriage, child exploitation, or any other human rights issues against Children. Let us be very very clear on that...
â Mr. Toronto Lawyer (@selwynpieters) March 17, 2017
Meredith is facing calls to resign his Senate seat after an inquiry report released last week revealed graphic details of his two-year affair with a young woman he met when she was 16. The two had intercourse after she turned 18, according to the report.
The report, authored by Senate ethics office Lyse Ricard, concluded Meredith abused his power and office during the duration of his affair with a woman identified only as âMs. M.â After interviewing both parties, Ricard found the woman a credible witness, and Meredith not.
Ricard wrote the Toronto senator breached two sections of the upper chamberâs ethics code â one requiring its members to uphold the âhighest standards of dignity inherent to the position of a senator.â
Embattled Sen. Don Meredith is seen with his lawyer Selwyn Pieters in Toronto on March 16, 2017. (Photo: Colin Perkel/The Canadian Press)
Details of the affair were revealed in a Toronto Star investigation in 2015.
Meredithâs lawyer disagreed with the inquiryâs findings.
âHis behaviour is completely becoming of a senator,â he said. âThis was not something that was done in public,â Pieters said. âThis was not something where he was doing something in the buses or doing something on the street. It was in the privacy of his room. And her room.â
With no evidence, he suggested extortion to be a motivation for why Ms. M came forward to media.
Religion and race
Pieters also appeared on CBCâs âPower & Politicsâ Friday to speak about the controversy following his client and brought up an excerpt from the Bible â Romans 3:23 â to explain why Meredith will not resign from the Senate.
âHe must stay in the position because âall have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,ââ he said. Host Rosemary Barton stopped Pieters.
âWith all due respect, sir. Peopleâs religions and beliefs have nothing to do with whether Senator Meredith deserves to be paid by Canadian taxpayers in that chamber,â she said.
âPeopleâs religions and and beliefs have nothing to do with whether Senator Meredith deserves to be paid by Canadian taxpayers in that chamber.â
Pieters then brought up the factor of race and falsely claimed there are senators whoâve returned to the red chamber after being convicted of crimes.
The calls for Meredith to resign are âtotally disproportionateâ to the offence of ethics violations claimed against him, Pieters said.
Watch the full exchange below:
â Power & Politics (@PnPCBC) March 17, 2017
âAbsolutely, racism has played a role in this,â Meredith said in an interview with The Canadian Press earlier this week. âThis is nothing new to me. There is always a double standard that exists in this country.â
Meredith, a married man with children, is also a Pentecostal pastor. Since the release of the damning ethics report last week, he has remained adamant he will not resign from the Senate.
He has called his actions a âmoral failing.â
Ricardâs report is currently under the review of the Senateâs Standing Senate Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest to propose recommendations. That proposal will then be submitted to the Senate to consider remedial punishments including a suspension or expulsion.
Meredith is currently on sick leave. The Senate remains adjourned until March 28.