OTTAWA — Seven years of deliberations over how to address harm caused by former senator Don Meredith must come to an end that includes the Senate proving it can protect employees, the lawyer for some of the senator’s victims said Friday.
The Senate’s internal economy committee met behind closed doors Thursday and agreed with the recommendations of an independent evaluator that the victims should be compensated, but also said they still need to consider more of the report.
The evaluator had been tasked to speak with six former employees in Meredith’s office and review all materials from a four-year investigation by the Senate ethics officer.
That investigation concluded last year that Meredith had repeatedly bullied, threatened and intimidated his staff, and that he had also touched, kissed and propositioned some of them.
In a news release late Thursday announcing the body had agreed with former Quebec appeals court judge Louise Otis’ recommendations for compensation, the committee said the employees who had participated in the process would be contacted to initiate the compensation phase.
A spokesperson for the committee said that happened Friday.
“Next, the process of following up individually with each of the participants will get underway, with the intention of finalizing individual compensation payments swiftly,” Alison Korn said in an email.
Lawyer Brian Mitchell, who represents some of the employees, said the decision to provide compensation is positive but he remains concerned about the way the entire incident has been handled.
The process of holding Meredith — and the Senate — to account has ground on for years and has consistently seemed to ignore the rights of employees to protection, he said.
“There is a lack of common sense, a lack of judgment and a desire to protect the institution,” he said.
“Nobody has the courage to say, ‘This is wrong, it needs to be dealt with and it needs to be dealt with fast.’ “
Meredith was appointed by former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper in 2010.
Concerns about his treatment of staff were raised inside the Senate beginning in 2013, and the escalation of the complaints would eventually lead to an internal investigation in 2015.
As that was being carried out, he was accused of pursuing a sexual relationship with a teenager.
A separate investigation into that led to his resignation from the Senate in 2017, after the body’s ethics committee recommended he be expelled.
He has not faced any criminal charges.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 11, 2020.