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View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 11:12
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Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
First, on that point, I would wholeheartedly concur with Mr. Julian that, wherever possible in this third wave, we need to avoid coming in. I understand there are challenges for all of us, but this is a matter of public health and safety. It's a matter of the security and health of people who work at the House of Commons, and it's a matter of risk for members traversing provincial borders. Hopefully, folks will take that into consideration, as we try to navigate through this global health crisis.
Mr. Speaker, I wanted to speak at this point, if I could, on a matter arising from the previous meeting, as noted in the minutes.
In the previous meeting, we had a very lengthy discussion in camera with respect to the member for Pontiac and the terrible incident that occurred with the photo that was taken of him during private proceedings. I'm not going to have any questions for the House legal teams, so my comments here are not in any way in camera. This is a very troubling incident because it is.... Let's start in the ways in which it's different from what we have dealt with before.
In the thrust and parry of partisan politics, we are all used to our characters being besmirched or having our ideas attacked. Before we come to this place, we have an idea that's going to happen. That's not what happened here. This was a member of Parliament who, in a private proceeding, made a decision to take a video or a picture and then share that image somewhere. That was an image of another member naked. That image was then disseminated across the planet. Because of that decision, a member of Parliament and his family were subjected to the image of him naked on late night talk shows in England and the United States, and on social media sites around the world.
To date, the member of Parliament in question, Sébastien Lemire, has refused to say where he sent that photograph or what his intent was in sending it. And that matters.
Now, fellow board members, there is only one place that can adjudicate our own behaviour. That's it. We're it. If this were any other workplace.... When I headed up the Heart and Stroke Foundation, if an employee took a naked photo of another employee against the will of that employee and disseminated it, I can guarantee that an apology and walking away as if nothing happened wouldn't be the end of the matter. I can assure you that no workplace in this nation—
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View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Yes, I have a point of order.
I don't understand. It's a very important matter, I agree, and I hope we have time to grant it the importance it deserves, but it's already an item on the agenda for the portion of the meeting in camera. So, I have a lot of trouble understanding why Mr. Holland is starting the discussion on this during the public portion of the meeting, because he is well aware of it.
So I'm asking you to rule on this, Mr. Speaker, because we're not following the agenda right now.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
It's a matter related to the business arising from the previous meeting. It was a little mixed up, but we let it go.
Mr. Holland, I'm not sure exactly how you would like to proceed right now. Would you like to withdraw and then come back?
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View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 11:16
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No, absolutely not, Mr. Speaker. There's nothing that I'm saying that needs to be put in camera. The process of in camera is not to hide matters. It is not to bury matters. It is not to avoid dealing with matters. The purpose of going in camera is to allow matters to be discussed that cannot be discussed publicly.
One of the reasons the Board of Internal Economy made its meeting public was specifically so the deliberations of this body could be seen by the general public. It would be a violation of that principle to move this matter in camera. There is absolutely nothing I am saying now, or that I will say, that in any way needs to be in camera. And that is why I will continue.
The problem that I have is—
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
If I could, at this point, because we had determined that this was an item that was in camera, and it is—
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I'll refer to our legal team to comment on it, just so that we're not breaking any rules and to make sure that we're within our legal parameters.
Mr. Dufresne, would you like to comment on this?
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Philippe Dufresne
View Philippe Dufresne Profile
Philippe Dufresne
2021-05-13 11:17
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Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
When we were reviewing the items for consideration, it seemed to us that the discussion could touch upon powers and legally available avenues for the board to deal with the situation involving use of House of Commons resources. It could give rise to discussion about scope and legal consideration about those powers. These types of discussions could normally involve receiving or discussing legal advice. Therefore, as a precautionary measure, the recommendation was that this be considered in camera.
The Parliament of Canada Act does have a presumption that the board meetings are in public, and it is only in stated circumstances that it is in camera. Those circumstances include matters subject to solicitor-client privilege and when legal advice will be obtained. The board can discuss matters in camera and make its decisions public after the fact. If the discussion does not involve the giving or the receiving of legal advice, then it could take place in public. It is also possible for a member to state their position on something that they would want the board to consider at a later stage.
Matters covered by solicitor-client privilege have to be discussed in camera.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Dufresne, based on what was just said, I want to make sure whether Mr. Holland can continue or cannot continue. My impression is that based on what you're saying he can continue and it won't be an infraction.
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Philippe Dufresne
View Philippe Dufresne Profile
Philippe Dufresne
2021-05-13 11:19
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If Mr. Holland does not disclose confidential information or legal advice or seek or share, he can.
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View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 11:19
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Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Certainly, as noted, I'll be careful not to cross into matters that are legal in nature, namely any legal advice that might have been given on this matter.
The situation that we are in now, as in any workplace where a naked photograph had been taken without the consent of another employee and then sent out by email, is that there would be action taken. Let's consider what reasonable action would be taken.
First, mens rea would need to be established. What was the intent both in taking the photograph and in disseminating it? We know there were only about two hours between when Sébastien took this photograph and it appeared in social media by both Chris Nardie and Brian Lilley. There were about two hours between when he took that photograph and when it first appeared on social media.
The question is: How did it get there?
We know, and it's been well established, that Sébastien Lemire, as the Bloc has said, would have no relationship with these media outlets, so mens rea, intent, is extremely important. I would ask that he appear before the board in an in camera session to answer what his intention was when he sent this. What was his intention when he took the photograph? When he sent it, did he send it to a reporter? Did he send it to another MP? Did he send it somewhere where he should have known that it would wind up in the public domain?
