[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Tuesday, May 7, 1996
The Chairman: Good morning. I have a point of order.
Mr. Bellehumeur (Berthier - Montreal): Mr. Chairman, I tabled a motion on May 2 with a view to putting an end to the hearing and report back. As adjournment was asked for on the 2nd of May last with a view to pursuing the questioning of Mr. Jacob sitting over there, it's my turn to ask the committee's unanimous consent to withdraw the motion.
I'll see to tabling it again in due course. I do intend to do that. For the time being, to allow the committee to question Mr. Jacob at length, I would like to withdraw it so that we don't have to make any decision on it immediately. After that I'll see to tabling it again.
The Chairman: Is it agreed?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chairman: Colleagues, today we have the hon. member for Charlesbourg, Dr. Jean-Marc Jacob, back before us as our witness. Dr. Jacob appeared before the committee last Thursday. At the end of his round of questions, as we heard, Mr. Bellehumeur had a motion, which has now been withdrawn. Mr. Milliken had not yet had his opportunity to ask questions of this witness. You may remember that we adjourned. As members know, that wasn't a debatable motion. We took a vote and of course it passed.
The committee had previously agreed to hear from Mr. Hart and Mr. Jacob. Mr. Hart was called as a witness at two lengthy meetings of the committee. Ms Catterall, in her questioning of Dr. Jacob last Thursday, had indicated that she expected he would be required to attend for a second meeting. No objection was raised to Ms Catterall's suggestion. Accordingly, as your chair, I decided to invite Dr. Jacob back for today's meeting and he has agreed to come.
Colleagues, prior to the beginning of the meeting, I had discussions with the various parties. I understand that we have an agreed list. We're going to try to conclude around 12:30 p.m., if that's your preference. We had agreed that Dr. Jacob would be given a brief opportunity at the end of the questions in the event that there were some other questions or points he wanted to make. And I also want to give you notice that the chair intends four or five clarifications in terms of completing this issue with Dr. Jacob.
Thank you, Dr. Jacob. Mr. Milliken, could we begin with you?
Mr. Milliken (Kingston and the Islands): Mr. Jacob, in the course of your testimony during our last meeting, you mentioned that you sent your communiqué to a list of people. Is that list available? Could I have it please. Of course, this list includes the addresses of many newspapers in the province of Quebec.
Mr. Jean-Marc Jacob (member for Charlesbourg): Yes, Mr. Milliken.
Mr. Milliken: As well as the address for Valcartier. That's the military base, isn't it?
Mr. Jacob: Yes.
Mr. Milliken: And also an address in the city of Quebec, the...
Mr. Jacob: The Quebec Citadel.
Mr. Milliken: Are there any other bases on the list? There are certainly some regiments.
Mr. Jacob: Yes, reserve regiments.
Mr. Milliken: Everywhere?
Mr. Jacob: Those that are indicated on the list. Rimouski, Lévis, Rivière-du-Loup... I may be forgetting one or two.
Mr. Milliken: Addresses like CFRC are of course radio stations, aren't they?
Mr. Jacob: Yes.
Mr. Milliken: What is NCSM Radisson?
Mr. Jacob: I think that's the naval reserve.
Mr. Milliken: Fine. So most are either military bases or reserves.
Mr. Jacob: That's essentially it. There is nothing else.
Mr. Milliken: This is the complete list of this communique's dissemination?
Mr. Jacob: Exactly. It was sent by fax. The other one was sent through our press service as I mentioned last week.
Mr. Milliken: The press service that reaches out to all media people all across Canada.
Mr. Jacob: Normally, yes.
Mr. Milliken: Normally, yes.
In issuing this press release, I wonder if your intent was to influence the members of the Canadian forces and try to use that army corps to set up another.
Mr. Jacob: No. I've already explained this, but I'll repeat it. The object of the press release - and we always have to get back to the context - was to raise the matter of the future if the referendum were to win.
In that case, Quebec would have had the possibility of taking over certain services at all levels. This was discussed more than once concerning civil servants. What I did was simply in the same vein. I did it with the same intent for the Department of Defence.
Even though they say that Defence has its own legislation, the fact remains that the object of the communiqué was essentially that, in the case of a yes to the referendum and negotiations being held with a view to acceding to sovereignty.
As I pointed out last week, I am still convinced that Canada would not have kept its military bases in Quebec without collecting a proportional share of taxes.
At that point, there would have been a cut off. We had the honesty, if not the wisdom, to think of gathering up these individuals after sovereignty was obtained, after Quebec had become a state. We were offering the military to join a hypothetically future Quebec army. That's why the communiqué was sent.
During the course of his testimony, Mr. Hart said that the role of the parliamentarian is to represent the citizens who elected him or her. I would point out to the members of the committee that in my riding and that of Bagotville, Saint-Hubert et Rimouski, the Yes won the day.
The military are full-fledged Quebec and Canadian citizens and they needed the fullest information possible to make their decision. I'm sure that what I did could not be approved by everyone, but for the majority of my electors, I fulfilled my parliamentary duties by producing information they wanted.
The territory occupied by base Valcartier and the civilians includes over 7,500 people. In any given area or riding, that's a rather influential number. Despite that and even though it may cause displeasure to some, the Yes won the day in my riding.
Mr. Milliken: Mr. Jacob, which one of these addresses are to be found in your riding?
Mr. Jacob: Everything concerning Valcartier is part of it.
Mr. Milliken: All the others are part of other ridings.
Mr. Jacob: That's right.
Mr. Milliken: Is it fair to say that your intent was to influence these people as electors in the province of Quebec before the referendum?
Mr. Jacob: I could answer by turning the question around. Is it fair that parliamentarians seek to influence people by saying that in the event of Quebec secession, there will be no negotiations, that people will lose their jobs and that the economy will collapse? If you think that my communiqué was propaganda, as you said last week, I think there was negative propaganda coming from federalist parliamentarians. If it's wrong for me to do what I did, then it was also wrong for the others.
Mr. Milliken: I'll be more specific with my question. Was your intent to assure members of the Canadian armed forces that if the Yes side won the referendum, they could find jobs in a new military force in the province of Quebec?
Mr. Jacob: That was the ultimate goal of my press release.
Mr. Milliken: If that was your goal, did you inform the Quebec chief electoral officer that you had prepared this document with the intent of participating in the referendum debate as your communiqué was sent October 26 and the referendum was held October 30?
