|Senator for Repentigny, Quebec|
January 8, 2009
|Nominated by||Stephen Harper|
|Appointed by||David Johnston|
|Preceded by||Marisa Ferretti Barth|
November 11, 1974 |
|Political party||Independent Conservative 2013-present
Conservative Party 2009-2013
Patrick Brazeau (born November 11, 1974) is a suspended Canadian senator, who until February 7, 2013, was sitting with the Conservative Party. At the age of 39, he is the youngest current Senator. From February 2006 until January 2009 he held the position of national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. Brazeau was expelled from the Conservative caucus following his February 7, 2013, arrest for domestic assault and sexual assault.
Life and career
Brazeau is an Algonquin from the Kitigan Zibi reserve near Maniwaki. He worked at HMCS Carleton, a Royal Canadian Naval Reserve unit based out of Ottawa that operates under the Canadian Forces Maritime Command. Brazeau earned a DEC in social sciences from CEGEP Heritage College (Gatineau) and has studied, but dropped out of civil law at the University of Ottawa.
Fluent in both official Canadian languages, English and French, Brazeau's language preference is French.
Brazeau joined the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) in 2001 and was elected vice-chief in April 2005. He acted as national chief from February 2006 until his election later in November of the same year. He is a member of CAP's affiliate, Alliance Autochtone du Quebec Inc. also known as the Native Alliance of Quebec, or the AAQ or NAQ.
Brazeau pursued a very vocal strategy to obtain repeal of Section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act as his CAP vision. His position was that Section 67 impeded the individual human rights of aboriginals by its insistence that communal Indian Act rights superseded the CHRA. In this position he was supported by editorials of the National Post and the Globe and Mail. Brazeau endorsed passage of Bill C-21 as a step toward reform of Aboriginal governance, suggesting on 20 June 2008 that the extension of human rights protection “will ultimately lead to the dismantling of the Indian Act.”
Brazeau was criticized for stating his intention to accept a seat in the Senate and concurrently remain national chief of the CAP thus collecting two publicly funded six-figure salaries; a decision from which he subsequently retreated by resigning as CAP chief. He has also come under fire over a sexual harassment complaint made against him to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and for allegedly condoning heavy drinking during business hours. Brazeau resigned from his position of national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples on January 9, 2009, issuing the following statement on the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples' website:
In December 2008, I was honoured by my nomination to the Senate of Canada by the Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper. Such an appointment is a great privilege and affords me the considerable opportunity to continue my public service to Canada. My goal is and has always been to serve Canada’s Aboriginal peoples and my country to the best of my skills and abilities, in a manner that is accountable, responsible and transparent. I am committed to bringing this same discipline to my role as a Senator in the Parliament of Canada. To this end, I have decided to step down from my position as National Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples effective immediately. I am eager to fully embrace my new role and to contribute to the important work of the Senate of Canada. I am committed to continuing my advancement of Aboriginal issues and opportunities across Canada. Further, I relish the opportunity to build upon the achievements of Prime Minister Harper’s government.
Use of CAP funds
In addition, he has faced allegations around the spending of funds received by the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples for aboriginal health programs. The Globe and Mail reported on January 19, 2009, that Health Canada auditors rejected almost $260,000 in congress expenses out of a budget of $472,900 allocated to the congress by the ministry, alleging that much of the money had been spent on board meetings where health issues were not discussed. Conservative Party spokesman Kory Teneycke indicated that the alleged misspending occurred before Brazeau became chief of the organization, and that Brazeau took steps to address the problem once he took over the leadership.
Senate attendance record
On June 26, 2012, Brazeau came under fire after attacking Canadian Press journalist Jennifer Ditchburn via his official Twitter account. Brazeau publicly called Ditchburn a "bitch" after she reported on his poor Senate attendance record. Brazeau did in fact have poor attendance on the Senate floor: the Senate attendance register showed that he was absent for 25% of the Senate's 72 sittings between June 2011 and April 2012. He was also absent for 31% of the meetings of the human rights committee, where he is deputy-chair, and for 65% of meetings at the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, on which he sits.
Without the knowledge of his ex-wife's father, Brazeau used Daryl Tenasco's address at Kitigan Zibi, Quebec for the purpose obtaining an aboriginal income tax exemption from 2004 to 2008. Kitigan Zibi Chief Gilbert Whiteduck said: “Normally you have income tax exemption when you live on a reserve and you are employed by a reserve.” Neighbours said it did not appear that Brazeau lived in the community. According to Jean Guy Whiteduck “I’ve never seen him, it’s right across from my place. I’ve never seen him there. He may have visited. That’s about it."
On February 28, 2013, the Senate committee of Internal Economy announced that Brazeau, along with fellow senators Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy, and Mac Harb, would be subject to a forensic audit to determine appropriateness of their expense claims.
Deloitte accountants Timm and Stewart conducted an independent audit and came to the conclusion that Brazeau had made no false claims and reached no conclusions as to whether he met the Senate’s definition of primary residence because there was none. The audit document can be found in Senate papers dated 7 May 2013 and can be said to be an indictment of vague (to the point of meaningless) policies:
2.1.2. There is a lack of clarity in the terminology used for the different residences mentioned or discussed in the applicable regulations and guidelines. The following terms are used without being clearly defined: primary residence, secondary residence, NCR residence, provincial residence. In addition, the term registered residence is not defined.
2.1.3. The regulations and guidelines applicable during the period of our examination do not include criteria for determining “primary residence”. As such, we are not able to assess the status of the primary residence declared by Senator Brazeau against existing regulations and guidelines.
