House of Commons Hansard #3 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was children.

Topics

Business Of The House
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Before I recognize the member for York South—Weston, I would simply remind him that this has to do with legislation being put forth by the government for the House to consider in the next week. With that in mind, I turn the floor over to the member for York South—Weston.

Business Of The House
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Independent

John Nunziata York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister indicated that it is the plan of the government to send the elections bill to committee before second reading. That is an unusual procedure to follow. There are established rules in the House that require a second reading debate before a bill is referred to committee.

Could the minister explain why he is taking this unusual route with this bill?

Business Of The House
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

This is part of our body of rules right now. It is my understanding the minister will make known his reasons. When he introduces the bill he will be the first speaker. It is part of our body of rules and as I understand it has been since 1997.

Business Of The House
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

An hon. member

Since 1993.

Business Of The House
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

I will check into it. I was told it was 1997.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Reform

Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to make what I consider to be a very serious question of privilege.

This question of privilege arises from a lawsuit that was launched against me in 1996 but does not pertain to the actions of the individual who filed the lawsuit. Rather it concerns the activities and conduct of a government agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, during the course of this lawsuit.

To begin, I want to say that I do not question the established precedent that prevents a member from using privilege to guard against the lawsuit for what is said outside of the House. This question of privilege has absolutely nothing to do with that. Instead, I will provide prima facie evidence to the Chair that demonstrates how the conduct and activities of CSIS regarding this case form what I believe to be a new and disturbing method of intimidation of a member of parliament.

I will show that CSIS improperly collected information and then subsequently disclosed that information in clear violation of CSIS policy to a third party. I will show that CSIS abandoned the traditional non-partisan role of the public service by taking an active role in the preparation of a lawsuit against an opposition member of parliament, including having its legal counsel provide the plaintiff and the plaintiff's lawyer with advice.

Finally, I will show that CSIS misused its extraordinary authority to protect national security, was twice sanctioned for misconduct and deliberately misled the court to frustrate my ability to resolve the lawsuit.

Thus the gist of my question of privilege is the deliberate effort of CSIS to intimidate me from speaking freely in the House of Commons and from performing my role as official opposition critic.

I raise this issue today because this is the first opportunity to do so since the completion of my court case. Although the standing orders state that the sub judice convention only applies in a civil lawsuit during the trial days of the proceedings, I undertook an agreement with the Board of Internal Economy not to utilize this lawsuit for political purposes. At the time I entered into that agreement, I was unaware of the role that CSIS had played in the case up to that time, nor could I possibly have envisioned the role that CSIS would subsequently take in this case. I have lived up to my obligation with the BOIE and have bided my time until today, my opportunity to raise this issue.

As I previously mentioned, this form of intimidation is unprecedented. However in Erskine May, 21st edition, page 115 states that an offence for contempt “may be treated as a contempt even though there is no precedent of the offence. It is therefore impossible to list every act which might be considered to amount to a contempt, the power to punish for such an offence being of its nature discretionary”.

On October 29, 1980, a Speaker of this House had this to say:

—the dimension of contempt of parliament is such that the House will not be constrained in finding a breach of privilege of members, or of the House.

This is precisely the reason that, while our privileges are defined, contempt of the House has no limits.

Let me provide this brief summary of the evidence in the documents that I have before me that confirms their efforts to intimidate me. I am prepared to read it all but would prefer just to provide it to you, Mr. Speaker. Almost all the information contained in the plaintiff's statement of claim originated from CSIS. In fact the statement of claim contains a copy of my press release which bears the fax identification of the former solicitor general which was sent to CSIS.

The plaintiff's affidavit of documents consists of 107 documents which included some of my press releases, as well as newspaper clippings, radio and television transcripts from media outlets across the country. Every one of them came from CSIS, some of them before and some of them after the commencement of the lawsuit.

The plaintiff also included four video tapes of media reports, all of which were recorded by CSIS and forwarded to the plaintiff. In a discovery of the plaintiff conducted on February 17, 1998, the plaintiff admitted in regard to the video tapes that “they were provided to me without my asking”. Both the plaintiff and his lawyer admitted during the proceedings that CSIS assisted the plaintiff in the preparation of his lawsuit.

In a letter dated July 20, 1998, from the plaintiff's lawyer to my lawyer the following passage is included: “certain members of CSIS have co-operated with the plaintiff in preparation of his case”.

