By Judy Pham
Amid mounting pressure on Senator Don Meredith to resign, the Jamaica-born politician remains defiant after he was found to have breached the senate ethics code by engaging in an inappropriate sexual relationship with a young woman that started when she was 16 years old.
Up to press time, the 52-year old Toronto area senator has not publicly responded to calls for his resignation from the Red Chamber.
The Caribbean Camera tried several times to contact Meredith at Pentecostal Praise Centre in Vaughan where he preaches and at the Greater Toronto Faith Alliance Centre where he serves as Executive Director, but could not reach him. He also could not be reached at his Ottawa office.
A report released last Thursday by senate ethics officer Lyse Ricard found that Meredith did not uphold the highest standard of dignity inherent to his position by having an affair with the young woman described in the report as ” Ms M.”
“Senator Meredith drew upon his weight, prestige and notability of his office, as well as his relative position of power as a much older adult, to lure or attract Ms M, a teenager who, by virtue of her age, was necessarily vulnerable” Ricard said in her 33-page report.
The report notes that Meredith first met the teenager at a Black History Month event at a church in Ottawa in February 2013 and then proceeded to have a relationship of a sexual nature with her until May 2015.
Meredith had denied many of the allegations made against him by Ms M but when presented with extensive evidence, including logs showing contact he had with her on his senate-issued cell phone, he conceded he had sexual intercourse with her on one occasion.
Ricard launched her investigation at the request of Leo Housakos, then Speaker of the Senate, who believed that the alleged relationship between the senator and the teenager , if true, would constitute ” conduct unbecoming of a senator” and would require disciplinary sanctions.
Meredith who was appointed to the senate by former prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2010, was removed from the Conservative caucus after the allegations came to light following an investigation by the Toronto Star newspaper.
Since the report of the ethics officer was released one week ago, senators and other have been calling for Meredith’s resignation. (See Views On The News on Page 4.)
One senator – Andre Pratte – in an open letter to Meredith. told him that if he did not resign, he will do himself ” and, most importantly, the institution, unnecessary and lasting harm.”
“If you sincerely admit to your mistakes, persons of goodwill and of faith will forgive you; I certainly will. Hopefully, you and your family will be able to rebuild your lives together. But that will not render you fit to serve as a member of the Senate of Canada. In my mind, you have lost that ability forever” Pratt said in the letter.
In an online biography, Meredith is described as ” a businessman and community advocate and a devoted champion of youth empowerment. ”
It also notes that he has advanced many initiatives ” to recognize the contributions of Black Canadians and minorities in Canada.”