Mr. Speaker, I want to address a question of privilege brought up by the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, who rose on his question suggesting that I prematurely issued an unauthorized disclosure of the minority report of the Special Committee on Non-Medical Use of Drugs.
I have been accused of divulging privileged information from the parliamentary Special Committee on Non-Medical Use of Drugs, and to say the least, this is a serious charge. As vice-chairman of that committee and a former House officer, I take this charge very seriously as an affront to my own integrity. Notwithstanding any whining about the positions that anyone takes on the drug issue today, I want to state very clearly my position on his question of privilege.
There is no doubt that I have grave concerns about the government's approach to drugs, harm reduction and marijuana. However, my talking to the press does not in the least constitute any particular divulging of a report.
This is not a new charge in the House. In fact, as House leader of the official opposition I had a great deal of concern expressed in the House about leaked reports. In fact, I found in many cases, which I will disclose in a moment, that there is a bigger concern not from individual members but from ministers themselves.
I might add, however, that this is not a leaked report. My comments were likely to do with the great disgust over the government's ill-planned move toward the marijuana situation and harm reduction. My concerns and that of the nation on this issue over a move to adopt a European style of life in Canada were expressed in most Canadian newspapers. If I am guilty of such a breach in confidentiality, I will be most interested to see how it is dealt with in view of the fact that confidentiality has been breached in the House time and time again.
I have not seen any documents or any substantiation of this, by the way, so I am standing in the House defending my own position and not knowing what the actual accusations have been or how tangible they were. I can assure the House that if I feel there may have been cause to believe that I have somehow breached confidentiality by speaking out against drugs, by talking to the press about the government's misled direction of harm reduction and about encouraging young people to smoke marijuana, then I intend to bring a motion in the House this week to ensure that I be brought before the procedure and House affairs committee for investigation. I would be happy to do that.
If I myself table such a motion, I expect it to be honoured and accepted. I also expect to be able to bring counsel to that meeting and, indeed, request witnesses on my behalf, such as reporters, advocates of my position on drugs, previous ministers who have breached confidentiality, the government House leader and others to provide witness to clear up the accusations that are being made.
First off, it is up to the special committee to consider this matter, not the Speaker. However, since it has been raised in the House I do have a comment or two. I would like to explain the circumstances and precedents involved in this contempt. First with regard to precedents, apart from incorrectly raising this matter in the House instead of committee, many of the member's references are quite outdated and, I would argue, have been replaced with more current ones. The usual reference to contempt is the one from Erskine May, which describes contempt as:
--any act or omission which obstructs or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its functions, or which obstructs or impedes any Member or officer of such House in the discharge of his duty, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results may be treated as a contempt even though there is no precedent of the offence.
I am not sure at this point whether I should go through all of the cases or not. First, I need to know what exactly I was purported to have said. Second, I would like the time to look at that and bring it back into the House. As I have said, I have the integrity inasmuch as if I feel that I have breached something I would be the first one to bring it before the procedure and House affairs committee.
Mr. Speaker, I want to reserve a lot of my comments for that instance, when we bring it back in here and you decide whether or not I have in fact breached some sort of security. I do not want to take any more of the House's time away from the important issue we are dealing with today in order to discuss any more of the possible references that may be used unless it is necessary to use them. All I can say is that when there are accusations against one's integrity in the House, I think the accusers should have the integrity to properly use the best points of reference possible, give the person accused the proof that they have, and in particular give members an opportunity to decide for themselves whether or not they have breached some form of integrity in the House.
Mr. Speaker, I leave it in your hands to decide whether or not you are willing to give me some kind of substantive documentation to show that I have in fact breached anything in the House. I would like to then return here and tell you what I think of that. I can tell you what I think already, but it would be more appropriate to wait for the real stuff to come in.