House of Commons Hansard #118 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was standing.

Topics

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, a local Canadian Sikh was forced by passport officials to remove his turban in order to speed up his application and arrive in India in time for his mother's funeral. In another case, a lady was forced to remove her dupatta for passport pictures.

Sikhs' turbans are religious articles of faith. Canadian Sikhs have been battling prejudice and discrimination for years. Will the Liberal government and the foreign affairs minister give clear instructions to the passport department so that Canadian Sikhs will not face humiliation during future visits to the passport office?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford
Ontario

Liberal

Aileen Carroll Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, in no way was this a matter of discrimination, nor are there any matters that relate to the issue that has been brought forward that stem from discrimination. It is a longstanding policy on the part of the department that when a person has a passport picture taken nothing must be worn to obscure the accuracy of that photo. In the event where headgear or something is integral to religious belief, it is asked that proof of that person's religious affiliation be brought to the department. In this case it was not, and therefore that exception was not applied.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, farmers are exasperated by the federal government's inability to defend their interests. Tomorrow, in Saint-Hyacinthe, farmers will be meeting with the Liberal Party leadership candidates to remind them that they are still waiting for support measures for the cattle industry, which has been hard hit by the U.S. embargo.

While the crisis continues and the investigation is at a standstill, can the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food assure us that he will not use this crisis to shove his policy framework down the throats of Quebec farmers?

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

Portneuf
Québec

Liberal

Claude Duplain Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, I have been saying this for a long time. The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food would never want to use this case to get the policy framework signed.

I would like to thank the hon. member for his question because I would like to reiterate what the Minister of Transport said earlier. Currently, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food is in discussion with his provincial counterparts in Vancouver in order to address the whole cattle crisis.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte
Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Minister of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency)

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of personal privilege.

Today in question period there were several statements that were made in questions that were asked that had no relation to my role and administrative duties as the minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. In fact there were several statements made in question period today by the members opposite from the Canadian Alliance, that were absolutely incorrect and for which I would seek redress.

The fact of the matter is that every member of the House is also part of a political process, a political party, and has riding associations and riding offices that basically deal with the political process. Quite frankly, what has been said here on the floor of the House of Commons today is that these activities were done while I was Minister of State responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. That is categorically not true. In fact, we all have a role to play in this, but unfortunately the role that the Canadian Alliance is playing right now is just simply to try to malign my character with absolutely incorrect information. It is completely out of order.

I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to hear my point of personal privilege. The facts of the matter are that these funds were raised through the riding association. They had the full support of the riding association. That has been stated publicly and these are completely outside of my jurisdiction, my role as a Minister of State. In fact, every action that I have taken as a cabinet minister is completely consistent with the rules and the guidelines. I followed every rule and every guideline that was required of me as a member of Parliament and as a Minister of State.

Quite frankly, we know that members opposite do not practise what they preach. We also know that they do not disclose information, that they do not publish their riding associations' accounts on their websites. This is a matter that is basically done internally in their riding associations. That is the way it is done with the 1,200 riding associations or more throughout the entire country. To make these scurrilous accusations of one member of Parliament, they should look at themselves before they start making such comments.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

12:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, on the alleged point of privilege raised by the minister, I heard him make no specific denials. I heard him make several general accusations against members of Parliament, unnamed or unknown.

A factor to be borne in mind here is that it has been during his conduct as Minister of State that he has issued statements about this affair that were contradictory in several matters. I understand the point that he is trying to make, that these transgressions occurred before he was a minister of the Crown. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has made the same kind of attempt to avoid responsibility for his actions. Whatever he did as a private member, it is clear that as a minister he has been engaged in his role as minister in issuing contradictory statements that made it more difficult for the House of Commons to come to a clearer knowledge of the facts in question. That, sir, is a ministerial breach in which the House has a very--

Privilege
Oral Question Period

12:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Order. I will hear very briefly from the hon. member for Fraser Valley on this point.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, very briefly, certainly the member has raised some issues of serious concern. He feels his privileges have been compromised. I would agree it is serious. If he feels that way, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion to refer this matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, and the committee will deal with it properly there.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

12:10 p.m.

The Speaker

I think we have had enough discussion on this. It is obviously a matter of grievance. The Chair was concerned and expressed its concern once during question period about the preambles to the hon. members' questions. The questions in most cases were in order at the end, but the preambles contained various allegations that were irrelevant to the question that was asked, and certainly would be understandably offensive to the hon. Minister of State who has stood up and expressed his objections to that. I am sure hon. members will have noted his objections, if they could hear them over the yelling that was going on.

In the circumstances, we will leave the matter there and move on.

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

12:10 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there have been further consultations among House leaders and I believe you would unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, if at any time that the House stands adjourned during June, July, August and September, 2003, the Standing Committee on Health has ready a report, when that report is deposited with the Clerk of the House, it shall be deemed to have been duly presented to the House.

