House of Commons Hansard #123 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was report.

Topics

Motion No. 11
Ways and Means
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

All those opposed will please say nay.

Motion No. 11
Ways and Means
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Motion No. 11
Ways and Means
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #144

Ways and Means
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

Order. The hon. member is rising on a question of privilege.

Release of Documents
Privilege
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege. We have already heard a number of points of order and questions of privilege in recent weeks relating to the government's release or, rather, refusal to release documents.

In yesterday's case, the point of order related to the government's release of its fourth fiscal update to journalists on a plane somewhere over Siberia. This document should have been tabled in Parliament. To add insult to injury, the finance minister then re-released the document in Winnipeg.

The case that I want to raise today is the leaking to journalists of documents requested by parliamentarians, in this case a journalist from the Globe and Mail.

We are all familiar in this House with the case of the Military Police Complaints Commission investigation into detainee abuse in Afghanistan. We are also familiar with the study by the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan into the same matter.

For a number of weeks, that committee and individual members have been attempting to obtain documents. It is important to note that both the committee and individual members of Parliament who do not sit on the committee have made these requests. The requests have been both informal and formal, expressed through motions, written requests, emails, access to information requests, verbal requests, and in fact every which way parliamentarians could think of to obtain the documents.

These documents were not just necessary for the committee's work; they were of direct concern to Parliament and to parliamentarians like me who do not sit on the Afghanistan committee. They were relevant to my work as defence critic and relevant to me as a parliamentarian.

To my surprise and absolute dismay, on reading the Globe and Mail on Sunday, November 25 and on Monday, November 26, I discovered that some of the documents that had been requested by parliamentarians had in fact been leaked to a journalist at that paper. The documents were the subject of two articles on those days.

First, the fact that the documents have been leaked, I believe, is itself a breach of privilege. Mr. Speaker, both you and other speakers have ruled in the past that the leaking of documents requested by Parliament, or the leaking of bills before Parliament has seen them, constitutes a breach of privilege.

I refer to the ruling on March 15, 2001, where the leaking of Bill C-15 to the media did indeed constitute a breach of privilege. There was a similar ruling on October 15, 2001. I would like to read a quote from the member for the then riding of Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, who is now the member for Central Nova and the Minister of National Defence. Interestingly enough, he said at that time:

I share the indignation of the government House leader that this has once again burdened the House with this ongoing saga of information being released in advance of members of the House being given the opportunity of due respect that they deserve....

I think the House leader for the official opposition stated that there is a great deal of irony in the fact that this information deals with secrecy and security, yet the government is still unable with all of its resources and powers of persuasion to prevent this from happening.

Finally, we hope that there will be a strong admonition from the Chair itself expressing the concern and the outrage that the House and the Chamber has for this type of leak because there is a pattern. This is not the first time. We have seen time and time again information being sent out to journalists in advance of this place. Surely the lust of journalists to have this type of juicy information should not outweigh the necessity and indeed the respect that should be held for the Chamber to in the first instance have an opportunity to see, digest and debate this type of legislation.

I think he said the words quite well. This was on the leaking of information to journalists prior to presenting it to parliamentarians. I find this quote particularly interesting and ironic, because it is his department which seems to have now leaked the documents in question to the Globe and Mail.

I would like to refer you, Mr. Speaker, to your ruling on March 19, 2001, when you said:

To deny to members information concerning business that is about to come before the House, while at the same time providing such information to media that will likely be questioning members about that business, is a situation that the Chair cannot condone.

In this case now before you, Mr. Speaker, the subject of documents that were leaked was about to come before the House in the form of an opposition day motion in the House from my party. The motion concerned the need for a public inquiry into the Afghan detainee scandal. The documents in question were relevant and necessary to this debate and they were denied to parliamentarians by the government.

I also refer to your rulings on March 24, 2004, and October 6, 2005, Mr. Speaker, where you found that leaks to the media constituted a breach of privilege. In the first case, the leaks concerned the recording and reporting of private deliberations of a Liberal Ontario caucus meeting. While at first glance this may not seem to relate directly to my case of privilege, I believe a link can be found.

The documents that form the heart of my case were supposedly secret. In fact, they were so secret that they would not be released to parliamentarians. Yet, for some reason, they were not secret enough to prevent the government from leaking them to a friendly journalist.

My main argument on this question of privilege relates to how the leaking of these documents had impugned my reputation and prevented me from doing my job. What lies at the heart of a question of privilege is the issue of preventing parliamentarians from doing their jobs. You have ruled in the past, Mr. Speaker, that the broadcast of incorrect, incomplete or misleading information could impugn a member's reputation, deliver misleading facts to their constituents and therefore prevent them from doing their job. Recently, you ruled twice that ten percenters containing incorrect information that were sent to the constituents of members were breaches of privilege because they delivered misleading messages to those constituents of members.

