OTTAWA — Former employees of Sen. Don Meredith hope that his possible expulsion from the Senate won’t block a two-year inquiry into allegations of workplace bullying and sexual harassment.
The Senate’s ethics committee tabled a long-awaited report Tuesday, recommending Meredith be expelled from the upper chamber for his affair with a teen.
Sen. Don Meredith is seen in his lawyer's office in downtown Toronto on March 16, 2017. (Photo: Colin Perkel/The Canadian Press)
A separate investigation by the Senate ethics officer into Meredith’s office conduct continues — for now.
“While I applaud the thoroughness of the report and their recommendation to expel, I hope that it recommends to continue with the workplace harassment investigation because the staff need closure,” one former aide told HuffPost Canada on Tuesday.
Over the weekend, HuffPost Canada reported alarming details of alleged workplace harassment that three of Meredith’s former staff said they experienced.
A former female staff member who claimed to be groped regularly by the senator in his office, said it’s important for Canadians to have an opportunity to review the findings of a workplace investigation.
Listen to an excerpt from one of her interviews with HuffPost Canada. Her voice has been changed to protect her identity:
More than two dozen people reportedly testified in Senate Ethics Officer Lyse Ricard’s workplace investigation.
However, it’s unclear if that probe will see a conclusion. A section of the Senate code of ethics stipulates that if a senator is removed from their position, then any inquiry pertaining to them is “permanently suspended.”
So it’s possible the workplace harassment inquiry, which was launched in 2015, could be shelved — unless the ethics committee explicitly recommends that it continue.
The ex-aide said if the report dies, “victims are going to be kept in the dark.” And she fears that could mean Conservative Senate officials who were informed about the allegations as far back as 2014 may "get away" with failing to intervene to protect employees.
A male former staffer agrees.
Ricard’s workplace inquiry should be completed and released “if the Senate is serious about bringing that change, that sort of modernization,” he told HuffPost Canada. “They can’t miss this opportunity.”
"He has brought disrepute to himself and to the institution."
The committee didn’t mince words in its 14-page recommendation report on Tuesday.
“Senator Meredith’s misconduct has demonstrated that he is unfit to serve as a senator,” it said.
Tourists take pictures inside the Senate chamber on April 29, 2017. (Photo: Zi-Ann Lum/HuffPost Canada)
The committee has been deliberating for weeks on disciplinary action after Ricard concluded that Meredith breached two sections of the ethics code in his pursuit of a two-year sexual relationship with an Ottawa teen.
“He has abused his privileged position of authority and trust by engaging in behaviour that is incompatible with his office. He has brought disrepute to himself and to the institution,” said the committee.
Senator has chance to respond
Meredith’s lawyer, Bill Trudell, said the senator was with his family when the report came out and has yet to review it as of Tuesday afternoon.
“He has the right to respond and of final reply in the Senate and I expect he will do so,” Trudell wrote in an email to HuffPost Canada.
The Toronto senator has up to five sitting days to voluntarily respond to the committee’s recommendation in the chamber before it goes to a full Senate vote.
If he so chooses, Meredith will also have the option to fight the Senate’s decision in court.