As I said, we have consulted with all parties and I understand that there is some work that will take several days before the report is ready and the committee feels that it should be made available to Canadians at that time.

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

12:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Privilege
Oral Question Period

June 13th, 2003 / 12:10 p.m.

The Speaker

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on May 27, 2003 by the hon. member for Calgary—Nose Hill concerning statements made by the hon. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

The hon. member charged that the minister had deliberately misled the House and the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. I would like to thank the hon. member for Calgary--Nose Hill for having raised the matter, as well as the hon. Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the hon. members for St. John's West, Laval Centre and West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, as well as the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader, for their remarks on this point.

The hon. member for Calgary--Nose Hill in bringing this issue to the attention of the House, alleged that the hon. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration had deliberately misled the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in testimony that he gave before the committee. In support of her allegation, the hon. member cited findings included in a court ruling which was later upheld by the Federal Court of Appeal.

In addition, the hon. member for Calgary--Nose Hill maintained that on three occasions the hon. minister had an opportunity in the House to correct the erroneous statements he had made before the committee and each time failed to do so. I refer hon. members to Debates , February 24, 2003, page 3909; February 25, 2003, pages 3984-85; and February 26, 2003, pages 4040-41.

The government House leader has indicated that he regarded this as no more than a difference of opinion. He indicated that if the hon. member for Calgary—Nose Hill was unsatisfied with the answers that the minister had provided, she had the opportunity to seek clarification by raising the issue during the debate on the adjournment proceedings, our late show.

The hon. members for St. John's West, Laval Centre and West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast in their interventions were all in agreement that the proper course of action when a misleading statement has been made is for the member responsible to acknowledge the error and retract the statement.

Finally, the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader asserted that neither the hon. minister nor departmental officials had ever misled the committee. He claimed that the information provided by them had been the most reliable that was available at the time.

A charge of deliberately misleading the House or one of its committees is a very serious matter and as Speaker, I always regard questions of this type as having great importance. They reflect not only on the members concerned but on the House itself. I know that members on both sides of the House appreciate the gravity of such a charge. House of Commons Procedure and Practice , p. 87, points out that deliberately misleading members impedes them in the performance of their parliamentary duties and consequently obstructs the House itself.

In raising her question of privilege, the hon. member for Calgary--Nose Hill did not identify any particular statements of the hon. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration as deliberately misleading. Instead, she made reference to a decision of Mr. Justice Kelen rendered on February 21, 2003, in which the finding is made that information given to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration was misleading. I should point out that the court did not conclude that the statement was made deliberately to mislead or that there was any conscious attempt to obstruct either the committee or the House.

As I noted, the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader, in his remarks, indicated that the minister and his officials provided the committee with the best information available to them at the time. To date, no report concerning the testimony of the minister or his officials has been presented by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. It would be inappropriate for me to comment on the committee's proceedings in the absence of such a report.

With respect to the minister’s statements in the House, the emphasis seems to be more on what was not said than on the contents of the remarks themselves.

Our practice requires that, when charges are made against members, the evidence on which those charges are made must be presented in the House. It is the House itself, and not the courts or other outside bodies, which is ultimately responsible for upholding its privileges and judging charges of contempt against its members. In the case before us, the hon. member for Calgary—Nose Hill has not laid out explicitly the basis for her charge. Even the court decisions to which she has referred, while they speak of misleading remarks, do not contend that there was an intent to mislead.

No information has been provided to the Chair concerning whether or not new or more accurate information became available to the minister at a later date. In any event, while such information might have a bearing on the accuracy of earlier statements, I believe it would not, by itself, be conclusive regarding an intent to mislead the standing committee. Similarly, statements made, or not made, by the minister during question period are open to various interpretations different than the interpretation given by the hon. member for Calgary--Nose Hill.

Given the differing views of the nature of the remarks made by the minister and his officials, it is difficult for the Chair to regard the matter as anything other than debate.

I am unable to find a basis on which the charge of a prima facie breach of privilege could be regarded as having been established in this case.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Oral Question Period

12:20 p.m.

The Speaker

It is my duty pursuant to section 23(1) of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act to lay upon the table the report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission for Manitoba with an addendum dated June 2, 2003, which disposes of the objections raised by members of the House of Commons, and the report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission for New Brunswick, with an addendum dated May 23, 2003, which disposes of the objections raised by members of the House of Commons.

Government On-Line: 2003
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Niagara Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Tirabassi Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, in order to inform parliamentarians and Canadians about the significant progress that has been made on the government online initiative, on behalf of the President of the Treasury Board, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the second government-wide GOL report, entitled “Government On-Line: 2003”.