Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, colleagues.
I sincerely wish that the circumstances surrounding my appearance today did not exist. On February 29, I rose in the House on a question of privilege to ensure that the activities seeking to intimidate me with respect to my duties as a member of Parliament, duly elected by the people of Provencher, were appropriately addressed by the House. This intimidation has been aimed at me solely for doing the most basic duty of a parliamentarian—namely, introducing legislation within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada.
Such intimidation should gravely concern all parliamentarians. We have a special obligation to our constituents to act without fear on the principles that they elected us to defend. This is why I'm pleased that your committee has taken up this serious matter.
As you know, on February 14 of this year I introduced Bill C-30, the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act. In the days and weeks that followed, I and my office received a great deal of communication from Canadians. As I stated in the House, these ranged from the supportive to the critical and indeed to the humorous.
Specifically of concern were videos posted on YouTube publishing various unfounded allegations about my personal life and threatening to do more if I did not take specific action with regard to Bill C-30. Clearly the actions and threatened actions contained in these videos constitute an attempt by the creators of the videos to intimidate me with respect to proceedings in Parliament.
The online group called “Anonymous” that posted the videos hides behind masks and their claim to anonymity. It is their threats that clearly attempt to intimidate me and in fact all parliamentarians as we carry out our democratically elected responsibilities.
I am prepared to debate, and we must engage in vigorous debate, on matters before Parliament, but these online attacks launched on both me and my family have crossed the line.
Mr. Chair, all parliamentarians need to be concerned.
On February 29, the Liberal House leader repeatedly stated that there were clearly threats made against me, in fact going as far as stating, “...yes, indeed, there clearly are threats being made.”
The Liberal House Leader also cautioned the Speaker in finding a prima facie breach of privilege, and then stated that these threats “...do not constitute a breach of privilege.”
O'Brien and Bosc state that:
Any disregard of or attack on the rights, powers and immunities of the House and its Members, either by an outside person or body, or by a Member of the House, is referred to as a “breach of privilege”....
I would remind the chair and all committee members that in the videos published, there was a broad threat to all parliamentarians. I quote:
And to the rest of the Parliament of Canada: you would do well to mind your words about Anonymous. Any attempt to score political points by claiming we are associated with a particular political party will not be met kindly. Your party affiliations are utterly irrelevant to us.
To the rest of those who support Bill C-30, do not believe for a moment that you are untouchable.
Mr. Chair, the Liberal House leader and all Canadians should be concerned about the threats posed to our democracy by online bullies and thugs who seek to intimidate duly elected members of Parliament. It is on this aspect that I encourage you to focus your study.
Let me be clear: I will not be intimidated by thugs who hide behind masks and anonymity. Our democracy demands that elected officials be free to debate any and all matters. I firmly believe that all members of this House must be able to serve their constituents, introduce legislation, and debate all matters free from intimidation, obstruction, and interference.
The fact of the matter is that today threats are directed at me for a bill that has drawn much public debate. Tomorrow it could be any of you, either government or opposition. In fact, there are those of you on this committee who have introduced legislation in the House, both from government and opposition. We have seen private members' bills that have produced vigorous debate, with strong positions being taken on both sides of the House.
One only needs to look at this 41st Parliament. Bill C-377 is a bill that would require the public disclosure of the finances of labour organizations. Heated debate and strong positions have been taken on this bill.
Bill C-276 and Bill C-279, Liberal and NDP bills respectively, seek to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to include gender identity and gender expression. While not yet debated in this House, similar bills have been introduced in previous Parliaments, and strong positions were taken.
Whether or not an MP introduces legislation, all MPs take positions on motions, legislation, and House and committee debates. Mr. Chair, that is exactly what we should be doing. That's why we were elected. Canadians expect this.
I do not believe that members of Parliament should be held hostage, afraid to do what they feel is right, for fear that unnamed thugs might threaten them. Canadians deserve better. I was pleased that our Speaker upheld the 1973 ruling of Speaker Lamoureux, wherein he stated that he had no hesitation in reaffirming the principle that parliamentary privilege includes the right of a member to discharge his or her responsibilities, as a member of the House, free from threats or attempts at intimidation. Attacks on the personal life of a member of Parliament, while not appropriate, can be judged by the public where there is public accountability. The threats of nameless, faceless thugs who seek to intimidate legitimate democratic proceedings should concern all parliamentarians, and indeed all elected officials in our great country.
Mr. Chair, in your committee's deliberation I encourage you to view this question of privilege as a matter than concerns all parliamentarians, not just me.
I look forward to discussing this matter further and to answering any questions you may have.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.