Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege. This is my earliest opportunity.
I must start by reflecting on the enormous tragedy that took place over the weekend in Nova Scotia. I am sure that none of us is unaffected by this horrific event. That tragedy only adds to the urgency of my request.
Your role, Mr. Speaker, is to protect the rights and privileges of every member in this place. Historically, the Speaker has also been responsible for the physical safety of members and indeed of all who work in Parliament. That we are currently in a global pandemic due to the COVID-19 virus is clear. The impact of that pandemic is the reason that this House, by unanimous consent on March 13, 2020, agreed to adjourn until this date.
However, I submit that the date of April 20 was a mere placeholder. No one knew on March 13 what living in a pandemic meant. We knew nothing about flattening the curve. Now we do. I submit that when we agreed to the adjournment on March 13, we placed in that motion a simple expedient to continue adjournment in keeping with public health advice. All that had to happen until any time yesterday was for the House leaders of the four larger parties to sign a letter to you, Mr. Speaker, requesting further adjournment. The responsibility for such a letter not being sent rests on one party in this place, and now here we are.
The rights and privileges of many members are prima facie violated by any motion to proceed with regular sittings of the House in which they cannot participate. All members from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador cannot participate under provincial quarantine orders without having a 14-day quarantine upon returning to their home province and must isolate even from their families.
This is particularly painful, given that today, in the aftermath of those terrible murders, our colleagues from Nova Scotia cannot gather. They cannot console their bereaved constituents. None of us, from the Prime Minister to the Governor General, can go to Nova Scotia to console them. Our hearts go out to each and every Nova Scotian and those across Canada affected. My colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands, a former Nova Scotia resident and proud Cape Bretoner, knows one of the family members of a victim. This is a terrible time to be debating procedural motions in Parliament.
For my other colleague, the hon. member for Fredericton, her rights and privileges are violated. Should she attempt to represent her constituents physically in this place, which is her duty and her right, she would be required to self-isolate from her husband and children on her return, for 14 days.
Quebec members have also been asked by their government not to travel. The idea of a small number of MPs meeting in Ottawa violates their privileges and offends the efforts of the Quebec government.
The rights of Quebec MPs have been violated.
Parliament is not a debating club for the benefits of large organized political groups or parties. Political parties are not mentioned in our Constitution. Parliament is an assembly of duly elected members. All MPs are equal, just as their constituents and constituencies are equal.
On this day we are in uncharted territory. As Green MPs, we seek to rely on the rules and procedures of this place that have protected Westminster parliamentary democracies for centuries. Those rules evolve, but most fundamentally, the Speaker's role is to protect the rights of each and every MP.
In a pandemic, this surely means that the Speaker should find a question of privilege and, in light of the affront to Parliament of continuing debate on the matters, I ask that you, Mr. Speaker, find a prima facie question of privilege and that you forthwith refer the matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs currently meeting virtually. I also ask that you take protection of the House into your own hands, deciding to adjourn immediately sine die and that you inform us when we shall resume sittings of the House, based on public health advice as to when it is possible for every MP to exercise his or her rights and privileges in this place. I also ask that you continue to pursue the unanimous wishes of those in this place under the existing unanimous consent orders of April 11, to pursue without delay a virtual question period and to reconvene only when a compelling legislative need is identified.