At a discovery of the plaintiff at the federal court on November 3, 1998, the plaintiff acknowledged that part of the reason he had contacted a senior manager at CSIS was to discuss the means by which he would proceed with his lawsuit. As well, at that same discovery the lawyer for the plaintiff admitted that “the legal counsel for CSIS had spoken with me from time to time, and I am sure with the plaintiff from time to time, trying to give us advice”.

Thus it is clear from these comments that CSIS played a role in the preparation and conduct of the lawsuit against me. What is of particular concern is the fact that throughout the discoveries it was confirmed that it was Mr. Tom Bradley who played the key role in providing all this information to the plaintiff. This is of concern because Tom Bradley is, or was until recently, a senior member of the CSIS secretariat.

On the CSIS organizational chart the secretariat answers directly to the director of CSIS and among their duties was liaison between CSIS and the solicitor general's office.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. This is a question of privilege. It does affect all of us. I invite members, if they have other meetings, to please carry them on in the lobby. I am sure that I as well as many others want to hear what the member is saying.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Reform

Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the CSIS Act clearly limits what information CSIS can collect, generally restricting it to information that may on reasonable grounds be suspected of constituting threats to the security of Canada. I would suggest that the CSIS collection of all this information was improper.

As limiting as the laws are restricting the ability of CSIS to collect information, they are equally restrictive with regard to the ability of the service to disclose any information collected. Section 19 of the CSIS Act severely restricts the information it may disclose and nowhere in this section does it permit the disclosure of information to a private individual to assist his lawsuit against a member of parliament.

In addition to the CSIS Act, section 3.(7) of the human resources policy manual states that employees must not support or oppose any person, organization or product by using information obtained through their employment by the service except when authorized by the director. It is quite clear that the disclosure of this information to the plaintiff was in violation of the service's own policy.

Unfortunately CSIS was not satisfied with the role in assisting with the preparation of the lawsuit against me. They proceeded to directly involve themselves in the case in what can best be described by the following: In July 1998 Madam Justice MacLeod of the Ontario court ordered that the plaintiff must answer 38 questions that he had refused to answer at discovery.

Immediately following the court's granting of the aforementioned order, counsel for CSIS filed a certificate of objection signed by Jim Corcoran, CSIS deputy director of operations, with Madam Justice MacLeod pursuant to sections 37 and 38 of the Canada Evidence Act. In that certificate Mr. Corcoran claimed that disclosure of the information requested in 32 of the 38 questions which were ordered to be answered would be “injurious to the national security of Canada”. The remaining six questions were considered personal.

In July, I was forced to challenge the validity of that certificate through a notice of application filed in the federal court.

In August, Mr. Justice Teitelbaum of the Federal Court of Canada issued an order which, among other things, instructed that cross-examination of the affidavit should occur prior to October 5, 1998. CSIS filed the affidavit by Barry Denofsky, director general of analysis and production, on September 11. However, in direct contravention of the order of Mr. Justice Teitelbaum, they refused to make Denofsky available for cross-examination.

On October 5, Mr. Justice Teitelbaum ruled that CSIS must make Denofsky available for cross-examination and costs were awarded against CSIS. Mr. Denofsky appeared for cross-examination. However he refused to answer almost all questions of substance, 51 in total.

My lawyer filed a notice of motion requiring CSIS to produce Mr. Denofsky for further cross-examination, requiring him to answer the questions he had previously refused. The day before the federal court hearing on January 14, almost 11 weeks after Mr. Denofsky's cross-examination, CSIS provided responses to 39 of the 51 questions they previously had refused to answer.

On January 15, 1999, the hearing before Mr. Teitelbaum took place and Mr. Justice Teitelbaum ruled on March 5. He ordered CSIS to answer an additional three questions, which meant out of the original 51 questions that CSIS had refused to answer only nine of them, less than 20%, were deemed to be valid objections. Once again costs were awarded against CSIS.

It is clear from the behaviour of CSIS that its main objective was to drag out the proceedings and deny me the opportunity of having this case heard in court. However the delaying tactics of CSIS were only part of the process. The content of its responses was even more troubling, which I have included in the documentation.

