House of Commons Hansard #113 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was food.

Topics

The Environment
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it has been a long-standing practice, of course, for budget implementation bills to actually implement budgets. Our budget is focused on the economic growth and long-term prosperity of the country, and that includes moving forward with responsible resource development so that we can ensure prosperity for generations to come.

Canada has in great quantities the resources the world needs, the emerging developing world, countries like China and India. The development of those resources are the key to the prosperity, wealth and social well-being of Canadians for generations to come. That is why we are moving on it and that is why it is in the budget implementation bill.

The Environment
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The Chair has notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie.

Alleged Invasion of Privacy
Privilege
Oral Questions

April 30th, 2012 / 3 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege to raise a matter that represents a serious offence against the dignity and authority of Parliament and, as such, constitutes a clear contempt of Parliament.

On February 24, a package addressed to me was received by the House of Commons delivery service. However, although the package was clearly addressed to me, the shipper used the address of my former officer, which is now occupied by the hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord.

The messenger went to the office of the hon. member in question, which signed for the package even though it had my name on it. As we had not received the package, we looked into the matter with the House of Commons delivery service and we contacted the office of the hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, which sent a very clear and short email in response: “Yes, we received the package that was addressed to the hon. member. The thing is that the hon. member regularly receives these sorts of promotional items so we handed them out. Sorry.”

This is a serious offence. What is more, that package contained items that were meant for a charity.

While a contemptible offence has taken place, regardless of what was contained in the package, it is worth noting that the package contained toys intended as fundraising prizes to raise money for sick children from the north who need to come south for medical treatment. Although an offence against the dignity of the House regardless of the contents, the theft of these contents, in my view, is also an offence against common decency.

I wish to quote from section 356 of the Criminal Code under the heading Theft of Mail, which states:

Everyone commits an offence who

(a) steals

(i) anything sent by post, after it is deposited at a post office and before it is delivered, or after it is delivered but before it is in the possession of the addressee or of a person who may reasonably be considered to be authorized by the addressee to receive mail.

While the member's office has admitted to receiving the package addressed to me, opening this package, removing the contents and giving them away, it remains unclear who specifically took part in the offence. In other words, was it the member himself, members of his staff or both? On this point I will simply note that I have notified the sergeant-at-arms of this situation and, pending his investigation, a further complaint to police may be made. Regardless of who committed the offence, this took place within the parliamentary precinct and as such would constitute a contempt of Parliament.

Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, Second Edition, states on page 163:

Each House of Parliament has jurisdiction over its precincts. While outside of “proceedings in Parliament” and parliamentary debate the criminal law applies to Members of the House of Commons, the act of doing something within the “precincts” could constitute a contempt of Parliament....

Furthermore, the opening and/or theft of the member's private correspondence or mail are tantamount to past findings of contempt where an invasion of privacy of members has occurred.

Maingot states on page 256:

The invasion of the privacy of a Member of the Senate or of the House of Commons within the precincts of Parliament by any person also constitutes a prima facie question of privilege. This includes the interception of a private communication on the precincts.

On October 17, 1973, a meeting of the NDP caucus on the precincts was the subject of electronic eavesdropping by a journalist. A question of privilege was raised by the leader of the NDP at the time, David Lewis, who stated on page 6942 of Debates:

Whether or not it is illegal under the present Criminal Code, or any other statute of which I may not know, is irrelevant. Certainly it is totally illegal as far as the rules of parliament are concerned. I hope that those responsible will not find it more offensive that I intend it to be when I say that it is morally and socially wrong in every respect for them to have done this.

Those words are as accurate in describing the present event as they were in dealing with that prima facie breach of privilege in 1973.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, in defining contempt of Parliament, states on page 82:

[...] the House also claims the right to punish, as a contempt, any action which, though not a breach of a specific privilege, tends to obstruct or impede the House in the performance of its functions; obstructs or impedes any member or officer of the House in the discharge of their duties; or is an offence against the authority or dignity of the House, such as disobedience of its legitimate commands or libels upon itself, its members, or its officers.

It is, I believe, self-evident that the theft of a member's mail within the precincts of Parliament undoubtedly represents an offence against the authority and the dignity of the House, as does the cavalier response of the member's office once confronted and admitting the offence.

