Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and I congratulate you on being elected chair of this committee.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, committee.
On March 6, 2012 the Speaker ruled the Vikileaks matter closed and found no further reason to investigate. Nevertheless, despite the Speaker's ruling and the procedures of the House, some members of this committee have persisted that I appear.
Indeed, Mr. Chair, your predecessor rightly ruled against the Conservative motion initiating this inquest, but these members showed you and your predecessor the same degree of deference they accorded the Speaker, usurping his and your authority with their own. In doing so they demonstrate disregard for this committee's mandate and the many responsibilities clearly set out in Standing Order 108(3)(h), none of which include the use of House of Commons resources.
Furthermore, House of Commons Procedure and Practice
, page 1048, is prescriptive when it comes to the authorities of committees. It states:
[Committees] have no independent existence and are not permitted to take action unless they have been authorized/empowered to do so by the House.
The Speaker ruled, the chair ruled, the House of Commons Procedure and Practice ruled. So let me remind everybody that under normal circumstances we would not be here today.
However, I agreed to voluntarily appear for two simple reasons. First is my respect for Parliament, and second is to bring this matter to a close.
I will provide a brief summary about what I did and what motivated me to act. I will then be prepared to answer questions related to the supposed reason for this meeting, my use of House of Commons resources. However, I want to be very clear about a few things. I am Vikileaks30. I, and I alone, am the author of that Vikileaks posting site. I was never ordered nor asked to do it. I never discussed my actions with any member of Parliament, including the interim leader of the Liberal Party. I acted on my own. All information posted was already on the public record, obtained from accessible sources.
Now allow me to recall some of the chronology for the purposes of context. On February 13, 2012 Minister Vic Toews, in addressing his online spy bill, infamously challenged all Canadians to “either stand with us or with the child pornographers.” Like most Canadians I was deeply offended by the minister's aggressive and needlessly polarizing language.
The following day, February 14, 2012, Mr. Toews introduced Bill , but not before changing, seemingly at the last second, the title of the bill to the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act.
I'm not alone in believing that Bill is a sweeping piece of legislation that will allow the Canadian government to routinely invade the privacy of Canadians by monitoring their activity on the Internet. For many Canadians like me, personal privacy is a fundamental civic and human right. It goes to the very core of our personal dignity and identity.
I was raised in a culture that cherishes freedoms and rights, a people who have, in living memory, learned the hard way what is at risk if we do not stand up for our rights and our freedoms.
Given the haste with which bills are passed under the current government, and given its refusal to consider amendments to its bills, it seemed that this bill was all but passed. I felt compelled to urgently bring public attention to the threat Bill would pose to our rights and our privacy.
I took an approach that, put simply, argued that if the minister felt strongly that he should know everything about us, perhaps we should know a little more about the man who wants unrestricted access to our information. To make the point further, everything I posted was from publicly available documents. If publicly available information could in its retelling be uncomfortable, imagine what could be done with one's private information.
Indeed, none of the information posted was secret or private. In fact, most of it had already been published in various media. Divorce details, for example, had been reported dozens of times. This was especially the case in 2008 when the minister was rumoured to be soliciting support for a judicial appointment.
The same day the bill was introduced, February 14, 2012, I assembled publicly available affidavits, a list of notable quotes, election overspending court documents, and proactive disclosure data. From my home I set up a Twitter account called Vikileaks with the address @vikileaks30, a direct reference to Bill . I transcribed portions of the affidavits and other documents. From this list of brief quotes I made five postings that evening. The record of these postings will show that these were done in the evening, after work hours.
On February 15, 2012, I quickly and easily cut and pasted a few dozen more postings from my list. I concede that these were done at work. That evening, at home, I created a spreadsheet detailing expenses as well as details from Mr. Toews' election overspending conviction. Again, this was all publicly available information.
On February 16, 2012, I made approximately two dozen postings on Vikileaks.
It was also on that day that I received an email, which I later learned was from the Ottawa Citizen, fishing for my IP address. The next day, February 17, 2012, the Ottawa Citizen published its story on the IP addresses. It was clear that a witch hunt had begun.
Innocent people were needlessly and unfairly accused, including the NDP and a specific employee of the House of Commons. To avoid further harm to them and others, I shut down the account, but not before I made it clear that the wrong people were being targeted.
It was also on that day that the Speaker's office initiated an investigation, although no laws had been broken nor was there any evidence that any policies had been breached. In fact, there are plenty of examples of House of Commons IP addresses being used to edit Wikipedia pages, both to vandalize and to whitewash them. There are also numerous examples of House of Commons resources being used to attack the actions of other members of Parliament, but to my knowledge, the Speaker's office has never investigated those activities.
The irony is not lost on me that the Speaker of the House used his powers to trace my personal IP address and my personal online activity. This is precisely what the online spying bill will do to everybody.
Before I conclude, I want to thank my family, my friends, my lawyer Paul Champ, and the many Canadians who have reached out to me with their support. It has been a very difficult time for me personally, for reasons known and unknown. However, I want to point out again that all of the information I posted was from publicly available documents. Everything I did was perfectly legal. I take full responsibility for my actions.
Ultimately, I hope my experience prompts further awareness of the threats to our personal privacy and the critical importance of defending our freedoms and rights. Bill is not gone. The reaction of Canadians has forced this government to delay their plans, but the bill is still sitting on the table and will most likely be back. And when that day comes, I urge Canadians to stand up to this government and fight for our collective right to privacy.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
At the outset, I want to congratulate you on your appointment. I think you're going to be an excellent chair of our committee. Now that you're not on this side, I'm actually going to have to do a lot more work because you did so much work for us when you were a committee member, but I want to congratulate you on your appointment.
I'd like to thank you for coming, Mr. Carroll.
I'll say at the outset that there are many governments in this world that use the power of the majority to attack their political enemies. It's not normally the Westminster tradition, except under this government, and we've seen this committee misused many times. I don't believe it's appropriate that you are here, but this is the power of this government—the use of its majority and abuse of parliamentary procedure—so we will deal with the fact that the Speaker ruled this issue closed, and our committee chair ruled this issue closed, and yet we are going back before it.
From the New Democratic point of view, we are just interested in getting some facts on the record so we can put this unsavoury issue to bed.
Was the IP address that was tracked a home address, or a work address, or a BlackBerry address?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Champ, and Mr. Carroll, thank you for coming today.
Before I get to my questions for you, I'd first like to address a couple of the assumptions the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister addressed in his comments. He's trying to make aspersions that political parties don't do research on their opposition opponents and wouldn't have that information lying around.
I would suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister that he should show up about 15 minutes before question period and listen to some of his own members' statements in the House of Commons in the proceeding question period. He would see it's quite evident that parties do research on other members and are not afraid to use that in the House of Commons. So let it not be some deep, dark secret that this doesn't go on in this place.
Mr. Carroll, thank you for coming. As a former political staffer myself, now fortunate enough to sit in the House of Commons, I can appreciate that sometimes you get wrapped up in the moment and in your job because you're trying to do the job to the best of your ability.
One of the things you've said is that you have respect for Parliament. I'm just wondering if you would care to elaborate on your respect for Parliament.
And do you consider that in the ongoing personal attack none of the tweeted information was private?
Thank you very much for your question.
You asked two questions. One was to elaborate on my respect for Parliament, and the other was to discuss whether I felt that the information I posted was private information.
With regard to my respect for Parliament, all I can say is that as a kid who grew up in this town, there's nothing bigger than Parliament. Any time you're going out, any time you're getting out of the house, inevitably you'll pass by this place, and it will take your breath away every time. As a kid that was the case and still is to this day.
It's not just that I'm a fan of architecture. It's that I understand what goes on in this place and I have deep, deep respect for it. That is why, after graduating university and being a self-employed businessman for awhile, I had an opportunity to come and work on Parliament Hill. I gave up everything to do it and I've never regretted that. Working on the Hill, to me, is truly an honour, and is probably the best calling I could ever have asked for.
With respect to the tweets being private, I would have to say, no, I'm sorry, the particular information that was published, as I've repeated numerous times, is public information.
You know what? There's a particular policy, and I'll just quote this policy if what you're talking about is specific to the affidavits. The Manitoba court's policy on access to courts' records states:
An open court that permits access to both court proceedings and court records is of fundamental importance to a free and democratic society. This ensures that justice is not only done but seen to be done.
Now, as a trained lawyer, Mr. Toews would have known that every document that was submitted in his court case would be available to the public. There was no publication ban. There were no extraneous circumstances that would have made those documents not available to the public.
In that case, they are as public as anything else that you could access at your fingertips. The very fact that you need to go and pick up a copy does not in any way suggest that those documents are not any more public than accessing an encyclopedia at the library.
Well, the dots do exist. You said that you put the tweet out there. It was retweeted by Mr. Trudeau. Yet you have no idea how that possibly happened.
I think you had a grand total of two followers on your @vikileaks30 account, and yet it managed to somehow appear on the most popular Liberal member of Parliament's radar screen to be retweeted. I think that leaves some questions to be asked.
I understand that you've played the victim card here today. I get that. I understand what it's like. But when you push the send button out into the multiverse or the twitterverse, or whatever it happens to be, you take those masks off. Your contention is that nobody should have to, that we should have free rein to do whatever we want in complete anonymity on the Internet. I think that was where you were coming from with Bill . But I digress.
I would agree with you, Mr. Carroll: you are a victim. You were thrown completely under the bus by your party, by your leader who said that this information had absolutely crossed a line.
I just want to know, had anybody communicated with you before being told such that affidavits on people's personal lives should be in an unlocked filing cabinet in an office where, I would assume, staffers come and go rather quickly? You were only there from August until February. My guess is that you were not the first one to come through that office or the last one to go who had access to this information. I don't know who would have a catalogue of all of this information or how you would come to magically know about these affidavits being there.
It bothers me to know that any information about any particular individual member of Parliament is being researched to this level of detail. You've somehow tried to minimize it by stating that the quotes we take from the public media and rebroadcast during members' statements are somehow the equivalent of making a trip to a courthouse in Manitoba to get an affidavit for somebody's court proceedings.
It's a little bit different, Mr. Carroll.
Am I out of time, Mr. Chair?
Mr. Carroll, as you'll know from your decades of political experience.... I believe you've worked for a number of MPs—Bonnie Crombie, you mentioned, and Joe Volpe, whose leadership campaign raised people from the dead....
Many Canadians in public life have gone through family breakdowns, and I'm proud that my party, the Conservative Party, has maintained a high ethical standard. We've never engaged in circulating divorce records of our political opponents—never—but there have been many.
If your smear campaign has served any purpose, I hope it will be to shame the Liberal Party into demanding better from its staff and, more importantly, reflecting on its own internal culture of rot, which produces activists who undertake things like you did.
I want to thank you for your appearance today. I think we've gained a number of answers today. But I'm left with an awful lot of questions as well, because it's very clear to me that you've indicated, for example, that everyone in the Liberal office—you said everyone—had access to these files. I can't see what purpose a file like this would serve in the Liberal Research Bureau other than to be used for the exact purpose that you used it for. I would think it was done with the full knowledge of the leadership of the Liberal Party, that files like this were being compiled with the intention of at some point turning someone like you self loose with them, to use them in the fashion you did. I'd also suggest that if the Liberal Party truly wants to demonstrate....
You know, I read a file from 2002, a newspaper story, from when Kevin Bosch first arrived on the Hill. It talked about how Mr. Bosch came with files full of personal information, attack information, on opposition MPs.
I believe this has been a culture within the Liberal Party for some time. I think you were picking up on that culture. I think you were using resource materials that, you've indicated, you don't even know where they came from, but they were readily available to every staff member in the Liberal office.
I can't help but believe, and I don't think anyone who's impartial in this room can help but believe, that those files were compiled in the Liberal Research Bureau for any reason other than to do exactly what you did with them.
As I pointed out, the Liberal Party itself in 2005 brought a bill similar to to assist police in tracking this kind of crime that we see in our streets. Marlene Jennings twice championed it as a private member's bill, and I believe Francis Scarpaleggia demanded that the government support that bill and bring it forward at the time.
The Chair: Monsieur Del Mastro—
Mr. Dean Del Mastro: I don't remember your using this information, or using this kind of information or attack.
Order, please. Let us resume.
As you know, we have had discussions about our future work. Unfortunately, what we need to do in the long term has not yet been determined. Today we had Mr. Carroll with us.
This Thursday we have a meeting with Jennifer Stoddart about the main estimates and the PIPEDA law.
The French acronym is LPRPDE. It is about a report on the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. Then we have to study the main estimates.
Next week, we have Ms. Karen Shepherd scheduled to appear. She is coming to talk about the main estimates; that's next Tuesday, May 1 st. After that, nothing has been planned.
It has also been suggested that we continue drafting the report on lobbying which is already underway and for which we set a deadline of two weeks during the Easter break. We can do that after the study on the main estimates with Karen Shepherd.
I do not know whether committee members are in agreement with that. It would happen next week, in the second hour of the meeting on May 1 st and during the meeting on May 3rd. Is the committee in favour of continuing our study of the report on lobbying?
Mr. Del Mastro, I think you want to say something about it.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I appreciate Mr. Angus's comments.
We did want to have a conversation about this, which is why we wanted to bring it forward. It would seem to me, and one of the things the chair will recall I indicated, that we need to have a little more discussion as to where we want to see this go and what we want to see undertaken with it. My initial reaction or feeling is that the specific agreement with the United States is probably more appropriate before the foreign affairs committee, since that's where this is being considered at present, or certainly where it should be considered.
Rather than calling a vote on this today, which we can force, I wonder if the NDP would be interested in having some additional conversations about this to determine exactly where we want to go on it, so I can have a better understanding as to what Mr. Angus has proposed as an amendment. Perhaps we can have some discussions between now and Thursday or, indeed, next Tuesday. We have a schedule here for a while anyway. It's not urgent.
As I said, my initial reaction to the motion, the way I read it, was to recommend it for the foreign affairs committee—or perhaps Mr. Masse, as the critic in your party for borders.... But perhaps in the interim we can have a conversation about it. I move that we set this aside for the time being to allow the parties to discuss it and determine whether this is the right or wrong forum, and give me and the members on this side some indication as to exactly where you see it going.