"Madam Chair, at this juncture I'd like to raise an issue as a question of privilege. As you will recall, I flagged the issue and discrepancy around the press release. It's very upsetting to me that this has occurred. I note that you have since sent an email to all committee members with your explanation. However, your explanation, frankly, does not resolve the issue, in my view.
Just by way of background, on June 5, I moved the following motion:
That, following news reports that international students admitted into Canada with valid study permits were issued fraudulent college acceptance letters by immigration consultants, and are now facing deportation, the committee issue a news release to condemn the actions of these fraudulent ‘ghost consultants’ and call on the Canada Border Services Agency to immediately stay pending deportations of affected international students, waive inadmissibility on the basis of misrepresentation and provide an alternate pathway to permanent status...or a broad regularization program.
That motion was subsequently amended by MP Sukh Dhaliwal to add the following: “that the committee invite the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship for one hour, the Minister of Public Safety for one hour, and department officials for one hour each to provide a briefing on the situation, for a total of four hours.” That amendment was passed unanimously.
Following that debate, a Conservative member, MP Brad Redekopp, moved an amendment to change the language of my motion from “provide an alternate pathway to permanent status for those impacted” to “provide a path to reapply for permanent residency for those impacted”. I objected to that proposed amendment. After some debate with the committee, that amendment was called to a recorded vote and it was defeated. There was some other ongoing discussion, but ultimately the motion that was finally passed unanimously incorporated my wording of the motion along with the amendment proposed by MP Dhaliwal. I won't belabour the point in terms of what that language is. I already put that on the record.
Then on June 14, one week following the adoption of that motion, committee members received a copy of the press release from the clerk. To my dismay, the release did not reflect the language of the motion passed. In fact, it misconstrued the motion that was passed. It contained information that was not part of the motion. Namely, it indicated that the committee will begin a study on the issue.
Moreover—and more critically, from my perspective—it omitted critical language, that being the call for the government to waive inadmissibility based on misrepresentation and to provide an alternate pathway to permanent residency to the international students. That language was not incorporated. There were clearly editorial measures taken with the drafting of that press release.
Madam Chair, after I raised that with you, as indicated, you sent committee members an email on June 19. We received your email, and your explanation is as follows:
The text was drafted with the intention of providing a coherent, accurate, and faithful news release based on the information available at the time and the motion adopted by the committee on June 7. As Chair, I approved this draft and instructed staff to publish it.
Then you went on to say, “It is regrettable that all members of the committee were not satisfied with the final form of the news release.”
What's clear, Madam Chair, is that you directed this press release to be issued and the press release does not reflect the direction from the committee. It omitted, as I indicated, critical information. It editorialized other information that you perceived to be valid for the press release.
To that end, I believe that all committee members' privilege has been violated. In the past, press releases have been issued. For example, I cite when my good colleague sitting next to me, MP Brunelle-Duceppe, moved a motion related to the Uyghurs. That motion and the intent of it were entirely reflected in the press release. It did not have editorialized language in it, as we do in this instance. The press release did not omit critical information, as we are seeing in this instance. That is to say that I believe a violation of privilege has occurred, and I am therefore seeking a remedy.
On the committee chair's role, the online “Privileges and Immunities” chapter states:
Unlike the Speaker, the Chair of a committee does not have the power to censure disorder or decide questions of privilege. Should a Member wish to raise a question of privilege in committee, or should some event occur in committee which appears to be a breach of privilege or contempt, the Chair of the committee will recognize the Member and hear the question of privilege, or, in the case of some incident, suggest that the committee deal with the matter.
It goes on to say:
The Chair, however, has no authority to rule that a breach of privilege or contempt has occurred. The role of the Chair in such instances is to determine whether the matter raised does in fact touch on privilege and is not a point of order, a grievance or a matter of debate. If the Chair is of the opinion that the Member’s interjection deals with a point of order, a grievance or a matter of debate, or that the incident is within the powers of the committee to deal with, the Chair will rule accordingly giving reasons. The committee cannot then consider the matter further as a question of privilege. Should a Member disagree with the Chair’s decision, the Member can appeal the decision to the committee.... The committee may sustain or overturn the Chair’s decision.
Madam Chair, I do believe—and I'm so sad to say this—that committee members' privilege has been violated. This is not something I enjoy doing today, but I am very upset about it. We debated the issue. I trusted that the process would follow suit, but the end result shows something different.
I have a motion ready and written out in both French and English, Madam Chair, if you find this was indeed a breach of privilege.”