It's entirely unacceptable for him to send it to a private individual, but if he sent it somewhere where he knew that the image of the member for Pontiac would be used and sent around to humiliate him, that is not an acceptable tactic.
I have had members from both sides of the House come to me and ask, “What does that mean for the lobby? If I've had a red-eye flight, and I come into the lobby, and a member of Parliament can come in and take an unflattering picture of me with my shirt dishevelled, perhaps my bra showing, or perhaps my underwear showing, is that now fair game?”
What we're saying is that as long as you say sorry, it's no problem.
Imagine if this were a female colleague. What would our discussion be? Would it be a month later? A month later, would we be saying that maybe we'd do something about this, maybe we wouldn't?
What is owed to the member of Pontiac? What is owed to his family? What lines do we have as an organization? At what point do we say that there are limits to partisan engagement? The naked body of a fellow colleague, I would say, is an absolute limit. Today we're establishing a precedent for how such a matter is dealt with. I think that precedent must be expunged. I think the idea that a member can take a naked photograph of another member and disseminate it around the world is wholly and entirely unacceptable.
We have to understand what Mr. Lemire's intent was in sending this message, to whom he sent it to, and to whom that recipient then sent it to and if they happen to be a member of our organization, so that their actions can appropriately be captured, because that all speaks to the damages that were done and, frankly, the consequences that should be faced. Right now, the consequence faced by Mr. Lemire for this terrible action is nothing—not a thing.
I would request, Mr. Speaker, that Mr. Lemire appear before this body in camera so that he could be appropriately questioned for the actions he took. I think it is a minimum action that any reasonable organization would take. We are the body that holds responsibility for that action.
With that, I'll make a request officially that Mr. Lemire appear before this committee in an in camera session to answer questions relating to his taking and disseminating of that photograph.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 11:23
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I do understand the clarification we received earlier allowing Mr. Holland the opportunity to speak to the matter, because it arose from previous minutes.
Now we're starting to get into some debate and discussion about potential remedies and things like that. I think we are now starting to get into where there would be potential during this discussion and debate about the motion—I don't know if he's made a motion to this effect or what has just happened—where we would be talking about legal matters. Even by establishing the very precedent that we have jurisdiction here as a board, we could be getting into where there are questions that could arise here about asking for legal opinions, etc. I do believe that then falls under what needs to be in camera.
I'm not certain, but my suspicion is that now, at this point, it probably is best to defer that to the in camera portion of the meeting. I'll seek some guidance on that, but it seems to me that it's probably the best course of action there.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 11:25
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I'm suggesting that we get some better guidance. At this point, because we need to establish.... It's actually a legal matter to even establish whether we have jurisdiction here. There are many questions that arise then that could, in fact, fall into what the law clerk was telling us would then be the in camera portion, based on the decision made before the meeting that that would be where the discussion should take place.
I'm not suggesting that we move in camera now, but perhaps that this be deferred to the in camera portion where it was originally intended to be discussed, because I think we are now getting into.... Mr. Holland was able to make his comments, because we weren't falling into the discussion about jurisdictional and legal issues. A lot of the discussion that might now flow, I think, would be a better fit into the in camera portion. We will start to get into some pretty grey areas otherwise, right?
That's what I'm suggesting, that we defer it until its scheduled as part of an in camera meeting.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I have two more members to speak, but before we go to Mr. Julian and Mr. Rodriguez, I'm going to defer to Mr. Patrice to give us a legal opinion on what we're doing right now, or where we're at to make sure that everything is in line.
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Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2021-05-13 11:26
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Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It won't be a legal opinion, because I won't speak in my capacity as a lawyer.
Mr. Richards raises a good point about the grey area. Obviously, based on what the law clerk has previously said, if the board is of the view that it can have the discussion and make a decision on the motion presented by Mr. Holland without receiving, asking for or discussing legal advice, it can do so in public.
If, on the other hand, members want to receive legal advice and discuss it, then the Parliament of Canada Act and the prescribed regulations and bylaws that have been passed by the board come into play. The meeting should then proceed in camera in accordance with the bylaws.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 11:27
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If I could add to that, because I think I still have the floor, Mr. Speaker, I can certainly imagine that there are some questions of a legal nature that I would have in order to establish where we should be going with this. I would imagine others will probably be in the same boat, because there are many questions about what we can and can't do that I would want to have answers to, and I'm sure I wouldn't be the only one.
That's why I made the suggestion that that's probably what we should be doing.
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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thanks, Mr. Chair.
I listened very attentively to Mr. Holland, and I certainly have a lot of sympathy for his views, and the importance of coming to terms with this issue. There's no doubt that there was a pretty profound violation that took place.
That being said, at the end of his comments, he very clearly stepped to the issue that raises a whole range of legal concerns. There's no doubt that any further discussion really needs to be taking place, as was foreseen on our agenda, in the latter part of the meeting.
There are a whole bunch of legal ramifications, of course. Those need to be considered, and I think the direction that we've gotten from the legal adviser to the BOIE is that we should be proceeding in camera to have that discussion later on.
We do have a number of other items that need to be discussed in public, and then we should move to the in camera portion of the meeting.
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View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I feel like we're complicating matters. Mr. Holland is simply asking that Mr. Lemire appear in camera.
We all know that what happened is extremely serious, and that it had a huge impact on Mr. Amos's life. We have to be able to say that there are limits in politics as well and that the line has obviously been crossed.
We're not having a legal discussion today, or a discussion about solicitor-client relationships or anything of that nature. All Mr. Holland is asking is that the committee call Mr. Lemire to appear, and there is no question that he has the authority to do so. In fact, recently, on several occasions, the committee has called individuals to appear before the Board of Internal Economy to explain themselves.