Mr. Jacob: I'll simply repeat the history of events I've already set out. There were regional commissions held before the referendum in Quebec. Let's say the two most important commissions were those held in the Quebec City area and the Montreal area. In those two areas, briefs were tabled by academics one of whom used to teach at the Saint-Jean military college, as well as by former officers, former generals and former lieutenants colonels dealing with the possibility of a Quebec army after a Yes vote.
When I met with military personnel, relatives of military personnel or spouses of military personnel asking me whether there would be jobs for their sons or husbands, my answer was the communiqué was issued to ensure that in the case of a Yes vote, after negotiations with a view to Quebec acceding to sovereignty, we would have an army in Quebec where the military would keep their rank and so forth.
Mr. Parizeau said the same thing around February or March 1995.
Mr. Milliken: Yes, but did you inform Quebec chief electoral officer that you had sent this press release?
Mr. Jacob: No. I don't think that during the referendum period, either on the federal side or the sovereignty side, anyone advised the chief electoral officer every time a communiqué was issued unless it was necessary.
Mr. Milliken: But questions were put concerning the federal MPs who participated in the organization of the crowd in Montreal isn't that the case?
Mr. Jacob: That's a bit different. You're talking about election expenses.
Mr. Milliken: Yes, that's it.
Mr. Jacob: Now we're down to it. I could tell you how much the communiqué cost. I don't think it would be much more than $50 or $60.
Mr. Milliken: What about the tax?
Mr. Jacob: Plus the tax? Let's say $62. I don't think this is required under our legislation on election expenses. This issue is quite separate from the study of the contents of the communiqué. I don't know whether I was supposed to declare the cost of the communiqué as an election expense. I have no idea. I can answer questions about the content and interpretation of the communiqué.
Mr. Milliken: In issuing the communiqué, your intention was to influence members of the military to vote Yes in the referendum, by guaranteeing them that after it they would have a job.
Mr. Jacob: My intention was to inform them and assure them that in a case of a Yes vote, following negotiations, they would have a job. This is similar to what was done for federal public servants, Coast Guard, and Canada Post employees, and so on.
Mr. Milliken: Mr. Jacob, the list you gave me is composed of military bases or reserves in Quebec. Did you send the communiqué to other military bases in Canada where there were military personnel from Quebec?
Mr. Jacob: No, Mr. Milliken.
Mr. Milliken: You also said that you recently visited Kingston...
Mr. Jacob: Twice.
Mr. Milliken: ...and the Royal Military College do speak about what you had done. You were asked some questions about your actions and your communiqué, were you not?
Mr. Jacob: I was invited to the Military College in Kingston to give the Bloc québécois' view on defence policy in the context of my dissenting report in the defence policy review. I was also asked some questions about the possibility of a Quebec army.
Mr. Milliken: You said in your testimony the students laughed when you spoke about appearing before this committee.
Mr. Jacob: I remember that two professors and one officer cadet laughed when I said that.
Mr. Milliken: Was that the first time they laughed?
Mr. Jacob: I don't remember, but I was struck by this.
Mr. Milliken: Did they take your presentation seriously?
Mr. Jacob: You would have to ask them that.
Mr. Milliken: They did not laugh during your presentation.
Mr. Jacob: No, Mr. Milliken, they did not laugh when I spoke about issues relating to NATO, NORAD and the UN.
Mr. Milliken: We have received a copy of the letter of invitation you received from the commanding officer of RMC. That was very polite on his part.
You distributed the communiqué to military staff in Quebec, but did you also send it out in your riding, to places other than military bases?
Mr. Jacob: No.
Mr. Milliken: That's all I have.
The Chairman: Thank you. This is just for clarification of a response you gave Mr. Milliken. Have you ever sent a press release out to the bases in Quebec other than this press release? Have you ever sent any other press release to these bases in your term as a member of Parliament?
Mr. Jacob: Last week, Ms Catterall asked me whether I had sent out communiqués in the past regarding military staff, defence policy or anything else. I sent out other press releases, but as I told Ms Catterall, this was the first time I had sent one to the military bases by fax.
In the past, I had sent out communiqués to local newspapers in the Quebec City region. They reacted more quickly than newspapers here.
The Chairman: Mr. Abbott.
Mr. Abbott (Kootenay East): Mr. Jacob, I'd like to look at Quebec's Bill 1, which your colleagues tabled in this committee. Section 17 says:
Mr. Jacob: Absolutely, because of its pacifist priorities, Quebec has always been less militarized than Canada as a whole. The communiqué states that should Quebec accede to sovereignty, it would participate in existing alliances and would promote democracy and peace throughout the world.
Mr. Abbott: I wonder if you could tell me where in your press release or in your communiqué it states that the new force for Quebec would be created after a year or after negotiations with the rest of Canada.
Mr. Jacob: These questions are very similar to others asked earlier, but I will answer them nevertheless. I think I gave quite a clear interpretation last week. I say in my communiqué: "Au lendemain d'un OUI." "Au lendemain" refers to periods of time of varying lengths. It also means negotiations. I think that during the referendum, we very often said and wrote that Quebec would offer to negotiate with Canada in order to establish these structures. After a certain period of time, Quebec would become a sovereign State by relying on international law or recognition by other countries.
I mentioned the example of "the day after the end of the Cold War" and the film entitled "The Day After". The aftermath of the nuclear explosion pictured in that film did not stop the next day. The effects were felt for many weeks, months and years. That is the meaning of the term "au lendemain". It does not refer just to the next day. The communiqué was drafter in French and that is what it meant.
Mr. Abbott: But the official translation, which I believe you have not objected to, says:
``The day after a YES win'', he says, ``Québec should immediately create a Department of Defence....
Although it's clear in your mind, would you not agree that a lot of people who would read this communication would misunderstand that? I ask this because clearly it is not understandable. Although it might be clear in your mind, your communication is not at all clear.
Mr. Jacob: I remain convinced, Mr. Abbott, that a proposal released by a sovereignist may not seem clear to people who are far removed from the context. Look at what happened in Quebec itself regarding the communiqué. The media may have reported on it twice in November. Subsequently, there was no further reference to it, except during my testimony here. I would tell you quite frankly that for the government of Quebec to whom it was directed the communiqué was very clear. If it is not in keeping with the policies or political ideas of certain individuals and if they interpret it differently, I cannot control that in any way whatsoever.
