I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on Tuesday, April 12 by the hon. member for Newton—North Delta concerning an accusation made by the hon. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration during that day's question period that the hon. member was having constituents post bonds payable to him in exchange for his aid in seeking temporary visitor visas for family members.
I would like to thank the hon. member for raising this matter as well as providing additional information in the form of a letter dated April 20. I would also like to thank the hon. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and the hon. leader of the official opposition for their interventions.
In presenting his case, the hon. member for Newton—North Delta stated that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration had accused him of having constituents post bonds payable to him for his intervention on their behalf to acquire visitor visas. This, the hon. member claimed, was absolutely false, and neither he nor his staff had ever done so. The hon. member pointed out that the issue had been erroneously reported in the media and had been corrected. He then asked the hon. minister for an apology.
The remarks referred to had been made by the minister in reply to a question posed by the hon. member for Ajax—Pickering during question period. The hon. member had referred to allegations that $50,000 cheques for bonds were being taken by a member of the House. He asked if the minister was looking into the matter and what he intended to do about it.
In his answer, the minister stated that those were not allegations, but admissions by the member for Newton-North Delta, that it was is a very serious misrepresentation of the immigration system, and that he had asked the ethics commissioner to look into the matter.
During his intervention on the point of order, the hon. minister stated that he had simply read from the transcript of the meeting of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration of March 24, wherein the hon. member for Newton—North Delta had admitted to the actions.
As I promised, I have reviewed the transcript of the committee meeting referred to. In his remarks in the committee during consideration of Bill C-283, an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, of which he is the sponsor, the hon. member for Newton—North Delta stated categorically that he took no money from anyone, and that in asking constituents to sign a guarantee bond document he was testing the genuineness of their promise to ensure that the visitor for whom they were seeking a visa would leave Canada as required.
Further to this, on April 21 the hon. minister rose in the House to speak to the matter. Noting the importance of conducting its affairs with civility, the minister said he wished to take the opportunity to respond to the point of order. He advised the House that while he felt his initial intervention was worthwhile and stood by his decision to refer the matter to the Ethics Commissioner, he was withdrawing remarks he had made during question period on April 13 in reply to a question from the hon. member for Edmonton--Strathcona suggesting that the hon. member had profited personally from this type of action. I would like to thank the minister for doing so.
In raising this matter, the hon. member has had the opportunity to set the record straight. It seems to the Chair that this is not a point of order but a dispute as to facts. It is not for your Speaker to judge the accuracy of statements that are under dispute. Indeed, it would be inappropriate for me to do so even if I were to want to pronounce further on this case, since I am now in receipt of a communication from the Ethics Commissioner informing me that an inquiry into the matter has been requested.
May I remind the House of section 27(5) of the Conflict of Interest Code, which forms part of our Standing Orders as Appendix 1. It reads as follows:
(5) Once a request for an inquiry has been made to the Ethics Commissioner, Members should respect the process established by this Code and permit it to take place without commenting further on the matter.
Accordingly, further consideration of this matter will be put aside until such time as the process established by our Conflict of Interest Code has run its course.
Once again, I wish to thank the hon. member for bringing this matter to the attention of the House.
The Chair has notice of another question of privilege from the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country.