I would point out that when an in camera meeting is recommended, it is done under section 3.1 of the Board of Internal Economy Rules of Practice and Procedure, which I will read to you:
The Board must hold a meeting or portion of a meeting in camera in circumstances where it considers:
(a) matters subject to solicitor-client or litigation privilege; or
(b)sensitive matters respecting the health or family situation of an identifiable individual.
This matter has nothing to do with either of those things. We're simply looking at whether or not we should call Mr. Lemire to appear in camera to come and explain himself. I feel we should vote on it.
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View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I'd like us to exercise caution.
The April 14 incident is unprecedented, and it is an important matter that we need to address, I agree. However, we should not set any more precedents on the Board of Internal Economy, the BOIE.
Since I have been on the Board of Internal Economy, all the more personal discussions that involved members who had broken the rules have been held in camera. I don't want to minimize this event, but I have a lot of questions about Mr. Lemire's potential appearance before the BOIE. Mr. Holland says we need to define what his intent was, and a member's intent is a legal concept.
I do not consider the Board of Internal Economy to be a court of law and it has no authority to define an individual's intent. I myself would like to ask a lot of legal questions. This isn't a refusal or a desire to hide anything on my part. To suggest otherwise would be to imply very bad intentions on my part, and I sensed some suggestion of that earlier. I simply want to ensure that the BOIE does not become a body used for political and partisan purposes. I want to ensure that we maintain our usual working methods when dealing with important and confidential matters involving members and their personal lives.
Of course, this event has had an impact on Mr. Amos's personal life, and I can assure you that it has also had an impact on Mr. Lemire's life. So I would prefer that we avoid setting a bad precedent and get to the bottom of this event in camera. Like Mr. Richards and other colleagues around the table, I also have legal concerns about the implications of this appearance and the nature of the questions that might be asked. So I feel this appearance should be in camera. I am cautioning us against turning this committee into a tribunal. That would set a precedent, and when future events occur, it will be difficult for us to sort out what should be dealt with in camera and what should be dealt with in public.
I understand Mr. Rodriguez's comments, which are based on the Board of Internal Economy's Rules of Practice and Procedure. However, as we have been saying all along, we're managing a new and exceptional situation and we need to be open to the possibility of managing this incident in a new way. I strongly suggest that we meet together at the end of the meeting, as planned, to have a substantive discussion in camera. That way, we can ask all our questions to the law clerk, to the IT staff, to all the people around us who are providing support and advice. That's what I encourage us to do.
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View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 11:35
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I did. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I want to start with the intention of moving the proceedings of the Board of Internal Economy into public. The Parliament of Canada Act is clear that the deliberations of this body should be public. The exception that has been indicated is where we are seeking confidential legal advice for having a discussion that would preclude the proceedings from being public.
That question before us right now is whether Mr. Lemire is going to appear before this body to be accountable for his actions. Yes or no?
This body has answered the same question regarding the actions of other members many times—if we're talking about precedents—even within the last year or last several years. Certainly in my time here, this body has publicly said that it would have, in camera, members come before this body to be accountable for their action. Why? Because this is the only body that can take action.
Certainly, I believe that Canadians have a right to know how we comport ourselves as a workplace. They need to hear this discussion. No element of what I'm saying deals with any matter that is legal.
It is very simple question: yes or no? Should Mr. Lemire come before this body, as other members have in the past, to be held to account for his actions, and for us to ask him what his intentions were? Or, are we not treating him the same as we've treated other members who have engaged in problematic behaviour, which we've dealt with at this body?
I think that's an important thing for folks to hear, because being in camera is not an opportunity to avoid public scrutiny or to hide from difficult conversations. It is a tool to be able to ask scoped and direct legal questions, of which none are pertinent to the question of accountability and the presence of Mr. Lemire before this body.
Again, Mr. Speaker, I point to the fact that we have a scoped and direct matter before us, and that is the appearance of Mr. Lemire before this body, as others have done, to answer for the actions he took, and for that proceeding to be in camera.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Julian, I first want to give a little synopsis of where I believe we are.
We have a motion asking us to request Mr. Lemire's presence in front of the board, in camera, to find out general information about what happened and to see what we can discover. The issue, before it comes to a question of the board, is that we do have two members I've heard from so far who have some legal concerns about doing that.
I'm proposing that maybe we should go in camera to discuss the legal matters and then come back out and make a decision on whether to invite Mr. Lemire. That decision is a public one. The legal matters—the questions that can be asked—would have to be in camera.
Does that sum up where we are? Does that make sense?
Based on what I just said, I guess, Mr. Julian seems to have a question on this. Then we'll go to Mr. Richards.
Mr. Julian.
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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
The legal advice we've gotten is very clear: there are a whole range of legal questions that come up. Again, as I mentioned, I'm very sympathetic to Mr. Holland's concern—which we all share—about what happened and how best to deal with it.
There are three things that I think need to be brought forward. First, there are a number of other ways this whole issue can be approached beyond the Board of Internal Economy. There is the procedure and House affairs committee, and there is the House of Commons and you, Mr. Speaker, as well as the group of whips who get together on these kinds of issues.
Mr. Holland did raise the fact that on financial issues, we have in the past called upon members to step forward to meet in camera with the BOIE. I'm not aware of any situation beyond those financial issues.... Where the Board of Internal Economy comes from is, of course, the administration and the administration of parliamentary resources, so I'm not aware of precedents around that.
The third question, which is an important one that Peter Milliken was so very straightforward on in his years as Speaker is that the Board of Internal Economy functions as a board by consensus. That is an extremely important component of the board's function and mandate. Peter Milliken was always very clear that we have to look for a consensus on how to deal with the issues that come before us, particularly when it comes to the administration of parliamentary resources.
