I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the hon. member for Ahuntsic concerning remarks made by the hon. member for Central Nova during question period on October 29, 2004, where he made reference to “la famiglia libérale”.
When the matter was raised, I indicated I would take the matter under advisement, check the blues, and get back to the House if necessary. I have now done so and am prepared to rule on the question.
I have reviewed the tape of proceedings that day and it clearly shows that the hon. member for Central Nova used the expression “la famiglia libérale” in posing a question.
As hon. members know, there are few words in and of themselves that are not acceptable to the House to the point of being considered unparliamentary in any circumstances.
However, in dealing with unparliamentary language, as the House of Commons Procedure and Practice points out at, page 526:
—the Speaker takes into account the tone, manner and intention of the Member speaking; the person to whom the words were directed; the degree of provocation; and, most importantly, whether or not the remarks created disorder in the Chamber.”
As I recall, on Friday last there was some commotion caused by the question of the hon. member for Central Nova but, as I indicated to the House at the time, since the Chair was not actually familiar with the term famiglia , I had attributed the commotion to the usual high spirits that characterize exchanges during question period on Fridays.
However, after question period, the hon. member for Ahuntsic rose to take exception to the hon. member for Central Nova's use of language, arguing that the term famiglia used in the context of his question was language that she found unparliamentary and, moreover, that the term is offensive to Canadians of Italian origin, many of whom are her constituents.
I have now looked into the matter and I understand that the Italian word famiglia , meaning family, in the context of popular culture, is an indirect reference to organized crime, specifically the Mafia, a criminal organization that originated in Sicily but eventually became established internationally. In light of this new information, the Chair can appreciate why the hon. member for Ahuntsic has raised her objections.
I ought not to have to remind colleagues of the need to refrain from using words that might cause disorder, let alone using language in a way that might give offence to a particular ethnic group.
I understand, of course, that question period especially is one of those times when partisan feelings can run high and members quite enjoy exchanging barbs. However I would urge all hon. members to be very prudent in their choice of words. Strong language can still be temperate and respectful.
Accordingly, in this instance, the Chair has concluded that the remarks of the hon. member for Central Nova, taken in context, go beyond the limits of what is permissible. The hon. member did rise in response to the complaint of the hon. member for Ahuntsic and made a partial withdrawal with respect to certain persons. However the Chair does not find that to be sufficient in the circumstances and so I would ask the hon. member for Central Nova to withdraw his remarks completely so that we can bring this issue to a close.