House of Commons Hansard #111 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was report.

Topics

Fisheries
Oral Questions

June 12th, 2008 / 3 p.m.

St. John's South—Mount Pearl
Newfoundland & Labrador

Conservative

Loyola Hearn Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, let me first say that information is completely false. Nobody has done more for the people of Nunavut, certainly in relation to the fishery, than this government. We are the only ones who recognize that every extra pound of haddock, of quota, that was added since we became a government has gone to Nunavut.

We have put out money to build infrastructure there so Nunavut can use its own resources and not have them used by somebody else. I will give Nunavut every fish it deserves, but I will not take away fish from somebody else to give them to Nunavut or anybody else.

International Trade
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, last Wednesday, Canada and France signed a joint action plan to enhance commercial relations. As we know, France is an important partner for Canada, not only because of our cultural and linguistic ties, but also because it is one of our largest trade partners. Last year, two-way merchandise trade between Canada and France achieved a record level of $8.2 billion.

Could the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities tell us how this action plan will benefit Canada?

International Trade
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, this is yet another example of the success of our government's robust trade program, which saw us sign a free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association at the beginning of the year, thus opening the doors for us to the European Union.

The benefits include many joint ventures, such as strengthening cooperation in various fields, including science and technology, and developing small- and medium-sized businesses.

We have taken an important step that will make it possible to further liberalize and open up trade and investments abroad, particularly in France.

International Trade
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

That will draw to a conclusion today's question period.

The hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville is rising on a point of order.

Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Wajid Khan Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was disappointed to read several stories yesterday about the Khadr report that the foreign affairs committee has under consideration. Since the newspaper quoted directly from the draft report, I can come to no other conclusion except that this report was leaked to the press by a member of the either the foreign affairs committee or the subcommittee.

Steven Edwards of the Ottawa Citizen wrote, and I will read only one line, “In a report marked confidential because it has yet to be officially released...”.

In the Toronto Star, Tonda MacCharles lists the recommendations that the report includes.

This is a serious beach of the confidentiality of the committee. The subcommittee and the main committee have to be able to meet in confidentiality to debate what recommendations the committee wishes to make. If one member feels he or she has the right to break that confidentiality and leak what happens during in camera sessions, or the draft report that the committee looks at, then both the credibility of the committee and the significance of the report are attacked.

If members of the committee cannot keep a draft report secret until it is tabled, do we think any foreign diplomats who meet with us from time to time in camera would be able to trust that their comments would stay off the record? If the committee cannot be trusted to keep in camera confidentiality, when we ask for in camera briefings on matters such as the war in Afghanistan and other sensitive military or diplomatic issues, would the government be willing to cooperate? I think not.

In case members have forgotten or are simply ignorant of the rules, let me read from page 838 of Marleau and Montpetit:

At in camera meetings, neither the public nor the media is permitted, and there is no broadcasting of any kind...Minutes of in camera meetings are publicly available, but certain information usually found in the minutes of committee meetings is not included... Divulging any part of the proceedings of an in camera committee meeting has been ruled by the Speaker to constitute a prima facie matter of privilege.

Page 884 of Marleau and Montpetit states in reference to committee reports:

Committee reports must be presented to the House before they can be released to the public. The majority of committee reports are discussed and adopted at in camera meetings. Even when a report is adopted in public session, the report itself is considered confidential until it has actually been presented in the House. In addition, where a committee report has been considered and approved during in camera committee meetings, any disclosure of the contents of a report prior to presentation, either by Members or non-Members, may be judged a breach of privilege. Speakers have ruled that questions of privilege concerning leaked reports will not be considered unless a specific charge is made against an individual, organization or group, and that the charge must be levelled not only against those outside the House who have made in camera material public, but must also identify the source of the leak within the House itself.

Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The Chair has received notice of a question of privilege on the same point from the hon. member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek. I will hear from him now since his was a question of privilege. I assumed the hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville was rising on a point of order arising out of question period.

Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the privilege I feel was lost by the report being leaked in the manner that it has.

