After a two-year sexual relationship with a teenage girl, Jamaican-born senator was forced to resign
The less-than-stellar tenure of Don Meredith in the Canadian Senate came to a closure on Tuesday, May 9 when he submitted his resignation following a report that he was in violation of the institution’s code of ethics and damaged its integrity and dignity because of a sexual relationship with a teenager.
A week earlier, on May 2, a five-member Senate ethics committee recommended that the Toronto senator be expelled from the chamber and his seat declared vacant. The committee’s recommendation came after weeks of studying a report by Senate ethics watchdog, Lyse Ricard, which found that Meredith’s actions violated two sections of the code of ethics: he did not uphold the highest standards of dignity inherent to his position, and that they reflect adversely on the institution.
His resignation prevented action on the part of the 99 sitting senators who appeared set to expel the Jamaican-born senator from his position. And it ensured that he gets to keep his pension, which is estimated to be worth about $24, 500 a year.
Meredith’s woes started in 2015 following a Toronto Star investigation that revealed that he had used his office and influence to entice a teenage girl, identified as Ms. M, into a sexual relationship. The allegations prompted Ricard’s investigation.
She found that Meredith met the girl at a Black History Month event in Ottawa in 2013, when she was 16-years-old. He nursed the relationship until she turned 18, when he started having sex with her, which is alleged to have taken place on at least three different occasions.
The investigation also believed that he indulged in a sexual act with the girl when she was still 17-years-old, which he allegedly defined as a “teaser.”
The 52-year-old Meredith, who is an ordained Pentecostal minister, is married with two children. He admitted to have had one sexual “interaction” with the girl but denied that he had broken any law.
However, the girl provided the investigator with adequate evidence that they had been intimate on at least three occasions, one at the Chateau Laurier Hotel in Ottawa on Feb. 16, 2015, when he took her virginity not long after she turned 18, and another time at her apartment.
She also told the investigator of him masturbating during the video chats on multiple occasions.
The investigation concluded that Meredith used his leverage as a senator to promise to help Ms. M further her aspirations of finding work.
That same February, he wrote a reference letter to support her application for a position as an intern on Parliament Hill.
There were reports that he also promised to assist other members of her family in setting up a business and not-for-profit initiatives.
Meredith met all these allegations with staunch denials, but eventually extended an apology to his family, Ms. M, and his peers in the senate stating that: “This is a moral failing on my part towards my family, my wife and my children who support me. And I will go forward from this day. I’ll go forward from this incident.”
“To my family, to Ms. M, to my colleagues in the Senate, to all Canadians, I deeply regret this. And I’m deeply sorry. And I apologize from the bottom of my heart, and I ask their forgiveness, and for us to be able to reconcile. Because I believe in reconciliation and forgiveness.”
However, the senate which has had more than its share of bacchanal over the past three or four years was set to make an example of Meredith, with many of the senators said to be ready to vote to expel him from the chamber.
In his resignation letter, he referenced well-being of family, support of community and continuity of the institution.
“After consulting with my family, community leaders and my counsel over the past several weeks, I have decided to move forward with my life with the full support of my wife and my children. I am blessed to have had their unconditional love and support throughout this ordeal. It is my hope that my absence from the Senate will allow the senators to focus their good work on behalf of all Canadians.”
Meredith was born in Jamaica and moved to Toronto in the 1980s. He dropped out of Ryerson College and started a landscaping company. He also involved himself in community work in and around the Toronto area while showing political aspirations. He ran for the Conservatives in December 2007 and lost to the Liberal’s Bob Rae in the bye- election for the Toronto Centre seat.
In December 18, 2010, he was installed in the senate by Prime Minster Stephen Harper and became part of the Conservative caucus.
He ran afoul of the institution when in 2014 when he chose to attend a Prayer Breakfast in the US for preachers and politicians expensed the cost the trip to the Senate. It included first class airfare for himself and his wife and hotel. He was later forced to repay the expense.
One of Meredith more prominent political positions was his stance to have the age of sexual consent in Canada raised to 18 from 14. His party at the time intended to raise it from 14 to 16.
Senator Meredith delivered a featured address at a banquet at the Jamaican Association of Montreal in October 2014 . He received a rousing welcome here.