Those are all critical elements.
I'm glad Mr. Holland brought this issue forward. I do think we have a number of other elements to consider on the agenda, and we also have a discussion that is already on the agenda by consensus following when we move to in camera. There are so many questions, particularly legal ones, that have come up, and our legal advice has been that those questions be explored and answered in camera.
I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that the meeting proceed as planned.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 11:41
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I'm, I think, almost completely in agreement with what Mr. Julian just indicated.
I understand that your thought, Mr. Speaker, had been potentially to go in camera to ask legal questions about Mr. Lemire's possible appearance here, and then come back and make a decision. However, I think that's a difficult way to approach it, frankly. Mr. Julian has outlined quite well how there are a number of different potential remedies, different aspects to this that are also tied together, and I think it's difficult to make a decision about potentially just one part of what the discussion would be. I don't see how that would work practically.
I think the administration suggested what they did for a reason, and I do think we have a number of other agenda items that we would deal with far more quickly than we would with this one. They have laid it out in such a way that I think it does work best for this meeting, and it would also allow us to ensure that we don't start to get into areas where.... It might be difficult to make this decision without getting into some of the other discussions about this matter, and there are a lot of legal questions related to this.
If you look at the section of the Parliament of Canada Act that governs what the term “in camera” means, one of the other matters relates to security. When we start to talk about some of the things that we would be looking to follow up with regard to Mr. Lemire, I think those delve into that area as well. So I think we're getting into a couple of different areas where we would have difficulty discussing this without being in camera—even to follow the Parliament of Canada Act.
I really do believe that, as Mr. Julian has indicated, we should follow the agenda that's been set out and recommended by the administration, rather than trying to differ from that and deal with one piece of one item separately. I just don't think it makes any sense, Mr. Speaker.
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View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 11:44
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Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Your suggestion is a good one. It makes pre-eminent sense that the board can go in camera for the questions that are related to in camera matters, and then it can come out of camera to deal with the matters that don't belong in camera.
Let's be very clear: The matter of accountability and whether Mr. Lemire appears before this body is not in camera. That is a question of whether this body wants to take its responsibilities, as it has in other matters.
To Mr. Julian's point, it is absolutely not just financial matters that this body has dealt with, with respect to other members. Mr. Julian will recall Mr. Weir. Mr. Julian will recall Mr. Kang. Mr. Julian will recall many other instances where we were dealing with the behaviour of a member that was non-fiduciary, that had to do with their comportment in relation to other employees, to people in their employ.
The thing that makes this situation difficult is that this is one of our own colleagues who did this. Just as one of our colleagues did this to another employee and that matter was before this body, this is unfortunately a situation where Mr. Lemire has done this to another member of Parliament. We don't know if he sent this image to yet another member of Parliament who might also have participated in that.
We are the body ultimately responsible for that. I think, and I would hope, that all members of this body, once their questions are exhausted in camera that actually relate to in camera matters, would want to demonstrate that we are a workplace that does not allow this behaviour. Certainly we would condemn this behaviour in any other workplace. Would we not want to demonstrate to Canadians that we did everything that we could reasonably do to ensure that taking naked images, private naked images of colleagues and sending them all around the world, is inappropriate behaviour? Certainly that is not something that belongs in camera. That's a basic statement of values.
What I heard mostly today is about the need to talk about legal things and go in camera, but I haven't heard a lot about that principle. Mr. Amos is here today. He's listening to this.
There's a lot of time spent about why we need to go and hide this conversation, and not a lot of time talking about the damage done to Mr. Amos.
You have an elegant solution. We can go in camera. People can pose their questions as they relate to legal matters. As is required under the Parliament of Canada Act, matters that are not in camera, matters that don't have to be in camera, should not be in camera. We have a duty to make sure that those matters are public.
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View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
My counterpart on the government side, Mr. Rodriguez, said something that I agree with, that we are complicating matters. We are complicating matters because we have been called into this meeting today which includes an in camera portion for us to address this issue. Let's follow the agenda for the meeting to which we have been called.
Presumably, we are complicating matters by trying to find a way to deal with a matter that obviously raises some very important legal issues. The Bloc Québécois whip, the official opposition whip and the NDP House leader have raised questions that need to be addressed.
In closing, I urge all my colleagues to be cautious. When I say cautious, I also mean refer to the facts. Earlier, Mr. Holland drew a parallel between the incident that occurred and someone taking a picture of a member of Parliament snoozing in the lobby with their tie askew. The parallel is null and void. The lobby is the lobby. However, in hybrid Parliament, when a member turns on their camera, their location becomes an extension of the House, with all the consequences and responsibilities that implies. The lobby is not an extension of the House.
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View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
2021-05-13 11:48
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Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I apologize for being a little late to today's meeting. I was in the House to give a speech on the opposition motion. I was a few minutes late, but I've been listening to the discussion for about 20 minutes already.
I am entirely of the view of Mr. Holland in terms of the time we're spending now in discussing whether this matter should be addressed in public. Mr. Holland has made a very compelling case as to why this circumstance is extremely serious, and I think we should be in a public meeting. We would invite Mr. Lemire to come and discuss this in an in camera session.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
If I can go back to Mr. Julian, the tradition with our decisions has been to have a consensus. If there is no consensus, there is no decision.
The motion is to invite Monsieur Lemire to an in camera session.
Do we have consensus to do that?
No. I see as many heads shaking one way as the other, so we do not have consensus.
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View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 11:50
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Mr. Speaker, I'm going to seek a recorded vote on that. I want that vote to be recorded.
