What does it take to expel a senator from Canada’s upper chamber?
That is the question Canadians and parliamentarians are grappling with of late, as two new scandals unfold in the public eye.
The first involves independent Sen. Don Meredith, who will appear before the Senate Committee for Ethics and Conflict of Interest on April 4. Meredith is expected to speak in his own defence following a report from the Senate’s ethics officer that said he broke the rules when he had a sexual relationship with a teenage girl.
“I will accept nothing short of expulsion, nothing less,” said Conservative Sen. Vern White this week.
“It’s embarrassing to think that (Meredith) actually sits in the Senate with me and hopefully I won’t have to be embarrassed much longer.”
WATCH: Scandal surrounding Meredith is not about race, it’s about abuse of power, says Sears
At the same time, senators are also trying to figure out what to do about Conservative Sen. Lynn Beyak.
In a March 7 speech to the Senate about residential schools, Beyak tried to defend the institutions, referencing “the kindly and well-intentioned men and women … whose remarkable works good deeds and historical tales in the residential schools go unacknowledged for the most part and are overshadowed by negative reports.”
Those comments have been condemned by many in and out of the Senate, including the chair of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, senate Liberal Lillian Dyck, who called for Beyak’s removal from the committee.
“I would hate to think that because of one person, because of one senator, we’re all the same because that’s not true … But for us to not to take action, makes us look like we’re powerless which we are not,” said Dyck on Wednesday.
Beyak refuses to vacate her seat on the committee claiming saying she understands the plight of Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples.
LISTEN: Tory senator defends residential school system, says good work ‘unacknowledged’
The lack of action on Meredith and Beyak is bringing back terrible memories for those in the Senate who lived through the expense scandal.
Senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, and Patrick Brazeau were all suspended without pay after audits into their housing expenses revealed they may have broken the rules. A year-long criminal case later cleared Duffy, and the other cases were dropped. All three are back to work.
Now, the government’s leader in the Upper Chamber is worried that the Senate’s reputation is once again being dragged through the mud.
“That’s why all of us have to redouble our efforts to demonstrate that the Senate is an effective functioning institution doing the work of Canadians,” said Peter Harder.
Newly appointed Conservative leader in the Senate, Larry Smith, said lessons were learned from the expense scandal when it comes to sanctioning senators.
“It’s more streamlined, it’s more coordinated, it’s much more effective,” said Smith. “And that’s what we’ve been doing in the Senate for the last three years, is improving how we operate.”
New rules for ethics and potential conflict of interest cases, adopted by the Senate in 2014, list possible sanctions for a senator that include, but aren’t limited to:
- The return of any gift or other benefit
- Any remedial measure
- The reduction or removal of access to Senate resources
- The removal of assignments, duties or powers conferred by the Senate
- A limitation on the right to speak or vote
- An invitation or order to apologize
- A censure, admonition, reprimand or suspension
While suspensions have occurred before, getting rid of Meredith permanently may not be an easy process, according to experts. A permanent dismissal can be triggered in five situations under the Constitution Act (including treason or bankruptcy) but none of them apply to Meredith.