MacKay 'conflicted' by Don Meredith sex allegations
Michelle Zilio, CTVNews.ca
Published Sunday, June 21, 2015 2:06PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, June 21, 2015 11:27PM EDT
Justice Minister Peter MacKay says he feels “conflicted” by the sex scandal surrounding Sen. Don Meredith, noting he is personally troubled by the allegations but also knows they remain unproven.
In an interview with CTV’s Question Period, MacKay called allegations that Meredith engaged in a sexual relationship with a teenager “chilling and deeply disturbing.”
“Given that this is still an allegation and due process, as minister of justice (and) attorney general, I have to be respectful of that. But certainly, at a personal level, it’s very troubling,” said MacKay.
In terms of dealing with the allegations against the 50-year-old senator, Mackay said it’s up to the Red Chamber’s leadership to do so.
Last week, Senate Speaker Leo Housakos called for an investigation by the Senate’s ethics officer into the “serious” claims against Meredith.
The decision came after Meredith was expelled from the Conservative caucus following a Toronto Star report that alleged the Pentecostal pastor began a relationship, two years ago, with a girl who was 16 years old at the time.
In the report, the girl alleged she and Meredith engaged in a relationship that spanned two years, and had sex twice after she turned 18. She said she met Meredith at a church-related event.
None of the allegations against him have been proven in court.
On Sunday night, Ottawa law firm Conway Baxter Wilson LLP issued a brief statement saying Meredith has retained lawyer Colin Baxter "with respect to proceedings" of the Senate ethics officer and a Senate committee.
The statement says that Meredith intends to “fully respect” the internal procedures of the Senate.
Former Senate clerk Gordon Barnhart told Question Period that the Senate is likely to take a wait-and-see approach with Meredith.
“In many cases like this, it’s usual to wait until there’s some resolution of a court case with charges,” he said.
No senator has been expelled from the Red Chamber in recent years. However, Barnhart pointed to two examples of senators who resigned on their own.
First, former Progressive Conservative senator Eric Berntson quit the Upper Chamber in 2001 after a fraud conviction related to his time as a provincial legislator in Saskatchewan.
Barnhart also cited the case of former Liberal senator Andrew Thompson, who resigned after being found in contempt of the Senate for not showing up to Ottawa to explain his absences. He only showed up to work for a total of two weeks in seven years, and allegedly spent a lot of time in Mexico.
And in 2011, former Liberal senator Raymond Lavigne resigned after being found guilty on fraud and breach of trust charges.
Resignation allows a senator to keep their lucrative pension.
While it remains to be seen whether the Senate will move to expel Meredith, Barnhart said he may suffer “ostracization” instead.
Barnhart thinks the Senate will probably revisit the issue after the fall election, seeing as Parliament rose for the summer last week.
“The Senate doesn’t disappear during an election, but obviously they wouldn’t be sitting either,” he said. “So the pressure of having him sit in the chamber with this cloud over his head wouldn’t be quite as apparent … because we’re heading into the summer recess.”
With files from The Canadian Press