Removing senators a difficult task under the Constitution
Published Thursday, February 7, 2013 10:06PM EST
A prestigious seat in the Canadian Senate is nearly a lifetime appointment and a very difficult post to lose.
Under the law, senators keep their positions until the age of 75 and it’s nearly impossible to remove them from the Red Chamber, even when they’re dogged by controversy.
Senators work an average of 69 days in a year and their annual salary is $132,000.
Under the Constitution, a senator can be removed for five reasons:
- If for two consecutive Sessions of the Parliament he fails to give his Attendance in the Senate;
- If he takes an Oath or makes a Declaration or Acknowledgment of Allegiance, Obedience, or Adherence to a Foreign Power, or does an Act whereby he becomes a Subject or Citizen, or entitled to the Rights or Privileges of a Subject or Citizen, of a Foreign Power
- If he is adjudged Bankrupt or Insolvent, or applies for the Benefit of any Law relating to Insolvent Debtors, or becomes a public Defaulter;
- If he is attainted of Treason or convicted of Felony or of any infamous Crime;
- If he ceases to be qualified in respect of Property or of Residence; provided, that a Senator shall not be deemed to have ceased to be qualified in respect of Residence by reason only of his residing at the Seat of the Government of Canada while holding an Office under that Government requiring his Presence there.
That means Sen. Patrick Brazeau, who was arrested but not charged over an alleged domestic violence incident Thursday, and subsequently removed from the Conservative caucus, still gets to keep his seat.
Even if police decide to lay charges against Brazeau, he can still remain a senator while the case is before the courts. While he would be placed on a leave from the Senate and would lose access to benefits, he would still be allowed to attend Senate sessions.
No senator has been expelled from the Red Chamber in recent times.
Former Liberal Sen. Raymond Lavigne was found guilty of fraud and breach of trust for making $10,000 in false travel claims and for using an office staffer to cut trees around his cottage. But he resigned -- a move that allowed him to keep his Senate pension.
Another Liberal Senator, Andrew Thompson, spent a lot of his time in Mexico and only showed up to work for a total of two weeks in seven years. He was ultimately found in contempt of the Senate for not showing up in Ottawa to explain his absences.
Thompson was stripped of his salary, but he resigned and managed to hold on to his pension.
If Brazeau, who’s got another 37 years left in the Senate, is not expelled or stripped of his salary, he will make at least $5 million – not including his pension – by the time he leaves his seat.
With a report from CTV’s Daniele Hamamdjian