Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

911 call prompts Tories to turf senator

Brazeau connected to domestic violence report

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OTTAWA -- Controversial Conservative senator Patrick Brazeau was dumped from his party's caucus and believed to be behind bars Thursday after a 911 call summoned police to his home to investigate a complaint of domestic violence.

Brazeau, a prominent figure within Canada's aboriginal community, was swiftly removed from the Tory caucus after police went to his home in Gatineau, Que., around 9 a.m.

About three hours later -- with Brazeau believed to be in custody, a red police tape cordon around his house and a cruiser parked in the driveway -- a letter was circulated among caucus that he was no longer a member.

"It's known that in light of the serious events that have been reported today, I have removed Sen. Brazeau from the Conservative caucus," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.

"Our understanding is that these are matters of a personal nature rather than Senate business, but they are very serious and we expect they will be dealt with through the courts."

House Leader Peter Van Loan later confirmed Brazeau's departure was directly linked to reports of a domestic incident.

Brazeau has been a problem for the Conservatives for months, most recently over allegations he used other people's addresses in order to qualify for a Senate housing allowance and an aboriginal tax exemption.

Police described Brazeau's house as a crime scene, although they refused to confirm it was indeed the senator who was in custody, saying only that a man was arrested at the Gatineau address.

Late Thursday, no charges had been formally laid. Police said they would keep the suspect in custody pending a possible court appearance today.

"There's no charge right now at the moment, but we will continue our investigation," said Gatineau police spokesman Pierre Lanthier.

Lanthier would not comment on the condition of the victim.

Brazeau's office said Thursday he would remain in the Senate as an independent. Were he to face charges, Brazeau would be placed on leave from the Senate, and though he could still attend sessions, his access to benefits would be curtailed. He would only be suspended if convicted of an indictable offence.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said he hoped the Senate scrutinizes those rules if it ever comes time to apply them.

"It's one thing, his removal from the Tory caucus, but he's still in the Senate so up until his retirement age, if he stays in the Senate, he will cost Canadians $7 million," Mulcair said.

"I think that the reasons for that exclusion have to be analyzed properly under the rules of the Senate."

Ralph Goodale, the Liberal deputy leader, described the most recent developments as "profoundly troubling."

Calls for Brazeau's removal from the Senate began almost from the day he was appointed by Harper in 2008.

He was 34 when called to the red chamber, making him the third-youngest appointee in its history. Critics panned his access to a salary of $132,000 a year and a hefty pension plan.

Brazeau joined the Senate while he was still national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. He eventually resigned from CAP in January 2009 after news broke that a CAP employee had filed a sexual harassment complaint against him with Ontario's human rights tribunal.

He was also linked to allegations of CAP misspending of federal funds that were supposed to pay for aboriginal health programs.

Conservatives argued, at the time, the misspending happened before Brazeau took over as congress chief.

A member of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation in Quebec, Brazeau was viewed by some as doing more harm than good to the state of federal-aboriginal relations from his position as a senator.

He has long been an advocate for greater transparency on reserves and reform of First Nations governance, often using Twitter to describe his perspective.

Brazeau was highly critical of Theresa Spence, the northern Ontario chief who began a six-week hunger protest late last year to demand new negotiations between aboriginal leaders and the federal government.

Brazeau was also dismissive of the Idle No More protests in January. Members of his own band denounced his views.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 8, 2013 A11

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