In a bizarre and disturbing act of public defiance, Donald Meredith has decided to remain as a senator. He blamed all his shortcomings, his rendezvous with a 16-year-old, the public assessment of his poor record as a senator on racism. That is unfortunate.
The lone black senator appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, he has been nothing but a public embarrassment since he came to prominence almost a decade ago. He was never a useful advocate for either the black community or the residents of Toronto who had been served well by the dynamic and progressive senator, Peter Stollery who had preceded Senator Meredith.
He was not appointed to the Senate because he was the ideal candidate or had an attractive resume — he did not — but I believe for partisan reasons by the previous Conservative government. His appointment had the hallmark of political favouritism and reward after he replaced Mark Warner, an able and distinguished black economist/lawyer suddenly in a Toronto Centre by
Since then, everything that has happened to Senator Meredith has been self-inflected and had nothing to do with racism. To blame what has happened to him on racism is simply shortsighted and self-serving. His is the case of a person who should not have been appointed a senator in the first place. He has always been out of his element in the red chamber.
Within the black community, he has always been known as a flamboyant and controversial figure, whose frequent trips and association with African dictators has been troubling at best. He has been known to call himself the “the honourable Dr. Don Meredith” at public functions to the dismay of many. His only academic credentials are from the association of Christian Counselors and the California State Christian University, both unregulated and unaccredited institutions.
He also self-described himself as the “first Jamaican-born Canadian Senator.” While this may be true, he never had the same effect as Jamaican-Canadians like Rosemary Brown, who made a dignified political contribution to Canada and became worthy our celebration.
I cringed when former Prime Minister Stephen Harper took him to Kingston, Jamaica on a state visit, as a political trophy.
In Ottawa, he managed to bring little prominence to the pressing issues of the black community. He seldom spoke on anything current and important. He was removed from many committees he was a member of for lack of attendance. His time in Ottawa hasn’t resulted in substantial contributions but was heavy on symbolism, especially on the celebration history of the past.
We saw him as he substituted for Jason Kenney, then the multicultural minister, in black community events, recycling the same speech all over the country. We, in the black community, did not see him with pride but concern, anger and worry. He has been a missed opportunity for the black community and the residents of Toronto.
The recent report from the Senate Ethics Officer should be the last straw for this sorry senator. In it, he was found to have had a sexual relationship with an underage girl, not even considered mature enough to vote in Canadian elections. He is alleged to have promised to give her an important committee job to look at ways to honour Canada’s first black soldier in exchange for sexual favours. He also offered business opportunities to her siblings and wrote her recommendations for parliamentary internship.
Senator Meredith reminds me a little of Mel Reynolds, a Chicago Congressman who also had a relationship with a 16-year-old, cried racism when caught, was convicted of a crime and spent some time in jail, instead of fulfilling the promise of a Rhodes Scholar he was.
In reflection of what has been happening to him, the senator expressed how, “Where individuals of colour rise, somehow they’re taken down — whether it’s self-inflicted or orchestrated.”
While that might be true on a slew of cases and circumstances, but it’s not true on the case of Senator Meredith. His is not just self-inflicted but, I believe, is the result of utter incompetence and having no moral values. He can do Torontonians, the black community and the institution of the Senate a huge favour by acknowledging his shortcomings and vacating his Senate seat immediately.
Now that will be something to look forward to.