Mr. Abbott: But you said last week:
Mr. Jacob: Absolutely.
Mr. Abbott: You also said:
Mr. Jacob: It seems that the Reform Party specializes in unique interpretations. I'm referring to specialists for the negotiations. I also remember saying - you probably skipped some lines - that some miliary personnel and officers have just left and others will be leaving soon. I also said that others would be renewing their contract and that others have been retired for several years. These are competent individuals with valuable expertise. Some day I may have acquired enough expertise to be part of such an operation.
To conclude from that - and I see where you're going here - that I suggested that some members of the military should set up a defence staff before Quebec became sovereign... I find this a very twisted interpretation. I explain at length that I never did that, and no member of the military at any level whatsoever can prove or even maintain that I did such a thing. My communiqué - as I explained and I repeat - was issued in the context of a sovereignist option that you and others do not share. As a parliamentarian, I have the right and privilege to issue it in anticipation of possible future negotiations.
You asked who would make up the Department of Defence or the embryo of the defence staff. At the time I released the communiqué, I had neither the jurisdiction nor the authority to hire them. In Quebec, we saw very clearly that former members of the military such as Mr. Frazer, Mr. Hart or Mr. Mifflin, the minister of Fisheries and Oceans, could serve as specialists at the beginning of a negotiation process.
Mr. Abbott: Do you want this committee to believe that this embryo you are talking about was going to be exclusively retired military people, that you were not looking for people from Canada's current military to be part of the embryo? Is that what you want us to believe? If you do, I find it just a stretch, to put it mildly.
Mr. Jacob: I'm not claiming anything at all; you did not listen to what I said. At least 15 officers, anglophones and francophones, have left the army in the last 12 months, did not renew their contract and have resumed their careers elsewhere. I've already met with a military person who told me that his contract was expiring in five months, that he wanted a new career direction and that he would be interested in joining a Quebec army if there were one. There is absolutely nothing stopping such individuals from doing that. I know some officers in the Canadian army who have completed their service to Canada and who are now serving in France. What is there to prevent them from doing so? Absolutely nothing.
Mr. Abbott: But with respect, what we're dealing with here is the communiqué you sent to people who are currently in the army, who have sworn allegiance to Canada. You sent the communiqué to them. You're trying to have us believe that you didn't expect anyone to respond to that, that to form the embryo you're going to be exclusively....
Let me ask you this. Would you see the defence department of a sovereign Quebec rejecting those people if they were to come over, saying no, you can't come because you have sworn allegiance to Canada?
Mr. Jacob: Quebeckers and Canadians in the military are intelligent enough to understand a communiqué issued on the letterhead of the official opposition in the middle of a referendum campaign. There was considerable concern about the referendum in the Canadian armed forces in Quebec and even here at headquarters here in Ottawa, because the results were expected to be close.
I have much more respect for the oath taken by military people and I put more faith in it than you do, at least judging from your questions. I find it somewhat ridiculous to think that a press release sent out through the information media or to a military base could cause a Quebec or Canadian officer to deny their oath of allegiance in the middle of a referendum campaign. You have a very low opinion of the people in the military. I quoted some statements by Major-General Roméo Dallaire who said that they received the communiqué, looked at it and that was all. It did not have any influence on the discussions. However, people in the military, like all Canadian citizens, were anxious to know the result of the vote.
Mr. Abbott: Mr. Jacob, it is not the people in the military of whom I have a poor opinion. Your statement last week was about individuals who have left the army, individuals who have just left the army, those who are going to leave the army, and others who will be coming into the army. That was your own phrasing. You said those who are going to leave the army. In other words, I suggest to you that your visualization was that this embryo of the Quebec armed forces was going to contain Quebeckers drawn out of the Canadian Armed Forces before sovereignty. Can you deny that?
Mr. Jacob: I deny it, because there will be no Quebec army before Quebec is established as a sovereign State. Right now, there is no question that military personnel could be integrated into a Quebec army, because such an army does not exist. You talked about government departments. That's not the army. That's the beginning, the premise. If you put forward a project and don't prepare for it, how can you possibly implement and finalize it. That's not sound administration. When you want to plan something, you have to prepare for it. It was in that context that I issued my communiqué. If you're implying that the communiqué took the military personnel and integrated them into a Quebec army that is non existent, I cannot agree with you there.
Mr. Abbott: Okay. Mr. Chairman, how much time do I have?
The Chairman: Frankly, you're just over it, but if you want to put one last question and then go to your colleague, you can do that. Or your colleague may wish to give you some of his time.
Mr. Abbott: No, that's fine. I'll just finish up.
To recap the Parti Québécois' Bill 1 - that is, how it will bring in federal employees and create a Quebec military force - I note that section 18 of the bill reads:
Mr. Abbott: Well, this presumably would include the National Defence Act.
Mr. Jacob: If you read further, you will see that it says:
According to the bill, following negotiations, Quebec would have its own army on its territory, and the rest of Canada would have its army on its territory. This does not contravene the administration of laws and regulations.
Mr. Abbott: Just to conclude this, under the National Defence Act there are offences in relation to military forces. One thing defined as an offence refers to everyone who wilfully publishes a writing that advises disloyalty or refusal of duty by a member of the force. If the laws of Canada are going to be the laws of Quebec with respect to the National Defence Act, and if offences in relation to military forces are in effect, either way your communiqué is completely out of order. It's totally out of order, whether it has to do with the new proposed sovereign state of Quebec or with the actual sovereign state of Canada.
Mr. Jacob: It's hard for me to answer that kind of question. We're getting away from the interpretation of the communiqué, but if you're referring to the National Defence Act and the possible accusations, all these forms have been exhausted before the Quebec Court and the Ontario Court, and even before the advocate general and the Defence Department lawyers. The committee must rule on an accusation tabled by one of your colleagues concerning contempt of Parliament or a breach of parliamentary privilege.
If you want to set aside the communiqué itself and determine whether there is a legal application or not, that's not up to me. Many lawyers have examined the issue and, to my knowledge, there have been no prosecutions. Your question doesn't really have much to do with the communiqué. I'm not in a position to discuss the legality or the relevance of the question. In the referendum debate, there was an excellent report, but in terms of legality, we've exhausted all sources. If you want to get into that, I cannot...
