Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege with respect to contempt of Parliament.
As you are aware, Mr. Speaker, on March 20 the House voted on the following supply motion moved by the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie and seconded by the member for Laurentides:
That this House call upon the government not to participate in the military intervention initiated by the United States in Iraq.
That question was debated, put and passed on the following division: yeas, 153; nays, 50.
On many occasions leading up to and after the motion was passed, members have asserted that Canada will not and is not participating in the war. On March 20, for instance, the Prime Minister said “We don't have any troops and there will be no troops”. However, since then it is clear from the Prime Minister's statements in the House that this is not the case.
I would cite the following comment made by the Prime Minister in Hansard on March 26:
--of course we have ships in the ocean there....
He went on to say:
The people who are involved in flying in AWACS planes are covering many countries in their surveillance, not only one country. They are doing the job today that they have been doing for many months.
The AWACS to which the Prime Minister referred helped coordinate the bombing in Iraq. The ships he referred to are escorting American and British ships into war and which are now permitted to travel as far north as Kuwait for that purpose.
On March 25 the Prime Minister said:
They have been on loan for some time with the British and American armies.
Canadians are with British tank brigades outside Basra. Clearly this is combat.
On March 17 the Prime Minister said:
If military action proceeds without a new resolution of the Security Council, Canada will not participate.
As we know, there has been no second resolution to the Security Council, but there was a motion in this House that clearly compels Canada not to participate. The motion does not distinguish between participation in combat or non-combat. It simply deals with participation.
Nevertheless, not being in combat is being cited as an acceptable reason to be there, as the Minister of Defence has indicated. He does not deny participation, he merely tries to explain the type of participation. In his comments on March 18 he said:
As for these 31 persons, they are not in positions that involve direct combat.
On March 19 the Minister of Defence stated:
The reason there is a small number, some 30 personnel, in non-combat roles....
Yesterday, March 26, the Department of National Defence confirmed that Canadian troops were helping in the war on Iraq, that Canadians were aboard American AWACS radar planes flying command missions over Iraq, and that 31 soldiers were serving on exchange assignments with U.S. and British armies.
Today in question period in terms of the question I raised and the response from the government, clearly there was confirmation that our presence and our participation was there.
This is clearly participation but Parliament has explicitly said no participation.
As well, it is being reported today that six members of the Armed Forces are serving in logistical or support positions with combat troops on the ground.
I would say that there is a strong inconsistency between the claims that the government has made in the House and the vote that took place on March 20 which called upon the government not to participate in the war. I believe this has misled the House and that it is a contempt of this Parliament.
I would urge you, Mr. Speaker, to consider these facts and the issues and if you find a prima facie case of contempt of Parliament against the government, I would be prepared to move the appropriate motion to have this referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.