Mr. Speaker, we have seen worse.
That said, what would be more important than imposing a sanction would be for the powers of this House to be vindicated by obtaining the documents. Allowing the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations to do its work would be, in my opinion, more valuable than deliberating on how to scold the Public Health Agency a second time.
If the House were so inclined, it can arrest someone or even commit him or her to jail. For example, had Mr. Stewart not even showed up today, the authorities are clear that we could send Sergeant-at-Arms to bring him here.
Paragraph 121 in Beauchesne, in reference to persons summoned to attend at the bar, indicates that if the person is not present, “the absence is noted and the House orders the Speaker to issue a warrant for him to be taken into custody.”
That did not happen, however. Mr. Stewart did what he had to do, that is present himself to the House, but he did not do what the order asked him to do, and that is submit the documents.
Sir Bourinot's Parliamentary Procedure and Practice in the Dominion of Canada, fourth edition, states on page 62, and I quote, “If, when the order of the day has been read at the appointed time, the sergeant-at-arms informs the house that the person summoned is not in attendance, or cannot be found, the house will instruct the speaker to issue a warrant for his arrest.”
That did not take place, and that is all the better.
I will also quote from Parliamentary Practice in New-Zealand, which states, at page 794, “the House may also use its...powers to enforce and uphold its privileges. It may...coerce someone to do something it wishes to be done, for example committing a person to the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms so that he or she may be brought to give evidence before a committee. When using its powers in this way, the House is not 'punishing' anyone for past transgressions, but rather ensuring that no transgressions occur.”
It goes on to say, “The House uses its powers to secure compliance with its orders before there has been any disobedience of them. If a person committed into the Serjeant's custody escaped, then a contempt would be committed and the person would be liable to be punished. The distinction between punishing for disobedience and taking action to secure compliance can be a fine one where there is disobedience to the House's order.”
Mr. Speaker, I would like to quote the most recent example, a ruling by your predecessor, the hon. member for Halifax West, on May 18, 2016, which can be found at page 3547 of the Debates of the House of Commons. Members will recall this sad day. The ruling had to do with the incident in which the Prime Minister crossed the floor and forcibly grabbed the official opposition whip by the arm like a common thug and dragged him back to his seat. It was one of the most disgraceful incidents in the history of our Parliament. The supreme political authority of this country behaved with the dignity of a thug. A few hours later, he admitted his mistake and formally apologized in the House of Commons. The member for Papineau did the right thing. Let us remember the parliamentary consequences of that incident.
In this case, after some brief comments, the Speaker simply said:
I appreciate the comments of all the members who have spoken, and I appreciate the Prime Minister's apology.
Having said that, I cannot help but find a prima facie case of question of privilege and I call upon the hon. member for York—Simcoe to move the appropriate motion.
Mr. Speaker, since you do not have any written notice in this case, I would like to read the motion that I intend to move.
The motion states: That the House find that the Public Health Agency of Canada continues to be in contempt for its failure to obey the orders of the House, adopted on June 2 and June 17, 2021, as well as the orders of the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations, adopted on March 21 and May 10, 2021, and, accordingly, directs the Sergeant-at-Arms attending this House to enter into the premises of the Public Health Agency of Canada to search for and seize the documents which were ordered to be produced by the House on June 2 and June 17, 2021, and by the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations on March 21 and May 10, 2021, and to deposit the documents with the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Council under the terms of the order of the House adopted on June 2, 2021 and that the Speaker do issue this warrent accordingly.
We had previously worked on a motion that was reviewed by the Chair and staff, who concluded that the proposal was not acceptable, so we immediately came up with a new one, which was adopted.
That is why we came prepared for every contingency this time around. If, by chance, the Chair decides that this first motion does not meet the requirements of the House, here is a second one that can be used moving forward.
The motion states: That the House find the Public Health Agency of Canada continues to be in contempt for its failure to obey the orders of the House, adopted on June 2 and 17, 2021, as well as the orders of the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations, adopted on March 31 and May 10, 2021, and, accordingly, refers the matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for its consideration of an enforcement mechanism available for this House to obtain the documents previously ordered by the House and the special committee to be produced to provide that: (a) the committee to be instructed to report back within four weeks of the adoption of this order to provide that in the event it does not do so, it shall be deemed to have presented a report making the following recommendations: “That the Sergeant attending this House be directed to enter the premises of the Public Health Agency of Canada to search inside for the documents which were ordered to be produced by the House on June 2 and 17, 2021, and by the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations on March 31 and May 10, 2021, and to table these documents with the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, under the terms of the order of the House adopted on June 2, 2021, and that the Speaker do issue a warrant accordingly; (b) any report which is ready to be presented when the House stands adjourned may be submitted electronically to the Clerk of the House and and shall be deemed to have been duly presented to the House on that date, and (c) the provisions in paragraph (q) of the order adopted on Monday, January 25, 2021, concerning committee proceedings shall apply to maintain the committee held in relation to this order of reference until Sunday, September 19, 2021.
Let me be clear: This House has a job to do and this House shall be respected and especially shall be respected by all members, because we are 338 Canadians here in the House of Commons but we are more than citizens.
We are representatives of our constituents. When we do not pay respect to the House, we do not pay respect to the Canadian citizens. This is why, Mr. Speaker, I think that you will realize and recognize that if we let it pass, no one can address anything further.
This is all about respect for the House, which is made up of 338 Canadians who were duly elected by the public. If the House does not respect its orders, who will respect the laws adopted by the House? Who will respect the regulations adopted by the House? Who will respect the political decisions made after debates, albeit spirited ones, but decisions that were voted on by the individuals who were duly elected by the public?
The June 17 order was very clear, and two things were supposed to happen. The president of the Public Health Agency of Canada was to appear here and receive an admonishment. He was also meant to deliver the documents, but he did not.
It is like someone saying that they do not believe in a law, that it does not apply to them and that they do not care about the consequences because they do not believe in it. It is one thing if we are talking about a citizen who believes their rights have been violated. However, that is not how it works, and even less so when that someone is an elected official.
The House must respect the House. That is why I urge the Chair to take my question of privilege into consideration.