Mr. Abbott: Well, Mr. Jacob, last week in answer to the question of whether you are inviting members of the Canadian Armed Forces to join a Quebec armed force, you said ``absolutely''. I rest my case.
Mr. Jacob: You have the art of taking a sentence out of context. I would even qualify this as malicious.
As I told Mr. Frazer, it was an invitation, but after the negotiation process, after Quebec becomes a sovereign country, etc.
I also asked Mr. Frazer whether, once Quebec is sovereign, Quebec members of the Canadian Armed Forces would remain within those Armed Forces on Quebec territory, without being paid by Quebec taxes. I'd like somebody to answer that.
There was no clarification. The invitation was valid, but it was for later, after negotiations and after Quebec becomes a sovereign country. When you take this out of context, it can have a certain charm, Mr. Abbott.
Mr. Abbott: Mr. Chairman, I'd like to -
The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Abbott.
Mr. Speaker, please.
Mr. Speaker (Lethbridge): I have a few short questions for clarification on the subject we now have before us.
Mr. Jacob, I think you've said that the communiqué must be read with Bill 1. Is that correct?
Mr. Jacob: Yes, and also in the context of a referendum, don't forget. That represents several important weeks in the lives of Quebec and Canadian citizens.
Mr. Speaker: Then it would follow that the acts of the Parliament of Canada would be incorporated into law in the province of Quebec relative to the army.
Mr. Jacob: Yes, during the period of negotiation.
Mr. Speaker: This would mean the one subsection of the Criminal Code, subsection 62(1), because the principle is there. Let's talk about it in terms of the principle, Mr. Chairman, and not necessarily subsection 62(1), because we are not a court and we are not applying the Criminal Code, the act as such.
The principle is there that you would incorporate into Quebec law that everyone who wilfully publishes a writing that advises disloyalty or refusal of duty by a member of the force would be liable or be disciplined. Would that be correct? Would it be the intent to follow with that type of law?
Mr. Jacob: The way you interpret it, yes, that's accurate, but that's not how I did it. The communiqué referred to a plan following questions by certain individuals. I would like to quote an article from Major-General Roméo Dallaire - corroborated by your colleague, Mr. Frazer - which states that within the Canadian Armed Forces, there are people who are federalists, others who are more or less neutral and others who are sovereignists.
People are wondering what situation they will find themselves in in a more or less distant future, following a referendum. We're constantly accused of not going into specifics, but when we do, ill-intentioned people twist our words or interpret them in their own way, and at that point, they make all kind of connections.
Mr. Speaker, your question about section 62 has been broached in every way possible. Mr. Brent Tyler filed an accusation, as did Mr. Bruce Knapp of Peterborough and Mr. Michael Charette. There were representations made to the Department of National Defence before lawyers to determine whether this contravene Canadian law, and no one came to the conclusion that it did.
After all the details brought forward by those people, you should have understood that this has no connection with the communiqué and you should stop asking questions about section 62.
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Chairman, it clearly states in Bill 1 that the acts of Parliament will be incorporated as Quebec law. Secondly, you have said that -
Mr. Jacob: Temporarily.
Mr. Speaker: You have said that at a later date and through negotiations, possibly part of the army of Canada would become the Quebec army. But the law is on the books that says that it's an offence when someone wilfully publishes a writing that advises disloyalty or refusal of duty by a member of the force. That would be there before the referendum, after the referendum, and in negotiations.
Through your writings you've encouraged the force and people to be disloyal to the country of Canada. Would you agree with that?
Mr. Jacob: When you read section 18, you forgot one part of it. Read the following line:
We're putting forward a project for a Quebec army. Once Canadian law no longer applies and we have our own army, this will no longer be applicable.
Mr. Speaker: When Quebec will be sovereign - if that's the ambition you have - do you believe that you will have a right to ask the armed forces of Canada to leave and come to the armed forces of Quebec? Section 18 of Bill 1 says that you accept principles of the laws of the Parliament of Canada, whereby Canada couldn't ask people from the Quebec army to come to the Canadian army; that would be illegal and unacceptable at that point in time. How, then, when you have sovereignty and you continue negotiations, could you ask Canadian armed forces, whether they're loyal to Quebec or not, to come to Quebec?
That's what you've done in the communiqué and what you intended to do in the communiqué. You showed intent to do that if there was sovereignty. How could you do that if both Quebec and Canada had laws at that point prohibiting such a thing from happening?
Mr. Jacob: There's a problem of comprehension. You said that we had sovereignty and after that we negotiated. If the result of the referendum had been Yes, Quebec would not have become sovereign the next morning. Quebec would have undertaken negotiations with the rest of Canada and, after a certain period, would have become a sovereign country. That's clearly indicated. If you think that the morning after a Yes vote I would have invited military personnel to join a Quebec army... It might be interpreted that way, but that wasn't it at all.
Everyone in Quebec knew that after a Yes vote, there would be negotiations. A majority of federalists said that they would not negotiate, but we said that they would have no choice. We would have had to negotiate and share some things.
Once you start to negotiate, who can prevent someone from planning and preparing for a future project? It's the role of parliamentarians here in Ottawa to have future projects that reflect the will of their constituents. If you, in your riding or your province have citizens whose vision you represent, you play your role. I'm doing the same thing with regard to the vision of my fellow citizens and those who elected me.
Mr. Speaker: Dr. Jacob, I am not talking about the negotiations that would follow a vote that would bring about sovereignty. What I'm talking about is your communiqué, which made a direct statement and an invitation to the Canadian forces to leave and go to the Quebec forces. If you look at the acts under the Parliament of Canada, such as the National Defence Act, and you look at Bill 1, which proposes to accept some of the same principles, how can you say you have any right to make a direct request? You may negotiate. That's something different. But you, through the communiqué, made a direct request to the armed forces to leave the Canadian forces and go to the Quebec forces. How can you do that if the law on the books says that is not acceptable?
Mr. Jacob: It's perfectly clear that following a Yes vote, we will resume negotiations and invite military personnel to join a Quebec army. Once it becomes sovereign, Quebec will have an army.
As long as the entire process is not finalized, it will simply be a project. In the past 30 years, many more before me have put forward proposals for sovereignty that were hypothetical up to a point. They did this while respecting Canadian law and democracy.
