House of Commons Hansard #29 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was justice.

Topics

Oral Questions--Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord concerning remarks made during question period on Thursday, February 26, 2009, by the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. Since the hon. member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour raised a point of order on March 5 concerning very similar remarks made that day, I will also rule on that matter in this ruling.

In his submission, the member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord stated that in response to a question he put to the hon. minister, and following her reply to a question posed by the hon. member for Québec, the minister had said that “threats and calls for violence are not part of Quebec's values. That is more like the Bloc's ideology.” I am referring to the House of Commons Debates at page 1038.

The member went on to say that these remarks were offensive, that the Bloc Québécois has always denounced all calls for violence of any kind and, consequently, that to accuse the Bloc Québécois of supporting threats and acts of violence was unparliamentary. The member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord felt that the remarks were in contravention of Standing Order 18, and asked the Chair to rule the hon. minister’s remarks unparliamentary and require her to withdraw them.

In replying to the point of order, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister said that the minister's comments were in reference to the newspaper Le Québécois, the content of which he found offensive. He noted that members of the Bloc Québécois had purchased advertisements in the paper.

In raising his point of order on March 5, 2009, the member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour stated that he felt that the use of the terms “extremists” and “promotes violence” in reference to the Bloc Québecois that day by the hon. member for Saint-Boniface during statements by members and by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister during oral questions were also directed to him as a member of that political party. He expressed his belief that the use of such language should be condemned.

As I have stated in the past, it is the duty of the Speaker to ensure that all debates in the House are conducted with a certain degree of civility and mutual respect in keeping with established practice in this House. House of Commons Procedure and Practice states at page 503:

Members are to show respect for one another and for different viewpoints; offensive or rude behaviour or language is not tolerated. Emotions are to be expressed in words rather than acted out; opinions are to be expressed with civility.

It goes on to mention on page 526:

Although an expression may be found to be acceptable, the Speaker has cautioned that any language which leads to disorder in the House should not be used. Expressions which are considered unparliamentary when applied to an individual Member have not always been considered so when applied “in a generic sense” or to a party.

At the same time, it should be remembered that proceedings in this House are based on a long-standing tradition of respect for the integrity of all members. In addition, House of Commons Procedure and Practice states at page 526:

In dealing with unparliamentary language, the Speaker takes into account the tone, manner and intention of the member speaking; the person to whom the words were directed; the degree of provocation; and, most importantly, whether or not the remarks created disorder in the Chamber.

In the case before us, it may appear that the remarks made by the hon. Minister for Intergovernmental Affairs, the member for Saint-Boniface and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, because they were directed to a party rather than an individual member, were not unparliamentary in a narrow, technical sense. However, they were undoubtedly intended to be provocative and they clearly created disorder.

It should be noted that a considerable body of precedents has developed over the years with respect to statements by members. Not only are personal attacks prohibited, but House of Commons Procedure and Practice states at page 364:

The Speaker has cut off an individual statement and asked the Member to resume his or her seat when

offensive language has been used;

a Senator has been attacked;

the actions of the Senate have been criticized;

a ruling of a court has been denounced; and

the character of a judge has been attacked.

The Speaker has also cautioned Members not to use this period to make defamatory comments about non-Members, nor to use the verbatim remarks of a private citizen as a statement, nor to make statements of a commercial nature.

I draw this particular quote to the attention of all hon. members and urge them to have a look at that before statements today at 2 o'clock.

It is, therefore, in the strongest possible terms that I encourage members to refrain from these sorts of remarks in the future. The Standing Orders provide the Speaker with considerable authority to preserve order and decorum and the Chair wishes to make it perfectly clear that transgressors risk being cut off by the Chair. All members must realize that such provocative commentary only invites equally inflammatory responses and contributes greatly to the lowering of the tone of our proceedings. In recent weeks I have been obliged to intervene more than once to remind members on both sides of the House of the standards of order and decorum which are expected of them both by the traditions of the House and by their constituents. Once again, I reiterate the need for proper decorum and temperate language in the House.

The hon. whip of the Bloc Québécois on a point of order.

