The Senate of Canada will pay nearly half a million dollars in compensation to nine employees of a now-resigned senator who say they suffered harassment, including sexual harassment, on the job.
The decision today to award $498,000 in compensation plus legal fees comes more than a year after a Senate investigation found a pattern of inappropriate behaviour by then senator Don Meredith.
That included demeaning, belittling and humiliating staff members as well as kissing, touching and intimidation that created what the Senate ethics investigator described as a “poisoned work environment.”
But it was only this summer that a former Quebec appeals court judge was brought in to look at potential compensation for the employees following complaints about a lack of recognition of their suffering.
Senate’s slow response an aggravating factor, report says
The Senate says the compensation amount announced this morning was based on Justice Louise Otis’s recommendations.
“Harassment was experienced by almost all complainants in various forms which, however, had the same constant: an abuse of authority that created a poisonous work environment,” Otis’s report says.
“These acts of misconduct manifested themselves in particular by humiliation, denigration, sudden attacks of yelling and screaming, telephone calls during the night to perform additional work, requirement of work during sick leave, threats, bullying, intimidation.
“Almost all complainants described their work experience as ‘the worst thing that ever happened to me in a workplace.’ “
The report says the Senate’s slowness in dealing with the complaints is an aggravating factor in determining what the victims should be paid.
It does not specify how much should be paid to each complainant.
Meredith, who was appointed to the Senate by former prime minister Stephen Harper in 2010, resigned from the upper chamber in 2017.
The Senate’s ethics committee had just recommended he be expelled after concluding he had used his position to pursue a sexual relationship with an underage girl.
Meredith, a Pentecostal minister, has not been charged criminally in connection with any of these matters.