I don't think that a mere communiqué such as this one can influence in any way the military people that I know. It was a matter of information. I repeated it many times: they always come back to the same question, stating that we broke Canadian laws concerning the referendum, perhaps a little like Mr. Milliken did concerning elections spending.
I told you before that many people had lodged complaints with the courts and that those complaints were thrown out. We are here to decide whether a member of Parliament, me in this instance, has breached Parliamentary privilege.
I think I've answered quite extensively that all parliamentarians have the right to issue a project that some people may not agree with. Parliamentarians do have some freedom of expression. If parliamentarians can no longer put forth a project, be it in your case or in the government's case, from the time the government decides on something you do not agree with, it will be in contempt of your privileges.
As to the communiqué, you absolutely cannot tell me I was in breach of parliamentary privilege, and in a distorted way you are trying to bring up the National Defence Act or section 62 of the Criminal Code once again. Many legal professionals have already discussed these matters outside of this House.
If I refer to what I've heard about your motion and the Liberals' motion, it is the communiqué which is under discussion. Concerning the communiqué, I've given the necessary explanations, I cannot deal with the acts, as I am not a jurist. Other jurists have done so and said that it was inadmissible. Don't ask me if it's admissible or not.
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Jacob, I think this matter is more serious than you actually infer by your response. You have said you wanted just to inform the forces but not to influence. How can you inform somebody and not influence them? I would have to conclude that you were attempting to influence them to do something. What was it, in your mind?
Mr. Jacob: Could you make your question clearer? When you speak of influence, are you talking about influence on a potential vote or a potential choice that Quebec military people had to make during the last referendum?
When you say that I influenced them with my communiqué, did I influence their choice of Yes or No in the referendum? Is that what you're saying?
Mr. Speaker: I was partly asking that question.
You targeted this communiqué to a special group in Canada that is responsible for the security of all Canadians. You targeted this communiqué. It didn't go to all people in Quebec, just to a target group. You had a motive to influence them to do something, and it was beyond just voting yes or no on the referendum.
Mr. Jacob: I did have a motive, that of properly informing people so that they could make an enlightened choice.
I'll quote a statement of Major-General John de Chastelain, published in Montreal's La Presse on December 7, 1991:
During a Radio-Canada television interview, General de Chastelain also noted that the Armed Forces would be at the disposal of any democratically elected Quebec government, in the context of civil authority support missions.
The head of the Armed Forces concluded by emphasizing that, in the case of a constitutional dismantling of the country, commanders at all levels would have to make their choice - once the political decision had been made - ...
According to the chief of staff and in my opinion, military people have a choice to make in a political debate because they are not just military people, but also full-fledged citizens, as intelligent as their fellow citizens, whose duty is to make a choice in the context of a political debate. In order to help them make the right choice, we took the necessary means to provide them with the most information possible.
Obviously, this type of information may displease some. How is it possible that the military people, in their context, understood the scope of it and used it as additional information, if events were to go a certain way?
Major-General de Chastelain's interpretation, which I just read to you, is from 1991. In it, he states approximately the same thing as I do; he says that should there be a constitutional change, military people would have to choose. Choose between what? A Quebec army and the Canadian army?
The Chairman: We'll go over to Mr. Boudria.
Mr. Boudria (Glengarry - Prescott - Russell): I would like to have that particular document tabled. I think it is very pertinent to what we're doing. I hope we could have a copy of it tabled with this committee. That communiqué or clipping or whatever it was that quoted General de Chastelain is very important for us.
The Chairman: That's fine. Mr. Frazer.
Mr. Frazer (Saanich - Gulf Islands): Mr. Jacob, you and I have served together on the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs for the better part of two and a half years. You have been an active participant. You attended almost every meeting of the committee. You've travelled extensively to military bases and met with many military personnel as a result of your involvement with that committee. So I know you have some familiarity with the National Defence Act. Although you may not know it in detail, neither do I. I think you are fully aware that the military has its own judicial system, is that not true?
Mr. Jacob: Yes.
Mr. Frazer: Do you know of any other department in the government that has its own judicial system?
Mr. Jacob: No.
Mr. Frazer: So wouldn't you agree, as a parliamentarian, that the purpose of this special legislation to do with the military is to protect it from interference so as to help the state maintain its sovereignty in a democratic society?
Mr. Jacob: I agree with the end of your intervention. Please don't believe that I thought that my communiqué ran counter to the National Defence Act or even worse, was harmful to the national security.
Don't push those interpretations too far.
Mr. Frazer: No, but you would agree that one must take special care when dealing with the forces. I'm surprised that your communiqué could be so easily misinterpreted.
For instance, last Thursday you admitted that if soldiers didn't put the communiqué in the whole context of the referendum debate, they might have misunderstood what you meant:
Mr. Jacob: I didn't say that General MacKenzie misinterpreted it, but rather that he had a right to his opinions, particularly when he compared Iran to Canada. Concerning the question where you say that it might be misinterpreted, allow me to say that you yourself interpreted it quite correctly November 5th.
According to your article, which I quoted earlier, nothing in the communiqué was a call to mutiny or to desertion. That was your interpretation as a former military man, as much as General MacKenzie. You've just given us the perfect example. General MacKenzie interprets it one way and you interpret it another, even though both of you are former military men.
I'll admit that I honestly prefer your interpretation, according to which there was absolutely no call to mutiny or to desertion. Also, given the context of the referendum, as you stated specifically, the rest of Canada had to consider that within the Armed Forces there were sovereignists. This fact would eventually have to be considered if Quebec were to secede. That was the precise meaning of my communiqué.
I think that after having worked two years with me, you've understood quite well what I was trying to express, because you know how I would do things.
Mr. Frazer: Mr. Jacob, I would ask a question. You've said on a number of occasions that your intent in issuing the communiqué was to make it clear to Quebeckers that there would be a military force and that there would in fact be a job for them in the event of a Quebec separation. Would it not have been possible for you to simply send out a press release saying that in the event of a yes vote, Quebec will be creating a military defence force and will be looking for people interested in joining it, rather than sending this communiqué directly to the bases involved and inviting the people who are in the Canadian Armed Forces to transfer their loyalty to the new force? Do you not agree that it would have been possible to convey your message in a much more straightforward manner and without getting involved in tempting people?
