As questions of privilege affect all of us, it is always valuable for us to give attention to the ruling.
I am now ready to rule on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Madawaska-Victoria on June 8, 1995.
During Private Members' Business on that day, the hon. member and the hon. member for Beaver River engaged in a heated conversation.
According to the hon. member for Madawaska-Victoria, as she turned to go back to her seat in order to end the discussion, the hon. member for Beaver River grabbed her by the arm. The hon. member brought this to the immediate attention of the Chair and, the Acting Speaker heard the question of privilege.
Citing Erskine May's , 21st edition, at page 126, the member noted that it is a contempt to molest a member. She then claimed that she had been physically assaulted and was prepared to move the appropriate motion.
The hon. member for Beaver River then rose to confirm that the member for Madawaska-Victoria was correct in her description of the events. The member for Beaver River apologized to the member for Madawaska-Victoria and told the House she had intended no harm, threat or assault.
The Reform Party whip, the hon. member for Calgary Centre, and the hon. member for Mississauga South, both witnesses to the incident, assisted the Chair by describing what they had seen. The chief government whip also spoke to the matter, drawing to the attention of the Chair a number of precedents. I thank all three members for their contributions.
In my view the matter raised by the hon. member for Madawaska-Victoria is a very serious one for this House. The events that occurred were unfortunate, to say the least.
The hon. member for Beaver River has admitted she was at fault but has explained she meant no harm and has in fact apologized for her actions. I refer to her own words in the debates of June 8 at pages 13507 and 13508:
I do apologize for that. I certainly did not mean any harm or assault. I do apologize if she thought there was any intention of an assault. I absolutely meant no harm or any threat.
As Speaker Fraser noted when ruling on a matter involving the hon. member for York South-Weston and the late Mr. Dan McKenzie, to which the chief government whip referred, once
the error has been admitted and the member has apologized, procedurally the matter should go no further.
The incident ought not to have happened and it ought not happen again. I refer hon. members to the debate of October 16, 1987, at page 10090. I concur with the decision reached by my predecessor on that occasion and with regard to the present case I find the matter is closed.
There is a troubling aspect to this incident which, if left unchallenged, could have serious consequences for us all, as members of this House. It is my hope that my remarks will clear the air and ensure that we stay on course in our dealings with each other in this House, particularly during the long hours of these final days before the adjournment.
As Speaker, I am the arbiter of House proceedings, charged with preserving order and decorum. However, I cannot do this job alone. I rely on the co-operation of you all, my colleagues, to ensure that this Chamber remains the focal point for thoughtful reasoned debate on the matters crucial to the well being of our nation.
While I take consolation from the fact that our House is more orderly and decorous than the one faced by my 19th century predecessors, I am constantly reminded that this is a place of strong opinions and strong emotions and that when tempers flare hon. members can get carried away. I strongly urge all hon. members, you my colleagues, to respect the conventions and traditions of this place and to conduct ourselves-myself also, because I am part of it with you-with the civility becoming representatives of the Canadian people.
There is absolutely no place for violent language or actions in this House. Our constituents expect members to be businesslike and civilized in the conduct of parliamentary affairs. So does the Chair. So does the whole House.
To quote Speaker Fraser on a ruling he gave on December 11, 1991, at page 6142 of the debates:
The Chair can devise no strategy, however aggressive or interventionist, and can imagine no codification, however comprehensive or strict, that will successfully protect the Canadian parliamentary traditions that we cherish as will each member's sense of justice and fair play.
In this I wholeheartedly concur.