Undeterred by the conclusions of Deloitte, the Senate's Subcommittee on Living Allowances, chaired by Senator Elizabeth Marshall with Senators Comeau and Campbell, then ignored selected parts of the Deloitte audit and wrote their own conclusions for the Internal Economy committee, who then recommended on 9 May to the entire Senate, after several secret sessions, that he be ordered to reimburse a minimum of $51,482 in expense money. "Liberal Senator Mac Harb and Independent Senator Patrick Brazeau must immediately repay inappropriately claimed expenses or the Senate will seize the funds," said Marjory LeBreton, the then-current Leader of the Government in the Senate. A spokeswoman from LeBreton's office said Brazeau's pay may be withheld as a means of recovering the funds. Brazeau challenged the internal economy committee's order.
On August 1, 2013, in an affidavit filed in an Ottawa court, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police alleged that Brazeau inappropriately claimed his father’s home in Maniwaki as his primary residence in order to claim a $22,000 a year taxpayer funded housing allowance. The affidavit said that Brazeau actually resided in a rented Gatineau home right across the Ottawa river from his workplace, while claiming the housing allowance for living in Maniwaki. CTV news employee Robert Fife reported that the RCMP investigation revealed that Brazeau was being investigated for breach of trust. Brazeau later singled out Fife in his Senate farewell speech on 4 November 2013.
Chief Theresa Spence
Brazeau received criticism for mocking Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence at a Conservative fundraiser in an Ottawa suburb on 29 January 2013. In an audio recording from the event provided to CTV News by Metroland Media, Brazeau is heard stating publicly "Oh, poor Theresa Spence. Oh, poor her," in regards to the six-week long hunger strike that the aboriginal leader had recently ended. The hunger strike was aimed to force a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor General of Canada David Johnston to discuss aboriginal treaty rights and socioeconomic issues.
Brazeau was also critical of the Idle No More movement, saying that he felt many Canadian aboriginals simply expected to be supported by taxpayers. The recording also revealed Brazeau stating "To sit back, wait for the government to give me handouts. Maybe be on welfare, maybe drink, maybe take up drugs", in regards to aboriginal Canadians. He later returned to the subject of dismantling the Indian Act when he added "The best way to get our land back is to buy it back. Just like every other Canadian."
Brazeau also insinuated in the recording that Spence had actually gained weight during her "so-called hunger strike".
Arrest for assault and sexual assault
On February 7, 2013, scarcely nine days after the Spence incident, Brazeau was arrested for an incident relating to domestic violence against his spouse, Sunshine Tenasco-Brazeau. He was charged with assault and sexual assault in Gatineau court house the next day. Police alleged that after an argument about aboriginal issues the previous night the dispute continued the next morning. After a short court appearance Brazeau was released on $1000 bail on the condition he not go within 150 metres of the victim's work or home. Brazeau allegedly hit and pushed his spouse, touched her in a sexually suggestive way tearing her bra, sweater and pants. He allegedly further grabbed her throat and arm and pushed her down the stairs as she attempted to leave the house. Government Senate Leader Marjory LeBreton later announced that, pending a resolution to Brazeau's legal situation, the Senator will be removed from the Conservative caucus and barred from taking his seat, although the Senator will still be paid his full salary.
Suspension from Senate
Facing charges of assault and sexual assault, the Senate voted to suspend Brazeau on 12 February 2013. The motion stated that "in order to protect the dignity and reputation of the Senate and public trust and confidence in Parliament, the Senate order a leave of absence for the Honourable Senator Brazeau to last until this order is rescinded". On 5 November, 2013, the Senate voted to suspend Brazeau, along with fellow Senators Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin, for the remainder of the session, likely until the next federal election in 2015. The Senate also cut their salaries and use of office resources. The specific motion to suspend Brazeau without pay was voted on as follows: 50 yeas, 29 nays, and 13 abstentions. It marked the first time in Senate history that a senator had been sanctioned over expenses without being convicted of a criminal offence.
Work outside the Senate
Denied his salary as a Senator and without other means of support, Brazeau embarked on a very public search for employment following his suspension, resorting to soliciting work via Twitter. In December 2013, it was reported that Brazeau had been hired as a freelance reporter for the Halifax edition of the satirical magazine Frank. Brazeau has also expressed interest in writing a book or starring in a reality show as means of earning an income.
- Senator Patrick Brazeau to be forced on leave after charges http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2013/02/08/pol-patrick-brazeau-senate-arrest.html
- CBC News (February 8, 2013). "Patrick Brazeau facing domestic, sexual assault charges". CBC.ca. Retrieved February 8, 2013.
- Wayne K. Spear, "Brazeau's latest outburst shines a harsh light on the Senate". National Post, June 27, 2012.
- Legislative Summary: "Bill C-21: An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act" Mary C. Hurley, 14 Nov 2007
- "Senators - Detailed Information".
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- "The Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration has the honour to present its TWENTY-THIRD REPORT" Examination of Senator Brazeau’s Primary and Secondary Residence Status
- Radia, Andy (August 1, 2013). "RCMP alleges Senator Patrick Brazeau committed breach of trust over housing claims". Yahoo!. Retrieved August 2, 2013.
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- Senator Brazeau gets 'paid' holiday but no more little 'extras' http://www.cornwallseawaynews.com/Blog-Article/b/23677/Senator-Brazeau-gets-paid-holiday
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- "Suspended senator Brazeau lands gig with Frank Magazine as Parliament Hill reporter". Globe and Mail. December 2, 2013. Retrieved December 2, 2013.