I am now prepared to make a statement on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Wentworth—Burlington on February 3, 1998 concerning comments made by Mr. Justice Louis Marcel Joyal.
Let me start by thanking the hon. member for Wentworth—Burlington, the hon. member for Fraser Valley, the hon. member for Winnipeg Transcona and the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River for their interventions in this issue.
As your Speaker and as a member of this House of Commons I consider this to be a very serious matter. To say that respect for our institutions is rapidly eroding is an understatement. When it is being eroded by some who should set an example for all Canadians it is even more damaging.
There is a necessary constitutional divide between our legislative and judicial branches. That divide should be bridged only when one institution seeks to vigorously support the role of the other.
Citation 493 in the sixth edition of Beauchesne exists precisely for the purpose of respecting this convention of the separation of roles, and I quote:
493.(1) All references to judges and courts of justice of the nature of personal attack and censure have always been considered unparliamentary, and the speaker has always treated them as breaches of order.
The House of Commons deserves at least the same respect from the courts.
It is for that reason that I have taken some time to reflect on this matter.
In his presentation on February 3, 1998, the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River made what I think is a very useful and insightful suggestion. He proposed that I direct the Clerk of the House to refer this matter to the Canadian Judicial Council, the body responsible to review the conduct of our judges.
As it turns out, the executive director of the judicial council has written to the clerk to acquaint him with the fact that Chief Justice Allan MacEachern, chairman of the judicial conduct committee, has initiated formal proceedings under the bylaws of the council concerning the statements attributed to Judge Marcel Joyal.
While this turn of events in no way precludes a finding on my part of a prima facie case of contempt, I have decided that it would be wise to follow the advice of the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River and allow the judicial council to proceed with its initiative before I comment further.
I am tabling copies of the said correspondence so that all hon. members may be aware of its content. I will keep the House advised of all further developments in this matter.