Committee formally invites Meredith to appear

Sen. Don Meredith plans to appear before the Senate ethics committee

TORONTO — Embattled Sen. Don Meredith plans to appear before the Senate ethics committee next week although it’s not yet clear how he will do that, his lawyer said Tuesday.

In an interview, Bill Trudell said Meredith, under fire for his sexual relationship with a teenager, could appear via video or teleconference on April 4.

“The Senate (committee) announced this morning that they’ve invited him to appear,” Trudell said. “He will be honouring the invitation, but in what form is to be determined given concerns, shared by me, about his health.”

The married senator is currently on sick leave following a damning report by the Senate ethics officer on his affair with a teenager. Among other things, the report found he had abused his position.

The five-member ethics panel formally invited Meredith to attend the meeting next week to “provide him with an opportunity to be heard by the committee,” according to a public notice that gave no further details of the hearing.

In addition, the committee was set to meet in camera on Wednesday to consider the report by ethics officer Lyse Ricard, who said Meredith had sex with the young woman known only as Ms. M. Although he had taken some rehabilitative steps — among them praying and marital counselling — and had proposed further measures, they weren’t sufficient, she found.

“I have concluded that while they may have some salutary effects and may help prevent further breaches of this nature by Sen. Meredith, the remedial measures he has proposed do not remedy the harm that his actions have caused to the office of Senator and the institution of the Senate,” Ricard said.

In Ottawa Tuesday, Sen. Anne Cools called Ricard’s report “an opinion,” not a conclusion, and said at this point she would not be “joining a lynch mob” by voting to expel her beleaguered colleague as many want to see happen.

“I don’t think we go after people’s personal morality,” Cools said. “At the end of the day, it remains a personal moral question.”

Meredith has spoken publicly only once and has otherwise dropped out of sight since Ricard’s report almost three weeks ago.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, he repeatedly apologized and begged forgiveness for what he called his “moral failing” in pursuing the affair with the teenager. He also said he had taken an indefinite leave of absence for health reasons under doctor’s orders.

Several senators and other politicians have called on him to resign or be fired on the grounds that he has disgraced the office — although it’s not completely clear whether the Senate has the authority to give him the boot as at least one lawyer close to the case said it does.

While Cools said the “whole thing is disastrous and indeed unfortunate,” she also said she was keeping an open mind and that Meredith must be treated fairly and given due process.

Another senator, Doug Black, said Tuesday there was a “very real question” as to whether Meredith had the legitimacy to keep his job given his “reprehensible” behaviour. At the same time, Black said he would be “heavily guided” by what the ethics committee recommends to the Senate about what should happen.

“I know where Canadians are on this, I know where my constituency is on this, but it’s important that every decision that I take…is considered,” Black said. “If you rush to a decision, you can repent at leisure.”

While Meredith, who is black, said initially that he believed racism had played a role in the scandal, Trudell distanced himself from that position, saying it wasn’t an issue. The lawyer also said he thought an “otherwise good man” had made a “huge mistake.”

— with files from Lina Dib and Mylene Crete in Ottawa.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

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