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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
I mentioned Peter Milliken earlier because the Board of Internal Economy has a long history of consensus. It has only really deviated from that one time in our history, and that was a profoundly sad moment at the BOIE.
We have a different function from committees. Folks wear their partisan hats on committees. There is no doubt that we're members of Parliament representing our parties. At the Board of Internal Economy, we are supposed to take our party hats off at the door and consensus is absolutely essential. If we move from the consensus principle that BOIE has always had—with that singular exception—we're turning the BOIE into a completely different body from what it's intended to be and from what the Parliament of Canada Act directs us to do.
I am viscerally opposed to turning this into a non-consensus body.
I think, Mr. Speaker, you've made an appropriate ruling that we move now to the agenda. We'll have further discussion in camera. That's where I think we can start to get the legal questions answered—and they are considerable—and then potentially move to consensus decisions on how best to deal with the serious and important situation that he's brought forward.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Just to clarify, mine was a suggestion, not a ruling. I really am at the mercy of the board in what they decide.
Like I said, the tradition is consensus. That's what we're striving for.
Mr. Holland, you have another comment.
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View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 11:52
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I do, Mr. Speaker.
I belabour this point for a reason, which is that I do not have a partisan purpose in this argument. I have a duty to lead human resources for our caucus, to protect my employees and the employees who work for our organization, and to protect members from what the Bloc whip has described as “an unprecedented situation”.
Let's be very clear. This did not happen in public. This camera was not on for the public. This was in a private session, only viewable to people who saw that Zoom screen. It is absolutely the equivalent of being in a lobby, only virtually. It was rendered public by Mr. Lemire. It was ripped out of private existence and put into public.
I have spent many years here and I absolutely concur with the idea of not forcing votes or not operating by consensus. However, with respect to what happened to Mr. Amos, at what point do we say this crossed the line? At what point do we, as a body, agree around the table on whether or not somebody should even answer what's before us? Does Mr. Lemire answer basic questions in camera about what he did? That's all that's before us.
There's no purpose in saying that we're going in camera to talk about that. Either we are going to have a conversation with him or we are not. We've dealt with this on many other matters. That is why I'm forcing a vote here. I'm saying that I, very reluctantly, break with tradition, but I have an obligation. When I was head of the Heart & Stroke Foundation, there was an issue that came forward and I had an obligation to ensure that questions regarding an egregious action were answered. I feel that I have an obligation here to do the same. Therefore, I'm requesting that this be a recorded vote.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 11:54
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I do, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Holland asked at what point do we make a decision. Well, it's at the point where we've been able to gather all of the information that needs to be gathered, at the point at which we have asked all of the appropriate questions that we need to ask and are able to make an informed decision about what the appropriate course of action will be.
What all of us, other than Mr. Holland, are asking for here is that we have the opportunity to do that.
Putting anyone in a position of having to vote on something without having all of the information, without having all of the questions answered, and without having the legal advice that might be required to do so puts everyone here in a very unfair position. It puts everyone in the position of voting on something they're not prepared to vote on because they don't have all of the information required.
What I think all of us are asking for here is to have the proper opportunity to have those discussions and to get the legal advice we're asking for. Nobody is necessarily seeking to deny the request; it's simply to make sure that we have the appropriate information and answers before us before we make a decision. Otherwise, everyone is put in an incredibly difficult position.
I certainly would agree with what Mr. Julian said earlier: That is the way this board operates. It's the way it should operate, and we should all be taking our partisan hats off. I think if everyone were to really look at that principle, they would understand that it is exactly what everyone here is seeking to do. I think calling for a vote when you are fully aware that people are not prepared to make a decision because they haven't had a chance to get all of the information they need to do that, not having had the in camera portion of the meeting, cannot be seen as anything other than partisan, Mr. Speaker, and that's really unfortunate. It would put us all in the awkward position of going to a vote on which we would much rather be fully informed, and of making an unfortunate decision.
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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Just briefly, Mr. Chair, this is a serious situation. Nobody denies that. There are serious legal ramifications and there is a whole range of questions that need to be asked. I don't disagree with any of that.
I profoundly disagree with turning the Board of Internal Economy into some kind of majority body in which we cast votes. Doing that would destroy the spirit and the intent of the board.
We are not here for this. We are here to establish a consensus. We have worked over decades through very difficult issues and ultimately almost always have come to a consensus.
You, as Speaker, as the holder of the responsibility of those decades of consensus-based decision-making, have the role and responsibility to say no if a member puts you in an awkward place by trying to change the intent of the Board of Internal Economy. This is a consensus body. There is no consensus on changing the agenda, so we will move through the agenda as it has been presented. There is no consensus on this issue at this point, so we will take the time to get all of the questions answered that people have quite legitimately asked about the legal ramifications, so that ultimately, hopefully, we can come to a consensus.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Very good.
The list is growing again. I'm going to ask one more time, to use Mr. Holland's word, whether we can use the “elegant solution”—and just so that you know, it was not my idea. We had some wonderful legal minds around the table who proposed doing that, namely, going in camera to ask the questions to cover the legal areas and then coming back and making the decision publicly.
I'll just put that out there again if anybody would like to proceed that way. I'm just putting it out there as a possibility. If there is any objection to that, please voice it now.
Are we okay? Do we have consensus before we go that route?
Mr. Richards.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 11:59
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I'm sorry, Mr. Speaker, but I know that I was—and I believe others were—speaking to that very point.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I understand. I'm looking for consensus because that's normally how we do things. It is a tradition that I want to make sure remains.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 11:59
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I understand and I think what we're saying is that there are pieces that tie all together. I think to make a decision about one element of this just won't work. I appreciate the suggestion and I know you're trying to get there, but I don't think—
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Okay, so we don't have consensus about going in camera. Very good.