In answering a question about the information the service passed to the plaintiff they neglected to mention the 107 press releases. CSIS also stated that it had passed the video tapes to the plaintiff in response to a request from him. However, as I have mentioned before, the plaintiff in discovery said that they were provided to him without his asking.

In addition it mentioned that only one CSIS policy document was passed to the plaintiff. Yet the very affidavit that this discovery was about lists five different CSIS policy documents. In other words, of the three points that CSIS made in this answer all three of them were incorrect.

I cannot imagine, after making inquiries, that any member of a professional intelligence agency would be so incompetent that they could possibly inadvertently overlook all of this information, including the very affidavit that was being reviewed.

The last piece of evidence that I will mention concerns the very certificate of objection that CSIS filed. When CSIS filed the certificate on July 7, 1998, the deputy director of operations, Jim Corcoran, certified that he had carefully reviewed and considered all the questions set out in that statement. He then certified that “the information sought by this motion, either by confirmation or denial of the said information, would be contrary to the public interest as it would be injurious to the national security of Canada”.

One such question was where the plaintiff refused to state during discovery whether or not it was normal that a full scale security investigation be done for people getting their security clearance renewed. Despite the claim of CSIS that the answer to this question would be injurious to the national security of Canada, I have obtained the answer to this question from the Treasury Board's public website, listed under personal security standards.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I believe that I have provided you with sufficient evidence to find that there is a prima facie case of contempt against the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. As an opposition critic who has previously been critical of CSIS, its role in this case has effectively prevented me from raising concerns about it for three and a half years.

In addition, CSIS has sent me and all members of the House a clear message that it is keeping track of us, watching what we do and listening to everything we say, and that it is prepared to pounce if it objects to the way in which we conduct ourselves. It has also shown that it is prepared to misuse the extraordinary authority that parliament has given to it to put us in an unwinnable situation.

The premier of Quebec launched an inquiry when officials in his government improperly released information about a federal member of parliament. While not raised in a question of privilege it was considered wrong and an inquiry was ordered. The National Assembly of Quebec chose to take action against this activity, and this parliament should do the same in the case concerning CSIS.

In my case CSIS conducted certain activities and utilized significant resources against me. The evidence shows that CSIS certainly took a role in orchestrating the lawsuit against me. As I have shown, CSIS improperly collected information and then subsequently disclosed that information to a third party in clear violation of CSIS policy.

I have shown that CSIS abandoned the traditional non-partisan role of the public service by taking an active role in the preparation of a lawsuit against an opposition member of parliament, including having its legal counsel provide the plaintiff and the plaintiff's lawyer with advice.

Finally, I have shown that CSIS has misused its extraordinary authority to protect national security, that it was twice sanctioned by the federal court for misconduct, and that it deliberately misled the court to frustrate my ability to resolve the lawsuit.

One of the basic tenets of democracy is that opposition politicians have the ability to oppose the government without fear of intimidation. I suggest that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service has tried to introduce intimidation into Canadian politics.

I believe it is vital that this form of intimidation is stopped immediately. Opposition critics need to know that they can fulfil their function of criticizing a government department without fear that the department will retaliate by orchestrating a lawsuit against them.

I therefore encourage you, Mr. Speaker, to make a precedent in this case by finding the behaviour of CSIS in this case in contempt of the House. I will provide the document I have here to support this claim. If you find that there is a prima facie case of privilege, I will move that this issue be sent to the appropriate committee for consideration.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for entertaining what I think is a very important question of privilege. The detail has been gone into at some length here. I invite you to examine that record and the more detailed information that the hon. member will provide to you.

What I think it comes down to is this, and it is a very important thing. There are a couple of important things to remember about this question of privilege. First, as has already been detailed by the hon. member, the question of contempt is an open-ended one. It may not be with precedence, and I do not think you will find precedence for this, Mr. Speaker. Certainly I was not able to find precedence in a question of privilege, but contempt of parliament is an open-ended subject and in this particular case I hope you will find a prima facie case for contempt and will refer it to committee.

The second thing I want to mention, which the member did not bring up but which is important for all members to remember, is that if a member of parliament is sued by anyone else in Canada and the person who does the suing receives substantial support from a government department, there is no way that a member of parliament, with few exceptions, has deep enough pockets to fund an adequate defence against an entire government agency.

