I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on Monday, December 10, 2001, by the hon. member for New Westminster--Coquitlam--Burnaby. I thank the hon. member for raising this matter and the then government House leader for his intervention.
In his presentation, the member referred to statements of the then Minister of Citizenship and Immigration quoted in a recent newspaper article, and argued that these statements constituted a personal attack on him and an offense against the dignity of parliament.
The Chair noted that during the oral question period just before the holidays the House heard some unusually strong language and forceful expression of opinion. On Monday, December 3, there was such an exchange between the hon. member and the then minister. I refer all hon. members to the Debates of December 3, 2001, at pages 7765 to 7766.
It is understandable that such exchanges should sometimes occur when there are strongly held views on either side on contentious issues. Therefore I thought it appropriate on Wednesday, December 5, to remind hon. members to use care in their choice of words both in answers and in questions. Again, I refer all hon. members to the Debates of December 5, 2001, at page 7896.
The situation before us at the moment is rather different for it concerns a statement made outside the House itself. I had the opportunity to review the newspaper article referred to by the hon. member for New Westminster--Coquitlam--Burnaby and to examine the relevant precedents. The cause for offense, as the hon. member described it, is the reporting of remarks made outside the House by the then minister and reflecting on the exchange during question period on December 3.
I refer hon. members to the following passage from page 522 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice :
Remarks directed specifically at another Member which question that Member's integrity, honesty or character are not in order.
In the case before us the comments were phrased generally and not directed at the member. Furthermore, Marleau and Montpetit in the same paragraph goes on to state:
The Speaker has no authority to rule on statements made outside the House by one Member against another.
After careful examination I have concluded that the case raised by the hon. member fails on two counts: the remarks in question were not clearly directed at the hon. member personally and the remarks were made outside the Chamber.
The Chair therefore rules that this is not a question of privilege though the hon. member may feel aggrieved by the remarks of the then minister.
That being said, I would like to reiterate my remarks of December 5 and encourage all hon. members to be careful in their choice of words in the Chamber during question period in both questions and answers and outside the House when responding to matters that arose in the House. I do not think I am being unrealistic here.
My predecessor, Mr. Speaker Fraser often said of the House of Commons that it was not and never had been a tea party.
On October 10, 1991, Debates , pages 3562-4 he said:
I do not think we need…to remind ourselves that there is often provocation in this place and it comes on both sides. There has to be, of course, some common sense in our approach because…strong-minded men and women who believe passionately in things are going to express that passion and conviction from time to time [but ]…when decorum degenerates , it leads to further and further excess.
It seems to the Chair that the sort of escalation in language complained of sheds more heat than light on important issues being debated. I would again ask for the co-operation of all hon. members in using more temperate language.