Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Members of the committee, I am pleased to be here with you to help the committee with its review of the question of privilege raised by Mr. Motz, the member from Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, concerning the documents published by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police website on the subject of Bill C-71.
When questions of privilege are referred to the committee, they are an opportunity to study in detail an issue put forward by the members themselves and to issue recommendations that will benefit everyone. It is through your committee that witnesses can be heard, documents obtained and concrete action taken, if that is the will of the committee, of course.
Respecting the dignity and authority of Parliament is a fundamental right which the House takes very seriously. The mission of the Speaker as a servant of the House is to ensure the protection of the rights and privileges, not only of every member, but also those of the House as a whole. In that sense, any affront to the authority of the House may constitute contempt of Parliament.
As its states on page 87 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition:
There is [...]no doubt that the House of Commons remains capable of protecting itself from abuse should the occasion ever arise.
In his ruling on June 19, 2018, the Speaker of the House of Commons summarized the facts surrounding the publication of information about Bill C-71 on the RCMP website. While the bill in question was following the normal legislative process, the information published on the RCMP website suggested its provisions would necessarily be enacted or had been already.
The Speaker reminded the members that Parliament's authority in scrutinizing and adopting bills remains unquestionable and must never be taken for granted. He then added, “Parliamentarians and citizens should be able to trust that officials responsible for disseminating information related to legislation are paying attention to what is happening in Parliament and are providing a clear and accurate history of the bills in question.”
When questions similar to the one before your committee were raised by members in the House, previous Speakers have repeated that situations such as this should never occur and have urged the government in various departments for which they are responsible to find solutions. Indeed, the Speakers of the House have always taken great care to act as defenders of Parliament's authority. An affront to that authority constitutes a transgression or a lack of respect for the House and its members. As Speaker Sauvé said on October 17, 1980, the publication of information harmful to the House may, for example, turn into a contempt of Parliament.
In the current case, the Speaker noted the careless attitude the RCMP displayed to the fundamental role of members as legislators. For him, parliamentary authority with respect to legislation cannot and should not be usurped. The Speaker explained the matter well when he said, “As Speaker, I cannot turn a blind eye to an approach by a government agency that overlooks the role of Parliament. To do otherwise would make us compliant in denigrating the authority and dignity of Parliament.”
I thank you once again for this invitation to testify.
I would now be pleased to answer your questions.