The Lawyer Who Used Child Marriage to Defend Senator Don Meredith Is No Longer Representing Him
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The Lawyer Who Used Child Marriage to Defend Senator Don Meredith Is No Longer Representing Him

Meredith has admitted to having a sexual relationship with a teenage girl.

In the latest twist in a bizarre couple of days, lawyer Selwyn Pieters announced on Twitter Monday that he will no longer be representing Senator Don Meredith, who is currently embroiled in a sex scandal involving a teenage girl.

"New counsel has been retained, with my blessing, to handle this very important and public interest matter," tweeted Pieters, who goes by Mr. Toronto Lawyer on Twitter. "That was one of the shortest and most hectic retainer I have ever taken on in my legal career.—feeling thankful."


Meredith, 52, is currently on leave from the Senate and will be subject to an upcoming ethics hearing, after it was discovered he had a sexual relationship with a girl beginning when she was 16 years old. The pair reportedly met at a church event (Meredith is a pentecostal pastor), and started out texting flirtatiously, eventually having sex twice after she turned 18.

Meredith is also being investigated for sexual harassment in the workplace.

The married senator, who has two kids, is not facing criminal charges, but he has apologized for his behaviour. There have been calls for him to step down from the Senate, however he said he is currently examining his options.

Speaking to CTV's Power Play Friday, Pieters attributed the negative reaction to Meredith's behaviour to racism.

"They're portraying him as a sexual predator, and historically that is how people look at black men: as hypersexual, as sexual predators, as thinking with their penis as opposed to their heads," he said, noting that black people in positions of power are "invariably taken down."

He also said, "it takes two to tango" and stressed that the relationship was completely consensual.

"In some cultures, people marry at 12; you have very old men marrying people at 12. So, I don't buy this thing about power and about protecting and all that sort of stuff."

Toronto defence lawyer Lori Anne Thomas told VICE she wouldn't have used the child marriage analogy to defend Meredith.


"It feels like a red herring thrown out that doesn't help. It brings in a narrative of a child having sex with an adult, which doesn't fit Senator Meredith's issue," she said.

Thomas said that as the age of consent in Canada is 16, Meredith didn't break any laws and didn't appear to be her pastor or in a direct position of authority over her.

"His affair with this young girl or young woman is at most… salacious and not great, but not certainly criminally offensive at this point on the basis of what we know."

As for the race issue, Thomas, who is half black, said it's very easy to be dismissive of that rationale from the outside.

"When you've grown up and you have constantly been seeing who treats you differently based on your colour, it's hard to separate that out from people who may be making judgments on you for your inapproriate action."

Thomas said if Meredith is treated more harshly than Senators Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin, who were both criminally accused of abusing their offices to commit fraud, it may signify a double standard.

However, former Ottawa police chief Vern White, who is now a Conservative senator, told CTV he believes Meredith groomed the teenage girl and that cops may not have pressed charges because the victim didn't want to pursue that route.

According to the ethics report, Meredith and the teenager met at a Black History Month event in February 2013, after which he gave her his cell number. The two began texting, talking, and emailing.


In the summer of 2013, the report says she visited his office and he repeatedly "grabbed her buttocks." Eventually, they began having sexually explicit Skype calls during which Meredith would masturbate, which graduated to fondling and intercourse. During this time, he also offered to potentially help her with her career.

"He groomed her for two years. You watch the actions he takes, [and] everything he does is preparing himself for sexual activity with that young lady," said White.

Speaking to the Canadian Press last week, Meredith admitted the scandal was a "moral failing."

"As a human being, I made a grave error in judgment, in my interactions. For that I am deeply sorry."

However, he reiterated that he has not committed any crimes.

"I believe that it is my right to consider all options that are available to me and that's exactly what I plan to do, making no rush decision."

Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.