I am now ready to rule on the question of privilege raised on December 13, 2022, by the member for Haldimand—Norfolk concerning an accusation made by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.
The member argued that the minister falsely accused her of having used an offensive word, specifically “anti-Semite”, in relation to another member. She emphatically denies having made such a statement and feels that the minister's accusation has damaged her reputation. She also asked for an apology.
The Chair takes seriously all situations where the reputation of a member is at play. I understand how certain words or accusations can cause offence and the Chair does not doubt that the member from Haldimand—Norfolk felt that way.
After this matter was first raised on December 8, I undertook to review the Debates and audio recordings, not having heard the alleged comment myself that day.
The Chair can report that the word in question could not be heard through the audio. Since the alleged unparliamentary language could not be confirmed, the Chair is left with two versions of the same event and the impossible task to determine what was said.
Faced with a similar situation, Speaker Milliken stated, on October 30, 2006, in a ruling found at page 4414 of the Debates:
...requesting an apology or a withdrawal—is predicated on a common agreement about what actually took place, either because the exchange appears in the official record or because both parties acknowledge that the exchange took place.
In this case, the official record is not helpful and the Speaker is faced with a dispute, indeed a contradiction, about what actually happened.
Further down, at page 4415 of the Debates, Speaker Milliken added, and I quote: In the case before the House now, the remarks may or may not have been said. However, it is not for the Speaker to decide where the truth lies.
There is nothing in the parliamentary record that allows for the Chair to determine whether such a comment was made and by whom. The member for Haldimand—Norfolk has denied making this comment and her denial is on the record. It is not clear to the Chair, though, how this situation prevented the member from accomplishing her parliamentary work.
Consequently, the Chair cannot find a prima facie case of privilege, and therefore cannot give the matter priority over all other proceedings.
The Chair takes this opportunity, once again, to ask all members to conduct themselves in a dignified manner and to show continued respect for one another. All members need to be judicious in their choice of words, on and off the record.
I thank all members for their attention.