Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to your attention certain points that I believe are essential for your consideration with regard to my colleague's question of privilege.
On the last day of the last Parliament, you promised the House that in the event of its dissolution should the government call a general election, the Speaker of the House of the new Parliament would review and rule on the questions of privilege that remained unanswered.
We are currently debating one such question regarding the failure by the president of the Public Health Agency of Canada to table documents requested by a formal order of the House on June 2, 2021. I believe that this question needs to be given priority, especially given its importance in maintaining the authority and dignity of the House of Commons and protecting constitutional rights, both the collective rights and privileges of the House and those of elected representatives as individuals.
I want to remind the House of two points. First, the government failed to comply with the orders issued by the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations on March 31 and May 10, 2021, and the orders issued by the House of Commons on June 2 and June 17, 2021. Second, the Speaker admonished the Public Health Agency of Canada's top bureaucrat for contempt. It is quite worrisome that the Liberal government's response to the House of Common's order was to take legal action against the House in Federal Court to seal the requested documents. For all these reasons, we cannot let this stand.
I repeat that this is about protecting the authority and dignity of our institution, and the Speaker has a duty to protect the constitutional rights of the legislative branch. The authors of the third edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice addressed this point on page 82, stating that disobedience of a legitimate command of the House must be considered contempt, especially when a witness without reasonable excuse refuses to provide information or produce papers required by the House.
I would like to quote what you said on June 21 about this matter:
The privileges held by the House of Commons are an integral part of the Constitution Act, 1867, and the Parliament of Canada Act. These rights include the right to require the production of documents. Under the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, committees of the House exercise these same rights when carrying out their respective mandates.
Although he was ordered to produce documents at least four times, the president of the Public Health Agency of Canada failed to respect the will of the House, which is significant, and voluntarily failed to produce the requested documents relating to the security breaches at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg and the firing of the two scientists from the lab.
The June 17 order was very clear that two things had to happen. First, the president of the Public Health Agency of Canada, Mr. Stewart, was to attend at the bar to receive the deserved admonishment for the repeated failure to comply with the previous orders of the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations. Second, he was to table the required documents, which, unfortunately, has not yet happened.
We debated it at length on the last day of the previous Parliament. The arguments that were made and the references that were mentioned give Parliament the full authority to use its power to enforce the orders adopted by the majority.
In closing, given the foregoing comments, we ask you to protect the parliamentary rights and privileges of the House and the elected representatives who make it up, to preserve the authority and the dignity of the House, which is no small matter, and to rule accordingly under the circumstances so that the order of June 17, 2021, is duly respected and the documents are properly submitted to the House.
The Bloc Québécois therefore supports the official opposition's proposal in this regard.