I can think of another very troubling case that was settled some time ago involving former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney over the airbus incident. I do not want to cast any idea of who is right or wrong, but what was interesting was that the government eventually had to settle for over $2 million to pay for the legal bills that Mr. Mulroney, because he is a wealthy man, was able to put forward in his own defence.

How many members of parliament could have ever done that? If he had been an ordinary member of parliament without those kind of deep pockets, I think Mr. Mulroney would be hanging on the ropes today instead of free and clear of that issue because he was able to fund that defence.

That is why I think it is important that a government agency versus an ordinary member of parliament is an unequal fight and a contempt of parliament and we should see it that way.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Reform

Jim Abbott Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, as the solicitor general critic for the official opposition, I draw to your attention a meeting of our standing committee on May 25 with Director Alcock of CSIS.

Mr. Speaker, if you have an opportunity to review the committee report of that session, you will find that the director exhibited the kind of culture and characteristics that have been spoken about by my colleague. As my colleague has pointed out, it is very important that parliamentarians are free from any sense of intimidation, in particular in the case of the meeting on May 25. It was so troubling to all members of parliament, government members and all opposition members, that we subsequently held a second meeting to find out what our remedies would be in trying to get instruction to a very reluctant witness. In this particular case it was Director Alcock who just basically refused to respect the questions from the people in the Chamber.

I draw that to your attention, Mr. Speaker, because I think it adds something to the picture that we are looking at here.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have listened with attention to the initial presentation made by the hon. member and the subsequent statements that were made.

First, I do not believe that Mr. Speaker should be influenced between a criminal case against a civilian and a civil case against a member of parliament. The two comparisons that were made have, quite frankly, nothing to do one with the other and the references to them are immaterial. I do not know what they do to the seriousness of this issue.

I am prepared to acknowledge that the accusations themselves are obviously quite serious. It has been alleged that CSIS offered assistance to a former employee in a civil case involving a member of parliament. It is alleged that this action then constitutes a question of privilege or possibly contempt or both.

If I understood what the hon. member requested, it is that this case should be brought to the attention of a parliamentary committee for review.

Given the seriousness of these accusations, I want to remove the other materials stated by other members of parliament. I do not think some of them had anything to do with this issue.

I would ask Mr. Speaker for a stay on the ruling he intends to give, whether this constitutes a prima facie case of privilege. I would ask that I be given a little time, and possibly other members might want to contribute toward what has been alleged today. In a few short hours we will have a Hansard or at least a fast version of Hansard giving us the details of what the hon. member has said. If I understand correctly, she has offered to table some documents with Mr. Speaker. If some of us could perhaps have those documents made available to us we could further contribute before Mr. Speaker makes his initial determination as to whether this constitutes a prima facie case of privilege.

To repeat what I said earlier, I would ask for a stay in the Speaker's ruling on this matter, given the issue in question and the considerable amount of information made available to us by the member of parliament in question, to permit us to at least examine the material, then contribute and perhaps Mr. Speaker will consider ruling only at that time.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

Reform

Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to table this information.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

These allegations are indeed serious if the allegations are true and if I decide that we will go ahead with a prima facie case. I want it understood that it is not just for opposition members for whom we are talking. We are talking about the rights of Canadian parliamentarians specifically. I of course invite the hon. member to submit to me any and all documents.

I also invite the member for Kootenay—Columbia, seeing as he quoted or said that it was in a committee report—either he could do that or I could direct my clerks—to make the information from that meeting and a subsequent meeting that he mentioned available to me before I make my decision.

Seeing that there are no more interventions at this time, I intend to review everything that has been said and everything that has been written about this particular point and I am going to give this latitude. It may be a point of privilege and it may be contempt. I am going to look at it in both venues. I am not going to stand here on splitting a hair. It may be privilege or it may be contempt. I will decide that after I have it all laid out in front of me.

The hon. government House leader has asked that I stay my decision. I have said that I would do that. I would entertain information if it pertains directly to what was said by the hon. member here in the House or what is in the documents which she is going to provide to me. Any other statements will not be heard by me. They must be specifically to those points.

I will take this information under consideration now and I will get back to the House with a decision on this case.

The House resumed consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

October 14th, 1999 / 3:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

At the time that the debate was interrupted the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra had five minutes remaining for questions and comments. There were two minutes left in the presentation and then five minutes questions and comments. Would the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra like to proceed directly to questions and comments or take the two minutes to sum up?