Yesterday in this place we saw the House rise to a special occasion. With the apologies to the first nations, we saw the very best that this place can be. At the same time, when I came to the House knowing that the report had been leaked, it troubled me deeply as I stood here. As I listened to the wonderful speeches, I was still troubled.

Canadians want the House to be what it was yesterday.

We can be so much more. We can do so much more. The leader of the NDP, the member for Toronto—Danforth, worked with the Prime Minister for over a year on that residential schools apology. That is what we can do when we are at our best. Canadians expect more than the 30 second clip that somebody might get by leaking this report.

I have very troubled emotions. In our committee, I was the person who moved the motion to study Khadr and I was proud of the work the committee did. We worked hard together.

As for that leaked report, I would suggest that perhaps all members of that committee had the opportunity, because I myself was asked by various media folks if I would give them a tidbit. I chose not to do that. I chose to stick to the principles, the rules and the order of the House.

It is not appropriate, as we have heard, for anybody to speak on an in camera report before it is tabled in the House.

There is more to this, with the future of this young man, Omar Khadr, hanging perhaps to a great extent on the outcome of that report. A former child combatant is facing the wrath of the Pentagon and probably George Bush himself, for all we know.

It is tempting for anybody on the committee to try to do whatever they can to raise the issue, but violating the rules of this place and giving over to the urge to do that is incorrect.

Now we have on the public record the recommendations of the subcommittee, the recommendations on how to deal with Omar Khadr's future and the recommendations to end this affront to Canadians' very fundamental sense of what is just.

However, equally as important as the success within the committee is the failure in the process that has happened here, the disgrace that has happened here.

Our committee heard over a dozen witnesses, including David Crane, a prosecutor in Sierra Leone, who said to bring Omar Khadr home. Senator Roméo Dallaire, who was outraged by Guantanamo, said to bring Omar Khadr home. Craig Forcese, a professor of Canadian law, said we could deal with Omar Khadr within the Canadian system.

All of this material is on the public record from our committee. Witness after witness said to bring Omar Khadr home.

I always look to the good in people. When we work within our committees, I do that, and most often I find it. However, I do believe that whoever leaked the report did so to keep this story in the media. I believe the person did so probably to bring Omar Khadr home, and as much as I would like to see Omar Khadr home and I call for it every day that I can in this place, it is still wrong to violate the committees and the rules of this place.

Ultimately, the success of the in camera meetings depends upon their privacy. Their confidentiality must be respected by all involved. Without that respect, the work of all committees would be seriously imperilled, to the detriment of the House and all members.

This breach appears to be a contempt against the dignity of Parliament. I feel that it must be brought forward and investigated in a just and timely manner.

Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, the question before you is extremely serious and deserves a thorough examination. It may seem as though there has been a breach of the rules and the Standing Orders. However, Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that this is the second time material from this subcommittee has been leaked to the media.

I would like to raise another point for your consideration. You know that such questions are usually referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for more thorough investigation. I have sat on that committee since 2000, but we are now in a situation where the government will not come up with a chair so that the committee can have a full complement again.

How can we deal with this question if the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs does not have a chair? The committee has been virtually shut down. In your ruling, we would like you to consider how this serious question can be investigated further.

Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the House is serious about wanting to protect the security of documents, may I suggest that they not be sent by email to 15 or 20 people. The most dangerous button that we all have in our possession is the send button. If we follow the logic of the member who raised this question and both my colleagues who have spoken to this, then there are some very simple ways of providing security: number the documents; hand documents out at a meeting and take them back when the meeting is over; restrict access to documents; do not let staff see documents. There is a whole variety of ways to keep these documents off the email chain and that will dramatically increase the security of those documents.

Yes, of course, there is a privilege. I fully agree with the hon. member that the documents should not have been leaked. I deplore the leak. It is not a great thing for the House when it happens. However, I do say that if the House is serious about protecting the security of these documents, it needs to take some measures internally to deal with that question. Otherwise these documents are in the ether; they are on the Internet. They are in the air, and as soon as they are there, it only takes one person in a chain of 20 or 30 to send that document to any number of people on the outside. The House should take account of the world in which we are living if we are serious about wanting to protect the security of these documents.

Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am the chair of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights and the points raised by the last two speakers need to be addressed.

Let me address the point raised by the member for Toronto Centre. I would point out that this document, as it was dealt with in our subcommittee or at the point it left the subcommittee, was not in electronic form. It was always dealt with in paper form by the members. It could not have gotten out at that point.

Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

I got it.

Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I hear the member asking a further question about how it could have gotten out and the answer is it went on to the main committee.

I notice with regard to the reports that are cited, one of them is from Tonda MacCharles of the Toronto Star. At the time of our final meeting at which this matter was dealt with before it went on to the main committee, Tonda MacCharles approached me in a way which made it clear that she did not yet have the copy. She was eager to find a copy and seemed to be of the belief that there was a likelihood it would be leaked. Similarly, I was contacted by Susan Ormiston of CBC who asked me if it were leaked, would I be willing to comment on it. There was an expectation of a leak, but I can say that at the point it left the subcommittee, it had not been leaked. By the way, I do not fault either of these two journalists for looking for leaked documents. That is their job and it is never a good idea to criticize people who buy ink by the hundredweight.

However, I do want to say that it was at the point that it had left subcommittee. That does not mean a subcommittee member may not have leaked it. It also could have been a member of the main committee. I raise that in order to respond to the Bloc Québécois whip's comment about leaks having occurred from the subcommittee on two occasions. In fact, on this occasion there is a very high probability the leak occurred as a result of something that occurred at the main committee.

If I might suggest, Mr. Speaker, it has been done in the past that members of a committee where a leak has occurred have been asked essentially to swear an oath in committee that they were not the ones who made the leak. That might be appropriate in this case in order to establish where the leak occurred.

At the very least, it is important to defend the honour of the subcommittee process itself, which I note has been very consensual and free from much of the partisan wrangling that has entangled so many of our other committees, including the procedure and House affairs committee where, if I may say so, it was the actions of the Bloc Québécois whip himself that resulted in the very unjustified vote of non-confidence in the chair of that committee. If the member wants to lay blame for the fact the procedure and House affairs is not sitting, he need look no further than in the mirror.

Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I think I have heard enough on this point because, in my view, it is quite easily disposed of from the House at this stage.

I would like to thank the hon. members who made submissions on this point.

However, the issue here is a report from this committee, not a report that is before the House. We are talking about a report from this committee.

In my view, if there is a question of privilege here, it is one that has to be dealt with first in the committee whose subcommittee's report got leaked. The normal practice in these matters is to raise the matter in the committee. If there has been a breach of the privileges of the committee, or if some member has breached the privileges of the committee, the committee will do a report to the House. Then we can have a motion for concurrence in the report here in the House and a ruling from the Speaker can be sought as to whether the matter constitutes a question of privilege in the House when the report from the committee arrives.

In the meantime, we have not heard from the committee. The committee may not regard this as a breach of its privileges. Until the committee reports on that, since it was a subcommittee, I do not feel it is a matter for the Speaker to adjudicate upon, especially when the Speaker has not seen the report and cannot tell whether there has been a leak or whether this is something somebody has made up.

In the circumstances, I would suggest the hon. members who have this complaint raise the matter in the committee. If the committee finds there is a breach of privilege, we will hear about it in the House when the committee reports back. Until that time, I do not feel that it is a matter for a decision from the Chair. Accordingly, I feel there is no point of order or question of privilege arising out of the alleged, and I say “alleged” deliberately here, leak from the subcommittee.

Accordingly, we will move on to orders of the day.

Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. As a result of the votes we had this morning and then following them the concurrence motion, we were not able to return to routine proceedings.

There have been consultations among all parties and I would hope if you sought it, you would find unanimous consent to revert to routine proceedings to provide the government's answers to order paper Questions No. 259 and 260.

Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is there unanimous consent?