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Results: 1 - 15 of 27
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
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.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Speaker, let me begin by congratulating you on your election as Speaker. As we all know, it comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility to conduct oneself in an impartial manner, and I have the utmost confidence in your ability to do that. Congratulations once again.
I am rising on a question of privilege today concerning the very troubling allegations published this month respecting the Clerk of the House. I am sure we have all watched or read Ashley Burke's reporting on these matters. It was based on at least 10 different credible sources as well as primary documents, but it is important to put the most pertinent details on the record of the House.
Broadly speaking, the allegations fall into one of two distinct but no less troubling categories. One concerns a management style that has led to a rapid loss of top talent and deep experience from the table, and the other concerns demonstrations of partisanship through the Clerk's comments and actions.
I understand that some of the complainants' letters, cries for help really, have even recently made it into some Parliament Hill inboxes, and it is my respectful view that all told, these allegations amount to a prima facie case of privilege, which the House must address urgently.
I will be focusing on the partisanship allegations, but I cannot turn a blind eye to what the CBC confirmed. Three senior figures at the table took sick leave and then early retirement, while a fourth senior official is now on sick leave, owing to the Clerk's management style.
According to CBC, Colette Labrecque-Riel—
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I am disturbed by the attack on individuals in our administration from either side. Something we have to look at is that these items are personnel items and normally dealt with at the Board of Internal Economy. To attack someone with allegations who is already in our administration I find very troubling. I feel that if the hon. member wants to deal with that item, I would feel much more comfortable and would ask him to have his members of the Board of Internal Economy bring it forward and actually look into the facts rather than the allegations that are being brought forward.
To attack someone who cannot defend themselves in the chamber, I feel, is very troubling, and I must stop that attack. I ask the member to talk to his representatives on the Board of Internal Economy so that we can look into it deeper, find out what the facts are and then proceed from there.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Speaker, as I stated at the outset, the allegations are extremely disturbing and troubling. If we are going to go back and forth on this, I think—
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-11-23 16:06
Mr. Speaker, let us not start this Parliament in this way, by attacking servants of the House. There is a forum for this. You have stated that that forum is the Board of Internal Economy. That is where we deal with personnel matters. We do not deal in this chamber in parlaying in rumours and things that people received in their inboxes, with all due respect to the member across the aisle.
Every individual who works for this place, particularly those who are servants of this place and do not have the ability to defend themselves or stand in their places to give their side of the story, should have these matters adjudicated in camera, with the opportunity for all of the facts to be present as opposed to a one-sided smear of an individual who is trying to serve this place and to do so with distinction and honour.
Mr. Speaker, we have heard enough. Please let us end this.
View Michelle Rempel Garner Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your role.
I would make this argument. Allegations have come to light about somebody who is serving in this room's capacity to serve the House. Those allegations speak to our privilege as members, in that some of the allegations that I believe my colleague will address speak to investigations that did not come to light. These did not happen at the Board of Internal Economy. The allegations that have also come to light since the dissolution of the last Parliament relate to the ability of the House to address sexual harassment issues, including from former members of staff.
At the start of this Parliament, it is imperative that we understand if the House has the ability, under the leadership of this person, to conduct appropriate investigations and ensure that sovereignty is maintained. This is not just a breach of a staff member's privilege, but it is a breach of my privilege.
On the 100th anniversary of the first woman being elected to the House of Commons, I would argue that systemic misogyny and the inability of the House to adequately address sexual harassment issues is in fact a breach of privilege. I believe what my colleague is about to do is to explore and give you, Mr. Speaker, evidence to consider whether or not this is the case.
The time to do this is now, at the start of the first Parliament. The allegations that have come to light over the last several weeks deeply suggest that something is wrong and something is amiss, and that the typical processes through the Board of Internal Economy, in which someone in this room has a significant role, are not able to function. That in and of itself is a case of privilege.
On this point of order I would say, respectfully, Mr. Speaker, out of respect for this institution, as well as a note to my colleague to be concise in his arguments, that this is something we absolutely must address in this place, particularly for the people at home who cannot speak here and who have been impacted by this. You were very right in saying that there are people here who do not have a voice and this place is for us to give a voice to them.
Mr. Speaker, respectfully, and again to my colleagues, I ask that they bring these matters up in fact-based, non-partisan facts. We are dealing with the ability of the House to function in this Parliament. I am deeply troubled by it. I am also tired of having to stand up and give the same speech in the same iteration over and over again. I would ask respectfully that my colleague be allowed to continue. I will probably add to his argument. I would ask my colleague to be concise in his argument, but this must be addressed. Light must be shone on it. It is only to be done in this place.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Just so that the hon. member has some background here, sexual harassment is something that is being dealt with as part of the agenda in the next Board of Internal Economy meeting. Looking at the facts is very important.
The hon. member for Banff—Airdrie.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
On that same point of order, when a member rises in this place to bring forward a point of privilege, that is to bring arguments before you, Mr. Speaker, to give you the opportunity to determine whether there is in fact a breach of privileges. It is not for the government House leader or anyone else in this place to determine the validity of that point of privilege. He can certainly make his arguments, if he wishes, when the member making the point of privilege has finished making his points.
As my colleague has just indicated, obviously whatever would have occurred at the Board of Internal Economy has not managed to resolve this matter. If it is a breach of members' privileges, this is the place for it to be dealt with. I would also remind the House that the Clerk is in fact appointed by the House, not by the Board of Internal Economy. There is an argument that needs to be made here in the House.
