Suspended Senator Patrick Brazeau, affectionately known around the office as Uncle Tomahawk from his time as an aboriginal apologist for Stephen Harper’s attacks on First Nations, claims he is now “loaded for bear.”
Despite facing a variety of criminal charges, Brazeau says he is preparing to make a political comeback. In the meantime he is working on an autobiography with a helping hand from a few ghost writers, one imagines, that will more or less tell the story of his political journey, his hardships and his naivety in trusting other politicians whilst following his dreams of a better world for First Nations.
The comeback statement might seem like a pipe dream given his past and present. There are the charges stemming from his Senate housing expenses over his claims to a residence at his former father-in-law’s home on the Kitigan Zibi First Nation. Add to that charges of assault and sexual assault in a trial now underway. More charges for assault and cocaine possession await a court date. He was in court-ordered rehab after his preliminary hearing. As if all that wasn’t enough to convince him to lay low for a while, he racked up another arrest last October for being drunk and disorderly while, according to police, playing with a knife in a car that didn’t belong to him.
Anything is possible in the political arena. Brazeau’s lawyer, Christian Deslauriers, suggested the embattled former Conservative and now Independent senator could return because the suspension motion adopted by the Senate in 2013 would no longer be in effect with the dissolution of Parliament.
“Once the election is called and the assembly is dissolved, then all the motions are obsolete and have no effect anymore,” Deslauriers said. Of course the upper chamber could bring a new motion to suspend him. If it doesn’t, Brazeau would again begin receiving his $138,700 salary as a working senator.
But is it actual work that Brazeau intends to do? His past record doesn’t provide much cause for hope in that regard. 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 was deputy-chair, and for 65% of meetings at the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, on which he sat.
The option of permanently removing him from office is interesting, but not easy. The Canadian constitution says senators can be expelled only if they are convicted of a criminal offense with a prison sentence of two or more years. The class of assault and sexual assault charges he faces are only summary offenses that don’t carry such a penalty. Except, perhaps, for the fraud charges relating to his residency, all other charges he faces don’t meet this threshold either.
That’s pretty good news for any senator susceptible to domestic violence or sexual aggression. It won’t affect their pensions or ability to continue living off the Canadian taxpayer, who contribute nearly $6 into a gold-plated pension plan for every dollar contributed by members of Parliament and senators.
Brazeau’s trial related to his Senate expenses is set for March 29, 2016. In his comeback statement Brazeau promises to sit as an independent senator representing Aboriginal Peoples. Every Aboriginal person in Canada is no doubt overjoyed at the prospect.