Victims of Don Meredith say Senate compensation process 'totally unacceptable'
Published Tuesday, August 4, 2020 2:46PM EDT
Don Meredith is seen in his Toronto lawyer's office in downtown Toronto on Thursday, March 16, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel)
OTTAWA -- Two women who worked for former senator Don Meredith say the independent process established by the Senate to determine compensation for Meredith's harassment victims is "totally unacceptable" and is re-victimizing them.
The two women spoke to The Canadian Press on condition of anonymity together with their lawyer, Brian Mitchell.
They say they feel they're being bullied by the Senate into taking part in a compensation process they believe is unfair and opaque.
Former Quebec appeals court judge Louise Otis has been hired as an independent evaluator and has been tasked to speak with former employees in Meredith's office and review all materials from two previous investigations into his conduct, including one completed a year ago by the Senate ethics officer.
That lengthy probe found Meredith repeatedly harassed and sexually harassed multiple employees, including with bullying, intimidation, kissing and touching.
Those participating in Otis's evaluation are not allowed to use lawyers, their legal costs won't be covered and Otis' final decisions on compensation will not be binding on the Senate -- terms the two challenging the process say are unacceptable and they are refusing to participate.
They are also concerned that when evaluating how much compensation each is entitled to, Otis is not being asked to consider the Senate's duty of care to protect them as employees, which they believe should be a key consideration.
"Without looking at the liability and accepting liability of the Senate for the acts that happened to these victims from the date of their employment with Sen. Meredith to the date hereof is, we suggest, an area that we hope the terms of reference will be amended so that it will be a full review of all damages that have been suffered," Mitchell said on behalf of his clients.
"Secondly, we ask that there be a level playing field established... How can they defend themselves, how can they testify and how can they represent themselves when they don't have the same level playing field of the Senate as an institution?"
In a statement of regret made last month in the Upper Chamber, Sen. Sabi Marwah, the chair of the Senate's committee on internal economy, budgets and administration, said that Meredith's actions warrant "an unequivocal condemnation from the Senate and from all senators."
Meredith resigned from the Senate in 2017. He has not faced any criminal charges.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 4, 2020.