Mrs. DeBellefeuille now has the floor. She will be followed by Ms. Petitpas Taylor, Mr. Rodriguez, Mr. Deltell and Mr. Julian.
Mrs. DeBellefeuille, go ahead.
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View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
As you know, for as long as I have been part of the BOIE, I have always sought compromise and tried to mediate when there were opposing suggestions or positions. So I am deeply saddened by Mr. Holland's request to force a vote. I know he has an important job. I understand that. He knows that I am empathetic and understanding of the fact that he has that job and that the incident that happened on April 14 deserves to be discussed by the BOIE. I don't deny that.
I am deeply troubled by the fact that he is trying to use the BOIE for political purposes to make these discussions public, when all opposition parties have already made it very clear to the BOIE that they want to thoroughly discuss this issue in camera. How will the Chair decide that this discussion is legal in nature, but another is not?
We need to take the time to discuss this incident in a portion of the meeting in camera that is on the agenda. There is no question of hiding anything. The incident is well known. An apology has been made to the House. The Speaker has made his ruling. Now we want to study the incident further. It is scheduled on the agenda; that shows that the BOIE wants to discuss it.
It is not appropriate to call for a vote and break with the important customs of the only body in Parliament that is supposed to be non-partisan, to remain calm and to handle difficult situations. I repeat, the incident is very important, I am not denying that.
I call for calm. I, for one, wish to discuss this thoroughly during the in camera portion. I don't want Mr. Holland to think that I'm trying to hide anything. However, even faced with the incident of April 14, we can't afford to set precedents that would be detrimental to the proper functioning of the BOIE and its performance. Even though we have strong opposition in the House of Commons, strong government, and good debate, the BOIE is our non-partisan bulwark for dealing with the toughest things.
I call for calm. Please, let's stop this discussion, let's not go to a vote, and based on the agenda, let's go in camera to discuss this item, as it was scheduled. No one is refusing to discuss it. No one is refusing to make decisions. What is being refused, and it seems pretty clear, is that we handle this matter in this way, because it involves all kinds of issues, some of them legal.
I would very much like to see Mr. Holland reverse his decision and not call a vote. It would be really distressing if the BOIE were used for political reasons. I'm sure that is not his original intent, so I would ask him to reconsider his request.
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View Ginette Petitpas Taylor Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you so much, Mr. Speaker.
There are a few things. First of all, I think we all agree that the incidents that happened on February 14 this year were extremely, extremely serious. As Mr. Holland indicated, if this had happened in any—any—other workplace, serious and swift action would have been taken. I think I told you at the last meeting what my previous role was and how we would have reacted. I think for Mr. Amos and his entire family, we can't minimize what they have been going through over the past month and a half.
I take a bit of a different approach. I have to agree with Madame DeBellefeuille: I don't think we want to provoke a vote here at the BOIE. What we want, however, is a consensus to move forward on inviting Mr. Lemire to the BOIE to answer some questions. At the end of the day, I guess I really challenge all of the members of the BOIE here to really rethink their positions on this. At the end of the day, we want to work as a consensus body, but we also want to send the message loud and clear to all of our members, whichever party they are from. I'm probably one of the most non-partisan MPs you're going to meet, but at the end of the day, I really want to make sure that this situation does not happen again; that our members of Parliament know that they have a safe place to work; and that they know that we, as the Board of Internal Economy, are taking this matter very seriously and will get to the bottom of things.
At the end of the day, I just plead with all of us to come up with a consensus to move forward on this. I also believe that we could go into an in camera session to answer perhaps some legal questions that people may have, but then from there, let's move forward in agreeing on the next step. Let's have that conversation publicly. I think Canadians want us to have an effective and healthy workplace for all Canadians. They want to see that we are taking this matter seriously.
Thank you.
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View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I am both troubled and saddened that members would link what is happening right now to partisanship. Mr. Amos is not a Liberal. He is first and foremost a human being, a father, a son and a husband. I would say the same thing about anyone else. What happened to Mr. Amos should not happen to anyone, regardless of their political stripes. We should be basing our discussion on that premise, rather than following our party lines.
He is a human being first and foremost. The photo was taken and distributed, and it changed his life. Mr. Lemire has admitted to taking the photo. That's the only information we need in order to decide whether to call him to appear or not. We don't need to have partisan discussions. If that's not enough for you, I wonder what it is you need in order to decide whether or not to call someone to appear in camera to explain themselves.
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View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The current debate in this major meeting is whether or not to respect the consensus. A consensus is a consensus, full stop. We can sometimes give qualified support to a consensus, but a consensus is black and white. You either accept it or you don't.
The reality is that the Board of Internal Economy has always operated by consensus. You mentioned the legal knowledge of the people around you; let me mention the historical knowledge of the people around me.
On June 18, 2015, a similar situation occurred here at the board. I will read an excerpt:
The Board discussed the current policy of allowing annual and compensatory leave to be taken by Members’ employees during a period of dissolution. There being no consensus on possible modifications to the current policy, the status quo was maintained, with Messrs. Duncan, LeBlanc and Van Loan and Mrs. Ambler noting their disagreement.
So a consensus is a consensus. You either agree with it or you don't. If some people have a problem with it, let them say so, but we feel that there is no consensus on this.
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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
What is extremely important in all this is how the Board of Internal Economy proceeds. Everyone says that we need a consensus. The agenda clearly states that a period has been set aside to get all the answers to our legal questions about the extremely disturbing incident that happened to Mr. Amos.
