Yes, Mr. Speaker. As you know, I provided you with notice on March 3 of this question of privilege. While my notice detailed much of the concern, I believe that it is only appropriate that I outline the issue in the House so that all members will be aware of the present situation, as we are all equally affected by these recent events.
I believe this question of privilege is related to one similar, which was heard by the Speaker in October 1997. I say related because the breach of my privileges as a member of parliament has also arisen over the functions of our legislative drafters.
In 1997 you ruled that the matter be resolved by the Board of Internal Economy. My issue does not concern the administrative matters, such as the number of legislative drafters available to assist us in our work, and it does not concern just who is assigned to assist us in drafting legislation. My question of privilege has solely to do with solicitor-client privilege and breach of confidentiality.
First, I will relate the facts of the case. Over the past number of weeks I have been dealing with our legislative drafters on a number of amendments to legislation presently before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The drafting of legislation is one of the most important aspects of this place. It is imperative that confidentiality of information be maintained until each member decides to make his or her work public by introducing it either in committee or here at report stage.
Mr. Speaker, you can imagine my surprise and outrage when I learned from the clerk of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights that he was in possession of my amendments before I had even decided which of them I would be introducing at committee.
I was informed that it has now been decided that solicitor-client privilege does not attach itself to work completed by our legislative drafters and that the material will be made available to the clerks.
I do not know who else will have access to this work. I do know that the clerk did seek my permission to release my proposed amendments to the Department of Justice lawyers. I denied him the permission to release them to anyone.
Let me make it clear that I do not call into question the integrity of the clerk of the committee, but if he was able to gain possession of my amendments, who else has them?
It was my understanding that members of parliament are operating with our legislative drafters in a solicitor-client relationship. These drafters are lawyers who have been tasked by the House as a whole to assist members in their legislative initiatives.
It is a competitive market in this place for political reasons, for representing our constituents and for ensuring that our laws effectively achieve what we as individuals perceive to be in the best interests of the country.
You will remember, Mr. Speaker, how concerned members from all political stripes became in October 1997 when the issue was raised over the lack of sufficient and proper resources to provide members with adequate legislative assistance. As I have stated, my concern today is not an administrative function. It goes to the essence of the relationship between our lawyers and ourselves to fulfil our duties as members of parliament. These lawyers work for us both on private members' legislation and on amendments to government and Senate legislation. Without protection of confidentiality, our parliamentary work is severely impacted. We become disempowered from carrying out our duties.
This work was released to others without my consent, which I believe is necessary under the law. Legislative counsel come under the precinct of the Speaker of the House of Commons. It is my understanding that they have been ordered to release this information contrary to the protection of the solicitor-client privilege.
To sum up, I believe that the release of confidential work in progress to the clerk of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights without my consent is a prima facie case of privilege. It has happened in my case and may well be happening or could happen to almost anyone in this place. It must be addressed. Should you find that a prima facie case of privilege exists, Mr. Speaker, and with your permission, I would be prepared to move the appropriate motion.