For a number of weeks, I have been telling my constituents and the constituents of other members that the memos written by Mr. Colvin and other documents related to detainee abuse must be delivered. I have been calling for a public inquiry on the issue. I have stated that the government has been covering up information and hiding details from Canadians. I have told this to my constituents through the media, through my own letters and mailings and by telephone.

When the government leaked some documents to the media and the Globe and Mail, I want to be clear that it leaked selected documents that were heavily redacted or censored. It leaked parts of the information that painted a case against Mr. Colvin and against parliamentarians like myself who would question the government's truth on the issue. These documents were carefully selected.

I am almost finished, Mr. Speaker.

Release of Documents
Privilege
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

It is not a matter of finishing. I need to understand what it is the member is saying constituted a breach of privilege in this case. I am waiting to hear about the document. Was it something that was required to be tabled in the House before or not? If it was not, I do not know how documents being released, leaked or published elsewhere is a breach of the member's privileges. That is what I want to hear.

Release of Documents
Privilege
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, these documents were to be presented to a committee of the House and therefore become available to parliamentarians. The fact that they were to be tabled to a committee as opposed to the House does not stop them from being kept from parliamentarians. Once they are released to the committee, they are released to all parliamentarians. That is the point.

Release of Documents
Privilege
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I would suggest the hon. member raise the matter in the committee. To my knowledge, the House has not passed any motion or resolution requiring these documents to be tabled here. If the committee has, and I have no idea, and they were leaked and not tabled in the committee, that is an argument to be made in the committee.

As I indicated in a case the other day concerning questions of privilege arising in committee, those matters should then be transferred from the committee to the House. We could make a ruling and have a debate on it as we did last Friday, and the hon. member will recall that. I would invite him to take the matter up with the committee and perhaps we could proceed from there.

We have another question of privilege from the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North.

Content of Ten Percenters
Privilege
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to raise a question of privilege in the House today.

As has been sadly the habit of members from the Conservative Party recently, the member for Brandon—Souris sent a mailing to my constituents. Now my constituents get mailings from the Conservatives and Liberals all the time, so that is not the issue as long as they are somewhat based on fact or at least opinion.

The thing that set this mailing apart from the other propaganda the Conservatives have sent to Thunder Bay—Superior North was this mailing contained an outrageous falsehood purposely meant to mislead my constituents about my personal record as their member of Parliament.

Content of Ten Percenters
Privilege
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order, please. I am afraid it is now two o'clock, so we will have to hear from the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North later.

At the moment, we will proceed with statements by members.

Consumer Product Safety
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party of Canada has hit a new low. Under the direction of the Liberal leader, Liberal senators gutted our consumer product legislation. Now health and welfare has been callously stripped off all Canadians by the Liberals.

Instead of trying to prevent problems from happening, the changes made by the Liberals mean Canadians will have to endure serious injuries because of an offending stroller, or have their children play with dangerous toys before officials are able to recall.

This is unacceptable. The Liberals have shown such contempt for Canadians that it is now easier to protect the health of animals than it is to protect the health of Canadians.

The Liberal leader must order his senators to vote against these amendments and vote in favour of the bill as it was passed in the House. The Liberal leader needs to take charge of his party. Canadian consumers expect nothing less.

Bhopal Gas Leak
Statements By Members

December 3rd, 2009 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, today I rise to remember the thousands who tragically died 25 years ago as victims of a poisonous industrial gas leak in Bhopal, India.

On December 3, 1984, the Union Carbide chemical plant released poisonous gas over the city of Bhopal, causing the worst industrial accident the world has ever seen. The people still suffer from the after-effects of this disaster. The poisonous fumes contaminated Bhopal's soil and groundwater, leading to cancer and birth defects.

Today we not only remember the victims, but also urge for more aid to the residents who must live with the lingering effects of this tragedy.

Jeanne-Mance School in Drummondville
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very proud to recognize the quality of education at Jeanne-Mance public school in Drummondville. Having heard of its reputation, four representatives of the Toronto French School recently visited for a short time to become familiar with the school's approach to the international education program.

In addition to meeting with the school administration and the program coordinator, the Toronto teachers spent some time in the classrooms monitoring the courses, meeting the students and discussing with them their experiences and the reasons why they chose this educational program.

We are quite proud of the fact that the expertise developed by the Drummondville public school is now recognized not just outside the region but in other provinces.

I congratulate—