I'd like to call this meeting to order.
This is meeting 24 of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.
We continue the current study of questions of conflict of interest and lobbying in relation to pandemic spending.
I'd like to remind you that today's meeting is webcast and will be available via the House of Commons website.
Today we have as witnesses Craig and Marc Kielburger. They are the founders of WE Charity. There are here by parliamentary summons.
They are accompanied by their lawyer, Mr. William McDowell. Mr. McDowell has asked to attend today's meeting to be with his clients. This request has been agreed to by the members of this committee.
Mr. McDowell has also requested standing to deliver an opening statement and to intervene on behalf of his clients. This would be unprecedented. It is not the practice of parliamentary committees, nor has it ever occurred, in my understanding, to allow counsel to speak on behalf of their clients or to be granted permission to raise concerns or objections to questions during the parliamentary proceedings. Of course, there are plenty of examples of counsel being present and being allowed to speak, if, in fact, they are an invited witness. This is not a court of law, and the Kielburgers are not here on trial. Our mandate is to inquire into public policy issues. Today's case is the question of conflict of interest and lobbying in relation to pandemic spending.
Furthermore, testimony before the committee is protected by the privilege of freedom of speech. Nothing said before this committee may be used in court. As participants in the proceedings of Parliament, the Kielburgers enjoy the same privileges that members do.
Having said that, I am prepared to allow counsel to communicate with his clients off the record, either by text or by a separate phone line, or however they choose to communicate. I see they're all in the same room. The committee has agreed that would be the case.
We will be prepared to suspend the meeting, if necessary, so the Kielburger brothers can consult with their lawyer. We will also be prepared to suspend the meeting if these guidelines are not respected.
Mr. Kielburger and Mr. Kielburger, you both now have seven minutes to make your opening statements, and then we'll have some questions for you.
The floor is yours.