Honourable abuse

What does it say when we deem the disgraced honourable?

Illustration by Gabrielle Funk

No Canadian senator has even been stripped of their “honourable” title in history.

This prefix is supposedly reserved for the best of us, including the Governor General, the Lieutenant Governor of a province, prime ministers, the chief justice of Canada, a privy councillor and senators.

The title is for life and a royal prerogative that is both meaningful and bestows special rights upon those who hold it.

So what does it say when Canadians beat around the bush about stripping Don Meredith of his “honourable” title?

The former senator was charged in September with three counts of sexual assault and criminal harassment. An adult woman brought forth these allegations, and police say they are concerned there are more victims.

To those familiar with Meredith, this news likely isn’t a surprise, but instead a continuation of a pattern of abuse.

Meredith, also an ordained minister, resigned from the senate after a report from the upper chambers ethics officer concluded that Meredith had engaged in a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl in 2017.

He conceded that he had sexual relations with the teenage girl he met in church, but only after she turned 18. The ethics chamber found it reasonable to believe that Meredith had sexual intercourse with her three times, including once when she was 17.

According to a second 2019 report, multiple Senate employees and a parliamentary constable alleged Meredith acted inappropriately toward them by kissing them without consent, exposing his penis and yelling and behaving aggressively in the office.

While Senate efforts to strip Meredith of his “honourable” title have been ongoing since 2019, many representatives caution that such a move shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Former senator Serge Joyal said “It cannot be done out of fury, anger, vindication or in extreme situations because we happen not to like one person in particular.”

It is troubling to see upper-chamber representatives struggling with the moral implications of removing an honourary title from someone, who, in the past, couldn’t see the moral implications of assaulting a teenager and exposing his genitals to coworkers – and who has just been charged with more counts of sexual assault in 2022.

I don’t think Meredith is honourable, and I don’t think what he did was right. It’s shameful for Canadian representatives to wonder if stripping someone like Meredith of their title is justified, and it makes me wonder if they truly represent us.

As Canadians, we don’t directly elect representatives to the upper chamber. Instead, they are appointed by the prime minister. Stephen Harper appointed Meredith in 2010.

Maybe it’s about time we found representatives with better judgment of what’s honourable.

Paul Carruthers is the comments editor of The Uniter. He’s an alum of the University of Winnipeg’s political-science department.

Published in Volume 77, Number 08 of The Uniter (November 3, 2022)

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