Senator Don Meredith Harassed, Sexually Abused Staff For Years, Say Former Aides
by Zi-Ann Lum, April 30, 2017, Huffington Post
Two sets of doors were always closed before Sen. Don Meredith felt comfortable starting any meeting in his office across Parliament Hill. The first leads to a shared hallway, the second to Meredith's desk. Shutting them both seemed to give him a sense of privacy and control.Staff members found it bizarre, but they did what their boss asked. “Constant paranoia” was a running theme in the office, one former female aide said. Behind those doors, they claim, the senator began inappropriately touching his female employees.
“Once the doors close — which was not able to be opened from the outside if it was locked — well, I felt like I was trapped and he was able to touch me and be very ... all over me,” alleged another former female staffer.
Meredith, who is also a pastor, would declare that they should pray together, according to the ex-worker.
“The way that his religion prays is to actually put a hand on the person next to you — and he would use that excuse to touch me more than just putting his hand on my shoulder for the prayer,” she said, alleging the senator used the intimacy of prayer to touch her breast and her bottom.
She said “it was sickening” and made her feel violated “every time.”
In an ongoing investigation, HuffPost Canada has uncovered some alarming workplace behaviours alleged by Meredith’s former staff members. Three of them agreed to be interviewed on the condition of anonymity, citing professional and personal concerns.
Sen. Meredith’s office declined an interview request by HuffPost Canada, and his lawyer, Bill Trudell, did not reply to inquiries to speak to him about his client.
Meredith is being probed by the Senate Ethics Office for multiple reports of sexual harassment and workplace bullying. Over the last three years, HuffPost Canada has learned details of alleged incidents both inside and outside his office.
These claims are separate from an explosive report in March that found Meredith abused his power and broke Senate ethics rules by pursuing a two-year sexual relationship with a teenager.
A different Senate ethics inquiry — which is still ongoing — was launched in 2015 into the claims of sexual harassment from former members of the Toronto senator’s office. They allege Meredith has a pattern of harassing, sexually abusing, and threatening employees since his 2010 appointment.
When asked to describe working with Meredith, a male ex-employee answered: “Just a horrible professional experience.”
He followed that with a list of adjectives about his former boss: “Narcissistic, dishonest, deceitful, selfish, narrow-minded, self-centred. I know that some are redundant, but just an all-around horrible, horrible person.”
‘Terror’ kept former aide quiet
The former aide who alleges she was repeatedly groped at work said Meredith “told me he would hunt [me] down if I ever would talk.”
These incidents happened in Meredith’s Ottawa office and on a Senate business-related outing, according to the ex-staffer. “Terror” kept her from filing an official complaint in case Meredith found out.
“I never reached out to anybody because he put so much pressure on you … for you to not tell anybody,” she told HuffPost Canada.
To deter staff from reporting the abuse, Meredith suggested employees consider his influence as a senator. He sometimes went as far as to threaten to ruin their careers in and outside of government, the former employees all claim.
Staff — men and women — began to confide in each other. The former male employee said he saw female co-workers crying after altercations with the senator “quite, quite often.”
For some female staff with years of political experience under their belts, there was a harsh reality check. Once they realized they were victims of workplace sexual abuse, there were emotional repercussions to contemplate, and career and financial risks to consider.
“I was just so scared,” said the former employee who claims Meredith groped her. She said she felt powerless against the institution.
It seemed like a lose-lose situation.
She knew enough about Senate policy to understand that filing an official complaint with human resources didn’t guarantee job security or protection against Meredith. But she was also aware if she didn’t come forward, the alleged harassment and abuses would most likely continue.
“So either way, making an official complaint or not was bringing me to the same spot,” she said.