Mr. Jacob: That could have been a possibility, but the point of the communiqué was to answer some people's questions. They were wondering, during the referendum period, what would happen to them in the future. When I met a mother or the spouse of a military man or an activist, I was asked what would happen to them if the Yes won; would they lose their pension, their rank, and so on?
The point of the communiqué was to specifically answer those people's questions. You're insinuating that we would set up an army in Quebec and that we would invite anybody to join. In that case, these people wouldn't have had the assurance that they would keep their job, and you know that that's a very legitimate concern for a career military person: their pension funds, their ranks or their pay.
It was almost the same thing at every level. That was the crux of the matter, and the point of the communiqué was to specify that we were inviting the military people who so wished - there was absolutely no obligation and it wasn't a government order, as some have insinuated - to join a potential Quebec army. It was an invitation we made if there were a Yes vote, if sovereignty were to follow. The military people who are presently part of the Canadian army and who'd accepted the invitation would have kept their rank as well as their pension. It was our duty to do that to reassure people.
Mr. Frazer: Mr. Jacob, in going from the general to the specific, you targeted certain individuals who are serving in and for the Canadian Armed Forces, and I quote from your communiqué:
The Chairman: Mr. Frazer, can you wrap up the last question or two?
Mr. Frazer: Okay, I'll do that, Mr. Chairman. I don't think we can get an answer to that. Perhaps we don't need one.
I think the last statement in your communiqué....
Mr. Jacob: That was the same question you asked.
Mr. Frazer: The last statement in your communiqué is interesting because it says: ``...I think that soldiers of Québec origin will respect the people's decision and will transfer their loyalty to the new country whose security they will ensure....'' Mr. Jacob, you used the word ``transfer''. When you transfer your money from one bank to another, you take it out of one bank and you put it into the other bank. You can't have that money in two banks at the same time. How will people be able to maintain their oath of loyalty to the country to which they have sworn it when they're transferring it to another country?
Mr. Jacob: You're quite right, Mr. Frazer. Furthermore, in the document I handed out, General de Chastelain specified that were there to be a constitutional dismantling, members at all levels of command would have to make a choice. If they chose to be part of the Quebec army, they would transfer their loyalty to Quebec, after being granted a discharge from the Canadian army. That is exactly what General de Chastelain was saying. People at all levels of command would have to make their choice. When you make a choice, you choose an allegiance. Following a democratic decision, and the whole referendum process must be taken into account, military people who had chosen to be transfered would shift their loyalty to the Quebec army. Obviously, those who did not want to be transferred could remain within the Canadian army. It's the choice they would have to make considering the mechanisms, their wish to withdraw or to get their discharge within a period of six months. That is all the communiqué is saying, and it's very clear. It's close to what General de Chastelain had to say.
I should point out that the document I tabled with the committee was the result of a lecture given by General de Chastelain before 200 officers from the reserve and the regular forces. He clearly stated that if Quebec were to leave Canada one day, members of the forces would have to make a choice. That was in 1991; we are in 1996 and some people haven't understood yet.
Mr. Frazer: Mr. Jacob, in hindsight, in retrospect, would you not agree that it was inappropriate for you as a member of Parliament to send this communiqué?
Mr. Jacob: On the contrary, I was elected member of Parliament by people who advocate sovereignty and who expect me to do likewise. The communiqué is related to this aim, particularly with respect to the military. It was my role to do this and I acted in my capacity as member of Parliament.
The Chairman: Dr. Pagtakhan and Mr. Harb are the last two questioners. Then we'll conclude.
Mr. Pagtakhan (Winnipeg North): Did you discuss the content of your communiqué with your leader prior to its release?
Mr. Jacob: Mr. Pagtakhan, you were not present on Thursday when I answered that question. I discussed this communiqué with the political advisors of Mr. Bouchard, although I did not raise the matter personally with him. As a matter of fact, the caucus of the Bloc québécois had been involved in preparing certain information sheets on the armed forces that our party distributed and these papers have been tabled with the committee. However there was not any specific discussion of the matter.
We had discussions with political staff. The matter was raised once or twice in caucus during the preparation of information sheets on defence, agriculture, transport, the arts.
Mr. Pagtakhan: Is it your customary practice to use the letterhead of the official opposition when you issue press releases?
Mr. Jacob: Yes. That's what I've done in most cases since my election for the 10 or 12 communiqués I issued. I released one or two of them through the local media in my region. All the others were printed under the letterhead of the official opposition and sent to the press service, mainly because of its larger distribution network and secondly to be translated. I draft my communiqués in French and have them translated by the press service.
Mr. Pagtakhan: Did it never occur to you to clarify this with the Board of Internal Economy and seek its permission, knowing that you were using this press release in the context of a provincial referendum?
Mr. Jacob: No.
Mr. Pagtakhan: Knowing the events that have transpired since then and up until today, do you have any doubt that it might indeed be a breach of parliamentary privilege or contempt of Parliament, or at the very least potential improper conduct?
Mr. Jacob: In my opinion, not at all. I could claim, for example, that any parliamentarian who comes up with a project that goes against the convictions of another parliamentarian is breaching the latter's privileges or is in contempt of the House. The communiqué was issued in a precise and definite context. It was released for information purposes.
Unless I'm completely mistaken, the role of a member of Parliament is to advocate certain options, to inform the population and promote their wishes. If that is not so, I can sincerely confess that I'm in the wrong place. We are here to represent our fellow citizens and work for the choices they wish to see implemented. That is what I did.
Mr. Pagtakhan: Did I hear you correctly? This is just for the record. Did I hear you underscore that you never at any time intended to undermine the military nor impound their oath of allegiance nor disturb their morale?
Mr. Jacob: That was by no means my intention. I gave a full and thorough explanation.
Last week, the matter of morale and authority was raised. I would say that if the armed forces felt that their authority has been destabilized, I don't think that after this communiqué I would have been welcome to continue as a member of the Defence Committee.
If the Department of Defence or the officers themselves had reacted in the same way as the Reform member, our working relationship would have changed but this was not the case.
Mr. Pagtakhan: My last question is this: in using the communiqué as an informational tool you hoped you would influence the vote of the members to whom you sent the communiqué, is that right?
Mr. Jacob: I consider that it was a communiqué for information purposes and I hoped that the members of the armed forces who, in my view, are first class citizens, would in this way be able to make a clear decision keeping in mind the alternatives.
