Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege. I was blocked from accessing Centre Block, and thus the House of Commons, by an officer of the RCMP. This physical obstruction impeded me from performing my parliamentary duties, which I believe constitutes a prima facie breach of my privileges as a member. I am rising at the first opportunity.
I remind the House that Erskine May’s Treatise on The Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament, defines “privilege” in the following way on page 75:
Parliamentary privilege is the sum of the peculiar rights enjoyed by each House collectively…and by Members of each House individually, without which they could not discharge their functions....
I will fairly briefly describe what happened, then the argument on procedure will be limited, as I will adopt other argument that has appeared before the House.
Today, on May 8, at approximately 10:35 a.m., I arrived on Parliament Hill on foot by the O'Connor entrance from Wellington. I proceeded up past the lawn along the sidewalk that runs north, east of the West Block. At the top, at about the midpoint of where the sidewalk curves along the balustrade overlooking the lawn, a cluster of people were stationary in front of an RCMP officer just in front of a barrier running alongside the driveway. At this point, I was directly below the MPs' entrance to the House of Commons and obviously very close to it. My trajectory was to be, and later became, the same as it always is for me and other MPs arriving on foot: to proceed straight north from that point in the sidewalk and enter the Centre Block via the West Block entrance and thereafter the lobby and the chamber where today proceedings in which I wanted to participate were under way.
At that point, I walked through a gap in the waiting group and proceeded to walk toward and then alongside the RCMP officer, gesturing to my pin, which I was wearing on my lapel. I was asked to stop. I told the officer I was an MP and she said that did not matter. I asked whether she wanted to see my ID. She said that it was irrelevant. I nevertheless took out my MP identity card, which she glanced at in my hand but did not take to inspect. I asked whether she knew she had a duty to let an MP through. She said that she had orders to stop everyone. At that point, I proceeded to take two or three steps up the sidewalk, saying that I wanted to get to the House. She moved toward me with her arm outstretched to block my way, without physically touching me. So, I stopped to resume the discussion, as I was not going to put her in the position of acting in any further physical fashion on what were clearly orders from her superior officers. She was doing her job as best she understood it, in light of orders from the RCMP command on the Hill.
To be clear about what her orders were, I then asked whether she was under orders to stop MPs as well as others. She replied she was under orders to stop “everyone”.
At one point in the conversation I asked why I was being stopped. She said that VIPs were coming. I could see in the near distance the red carpet going up the main steps of the Centre Block. I asked whether the fear was that an MP would do something to these VIPs. She avoided the question, understandably recognizing its rhetorical nature. However, the point is clear. The only logic at work in this obstruction was one of protecting the safety of a VIP from a person the RCMP knows to be an MP. On that logic, there is little to stop the RCMP from putting in place orders that obstruct the movements of MPs inside Parliament's buildings in order to protect VIPs from us, the MPs. This may sound like a stretch, Mr. Speaker, but that is the logic of what happened. I was stopped because I was treated indistinguishably from non-MPs, as an equal threat to a visiting dignitary.
I then asked for the RCMP officer's name, and she showed her badge. I then pointed out to the waiting group that they were witnessing an MP being stopped from getting to the House of Commons. At that point, she got on her radio and asked whether she could let an MP through. An answer came back to let “everyone” through, with no specific response about an MP. I then walked the rest of the short distance to the West Block entrance to Centre Block.
I have the officer's name, but the name is irrelevant, as this issue is about the command of the RCMP, all the way up to and including the Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner for Federal Policing, and their disregard for the rules of Parliament Hill related to the parliamentary privilege of MPs. This is about the system within which the officer had orders to operate. It is not about the officer, who I want to emphasize was firm but also polite.
I also took no record of the time that elapsed because it is irrelevant to the issue, which is that in these circumstances no obstruction of an MP was justified in the least. I am happy to say for the record, if it matters to some, that it lasted no longer than the time taken for the events and the conversation just described to transpire, almost certainly less than a minute.
As for precedents, as you know, Mr. Speaker, the second edition of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice states the following:
In circumstances where Members claim to be physically obstructed, impeded, interfered with or intimidated in the performance of their parliamentary functions, the Speaker is apt to find that a prima facie breach of privilege has occurred.
Having reminded you of something that you do not need to be reminded of, Mr. Speaker, I am sure I will save the House's time by adopting by reference all of the authorities cited and argued by my colleague, the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, in his question of privilege on April 30. Hansard will, of course, have those arguments in full for the Speaker to consult.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to consider my question of privilege and the facts I have just related to the House. I believe you will find that my privilege was breached and that I was prevented from carrying out my functions as an elected member of the House of Commons. If you find that there was a prima facie breach of my privileges as a member, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.