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Senate considering compensation for Don Meredith’s alleged harassment victims

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The Senate's internal economy committee will appoint an "independent evaluator" to determine how much the alleged victims of former senator Don Meredith should be compensated for their experiences working in the Red Chamber.

Former senator Don Meredith. The Senate is considering monetary compensation for his alleged victims.(Colin Perkel/Canadian Press)

The Senate's internal economy committee will appoint an "independent evaluator" to determine how much the alleged victims of former senator Don Meredith should be compensated for their experiences working in the Red Chamber.

Three years after Meredith's resignation, Independent Sen. Sabi Marwah, the chair of the committee, publicly expressed "regret" Thursday over the experiences of some Senate employees while Meredith was in the Red Chamber.

"Mr. Meredith's misconduct warrants an unequivocal condemnation from the Senate and from all senators. There is no question that his misconduct failed to uphold the highest standards of dignity of his position, and has adversely affected our institution," Marwah said.

"It is incumbent on all senators to recognize that what happened to these employees was wrong, that these employees suffered as a direct result of Mr. Meredith's misconduct and that the processes to address this matter took too long."

Meredith resigned from the Senate in 2017 as his former colleagues were preparing to expel him over a Senate ethics officer (SEO) report that detailed his inappropriate relationship with a teenage girl.

A subsequent SEO report found Meredith also engaged in behaviour that constituted harassment and sexual harassment in the workplace.

In an email to senators sent today, Marwah and deputy chair Sen. Josée Verner brought up the possibility of financial awards "based on recent settlements related to harassment in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence."

Last year, the RCMP reached a $100 million settlement with female officers who alleged sexual harassment and discrimination.

Marwah and Verner said the Senate's subcommittee on human resources recommended bringing in an outside expert to determine how much money, if any, should be paid out to Meredith's alleged victims.

For months, Verner has been lobbying her colleagues to cut cheques for the former employees as compensation.

Six former Senate employees and a parliamentary constable have alleged Meredith acted inappropriately toward them while he was serving in the upper house.

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

In response to the high staff turnover in Meredith's office, former Senate Speaker Claude Nolin ordered a workplace assessment by an outside firm to investigate. The findings of that assessment led to the Senate Ethics Officer's inquiry into the harassment claims.

Pierre Legault, the ethics officer, then spent almost four years probing the claims. He ruled in June 2019 that Meredith had engaged in behaviour that constituted harassment and sexual harassment.

CBC News spoke to one of Meredith's alleged victims last fall. She said the Senate failed to protect its staff and the multi-year saga has been "traumatic."

She said that because Meredith is a Pentecostal minister, many people assumed he was a "man of God" and tended to discount the claims made against him.

"They protected a sexual abuser," she said of the Senate (CBC News has agreed not to name her).

"I don't want shut-up-and-go-away money," she said. "I want systematic and long-standing change for employees of the Senate. As long as nothing is done, it leaves the door open to have other things happen. You can get away with murder."

Members of the human resources subcommittee spoke to some of Meredith's alleged victims and prepared a report on the matter — but the report will not be released publicly, the Senate said, because the meetings were private.

Marwah said Thursday the Senate is "working to prevent" something like this "from happening again," adding that all senators have since undergone anti-harassment training.

The internal economy committee developed a new anti-harassment policy but, four months after it was drafted, the Red Chamber as a whole has not yet adopted the framework.

About the Author

John Paul (J.P.) Tasker is a reporter in the CBC's Parliamentary bureau in Ottawa. He can be reached at john.tasker@cbc.ca.

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