Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order relating to the apology offered by the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound for two references to Hitler.
While the House heard an apology and, through you, Mr. Speaker, accepted it, the member has since said, “just in order to take the buzz off and what have you, I partially retracted the statement in the house”, adding, “what I said was the truth” and adding also “the similarities between the gun registry and what Adolph Hitler did to perpetrate his crimes are very clear and obvious”.
I realize that points of order are not used for points of debate and, as such, I will confine myself to the merits of the matter in the parliamentary context.
First, Mr. Speaker, I believe that you must find the language unparliamentary, to say the least, in several respects, something which has not yet happened but must be done, lest such references be seen as acceptable conduct in this place. Language is what we are all about and offensive language must be sanctioned.
I draw the attention of all members to a ruling given on December 11, 1991, and found at pages at 6141 and 6142 of the Debates, wherein Mr. Speaker Fraser, as paraphrased by your predecessor. Mr. Speaker Milliken, reminded members that “offensive remark linger and have a suffocating effect on the fair exchange of ideas and points of view. Anything said in this place receives wide and instant dissemination and leaves a lasting impression. Offending words may be withdrawn, denied, explained away, or apologize for, but the impression created is not always as easily erased”.
Indeed, Mr. Speaker, while the matter might have been seen as laid to rest, as you yourself put it, the member's subsequent retraction of his apology and, indeed, with even more odious language, reignites the issue and, I submit, warrants sanction.
Indeed, as O'Brien and Bosc clearly note on page 619, the withdrawal of unparliamentary language must be done, and this is the key point, “unequivocally”. It has not only not been withdrawn unequivocally, it has been reaffirmed in all its incendiary language and comparisons. Indeed, the unparliamentary nature of the language is evident in several respects.
First and foremost is the actual language used, in particular, the odious and obscene comparisons to Hitler, the paradigm of radical evil.
I draw to your attention the extensive list in the sixth edition of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms of the House of Commons of Canada wherein terms such as “Nazi” were found to be unparliamentary in this place as early as 1962, and the comparisons here, Mr. Speaker, go beyond that.
I believe all members of the House would be in agreement that references to other persons, such as the former minister of justice or the senator in the other place, as being Hitler, or acting as Hitler might have, or thinking as he might have, are as unacceptable as they are offensive.
Indeed, in 2007, in a point of order regarding comments by the member for Winnipeg Centre comparing a minister to Mussolini, the then chief government whip even said, somewhat prophetically one might say:
Let us just imagine if this is allowed to stand. What will be next? There will be people in this place compared to Adolf Hitler. That is where this is headed. The hon. member knows that.
That is from Hansard.
In ruling on that incident, Mr. Speaker Milliken recalled for the House that, as per Marleau and Montpetit, one of the most basic principles of parliamentary procedures and proceedings in the House be conducted in terms of a free and civil discourse.
It is clear that such references to Hitler thereby trivializing and demeaning the Holocaust and attributing or ascribing what has become a metaphor for radical evil to those who comment on or conduct matters that have no relation or comparison to Hitler's crimes of mass atrocity are as odious as they are ignorant and have no place in the House.
On this point, let there be no mistake about it: Hitler did not take away guns from Jews, Mr. Speaker, Hitler murdered Jews, who had no guns. Any suggestion otherwise is odious and obscene.
Beyond the Hitler references, the member referenced two individuals, the former minister of justice and a former member of the other place. I would note that O'Brien and Bosc clearly states, on page 617:
Members have a responsibility to protect the innocent, not only from outright slander, but from any slur directly or indirectly implied, and that Members avoid as much as possible mentioning by name people from outside of the House who are unable to reply in their own defence.
Clearly, the member's implied slur is beyond the pale and neither of the two individuals so maligned have the opportunity to rise in this place and defend themselves.
Moreover, what the member said about the former member of the other place was unparliamentary as per O'Brien and Bosc, at page 615, “it is out of order the question of Senator's integrity, honesty or character”. While that senator is no longer serving, the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound referenced actions of that senator while she served and thus I believe the protection hereto must be extended.
Mr. Speaker, you said, during discussion of this point when first raised that “it is the practice of the House that once a member withdraws a comment or apologizes it is left at that”. I believe the practice of the House is also that a member cannot say he or she apologizes in here and then retracts the apology or undermines it and indeed in fact repeats the odious reference outside this place.
In essence, the member did just that by offering an apology that was insincere, by his own admission offered only “to take the buzz off” and, per his own clarification, is only a partial retraction.
The House will recall again that should the Speaker find language to be unparliamentary, as per page 619 of O'Brien and Bosc, the member “will be requested to rise in his or her place and to withdraw the unparliamentary word or phrase unequivocally”. Thus, Mr. Speaker, while you cannot change the member's mind, you can ask that he withdraw the remarks, something which he did not do.
Furthermore, with respect to the retraction of his apology, I believe stronger sanction is warranted and urge you, Mr. Speaker, to, in line with the precedence outlined in the sixth edition of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms of the House of Commons of Canada, name the member or inform him that he will not be seen by the Chair until he appears at the bar of the House to apologize for these obscene and odious remarks and comparisons.
Simply put, the member has not sincerely and completely apologized for his remarks. Indeed, he has even reaffirmed them in a more hateful form and they remain as he did not withdraw them. This cannot be an acceptable practice or precedent that we can allow to stand in the House. Redress and sanction are warranted. I implore you, Mr. Speaker, to exercise your necessary authority in this regard so that the integrity of the House and its members be protected so that those who are maligned outside the House would also be protected and, indeed, that the memory and meaning of the Holocaust be protected and preserved.