I think it is important that this member be heard, and that he has the opportunity to bring forward his points so that you, Mr. Speaker, can properly determine this. It is not for anyone else to make that determination. I think he should be allowed the opportunity to make his points so that you can determine whether there is in fact a breach of privilege.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I want to thank the hon. member for that point, and I agree with him on the point of process and how the Clerk is appointed. That is something that gets decided by members, and that is something we can look at.
However, when it comes to personnel issues, I feel very strongly that these should be dealt with at the Board of Internal Economy. When these come up, they should be dealt with there by all members. There is representation from all sides on that one.
I will let the hon. member for Barrie—Innisfil continue, but I want to ask for less innuendo. Just stick to the facts, please. That is all I ask, to say something that we can prove. We want to see the facts.
I will ask the hon. member for Barrie—Innisfil to continue.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Speaker, the arguments that have been made are profound on the part of the privilege and the rights of members. The Speaker will recall that some very serious allegations have been made that I believe breach the rights and privileges of members, not the least of which is a table officer acting in a partisan manner.
I am not attempting to bring those issues in a manner that exacerbates the kinds of challenges that exist. What I am trying to do is lay out the facts as we now know them so the Speaker can make a prima facie case of the rights and privileges of the members being dealt with.
At the end of what I am presenting, I offer an option and a solution that the Speaker can act on, but in the absence of presenting the facts as we know them and the facts as they came out, it is awfully difficult for me to talk in terms that would give the Speaker a better understanding to make a decision that is in the best interests of the House. We are dealing with not just the rights and privileges of our members, but also the confidence in the ability of our democracy and our democratic institutions to function in the manner in which they should.
Some of those accusations, as salacious as they are and as uncomfortable as they may be, are very important points I need to make in this discourse to the Speaker. I would ask for some latitude with that and ask that I continue to lay these out not as a way to disrespect a certain individual but to present the information that is in front of me, and that has been presented to all of us as members, as it relates to our rights and privileges.
I will continue in the manner in which I started, which is to lay out this case to suggest that the rights and privileges of members have been breached as they relate to the functioning of our democracy.
As I continue, according to CBC, Colette Labrecque-Riel, a former clerk assistant, wrote to the Speaker that—
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-11-23 16:15
Mr. Speaker, this is a terrible precedent. If we are going to adjudicate claims or rumours of harassment in this forum, where there is parliamentary privilege and where the individuals in question cannot defend themselves, it is an abhorrent precedent. We have the Board of Internal Economy. We have a process for this.
I stand not only because of this situation, but for any person who would ever wish to serve the House and who could imagine themselves in a situation where their accuser was given the opportunity to fully display the arguments of the accusation, but the person who was being accused was afforded no opportunity of defence or to produce their evidence. There is a process for that, called in camera. It is called the ability to examine these facts.
I remind members that we are talking about the Clerk of the House of Commons, a servant of 40 years whose integrity is being questioned at this moment. On the allegations, a third-party independent report was done that stated the attacks on his integrity and honesty were “baseless”.
To litigate these matters in the House without the opportunity for the individual in question to stand and defend himself or to produce evidence to the contrary is an abhorrent violation of what any employee should expect in terms of protection so these matters can be looked at. There is a precedent being established in this chamber right now. There is a line being crossed.
I ask the Speaker to please, for the sake of this place and the people who would serve it, to stop this absolute farce from continuing.
View Michelle Rempel Garner Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I am rising on the same point of order.
For what it is worth, I think you may have a point on perhaps not reiterating the entirety of the allegations that have been reported to the CBC. However, I would ask that you understand that these are material to the case that is about to be made. I am not a member of the Board of Internal Economy. I would like to speak to this point of privilege from a different angle than perhaps my colleague will, but I think it is important that you hear him speak to what he believes the breach of privilege is. This is the time to do it, at the start of this Parliament. I am acutely aware, personally, of the ramifications I might have in my role because of questioning someone in a position of power such as the person we are discussing. I understand what that might mean for me given the import of his role in the House of Commons.
I would not be doing this lightly if I did not feel it material to the functioning of the House going forward. I would ask you respectfully to allow my colleague to continue. I would perhaps strongly agree with you that my colleague keep his argument tight to the matter at hand and only refer to the allegations and assumptions as we know them, but we are allowed to make the case of privilege.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
These are allegations. The facts should be found and discovered. I would be very happy to put this on the agenda, as the Chair of the Board of Internal Economy, to be dealt with in the right process. It is something that I would be very comfortable with. An open chamber such as this is not the right place to debate this issue. That is my view of it. The whip of the opposition is on the Board of Internal Economy.
Does the hon. member for Banff—Airdrie have something to add to that? Does he agree with me?
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I would agree that it is probably best that the member gets to what he sees is the breach of privilege. It is important, and it should be important, that he gets an opportunity to lay out the facts. Perhaps that will happen at a later date should you find a prima facie case. However, I think it is important that you hear what he sees is a breach of privilege before you make a ruling. It is critically important that you give him the opportunity to do that concisely and quickly because that is important before you make a ruling.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
The hon. member for Barrie—Innisfil must keep it very concise and to the point. Please do not bring up allegations that have not been proven. We are talking about a personnel issue. When personnel issues are dealt with they need to be dealt with in the Board of Internal Economy, normally as in camera items because they involve personnel. Most big corporations, private corporations and small companies do not discuss personnel issues in public. I honestly feel very strongly about this.
I will let the hon. member for Barrie—Innisfil continue. Again, you have a very quick point to make. As I said, you have my word that it will go to the Board of Internal Economy as part of the agenda and be dealt with in the right process.
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