Mr. Speaker, I am raising a question of privilege today regarding a decision of a panel of judges that confirmed last week that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and his officials knowingly misled Parliament.
The facts regarding this question of privilege began when misleading information was given to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. A judge ruled the minister and his officials misled the committee. Follow-up questions were raised in the House. The minister later appealed the decision of the judge and, as I said earlier, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the earlier ruling.
Page 63 of the 22nd edition of Erskine May states that:
--it is of paramount importance that ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament...
I stress this last point:
--correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity.
On February 1, 2002, you, Mr. Speaker, ruled the authorities were consistent about the need for clarity in our proceedings and about the need to ensure the integrity of the information provided by the government to Parliament. On page 119 of Erskine May's 21st edition, it states:
The Commons may treat the making of a deliberately misleading statement as a contempt.
On page 140 of Erskine May it states:
Where the Member accused has made a proper apology for his offence the incriminating motion has usually been withdrawn...
The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration gave incorrect information to a committee. Members brought it to his attention in committee and in the House. In addition a federal court judge ruled that the minister was mistaken. The minister did not correct the error, as page 64 of 22nd edition of Erskine May would have him do. The minister did not apologize to the committee, nor did he apologize to the House, as page 140 of 21st edition of Erskine May would have him do. He continued to knowingly mislead the committee, and continues to knowingly mislead the House.
The details briefly are as follows. On Friday, February 21, 2003, the hon. Justice Mr. Kelen ruled in favour of a class action suit seeking to protect immigration applicants from the retroactive imposition of restrictive new immigration legislation. The ruling was a very damning indictment of the department misleading the immigration committee and the minister's failure to inform it of his error. The minister neglected his duty and undertaking to process more than 100,000 immigrant applications from applicants who had paid him their money.
On Monday, February 22, I asked a question of the minister in the House regarding the ruling of the judge and why he misled the committee. He responded by saying, “I will not comment because there is a draft decision”.
On Tuesday, February 25, I informed the minister that the decision was not a draft decision and referred him to the ruling and pointed out that the judge signed off on the ruling.
On Wednesday, February 26, the member for Provencher pressed that point again. The minister continued to dispute the validity of the judgment. This stubbornness on the part of the minister prompted Justice Kelen to issue an oral directive reaffirming that his decision was in fact final. After the directive from Justice Kelen, the minister, outside the House, backtracked by saying that when he referred to the decision as a draft, he meant that the process was continuing. He said, “It is casual among immigration lawyers to say that the process is not over. I never questioned the final decision”.
Since then the minister appealed the decision of Justice Kelen and the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the judge's ruling that federal bureaucrats misled Parliament about severe backlogs in the immigration system. Yesterday in committee, the minister told members that he has no strategy to deal with this problem, choosing instead to ignore the courts again.
The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is in contempt of Parliament for misleading a parliamentary committee and for misleading the House. He has been given ample opportunities to correct the record and apologize to the House. It is now a matter of the House taking action against the minister to ensure that ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity.