I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on November 23, 2021, by the member for Barrie—Innisfil concerning allegations about the Clerk of the House.
First of all, I want to point out that the Clerk recused himself from this matter and did not participate in the preparation of this ruling.
In his remarks, the member for Barrie—Innisfil said he was troubled about a report about the Clerk on the CBC a few weeks ago. According to the member, the House must defend its dignity and its integrity and that is why the matter should be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. The member for Calgary Nose Hill also expressed concern about the way in which harassment complaints were being dealt with, adding that if employees could not do their work in complete safety, then members could not properly fulfill their parliamentary functions.
For his part, the Leader of the Government in the House said that the House must not be used to spread rumours and that it was not the appropriate place to consider the matter because the people involved could not defend themselves. In his opinion, and in that of the members for Saint-Jean and New Westminster—Burnaby, the Board of Internal Economy was the appropriate forum for such matters.
First and foremost, the Chair must reiterate, in light of certain remarks about harassment made by the members for Calgary Nose Hill and Saint-Jean that there are indeed mechanisms in place in the House of Commons to deal with all forms of harassment in order to ensure a safe and secure workplace for everyone. There are policies in place, for members and their employees and for House administration staff, to prevent workplace harassment and to investigate complaints. Earlier this year, these policies were updated to reflect the most recent statutory requirements. All members of this House can rest assured that any complaint is taken seriously and investigated diligently using well-established processes.
It is not in anyone’s interest to have allegations of this sort dealt with on the floor of the House of Commons.
That being said, given the concerns raised in the correspondence from the member for Calgary Nose Hill from September 2021 concerning the policy applying to members, the House administration is conducting a review of the policy and its application. It will then report to the Board of Internal Economy, which will be able to review it and decide if changes to the policy are required. The matter is on the agenda for the next meeting of the Board of Internal Economy.
As regards the allegations against the Clerk, the Chair considers the most appropriate forum to deal with these issues to be the Board of Internal Economy. It is the administrative body responsible for human resources issues.
Indeed, section 52.3 of the Parliament of Canada Act gives the Board of Internal Economy jurisdiction over administrative and personnel issues. As has already been mentioned, this matter will be on the agenda of the next board meeting. Since the board is already seized of this matter, the Chair cannot conclude, at this stage, that there is a prima facie question of privilege. However, if members were to conclude that certain elements related to privilege should still be raised in the House after the Board of Internal Economy has considered the matter, it would be possible to raise them at that time.
I thank the hon. members for their attention.