There were threats made about people losing their jobs if there was a Yes victory in the referendum. In such a case it was possible to answer: "If it's a Yes, you'll get another job". So it was additional information to enable people to make an informed decision.
The Chairman: Mr. Harb.
Mr. Harb (Ottawa Centre): Mr. Jacob, last week, like today, you mentioned that the English translation of your communiqué was not faithful to the French text. You said that the English translation gave the impression that it was your intention to invite members of the Armed Forces to join a Quebec army immediately after a Yes.
Today, if you were to send out another communiqué, would you pay more attention to ensuring that the translation is a correct rendering of the French?
Mr. Jacob: First of all, I did not do the translation. Secondly, I also gave the example of the different interpretation given by a number of people. It was claimed that the day after means "le jour suivant". I also made a comparison with the film The Day After, one that most of us have seen, about a nuclear explosion and the desolation it causes.
It can be seen in different ways. The day after can be considered the days, the weeks, the months and the years following this cataclysm. Some English speakers say that the day after can be considered the day immediately following whereas others say that it can be interpreted as the aftermath. I am not a language specialist who can say that a particular term would be more appropriate.
If some English speakers state that other words should have been used, I cannot say whether they are right or not because my knowledge of the language is insufficient for me to determine whether this is so.
Mr. Harb: Do you regret the confusion that your communiqué and particularly the translation of your communiqué caused? Is that something you regret?
Mr. Jacob: In one respect, yes, because I can honestly say that if I am appearing here before you it's because of accusations circulated by the media. I was distressed to see my name associated with a crime liable to imprisonment or expulsion from the House of Commons.
It wasn't a pleasant experience. I thought that there was maybe a desire to breach my privileges as a parliamentarian.
On the other hand, I am delighted with the visibility that was given to the communiqué. I remain convinced that in the more or less distant future, when another referendum takes place, everyone will be aware of the fact that Quebec, in becoming a sovereign State, will set up its army. There will be no need to repeat it because everyone will already know. That will be an advantage.
Mr. Harb: But the result of the referendum was No to the separation of Quebec and I suppose that as a member of the House of Commons and a Canadian of Quebec origin, you will certainly respect this decision. If the opportunity arose in the future, would you send communiqués that create the impression, no matter how slight, that you're encouraging or suggesting such things, as you did during the referendum period? Or do you agree that your action caused a great deal of confusion and that as a member of parliament, it would be better for you not to get involved with this matter since the decision has already been taken?
Mr. Jacob: I don't think so because that is the main role of members of the Bloc Québécois. There's no doubt that communiqués such as this should be issued at the time of a referendum. I've also written other communiqués and I will certainly continue to do so. For example, when a Department of Defence study showed that Quebec had been deprived of approximately $650 millions a year in defence spending over the past 14 years... In cases such as these, Mr. Harb, there's no doubt that I will continue to demonstrate that Quebec is not on an equal footing with the Canadian government in certain areas.
I will act according to my conscience and the context of the situation or the questions raised by my constituents, and also in my capacity as a parliamentarian. I will attempt to provide all of the information that I have when it occurs. If you are asking me this morning to no longer intervene in the context of Quebec's attainment of sovereignty, I will have to say that it is impossible, because it is the reason I was elected here.
It is quite normal for you not to share our sovereignist views, but I do not think that there is any legislation in Canada that prevents parliamentarians from promoting potential projects, especially projects on which they were elected. This is a role we'll continue to play as long as our constituents ask us to do so.
The Chairman: Colleagues, Mr. Frazer has given me notice of a point of order he intends to raise. Before I take his point of order, the chair is attempting to establish the facts, as we said we were going to do. Before I excuse this witness there are a few questions I want to ask. With your indulgence, Dr. Jacob, I would like to put them to you.
Some questions have been put to you about the use of House stationery, leader of the opposition stationery. Is there a reason you used leader of the opposition stationery as opposed to your own personal stationery? I know various members have different practices. Was there a reason you chose his stationery as opposed to your own?
Mr. Jacob: As Mr. Pagtakhan asked me that, I would like to point out that I sent other communiqués on the issue of the submarines, the helicopters and peacekeeping missions which were issued on official opposition letterhead. I wrote the communiqué and I sent it to the press service, which translated it, printed it and released it. That is the way I send out my communiqués, except perhaps for the two communiqués that I issued in the Quebec region when the Department of Defence undertook work at the Valcartier base to build the Quebec camp training school last summer and a summer camp for the members of the reserve.
The Chairman: Okay. I guess the clarification - and I think this is where some of the confusion has come from - is that the leader of the opposition at the time was also the leader of the yes forces in the province of Quebec. As I gather, I think that is -
Mr. Jacob: No.
The Chairman: That's what I wanted to know. That's not true.
Mr. Jacob: Premier Parizeau was the leader of the Yes forces in Quebec. Mr. Bouchard was a partner as was Mr. Dumont, the leader of the Action démocratique, and the members of the Bloc québécois as well as other stakeholders.
The Chairman: I think there's some legitimate confusion surrounding the use of the stationery. I'm just trying to get some clarification here. Why was it on the leader of the opposition's stationery on October 26? On October 26, as I recollect, it seems that Mr. Bouchard was in fact the head, but you're saying he wasn't the head of the campaign. He may not have been, but the bus driver seemed to change in that period of time.
Mr. Jacob: It may seem that way, but legally, it was still Mr. Parizeau. I would add that unless I was mistaken the vast majority, and I will even say 95%, of the communiqués issued by the Bloc québécois here in Ottawa are sent out on official opposition letterhead. It is the Bloc québécois' practice.
The Chairman: That may have answered my next question. Did you get any expert advice on the use of House stationery? Has that ever been a point before?
Mr. Jacob: This morning is the first time I've heard that it could have legal implications. I've never heard that said before.
The Chairman: You sent out the communiqué four days before the referendum. Was it part of a larger strategy within the Bloc - four days as opposed to forty days? Was there a specific reason that this particular communiqué went out four days before the referendum?
Mr. Jacob: I could respond to that because I've already mentioned it. On October 24th, I thought that enough information had been given to soldiers for them to know that in the event of a Yes or negotiations, there would be something for them in a sovereign Quebec, but following various meetings and especially after seeing Radio-Canada report, when I heard a soldier say that he had voted early, and that he had voted yes, and that he was wondering if he could hope for something in favour of the armed forces in a sovereign Quebec, I decided to send out the communiqué, because I thought they were lacking some information.
