Madam Speaker, the question of parliamentary privilege that the deputy House leader from the Liberal Party raised was mine. I do not believe I used the term “cover-up” in my suggestion. I quoted the Milliken decision with respect to the ability of parliamentarians to see all information.
I would remind the member that information is not just provided through the production of documents. Witness testimony and the ability to question witnesses is part of the obligation of parliamentarians to fulfill their duties unfettered. That was supported by the Milliken decision, which supersedes both the Bosley and Parent decisions. It should be unfettered. National security interests can be addressed if there are some, but those were waived in this case when the Prime Minister's Office asked the national security advisor to brief members of the press gallery, who do not have the same privileges as members of Parliament.
The key element of the Milliken decision, which my friend, the deputy House leader for the Liberals, glossed over rather craftily, is that a parliamentarian's privilege shall be unfettered to fulfill their obligations to hold the government to account. My privilege, as both a member of this place and as the shadow cabinet minister doing my parliamentary duties to critique the minister and the government on foreign affairs matters is curtailed by the fact that the government has provided information to the media through the national security advisor, the most senior civil servant advising cabinet and the Government of Canada. It is not allowing parliamentarians, including me, to have that same degree of information and access. A request by parliamentarians to have that same degree of information at the public safety committee is the same as a request by this House to have documents related to Afghan detainees, which is the subject matter of the Milliken decision.
My friend is trying to be somewhat cute in the fact that suggesting there is not an order for the production of documents is somehow different and can be distinguished from requests from parliamentarians to have evidentiary testimony from the most senior civil servant responsible for security when that very information was provided to non-parliamentarians. It is a preposterous position for the member to take.
I would ask the Chair to look at both my presentation from two weeks ago and also my rebuttal here today, and the Eggleton decision, which recognizes that the government cannot have two positions on one issue.
The Prime Minister's Office compelled the national security advisor to provide briefings to the media. The public safety minister, in his press conference before the House rose, suggested that the national security advisor could provide that information to the media but could choose not to provide that information to parliamentarians. That is fettering the privilege of parliamentarians to fulfill their obligations in this place. That is supported clearly by the Milliken decision, which did not just in spirit relate to production of documents. It is information and evidence that parliamentarians need to fulfill their duties.
I would also suggest that the member's response to my question of privilege highlights the fact that the Eggleton decision would apply to this circumstance where the Government of Canada has provided two possible responses to a diplomatic incident. One response was that the member for Surrey Centre was responsible for the invitation of Jaspal Atwal, which the Prime Minister has acknowledged and the member himself has acknowledged, and for which the member was disciplined or resigned from a role. The Prime Minister has also suggested that the Indian government is somehow complicit in the Atwal invitation, or the scandal related to Atwal's attendance at the Prime Minister's events.
That is in a very similar fashion to a previous ruling, the Eggleton decision, where two positions of the federal government cannot possibly be correct. This is something that the House has been trying to probe at. The information that the national security advisor provided to members of the media is required for parliamentarians to discern which alternative is true. They cannot both be true. Even Mr. Atwal himself, a week ago, refuted the Prime Minister's suggestion that the Indian government was responsible.
I would ask for an expeditious review of this point of privilege. Parliamentarians are clearly having our ability to perform our function fettered by the government's unwillingness to provide parliamentarians with the same briefing and the same degree of access to the national security advisor that the Prime Minister provided to members of the media in order to explain away problems with his trip to India.
Those are my submissions in right of reply to my friend from the Liberal Party with respect to this matter of privilege.