I would understand if, in error, the hon. member or his office staff had opened the package. However, what occurred was not simply an error. They received the package, opened it and, once viewing the contents, toys intended for a fundraiser in regard to a cause supporting children, miniature shuttles in this particular case, they did not call and return the contents with an apology for opening the package clearly addressed to me. Instead, they removed the contents and gave them away. That was not only an invasion of my privacy but it was theft. When contacted by my office, they showed no remorse whatsoever for the offence.

I understand that the member is new, having only been elected a year ago, and that his staff may also lack the experience to understand the more complicated nature of privilege, but this is not a complicated matter. Surely the office of the NDP leader has someone responsible for organization who can inform that member and his staff that they do not open packages that are not addressed to them.

While the member and his office are new, there is no excuse for this.

Sadder still is the fact that the beneficiaries of the charity will suffer as a result of this deplorable and unimaginable situation. Sick children, who are supposed to benefit from this care, saw these items that were meant to help them handed out to the hon. member's friends. It was a very offensive act and I cannot accept it.

Should you rule in my favour, Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.

Alleged Invasion of Privacy
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with intent to my colleague because he raises a point that is important in terms of the correspondence that we receive.

I have talked about this with the member concerned to find out the facts of the matter. I think there may be some discrepancy as to whether there was actually a name on the box. However, we will get to the bottom of this.

At the point of being respectful to the member, who I respect a great deal, it feels like the rhetoric and the use of moral cases in this regard for what appears to be an accident with regard to some toy space shuttles seems to me a mislaying of priorities right now.

I think there are conversations we could have honourably between members to resolve this case. However, if we are talking about small toy shuttles that were erroneously and mistakenly distributed to my colleague's constituents in error, then we can seek to find more toy space shuttles to replace those that were mistakenly given away and find a way to rectify my friend's sense of dignity in this place.

I am not sure if there is any prima facie case of anything here. It feels like taking up the House's time for this long for something that we could try to work out between hon. colleagues would be something we could attempt to do. I am a bit confused about the amount of time we have already taken away and the heated rhetoric over this notion of misplaced toys. We will make it right in any way we can.

Alleged Invasion of Privacy
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I did not intend to speak longer about this issue, because the House leader of the Liberal Party was very eloquent and clear. However, the response by the House leader of the official opposition was disappointing.

Everyone, every man and woman, knows that opening another person's mail is a crime. The right thing to do would have been to return the package to the Liberal House leader, but that was not done, unfortunately.

Your response can be very simple and the hon. member could even think it up without your intervention. He could simply buy—with his own money, not out of his budget—more of the objects that were in this box addressed to the Liberal member, give him these objects, and of course, apologize for opening the other member's mail. If that is done, the case is settled.

Alleged Invasion of Privacy
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, in reply to the comment made by the NDP House leader, I want to assure the House that the package was sent from Hope Air and it had my name on it.

Alleged Invasion of Privacy
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I will look into the matter and get back to the House in due course.

Is this in response to the previous question of privilege?

Alleged Invasion of Privacy
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

No, Mr. Speaker, this is not, although I listened with interest to the question of privilege raised by the Liberal House leader with regard to the theft of his spaceships. I am tempted to say, Mr. Speaker, that you are being invited to boldly go where no Speaker before has gone.

Alleged Invasion of Privacy
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is this a further submission on the question of privilege raised by the member for Toronto Centre?

Alleged Invasion of Privacy
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Yes.

Alleged Invasion of Privacy
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

If it is alright with the House, I would not mind getting through the proceedings first then I will hear the submissions.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.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 seven petitions.

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have four reports to table today.

First, I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association respecting its participation in the joint visit of the Sub-Committees on Energy and Environmental Security and Transatlantic Economic Relations held in Edmonton and Fort McMurray, Alberta, and Dawson Creek, British Columbia, from July 11 to 14, 2011.

Second, I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association respecting its participation in the 57th annual meeting of the NATO PA held in Bucharest, Romania, from October 7 to 11, 2011.

Third, I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association respecting its participation at the bureau meeting of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly held in Moscow, Russia, from November 1 to 2, 2011.

Finally, I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association respecting its participation in the spring session 2011 held in Varna, Bulgaria, from May 27 to 30, 2011.

Public Safety and National Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security in relation to its study of Bill C-293, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release act (vexatious complainants), with an amendment.

International Trade
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on International Trade in relation to Bill C-23, an act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report it back to the House, without amendment.