Se­nate must ex­pel Mered­ith

Cape Breton Post - - Editorial -

Don Mered­ith could save him­self and ev­ery­one else a lot of bother by sim­ply re­sign­ing his seat in the Se­nate im­me­di­ately. The longer he drags out the process of re­mov­ing him from the up­per cham­ber, the worse for him and the in­sti­tu­tion.

The Se­nate’s ethics com­mit­tee is right to rec­om­mend that Mered­ith be ex­pelled for car­ry­ing on a two-year af­fair with a teenage girl. The Se­nate is strug­gling to re­build cred­i­bil­ity among Cana­di­ans, and any lesser penalty would un­der­mine its rep­u­ta­tion even fur­ther.

The com­mit­tee is forth­right in con­demn­ing Mered­ith’s ac­tions, as it should be. “He has abused his priv­i­leged po­si­tion of author­ity and trust by en­gag­ing in be­hav­iour that is in­com­pat­i­ble with his of­fice,” it con­cluded. “He has brought dis­re­pute to him­self and the in­sti­tu­tion. His pres­ence in the cham­ber would in it­self dis­credit the in­sti­tu­tion. No lesser sanc­tion than ex­pul­sion would re­pair the harm he has done to the Se­nate.”

This is the most se­vere penalty the Se­nate can im­pose, and it has never been used be­fore in the in­sti­tu­tion’s his­tory. But it is the only penalty that would be pro­por­tion­ate to the of­fence.

Mered­ith’s con­duct has been egre­gious. An or­dained pas­tor and coun­selor to youth, he be­gan the re­la­tion­ship in early 2013, when the girl was only 16 years old and he was 48. The Se­nate’s ethics of­fi­cer found that he used his po­si­tion to “lure or at­tract” her into an af­fair that turned sex­ual when she was just 17. It was an ap­palling breach of trust.

Mered­ith’s con­duct since the af­fair came to light in 2015 has also been dis­cred­itable.

He ac­knowl­edged re­spon­si­bil­ity only in March, af­ter the ethics of­fi­cer’s damn­ing re­port. Even then he ad­mit­ted only to a “moral fail­ing.”

As a Pen­te­costal pas­tor, he should know bet­ter than most peo­ple where his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties lie. He should long ago have faced up to what he did, re­signed his po­si­tion, and started on the long road to re­demp­tion. For­give­ness is pos­si­ble, but it starts by as­sum­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity and ex­press­ing true con­tri­tion.

In­stead, he dragged out the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and ig­nored calls by fel­low se­na­tors to step down. At one point he even blamed racism for con­dem­na­tion of his ac­tions. He made an aw­ful sit­u­a­tion even worse.

Mered­ith will have an op­por­tu­nity to ad­dress the Se­nate be­fore it votes on his fate. Rather than con­tinue on this course, he would be bet­ter ad­vised to ac­cept the ethics com­mit­tee’s judg­ment, apol­o­gize and step aside.

The Se­nate has been buf­feted for years by charges of mis­con­duct, mostly fi­nan­cial, by some of its mem­bers. It be­came a laugh­ing­stock, even an ob­ject of con­tempt, among Cana­di­ans.

But it has lately em­barked on a jour­ney to win back re­spect by adopt­ing stricter rules of con­duct. And the Trudeau govern­ment has taken pos­i­tive steps by ap­point­ing more in­de­pen­dent se­na­tors and try­ing to make the cham­ber less overtly par­ti­san.

The Se­nate will help it­self along that path if it deals swiftly and de­ci­sively with Mered­ith. Any­thing less will dam­age the in­sti­tu­tion even fur­ther.


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