I am serious.
I am reading from chapter 3, page 97 of O'Brien and Bosc, 2nd edition, “Misuse of Freedom of Speech”. I am quoting a ruling on a question of privilege by Speaker Fraser who spoke at length on the issue. He said, in part:
Such a privilege confers grave responsibilities on those who are protected by it. By that I mean specifically the Hon. Members in this place. The consequences of its abuse can be terrible. Innocent people could be slandered with no redress available to them. Reputations could be destroyed on the basis of false rumour. All Hon. Members are conscious of the care they must exercise in availing themselves of the absolute privilege of freedom of speech. That is why there are long-standing practices and tradition observed in this House to counter the potential for abuse.
Speaker Parent emphasized the need for Members to use great care in exercising their right to speak freely in the House.
He said, and this is from the footnote, the Debate September 30, 1994, page 6371, in which he states in part:
...paramount to our political and parliamentary systems is the principle of freedom of speech, a member's right to stand in this House unhindered to speak his or her mind. However when debate in the House centres on sensitive issues, as it often does, I would expect that members would always bear in mind the possible effects of their statements and hence be prudent in their tone and choice of words.
He goes to say in footnote 170, on page 98, the debates of May 5, 1987:
Specifically, during a debate as well as during Question Period and other House proceedings, Members are bound by the Standing Orders and practices of the House with respect to the content of speeches and remarks. For example, Standing Order 18—
I referred to that earlier. He goes on to say:
—prohibits the use of disrespectful or offensive language in debate. Moreover, personal attacks, insults, obscene language or words that question a Member's integrity, honesty or character are not permitted. It is unparliamentary to state that a Member has deliberately misled the House. As Speaker Milliken observed in 2002: “If we do not preserve the tradition of accepting the word of a fellow member, which is a fundamental principle of our parliamentary system, then freedom of speech, both inside and outside the House, is imperilled.
This is very powerful. These are the fundamentals of Parliament. These are the fundamental issues that we must respect and defend.
I want to move on specifically with regard to statements by members under Standing Order 31. I refer to unparliamentary language referred to in Marleau and Montpetit on page 525. With regard to unparliamentary language particularly related to any statement, it says:
The proceedings of the House are based on a long-standing tradition of respect for the integrity of all Members. Thus, the use of offensive, provocative or threatening language in the House is strictly forbidden. Personal attacks, insults and obscene language or words are not in order. A direct charge or accusation against a Member may be made only by way of a substantive motion for which notice is required.
I believe that is what is happening.
On November 18 I rose in the House on a similar point and O'Brien and Bosc would have been helpful. I rose on a question of privilege regarding a member in this place who made statements referring to me during his own question of privilege. I rose and made my argument. The Speaker took the matter under consideration. That was almost six months ago and there has been no response yet to that question of privilege I raised on November 18. Considering the seriousness of the situation, this calls for some attention yet again.
I will now refer to examples of how important and sensitive things are. Page 614 of O'Brien and Bosc has to do with something as simple as references to members by name. It says:
Remarks directed specifically at another Member which question that Member’s integrity, honesty or character are not in order. A Member will be requested to withdraw offensive remarks, allegations, or accusations of impropriety directed towards another Member. The Speaker has no authority to rule on statements made outside the House by one Member against another.
Again, here is another reference that says that making allegations or insults or otherwise questioning the character, honesty or integrity of another member of Parliament are absolutely out of order.
There are more references, but I believe that I have given sufficient argument at this time. Having taken the weekend to consider what happened, reading it many times, and seeing some statements even in today's press, there was no choice. I have to defend myself.
If those statements had been made outside of this chamber, I would have ample grounds to seek redress in the courts for libel, slander and defamation of character.
In May 2009 I had the honour of being awarded a fellowship by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario. It is the highest honour that can be bestowed on a chartered accountant by his or her profession. That honour is bestowed on only 3% of the total membership of the institute.
Being a chartered accountant in good standing for over 35 years, there is a code of conduct and a code of ethics. It is very strict. If any of the matters that the member alleges were true, complaints could be made against me to my own profession. It would be terribly, terribly embarrassing for me if I had to go before my own profession and defend myself against allegations which have made against me.
It would disrupt me and there are other potential consequences. But when I read it in paper, when I hear members from the Conservative Party across the way laughing and chiding me, I understand that they think this is just politics, but everyone here is a real person. They have a reputation. They want to serve here to the best of their ability and they hope to leave here with their good name intact.
However, my good name has been attacked by the member. I know the member well enough to be absolutely surprised that these words came from him. I would never have guessed it. There is more to it.
I take this extremely seriously. I have taken the time to open up to the House to tell members that I believe we have a very serious problem here where members have taken advantage of the opportunity to say things in this place, which no member has any recourse whatsoever to do anything.
Speaker Parent once said that once it is on the record, it is hard to retract it. It is almost impossible. It is like telling a jury to disregard the comment.
I would like to make one last reference which may be helpful. It is in O'Brien and Bosc, page 74, and has to do with what is called the Pallett case. This particular case has an option for the Speaker. It states:
The new citation in Beauchesne enabled successive Speakers to keep a tighter rein on questions of privilege, even though practice required that the interventions at least be heard, however briefly, before being ruled on. The prima facie condition was invoked most often, although a number of other cases were refused because they were not raised at the proper time. Several cases arose which permitted the Speaker to find that debate on a matter of privilege should go forward, with the result that a body of precedents began to take shape. For example, a 1959 case (known as the Pallett case) led Speaker Michener to declare that a proposed motion in which the conduct of a Member was alluded to was not, prima facie, a matter of privilege and could not be given precedence because the proposed motion was not a specific complaint against the Member, a ruling frequently cited in subsequent years.
In other words, there still could be a debate in this place on the subject matter that I have raised, specifically noted in the Speaker's letter of last February asking members to deal with this.
I have raised this question of privilege because I believe that it has impinged on my integrity, my honesty, my character, my ethics and my reputation. I have to defend myself. This is my only opportunity to do that and it is my only opportunity to have this matter corrected. I believe that the facts, as presented by the member for Peace River, are incorrect, or stated in a way which leads to these impacts on me.
As a consequence, I do not believe for a minute that withdrawing that statement or even an apology would be acceptable. I believe that this must be looked into because it is now over a year after the Speaker has admonished the House for these attacks on other members of Parliament. The procedure and House affairs committee has to look at this and we have to deal with it.
Accordingly, Mr. Speaker, should you find a prima facie case of breach of privilege, my privileges and my rights, I would be prepared to move an appropriate motion.