Senator Mike Duffy, who was famously cleared of all charges last year in a high-profile expense scandal, has launched a lawsuit against the Senate and RCMP seeking nearly $8 million in damages.
The P.E.I. civil servant filed a claim in Ontario Superior Court on Thursday, seeking compensation for financial and emotional hardships endured as he faced accusations of mishandling his living, travel and office expenses in his first four years as a senator.
Duffy, who currently sits as a member of the Independent Senators Group, believes he was wrongfully suspended from the Senate as the scandal unfolded between 2013 and April 2016, when he was eventually cleared of 31 charges related to bribery, fraud and breach of trust. He is also accusing the RCMP of negligence during the investigation.
"My family and I have suffered stress and serious financial damage, as have the other Senators who were unfairly targeted, and their rights trampled," said Duffy in a press statement released on Thursday. "If this action succeeds in bringing Charter protections to all who work on Parliament Hill, this will be my greatest contribution to public life."
Abandoned by 'Harper Conservatives'
Duffy's claims include $6.5 million in general damages, $300,000 for lost salary and benefits, and $1 million in punitive damages relating to his treatment throughout the scandal, CBC has reported. The senator said he and his lawyer have already "tried patiently" to resolve his grievances with the Senate, but their efforts have been unsuccessful.
"The Conservatives still control the Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, (CIBA) and have shown they are not interested in correcting the unjustified actions taken against me by The Senate," he explained in his statement. "The Harper Conservatives have left me with no choice but to go back to the courts for justice."
Duffy was first put in the hot seat in 2012, when questions were raised about housing expenses he claimed against a home he had lived in before he was appointed to the Senate by then-prime minister Stephen Harper. Duffy agreed to repay $90,000 in questionable living expenses after the Senate hired an external auditing firm to review his residence claims — cash that was given to him at the time by Nigel Wright, Harper's of staff.
The senator was slapped with criminal charges for his conduct in 2014 when the RCMP conducted a formal investigation. But he was cleared two years later, when Ontario Justice Charles Vaillancourt deemed that he was a “credible witness” whose conduct was “reasonable and honest.”
Duffy's lawyer in the lawsuit, Lawrence Greenspon, could not be reached for comment on Thursday afternoon. But in a press conference held earlier that day, Greenspon told reporters that together, they came to the conclusion "that (Duffy) had to fight."
"Mike has been through a very difficult four- or five-year period... His reputation for many Canadians doesn't take into account the fact that he's been completely absolved by a court decision," he said.
"The actions of the Senate in their resolution, in suspending/expelling Mike Duffy from Senate...and the way that it was done, are really the actions that we are attacking. We're not shy about where this came from, but at the same time, we have to be accurate as to what actually caused his damage."
Two other senators who also faced expense investigations at the time — Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau — were also suspended in 2013, but have since returned to their regular duties.
— with files from The Canadian Press
Editor's Note: This story was updated at 2:38 p.m. Eastern Time on Thurs. Aug. 24, 2017 to include comments from Senator Duffy's lawyer.