We all want to find answers to our legal questions, but I do not understand why we are still discussing a change in the agenda for which there is no consensus. We could be more productive. We can't accept the idea of abandoning consensus and asking for a vote.
I understand Mr. Holland's point of view very well. He is not the first member to try to force a vote in the Board of Internal Economy, but the chairs have always said that in the absence of a consensus, the status quo is maintained. This has been a tradition for decades. On the one hand, we have an agenda and no consensus to change it, and on the other hand, we are going to have a discussion and get answers to our extremely important legal questions.
Mr. Chair, as chair of the Board of Internal Economy, you have the right to say that there is no consensus to change the agenda and that we will follow it.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Okay, we'll go to Mr. LeBlanc.
After checking, I just want to clarify that consensus is a tradition in the Board of Internal Economy. It is a tradition that is very strong, but a forced vote is also something that is allowed, depending on what the board decides.
Monsieur LeBlanc.
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View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
2021-05-13 12:11
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Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I was just going to note exactly what you said.
Mr. Julian and I had the experience, at least for some time, of being together on the Board of Internal Economy when another great Speaker of the House of Commons, Andrew Scheer, was in your seat, Mr. Chair. I listened to my friend, Monsieur Deltell, and the Conservative whip talk about the importance of consensus. They're right; the board usually functions and that's a good thing. It's an efficient way to do business.
I also remember those board meetings where Peter Van Loan, who was then the Conservative House leader, or John Duncan, who was the Conservative whip, were very happy to force recorded votes—as were the Liberals—on a difficult matter involving the use of House of Commons funds for satellite offices.
The board was having regularly recorded votes on a matter around using House of Commons resources for satellite offices. I would think the inappropriate distribution of an intimate image over the Internet and social media that affected one of our colleagues in a very significant and enduring way feels perhaps more serious than what was the right procedure to use House of Commons resources for opening satellite offices in Montreal.
Around that issue, we regularly had recorded votes. The board continued to function. Members continued to work on matters important to the financial administration of the House of Commons. I don't think it's a huge traumatic moment that we might take a recorded vote and move on. Parliament survived. Mr. Scheer went on to be leader of his party after he presided at the Board of Internal Economy during many of those votes.
Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that our whip Mr. Holland had a good suggestion. We should move on to the agenda following a vote on this matter. For a group of people who get elected, we shouldn't be afraid of votes.
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View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I have some experience, but I don't have as much as all the people gathered around the table.
To my knowledge, everything is done by consensus. I would like to call to witness Mrs. DeBellefeuille, who always works in a spirit of consensus, by the way. I recognize her professional background in the field.
You mentioned earlier that it was a tradition and not a rule. What I understand is that we would be breaking with tradition. Before proceeding to a vote, I would like to be told when there was a vote at the Board of Internal Economy for the last time.
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View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 12:15
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Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I'm very comfortable, as I said before, with your solution that we go in camera. You can have everybody ask any questions they want, and then we would come out of camera for this vote. There is absolutely nothing about the vote that should be held in camera or that has any reason to be in camera. I would hope that after questions are asked it will be a very simple matter and we can operate on unanimity. I would rather not move a motion. I am just saying that if we can't get consensus for something as simple as Mr. Lemire appearing before this committee, I will be forced to do that.
What I will move instead is that this body go in camera to deal with this item and that at the conclusion of its in camera proceedings, we come out of camera to have a public vote with respect to Mr. Lemire's presence. I think that should answer all the questions around the table.
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View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I have to disagree with my colleague Mr. LeBlanc on his perception of history. Very few votes have been forced at the BOIE. The one exception, of course, is after a period of a number of meetings when there is no consensus possible.
This discussion has started, and it's a fundamentally important issue; there's no doubt. It's scheduled on the BOIE agenda and we have time available for it. There are a range of legal implications, as our legal adviser has pointed out. There is no question that the way to proceed, given the tradition and history of the BOIE, is to simply, since we have no consensus, move to the agenda as written. This important discussion with these important legal ramifications can then take place.
I'm surprised at what has transpired. It is a pretty fundamental shift in how the BOIE operates. It is something that Peter Milliken was clear about in his interventions both at the BOIE and at numerous committees when he was called upon to testify on the importance of the consensus-based decision-making of the BOIE. Peter Milliken was always very clear: There are always some exceptions, but those exceptions need to be considered extraordinarily seriously and only over time.
I would like the opportunity to have the discussion as you, Mr. Speaker, and the House administration have put forward on the agenda. We have the ability to do that, and I believe there are ways of coming to a consensus. That always has to be the preferred road for the Board of Internal Economy to take, and for you, Mr. Speaker, to take as the presiding officer of it.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 12:18
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Thanks, Mr. Speaker.
Again, I find myself in agreement with Mr. Julian here.
On the suggestion being made now—and I have spoken of this a couple of times—the problem is that we're taking one element of a discussion and pulling it out of the discussion, and it just doesn't work that way. There are implications for other parts of the discussion on this. To try to pretend that you can pull out the one element and have a discussion about it and then vote on it, and then come back later to what the administration has suggested we do—which is to have the full discussion in camera, with the ability to ask the legal questions, etc., and then make decisions about the matter more fulsomely—I don't see the logic in that. It doesn't do this important matter justice.
I noted the examples used, I think by Mr. LeBlanc, from previous Parliaments, where there were in fact some votes that occurred. I believe I know the circumstances, and it was simply a matter of one party seeking to avoid being sanctioned, I guess, for what the board was finding as wrongdoings.