The Chairman: You mentioned that you yourself are an ex-military person. Could you tell us or disclose to us, the committee, your military service?
Mr. Jacob: I did not say that. It was Mr. Hart who said that. I've never been in the armed forces.
The Chairman: I'm sorry. I thought you said that and I took note of it.
We had a question about the headline of the communiqué. The communiqué itself has a headline. Do you think the headline is a bit misleading? Could you call it misleading, or is the headline a fair representation of the communiqué?
Mr. Jacob: No. I think that it is in fact a fair representation of the communiqué.
The Chairman: Just for your interest, we have a copy of the evidence from your last meeting. You may want to go to it, not for now but in terms of clarifying your military service. It says:
The Chairman: No. You're answering.
Mr. Jacob: I was repeating what Mr. Hart had said concerning the discharge process. I quoted Mr. Hart who said that as a former of the Canadian armed forces, he was someone who could bridge the gap between members of the armed forces and the committee. I also said at that point that I was not a member of the armed forces but because I had worked at National Defence, I was aware of the information.
The Chairman: Okay. You certainly left me with the impression that you had a previous job with the military. That's fine.
Were you surprised by the reaction to your communiqué in the English media and by many of the members of Parliament outside Quebec?
Mr. Jacob: Not surprised, flabbergasted!
The Chairman: Your press release, though, issued on October 26 at the height of the referendum, is a press release different from one we're looking at now, and it might be a press release different from one issued three months before a referendum. In other words, your press release had a different effect on October 26, in the middle of the referendum campaign. Would you agree with that statement?
Mr. Jacob: That could perhaps be a possible interpretation. But on this topic, I would like to point out that from October 26 to October 30, no one had even talked about it and there was no reaction from the English media until after the result of the referendum. It is quite the thing to say that if it had been made public before, it would have been totally ignored. I think the English media blew it out of proportion just prior to the referendum.
I could also tell you that I remain convinced that on October 26, some parliamentarians, at any rate, the minister of Defence, were aware of the communiqué which was only mentioned for the first time on November 4th, by Allan Thompson in the Toronto Star.
I do not know if we can assess the impact at that point, but I can say that before the referendum there was none.
The Chairman: Thank you very much. I will take Mr. Frazer's point of order and then we'll conclude.
Mr. Frazer: Mr. Chairman, with your indulgence, I have two points of order. The first has to do with the matter we discussed.
The judge advocate general did an investigation into this communiqué and compiled, as I understand it, a report on his findings. I wonder whether we as a committee could ask for that report to be made available to us.
The Chairman: I'll take your point of order under advisement. The difficulty we have is that Beauchesne's talks about notice of motions for the production of papers. So I'll take your point of order as a notice.
You know, of course, that legal opinions are excluded under the Standing Orders. But the clerk advises me that if it's possible, we'll request it, and if it's excluded, then obviously it will be excluded by virtue of its being a legal opinion. So it's a matter the clerk is going to take up with the Table of the House to see if we are able to get it.
Mr. Frazer: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
On the second point of order, if I may, Dr. Jacob has indicated that he would make available the address list for the faxes he sent out. He advised that there were two lists. One was used by the press bureau and the other he sent personally from his office. I know one went to Mr. Milliken. I don't know which one, because I haven't seen them. Do we have both lists?
The Chairman: I intend to circulate it.
Dr. Jacob, is this the only list you have? Is it both?
Mr. Jacob: I will clarify this again, because I think there may have been a misunderstanding. When I answered that question, I said that I had a list of the fax numbers of the military bases to which I sent my communiqué, and I gave it to you.
As for the media, I sent my communiqué to the Bloc québécois press service which followed regular procedure. I did not check the list of places where they sent it, because we do not do so normally, and I did not do it in this case.
What Mr. Frazer asked me the last time was the list of fax numbers where I sent the communiqué, and you have that.
I do not have the other list from the press service, because I did not send the fax out. I gave my communiqué to the press service and it followed the regular procedure.
The Chairman: Is that satisfactory to you, Mr. Frazer?
Mr. Frazer: Not really, Mr. Chairman. Does the press service not keep a record of where it sends communiqués?
The Chairman: He couldn't answer for the press service.
Mr. Jacob: Mr. Chairman, I also said at the time that Allan Thompson the journalist with the Toronto Star, in his article on November 4th or November 5th, indicated his source as being the Bloc québécois press release. If Mr. Thompson obtained it, may be he should be asked where he got it, but he surely did not obtain it from the bases to which my communiqué was faxed. So my conclusion is that he obtained it from the press service.
Mr. Frazer: What I don't know, Mr. Chairman, is whether The Vancouver Sun got it, the Calgary Herald, the Winnipeg Free Press -
The Chairman: He's telling you whom he gave the release to. I don't think it's within his knowledge....
I don't want to be like Columbo, with one last question, but you have left me with a curiosity. If you'll indulge me, Dr. Jacob, you prepared for the committee this number of faxes. Is this the only time this fax list was used, for this specific press release?
Mr. Jacob: Yes. This question bears an odd resemblance to the one Mrs. Catterall asked. I do have a phone book with the number of the Defence facilities throughout Canada and sometimes I send faxes to correspond with an officer on a military issue or something else. The list you have there served to send out the communiqué. But on other occasions, I have sent faxes to an officer to ask for information regarding one of his files or to find out different things for my National Defence file.
The Chairman: I'm asking because the impression I was left with was that one base or three or four bases got the release, but now that I have the opportunity to look at what you sent to the committee, there are three or four bases here but fifty or sixty press faxes that went. Is that about right?
Mr. Jacob: There are only three bases; the others are called reserve commands, and they are bases. In Lévis, Rimouski and Rivière-du-Loup, for example, there are roughly 250 members of the reserve who are registered on a list with a command number and the fax was sent to that number. Strictly speaking, they are not military bases.
The Chairman: Dr. Jacob, thank you very much.
I wish to advise members that Professor McWhinney has agreed to be our next witness. That will be this Thursday at 11 a.m.
Mr. Langlois (Bellechasse): I would like to postpone till Thursday the motion on the agenda for which I gave the subcommittee advanced notice, so that we can deal with it after hearing from Dr. McWhinney.
The Chairman: Is that agreed?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chairman: This meeting stands adjourned.