Mr. Speaker, as you and all members of the House are aware, the privileges that extend to a member of Parliament that their speech is free from any consequences in terms of libel or other harm that they may cause and free from any responsibility is restricted to their duties as members of Parliament in this House.
There is a big difference between our Westminster parliamentary system, based on the mother Parliament in Britain, and as it has evolved here in Canada, and those of, say, the Republic of Russia right now where one becomes immune from any form of prosecution or any form of liability simply by one's status as a member of the house.
The fact that one is a member of Parliament does not give one licence to make reckless accusations that harm the reputation of any individual in this country, regardless of one's position or status.
Any comments that are made outside of this chamber, outside of one's direct role in the House, are comments for which a member must assume responsibility, comments which they should recognize have risks and that they should have a basis on which they can defend the truthfulness and accuracy of those remarks.
Were it to be otherwise, the situation that would result would be one that would be most unfortunate. Any member of the House could speak freely to the newspapers, on television, communicate in any form or fashion they wished, and have their comments reported widely which could harm the reputation of all kinds of private individuals or public figures, regardless of the basis for them.
Our parliamentary privilege does not work like that. We are simply restricted to comments made in the House. On that basis, I think it is very easy for you, Mr. Speaker, to dispose of this matter because there simply is no privilege being interfered with.
A very unfortunate trend has been coming from the official opposition in the House. It is an official opposition whose members have resorted to an ongoing program of character assassination. I recognize that they consider that to be part of the political game and they can do it in the House with the protection and the privileges of the House, but they must take seriously the responsibilities of every Canadian citizen outside the House.
They are not freed from that burden nor are they freed from the duties of every other citizen when they step outside the House and make their comments. They are in the same position of having to defend their public statements and utterances as every other Canadian citizen. If they make reckless and false accusations of criminal behaviour, which is the worst kind of bully tactic, if they go out there and say that someone is an ax murderer who is not, that someone is a criminal who is not, and they say those things without any consequences, that would be a serious affront to our democratic system and our Parliament.
We protect members within the House to allow for freedom of speech but we also respect the rights of every citizen and recognize that there is a difference between what Parliament means and what the House means. It is by virtue of membership and participation in the House that those privileges exist. It is for the protection of what happens in this chamber that those privileges exist. It is not to give individuals licence to engage in reckless behaviour and destroy people's reputations without any basis, which is exactly the conduct that the member continues to engage in outside the House.
On that basis, he must, as any other citizen outside the House, be prepared to defend those comments, not to cry like a baby that he is not allowed to say what he wants. He must assume the adult responsibilities for the truth of the comments he makes. If they are not true, then he should own up to the lack of evidence and own up to the lack of truth and be prepared to defend those words in court. That is all he is being asked to do.
It is not an unreasonable proposition for any individual or any citizen. It is the basis of our democracy. That is why laws against libel and slander exist. They are as old as our traditions in this western Parliament. They are laws that come out of our common law tradition to protect the people. While it may not be consistent with the Liberals' strategy, when they have no policies to talk about and no facts on which to base their accusations, they still engage in repeated false accusations that harm the individual reputations of people, harm their families and their loved ones and ruin people's lives. This is what that man is seeking the right to be able to do without consequences.
A member cannot do that, by virtue of being a member of Parliament, outside this House. A member can make his or her best efforts in this House, engage in debate, and that privilege exists, but there is no such privilege outside this House.
The fact that this question is even being entertained in front of you, Mr. Speaker, the fact that it has been raised, demonstrates the dangerous path that we are going down.
The particular case is quite clear. The police themselves have said that his accusations are false. The police have said that none of the interference which on television he alleges existed, exists. The police have said that in a public forum.
The facts do not bear out anything he said. If he disagrees with this, he can attempt to rely on those facts in a court of law for comments he wishes to make outside this House, but privileges of this House, and the privilege to speak, are restricted to inside this House.