Mr. Speaker, let me first present the facts.
A motion was tabled on February 14, 2002, and adopted on February 19, to have Mr. Gagliano appear before the committee, regarding his appointment to the position of Canadian ambassador to Denmark. This notice to appear was made in compliance with Standing Orders 110 and 111, and more specifically Standing Order 111(2), which reads, and I quote:
(2) The committee, if it should call an appointee or nominee to appear pursuant to section (1) of this Standing Order, shall examine the qualifications and competence of the appointee or nominee to perform the duties of the post to which he or she has been appointed or nominated.
This is the reason why Mr. Gagliano was summoned.
We had a right to expect to be able to ask appropriate questions regarding the candidate's ability to duly fulfill his duties, including his previous work experience, considering that he does not come from the diplomatic circles.
In fact, the House of Commons Procedure and Practice provides the following on page 876, and I quote:
The scope of a committee's examination of Order-in-Council appointees or nominees is strictly limited to the qualifications and competence to perform the duties of the post.
This is precisely why we wanted to ask him about his qualifications and his competence. His curriculum vitae, as forwarded by the minister, dealt only with his political and ministerial experience.
However, the opposition's questioning, particularly mine, was interrupted and not allowed by the chair, who felt that any questions regarding Mr. Gagliano's previous work history as a minister were out of order, because they were irrelevant to his ability to perform the duties of ambassador.
She referred to page 876 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice , which provides that:
Questioning by members of the committee may be interrupted by the Chair, if it attempts to deal with matters considered irrelevant to the committee's inquiry.
But, still on page 876, it is also clear that, and I quote:
Any question may be permitted if it can be shown that it relates directly to the appointee's or nominee's ability to do the job.
It is therefore obvious that the chair was in no way entitled to use this passage to interrupt the opposition's questions.
Furthermore, in a Department of Foreign Affairs document, it is stated that:
Ethical values such as honesty, integrity and probity, which mean the ability to hold a public trust and to put the common good ahead of any private or individual self-interest must be considered.
The decision by the Chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade not to allow me the right to question the witness properly prevented me from examining the appointment of Mr. Gagliano as ambassador pursuant to Standing Orders 110 and 111.
The opposition appealed this decision to the committee, to no avail. That is why I am appealing to you, Mr. Speaker, as, to quote House of Commons Procedure and Practice , at page 261:
—guardian of the rights and privileges of Members and of the House as an institution.
My parliamentary privileges have been violated. I have been denied freedom of speech. Yet, this same reference work says, again on page 261, that:
Freedom of speech may be the most important of the privileges accorded to Members of Parliament; it has been described as:
—a fundamental right without which they would be hampered in the performance of their duties. It permits them to speak in the House without inhibition, to refer to any matter or express any opinion as they see fit, to say what they feel needs to be said in the furtherance of the national interest and the aspirations of their constituents.