Mr. Speaker, on the same matter, apparently as the press would show it and as the House record will show, there was an Ontario regional Liberal caucus meeting which took place on February 25, 2004. On both February 29 and March 4, which followed that event, there were accounts, and verbatim accounts, of that meeting published in an Ottawa newspaper. I believe it was the Ottawa Sun . The Ottawa Sun also published that it had received an audio tape of that meeting and presumably relied on the audio tape in order to write, print and publish the story.
There are three aspects I would ask the Speaker to consider in relation to this event. The first involves the matter of privilege itself. I submit that this disclosure by the Ottawa Sun constitutes a breach of our privileges, the privileges of all of us in this House.
It is the disclosure that is the breach. I have not made reference explicitly to the taping or the broadcast. There are factual elements involved in what happened here that are not precisely known to me. It is quite possible that the taping, the switching, the broadcast, the transcription, all of those elements, may also constitute a breach of our privileges here, individually or collectively, but I will leave that matter to the Chair.
Suffice it to say, from my perspective, that the disclosure itself of something known to be private communication in camera in our Parliament by a person outside of it constitutes a breach of our privilege. I submit that work that happens in camera in this place, whether it is by ministers in camera, House committees sitting in camera, or caucus meetings in camera, is all the same in terms of the need to ensure that we have the ability to conduct some of our business in camera.
I do not have to point out to the Speaker or members that when this privilege, this privacy of these meetings, is breached, innocent individuals can be hurt, not just elected persons but individuals and their interests. In addition to injury to individuals, the process of governance itself is hurt.
The second aspect, which relates to the first aspect I have raised, is section 193 of the Criminal Code. As I read the facts, I come to the conclusion, and I speak really as a person just reading the code and looking at the facts, there appears to be the basis of a criminal offence. The words of the section state, and I will just take the relevant words:
Where a private communication has been intercepted by means of an electro-magnetic, acoustic...device without the consent...of the originator...every one who...wilfully...
(a) uses or discloses the private communication or any part thereof...or
(b) discloses the existence thereof,
is guilty of an indictable offence and [is punishable]--
I submit that based on what has happened here, a criminal offence has been committed. I will not suggest by whom; I will simply indicate that it is the disclosure that constitutes the Criminal Code offence and not the taping or the transcription or the broadcast. These may also constitute offences under sections 183 and 184 of the Criminal Code. I will leave that aside for now.
The third aspect which I want to bring to the Chair's attention is in relation to the conduct of media in and around Parliament. Media in the House are given special privileges by the House. They are the controllers of a press room right below us, where we speak now. They are given privileged access to this place way beyond what individuals of the public would normally expect.
It seems inconsistent to me that those who avail themselves of these privileges as media, both for service and for profit, would knowingly be able to violate our rules here about confidentiality of some of our meetings.
Certainly, the meetings in the House of Commons are not private but are quite public; however, we do have in camera private meetings.
For those who would knowingly violate those rules and flaunt our working privileges on the front pages of a newspaper, I find quite inconsistent with their use of the privileges they have. I would ask, Mr. Speaker, that you consider that as a matter of privilege as well.
I will leave the matter there. I will look to you, Mr. Speaker, to engineer, if possible, some form of resolution that will uphold both the public interest and the finest traditions of the House. I am prepared to move a motion if you find that this is a matter of prima facie privilege as I believe it to be.
I would also add that as a result of this being on the public record, and in the event that there is the basis for a criminal complaint, that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police take note thereof subject to any direction that you, Mr. Speaker, might wish to assist them with.
As one member, I would like to see a resolution from within the House rather than the criminal courts. This is not impossible and that would be a preferred resolution if that were possible.