Former senator accused of sexual assault still retains ‘honorable’ title for life | Pro IQRA News

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A disgraced former senator now facing sexual assault charges is still keeping his “honorable” title as a former member of Canada’s upper house.

Efforts to strip former senator Don Meredith of that lifetime title, and the privileges that come with it, have stalled.

Former Progressive Senator Serge Joyal, the former chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, launched an effort to remove Meredith’s “honorable” designation in 2019.

But since Joyal retired from the chamber more than two years ago, none of his fellow senators have attempted to finish what he started.

“Senators are in a very privileged position in terms of title. You are ‘honorable’ and you must act honorably, not only when you are a senator, but once you have left this chamber,” Joyal said in a 2020 speech said.

Serge Joyal led efforts to strip Meredith of his ‘honourable’ title before he retired from the Senate. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

Meredith, a Pentecostal pastor, did not act honorably when he had a sexual relationship with a teenage girl, Joyal said.

Joyal introduced a motion in the Senate to study the issue of stripping Meredith of his title. It died on the order paper and was not revived.

“The motion was never accepted by the Senate and therefore the matter was not referred to [the Senate’s committee on ethics and conflict of interest for senators],” said Ross Ryan, a spokesman for Senate Speaker George Furey.

“After the introduction of Parliament on August 18, 2020, the motion died on the order paper. The issue was not raised during subsequent sessions in the Senate,” Ryan added.

There appears to be little appetite to resume Joyal’s efforts, even though Meredith is now facing criminal charges.

Meredith was charged by the Ottawa Police Service with three counts of sexual assault and one count of criminal harassment on Saturday.

The Ottawa police sexual assault and child abuse unit charged Meredith after an investigation into allegations of sexual assault dating back to 2013 and 2014 — allegations reported by a woman who was then an adult, police say.

The Ottawa police charges landed about seven years after former Senate ethics commissioner Lyse Ricard recommended that law enforcement investigate Meredith for possible Criminal Code violations.

During her own investigation, Ricard referred to the teenager with whom Meredith had a sexual relationship as “Ms. M.” refer.

Six former Senate staffers and a parliamentary constable also alleged Meredith acted inappropriately towards them while serving in the upper house.

The alleged behavior included unwanted kissing and exposure of his penis, along with shouting and aggressive behavior in the office.

Sen. Josee Verner recommended calling on the Prime Minister to ask the Governor-General to strip Meredith of his ‘honourable’ title. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Sen. Josée Verner of the Canadian Senators Group (CSG) supported Joyal in pushing for Meredith to be stripped of the “honorable” designation.

While Joyal recommended that the ethics committee study the matter before asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to act, Verner called for a more direct route. She said the Senate should immediately ask the Prime Minister to instruct the Governor-General to drop the “honourable” of Meredith’s name.

The granting of titles such as “honorable” is a royal prerogative in the hands of the Governor-General, who generally acts on the advice of the prime minister of the day.

A spokesperson for Verner asked for an interview on Tuesday about the matter saying she was not available.

Meredith, who resigned from the Red Room in 2017 just as he was about to be expelled from the Senate, was given the title when he was appointed to the Senate by former prime minister Stephen Harper in December 2010.

After Meredith’s alleged sex acts with Ms M came to light, Meredith was kicked out of the Conservative caucus.

He then became a member of the Independent Senators Group (ISG), a caucus largely composed of senators appointed by Trudeau.

In September 2016, Meredith was elected to a leadership position in the group and became a member of the ISG’s chamber coordination team. He was selected to help the ISG “foster an efficient, effective Senate in the service of the people of Canada,” according to a press release at the time.

CBC News interviewed the ISG’s current leader or “facilitator,” Quebec Sen. Raymond Saint-Germain, asked if it was appropriate for Meredith to hold this senior role while facing such serious allegations.

A spokesperson for the ISG said the group’s leadership had no comment.

Meredith has a title that only a few Canadians can legally use.

There are six categories of people who can use the prefix “honorable”:

  • The Governor-General of Canada, styled “right honorable” for life.
  • The lieutenant-governor of a province, considered “honorable” for life.
  • A prime minister, who can use the title “right honorable” for life.
  • The Chief Justice of Canada. Former Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, for example, will be “lawfully honourable” for life.
  • A Privy Councilor of Canada – current or former Ministers of the Crown.
  • And senators, who must be styled “honorable” for life. Members of the House of Commons are not given this distinction.

Joyal pointed out that no Canadian senator has ever been stripped of his or her “honorable” designation. He said it was a decision not to be taken lightly.

“It cannot be done out of anger, rage, justification or in extreme situations because we happen to dislike one person in particular,” Joyal said.

The move was justified in this case, Joyal said, because the ethics commissioner’s report on Meredith’s relationship with a teenager, and the subsequent allegations of workplace harassment, were so troubling.

“That report is obviously damning. There’s no doubt about it,” he said. “The actions of Senator Meredith were reprehensible and certainly not a model or example for any senator.”

By virtue of his previous position, Meredith is also allowed to attend state ceremonies.

Joyal said he should also be excluded from those events, given the nature of his alleged crimes.

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