Canadian senator faces sexual assault charges

Fri Feb 8, 2013 2:37pm EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - A Canadian senator faced charges of assault and sexual assault on Friday after spending the night in jail, a new stain on the reputation of the upper house of Parliament, which the government wants to reform.

Police arrested Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau, 38, on Thursday for alleged domestic violence, and on Friday he appeared in court to hear the charges against him.

He did not speak to reporters, and his office did not reply to several requests for comment.

Members of the Canadian Senate are appointed rather than elected, and they serve an uninterrupted term until they reach the age of 75. Critics say the institution is unaccountable, ineffective and in urgent need of change.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who appointed Brazeau to the Senate in 2008, kicked Brazeau out of the Conservative caucus on Thursday after he heard about the incident.

"Obviously the situation with Senator Brazeau is terrible. It is extremely appalling, disappointing. We all feel very let down," Harper said Friday in a televised news conference.

Brazeau will be released on bail with a court order to stay away from the alleged victim, who cannot be named due to a publication ban, said Crown prosecutor Sylvain Petitclerc. Brazeau's next court appearance is set for March 22.

The allegations against the senator came as he and two other members of the Senate come under scrutiny for what critics say are questionable expense claims. A Senate committee has asked auditors to study the expenses.

Harper has long pressed for changes to the Senate, perhaps by cutting the term of senators to eight years.   Continued...

Senator Patrick Brazeau (C) leaves the courthouse in Gatineau, Quebec February 8, 2013. Brazeau has been charged with assault and sexual assault, according to local media. REUTERS/Chris Wattie