When we're talking about something like that, I can understand and appreciate why there might be a need to remove the principle of consensus that we operate, if it's just a matter of someone trying to protect themselves. We're not talking about something like that here. We're talking about three parties all agreeing that we need to follow the suggestions that the administration has made and have a proper discussion about a matter and move forward with the agenda as presented by us.
That is very different from what those examples were. To differ from the idea of consensus here on something like that, where you have three parties all in agreement that we need to do things the way they've been suggested by the administration, and one party is suggesting we disregard the advice we've been given and proceed to break up a matter into little chunks and deal with it separately, is not the same thing, in any way.
It puts everyone here in a very difficult position, because we all want to try to do this in the appropriate way, have all the facts, and to make sure that all of the questions are answered and deal with this fulsomely. We're being put in a position here where the expectation is to do otherwise. I just think that's very unfortunate, and not a good precedent.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
The proposal seems to be—and I'll see if we have a consensus on it—to continue with the agenda and deal with this item in camera, and then come back in public and make a decision then.
I see some puzzled faces. Maybe that's not the next step. I see heads going back and forth, and that we don't have consensus.
Mr. Holland.
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View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 12:22
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Of course, it would make no sense, and let's be very clear, I'm not going to put Mr. Dufresne.... Mr. Dufresne can correct me—and I'll put it this way—if I am misspeaking.
There is absolutely nothing out of order for this body to go in camera and ask all of the questions it wants to. Any legal question, any matter that has to be dealt with in camera, can be exhausted in camera, and then we can come out of camera and then vote on whether or not Mr. Lemire will appear before committee. There is absolutely no violation of....
I realize we don't have a consensus. I'm saying that I am moving a motion that we go in camera. People can ask all of the questions they want in camera. We can exhaust all of the in camera questions, and then we can come out and answer publicly the matter of whether Mr. Lemire will appear before this body.
I'll move that as a motion.
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View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I have point of order.
I understand the importance of the issue that Mr. Holland has raised, but he is throwing aside the whole approach that the BOIE must take and has taken for generations. As Peter Milliken so clearly lined up—he's the former speaker who provided such great guidance for parliaments, both majority and minority—there isn't the forcing of the votes; there isn't the calling of motions; there aren't amendments. There is a different approach within the BOIE.
I think what you're hearing from a number of members of the BOIE is a concern about how Mr. Holland is bringing forth this issue. It is not the issue itself. The issue itself we are all seized with. It is an important one. There are important legal ramifications that we absolutely need to be asking questions about and getting answers to, but the idea that you can simply move a motion as if the BOIE were just like a standing committee is simply inappropriate. That's the point I've been stressing repeatedly, and as our presiding officer, Mr. Speaker, you simply have the right and all of the precedents to say, “There isn't a consensus. Let us move to the agenda as written.”
This issue of course is not going away. I think every single member has expressed its importance. We want to start to get to the next steps, and the way to do that is to have the legal questions answered. We got advice at the beginning of this meeting that this type of legal advice, which is so important, is for an in camera portion. That is the very clear guidance. We have it as part of the agenda.
We don't force votes. We don't try to impose a majority view. We seek to come to a consensus. On this issue, which is so important, it is even more important to come to a consensus about next steps.
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View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 12:26
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Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
As has already been mentioned, this is a convention. It's one that we all try to follow. It is one that sometimes has to be deviated from. What we don't do is take naked photographs of one another and post them all over the world. What we don't do in a reasonable place of employment is allow one person to take a photograph of a fellow employee naked, against their will, and put it in the public domain. What I don't do is accept that this issue isn't important enough, simply because we have a tradition of doing things a particular way—even though that tradition has moved many different ways in other instances—and say, “Sorry, Mr. Amos”. The really confounding part about this is that my motion is very simple: We move in camera. You can ask every question you want in camera.
You can exhaust all questions, Mr. Dufresne. You can examine every angle of this. I have a simple request on behalf of Mr. Amos and the offence that was done to him, one request to demonstrate to Canadians that we take this matter seriously. That is the very simple matter that, after all of those legal questions have been exhausted, we take a vote as to whether Mr. Lemire should appear before this committee or not, just as we made a decision with respect to Mr. Weir, just as we made a decision with respect to Mr. Kang, just as we made a decision with respect to Ms. Ratansi, just as we made decisions that were very public on whether or not other members would come before this body, in camera or not.
I'm simply asking that the vote take place publicly so that we demonstrate the seriousness with which we take this matter—and yes, I'm willing to deviate from tradition. Yes, I'm willing to do what other members have done in this body before and, in exceptional circumstances, move it.
It was Madame DeBellefeuille herself who said that this circumstance was without precedent. If it is without precedent, then it demands that we take action. On that basis, Mr. Speaker, I ask that we vote on the motion that we go in camera, that this matter be fully exhausted, and that we have a simple vote as to whether or not Mr. Lemire will appear before us, in camera or not, and that it be public.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Okay. We have Mr. Richards next.
Before we go to Mr. Richards, I just had some information given to me that we'll try this one more time. What's being proposed—and again I'll need your consensus for this—is that we continue with the agenda and when we go in camera we have a chance to discuss this further, and then come back out of camera once that's done and vote on the item at hand.
Is that acceptable to everyone? Basically, we're continuing with the agenda. It shouldn't take very long. We'll go in camera and then come back out to make a decision. Do we have consensus?
Yes, we will continue with item number two, which shouldn't take very long.
Do I have consensus? Okay, we have consensus. There have been different variations of it, but let's continue.
On item number two, business arising from the previous meeting, are there any items? Seeing none, we'll move on.
On mental health and wellness resources and professional development for members and their employees, Madame Laframboise and Robyn Daigle have a presentation.
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