VIDEO: Citing MPs privilege and calls on Parliament to identify those cited in NSICOP report

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https://youtu.be/3anu2-o_AAI?si=_C2lkM2TSwNjyj5z

 

Debates of June 18th, 2024
House of Commons Hansard #334 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session
Foreign Interference and Alleged Reputational Harm to Members of Parliament

Privilege
Government Orders

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Mr. Speaker, I sent you a notice of my intention to raise a question of privilege related to the revelation contained in the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians' “Special Report on Foreign Interference in Canada's Democratic Processes and Institutions”.

The committee reviewed over 4,000 documents, including over 1,000 intelligence products. The NSICOP report is an alarming wake-up call in terms of the depth and insidious nature of hostile foreign state actors' efforts to covertly undermine Canada's democratic processes and institutions. China and India are both identified as the most aggressive foreign states; they are deploying wide-ranging and multi-faceted tactics in foreign interference activities in Canada.

The shocking allegations that some members of Parliament wittingly or semiwittingly worked with foreign state actors is not only unsettling, but it is also a betrayal of Canadians, who trusted them to act in Canada's best interests and not a foreign state's interests. The report did not provide any names, and as such, all 338 members of the House, including those who have since left this chamber, are under a cloud of suspicion for having intentionally or semi-intentionally worked with a foreign state to undermine Canada's democratic processes and institutions.

My intervention today will not cover the national security aspect of this extremely concerning situation. Instead, it will focus on the damage to the reputations of all members of the House of Commons.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, outlines the rights and immunities of members of Parliament on page 107. There is a section on “Freedom from Obstruction, Interference, Intimidation and Molestation”. It states, “Members of Parliament, by the nature of their office and the variety of work they are called upon to perform, come into contact with a wide range of individuals and groups. Members can, therefore, be subject to all manner of interference, obstruction and influences.”

On page 112, it goes on to say the following:

The unjust damaging of a Member’s good name might be seen as constituting an obstruction if the Member is prevented from performing his or her parliamentary functions. In 1987, Speaker Fraser stated:

The privileges of a Member are violated by any action which might impede him or her in the fulfilment of his or her duties and functions. It is obvious that the unjust damaging of a reputation could constitute such an impediment.

I would submit that what has been revealed in the NSICOP report constitutes such an impediment for all members of Parliament. Throughout the report, there are many references to how some parliamentarians are willing participants with foreign states. We can take, for example, paragraph 55 of the NSICOP report. It notes, “Some elected officials...began wittingly assisting foreign state actors soon after their election.” It goes on to say, “members of Parliament...worked to influence their colleagues on India’s behalf and proactively provided confidential information to Indian officials.”

Paragraph 56 states that there was “a textbook example of foreign interference that saw a foreign state support a witting politician.”

Paragraph 59 states that “the PRC had established an informal foreign interference network”, where those in “the network...worked in loose coordination with one another and with guidance from the consulate...to covertly support or oppose candidates in the 2019 federal election.” Moreover, the “network had some contact with at least 11 candidates and 13 campaign staffers, some of whom appeared to be wittingly working for the PRC.” The report also “described the network’s efforts to keep federal political candidates away from events that the PRC considered to be ‘anti-China,’ such as a pro-Hong Kong rally; noted similar activities by another network in the riding of Don Valley North; and identified specific individuals involved.”

Paragraph 68 states, “an Indian proxy claims to have repeatedly transferred funds from India to politicians at all levels of government in return for political favours, including raising issues in Parliament at the proxy’s request.”

Paragraph 72 states, “PRC officials allegedly interfered in the leadership races of the Conservative Party of Canada.” Following this, paragraph 73 “describe[s] India’s alleged interference in a Conservative Party of Canada leadership race.”

Paragraph 164 states that “some Parliamentarians are, in the words of the intelligence services, ‘semi-witting or witting’ participants in the efforts of foreign states to interfere in our politics.”

Paragraph 57 even notes an example of a former MP, and the report refers to:

...a particularly concerning case of a then-member of Parliament maintaining a relationship with a foreign intelligence officer. According to CSIS, the member of Parliament sought to arrange a meeting in a foreign state with a senior intelligence official and also proactively provided the intelligence officer with information provided in confidence.

We do not know who the elected official associated with each allegation is. In the face of such alarming revelations, this means that all members are tainted and that the reputation of the whole House is put in question.

Since China and India are the top two countries cited as being most aggressive in foreign interference activities, I would submit that those of us who are Chinese Canadians or Indo-Canadians are at a greater and heightened risk of unjust reputational damage.

There are a few examples throughout the years of similar situations where a prima facie case of privilege was found because the reputation of the House was put in question. In March 1966, the House was gripped for several days with the Munsinger case when the then minister of justice, Mr. Cardin, alleged improper conduct on the part of ministers in the former Diefenbaker government. Mr. Cardin stated that certain members of the House were involved with Greta Munsinger, a “self-admitted espionage agent” in the employ of the “Russian intelligence service”.