Oral Questions--Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I cannot appeal your ruling, nor do I wish to, but I did ask for corrective action. With all due respect, it seems to me that you have not made it clear enough whether you want the minister to withdraw her offensive statements.

You have distinguished between remarks directed to an individual and remarks directed to a party. Depending on your response, and with your permission, I might have a statement to make, but we do not understand what sanction, if any, you have imposed by your ruling.

Oral Questions--Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am sure that the hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord has an opinion on the matter. I have delivered my ruling, but if he wishes to speak again, the Speaker is very patient when it comes to such interventions.

The hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord on another point of order.

Oral Questions--Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, if I understand you correctly, it would be acceptable for me to say in the House that homophobia, racism and xenophobia, while not Quebec values, do indeed figure in the Conservative Party of Canada's ideology. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Questions--Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

That was clearly not a point of order.

I indicated that certain words are unacceptable, and that I would take steps in the future to ensure that this does not happen again.

I decided that a government response was not required at this time because I believe that, for the reasons I expressed in my ruling, the rules were not exactly broken in this case.

That being said, there may be problems later on, but I hope that there will not. The case the hon. member just referred to is an example of the kind of problems we might have if people continue to make statements like those we have heard in the House.

The hon. member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour also wants to raise a point of order.

Oral Questions--Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, concerning the same point of order, I think you have hit the nail on the head. That means that your ruling can result in an escalation of totally unacceptable statements such as the one my colleague has just made. It strikes me—and I think everyone else as well—as unacceptable but it could become acceptable because of the ruling you have just given.

I have been here 25 years and I think we are starting to escalate toward language that is absolutely inappropriate for a chamber that supports democracy and debates to solve problems, rather than violence. If we are violent people we cannot sit in this place, because here we subscribe to debate. So it is one or the other: either violent people need to be excluded, or those who say that others are violent need to withdraw their words. It is one thing or the other, there cannot be a middle of the road ruling.

I would remind you, Mr. Speaker, that the whole thing started with an ad that certain members apparently placed in a newspaper. One of the newspaper's editors had apparently made some violent statements on radio or TV, but apparently never in the publication. Regardless, what I want to say is does this mean that if I, for example, take out an ad for a group of students taking a ski trip, and they commit acts of violence during that ski trip, that because I took out an ad in the program that described their ski trip, I become a proponent of violence? Not in the least. It is just a matter of placing an ad.

It is precisely because of a harmless act like that that a group of MPs have ended up being accused of being violent. Not only has the word “extremists” been used, but in addition a member spoke of people promoting violence against us, and that is unacceptable. An end must be put to it immediately. Otherwise there will be an escalation of accusations, and the democratic debates held here cannot help but suffer as a result.

Oral Questions--Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I appreciate the comments by the hon. members on this, but I have delivered my ruling on this matter. I can take a second look at the words used, but I have expressed an opinion on this matter and, in my estimation, the debate is closed for the time being. The points raised by the hon. members will be considered by the Chair.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 37 petitions

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

March 12th, 2009 / 10:15 a.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions).

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

This report addresses correspondence from the public inquiry being conducted by Justice Oliphant in regard to the privileges, powers and immunities of Parliament and whether or not testimony and other transcripts and materials from committee hearings can be used in their proceedings.

This report recommends to the House to reaffirm the privileges, powers and immunities of the House of Commons without change.

Excise Tax Act
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-341, An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act (feminine hygiene products).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to reintroduce a bill to remove the GST on feminine hygiene products. I had hoped it would have become law by now because the Conservatives had promised to get rid of this unfair gender tax when they were in opposition. After three years in power, the government still has failed to deliver for Canadian women.

This bill would remove the GST on feminine hygiene products because it affects women only. It unfairly disadvantages women financially solely because of their reproductive role. This bill would restore fairness to the benefit of all Canadian women, particularly those on lower incomes.

I hope the House will work with us to ensure we remove this unfair gender tax on tampons as soon as possible.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, earlier today I tabled the third report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. There have been consultations among all parties and I think, if you were to seek it, you would find unanimous consent to concur in the third report of said committee.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member for Mississauga South have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?