On March 10, four questions of privilege were raised by the members in relation to the statement made by former minister Cardin. Speaker Lamoureux ruled immediately that there was a prima facie case of privilege, even though all four motions were ultimately ruled out of order by the Chair for various reasons. One was disallowed immediately because the motion was too general and did not specify the charges against the minister. One requested that the minister substantiate his charges. The other two motions sought the resignation of Minister Cardin.

In May 1976, a former member of Parliament, Mr. Choquette, was quoted as saying, while giving testimony in open court, that “if everyone who had ever taken or given $600 or $700 bribes in their life were arrested, 50 per cent of the MPs would no longer be sitting.... I know it because I was an MP for five years.”

The matter was raised as a question of privilege. Speaker Jerome ruled immediately and stated that he had no difficulty in agreeing that there was indeed a question of privilege.

We also had a situation in 1983, when several articles in the Montreal Gazette alleged that Mr. Mackasey, member for Lincoln, was a paid lobbyist. In her ruling of March 22, 1983, Speaker Sauvé said, “An allegation of criminal or other dishonourable conduct inevitably affects the Member's ability to function effectively while the matter remains unresolved.”

From selected decisions of Speaker Jeanne Sauvé, we can read about this case:

Not only do defamatory allegations about Members place the entire institution of Parliament under a cloud, they also prevent members from performing their duties as long as the matter remains unresolved, since, as one authority states, such allegations bring Members into “hatred, contempt or ridicule”.

I fear that this is where we are under these circumstances. Without disclosure of the names of the parliamentarians who are “‘semi-witting or witting’ participants in the efforts of foreign states to interfere in our politics”, we may subject all members of the House, including former and sitting MPs, to hatred, contempt or ridicule. Indeed, this is already happening.

Outside this chamber, just yesterday, there were individuals shouting, questioning and jeering about who the traitors may be. Members of Parliament had to walk past these individuals on the members' way to the House to do their work. I believe we must find a way to disclose which MPs are knowingly, intentionally, wittingly or semi-wittingly engaging with foreign states or their proxies to undermine Canada's democratic processes and institutions. I believe this can be done in a way that does not compromise national security.

If there are no consequences for MPs who knowingly help foreign governments act against Canadian interests, we will continue to be an easy target. This will further erode the trust and faith Canadians have in our democratic processes. If allowed to continue, it will further impugn the integrity of the House. Revealing any member of Parliament, former or present, who is a willing participant in foreign interference activities would have the effect of deterring this kind of behaviour. Moreover, it would send a clear message to those foreign states that this cannot continue and that they will not be able to continue to use parliamentarians in this way. This will further reassure the public of the integrity of the House.

I strongly believe that the House should refer the matter to the procedure and House affairs committee. A possible way to deal with the issue would be for committee members to undergo the necessary security screening to examine the unredacted report and look into the allegations about parliamentarians who were “‘witting or semi-witting’ participants in the efforts of foreign states to interfere in our politics.” We could allow the named parliamentarians to be informed and to come before the committee as witnesses; we could then explore options on how to disclose the named parliamentarians without compromising national security or police investigations of the matter.

Madam Speaker, if you find a prima facie case of privilege in this case, this is the motion I would move: That the matter of reputational harm done to all members of Parliament as a consequence of the redaction of parliamentarians' names from the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, or NSICOP, report entitled “Special Report on Foreign Interference in Canada's Democratic Processes and Institutions” be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

 

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Alexandra Mende
Liberal

I thank the hon. member. Her comments will be taken under advisement, and the Chair will come back to the hon. member as soon as possible.

The hon. member for Mégantic—L'Érable.

 

Luc Berthold Mégantic—L'Érable, QC
Conservative

Madam Speaker, given the importance of the subject that my colleague just raised, I would like to reassure the House. Conservative members are ready to meet this summer at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to study this issue, to advance the study already under way on foreign interference and to consider today's question of privilege more specifically.

I advise the House that we prefer to reserve comment for the time being. We will return to this later.

 

Julie Vignola Beauport—Limoilou, QC
Bloc

Madam Speaker, the Bloc Québécois understands the importance of the situation and the importance of the study that needs to be done on this matter. We choose to exercise the right to reserve comment for the time being.

 

Kevin Lamoureux Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Liberal

Madam Speaker, I would also like to review the comments that the member has put on the record. We will report back at some point in the future.

 

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC
Green

Madam Speaker, I also want to add a few comments and thank our colleague from Vancouver East.

The matters raised, as we all know, are of critical importance. I have listened carefully to the member for Vancouver East. I want to read her question of privilege. It is clearly pressing and urgent that Parliament come together. At this point, I would like to reserve further comments, as other representatives of parties in this place have done. I hope to pursue conversations, as I have indicated in a letter to all party leaders and to all members of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians.

However, I think the member for Vancouver East has raised a critical issue. Once I have read her question of privilege carefully and considered whether it is consistent with respecting the top secret nature of the full, unredacted report, I would like to add my thoughts.

 

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Alexandra Mendes
Liberal

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