October 24, 1966

PRIVILEGE

MR. NUGENT-MOTION RESPECTING ARTICLE IN "LE DROIT"

LIB

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

On Thursday last the hon. member for Edmonton-Strathcona rose on what he termed a question of personal privilege which he said affected not only himself but other hon. members, arising out of an article published in Le Droit on October 14 last. The hon. member said the article imputed an improper motive to himself and that it was a gross distortion of the facts. He then gave notice of a motion that Mr. Marcel Pepin be called before the bar of this house to be dealt with as having breached our privileges.

As hon. members know, the article in question was read into the record by the Clerk of the House, after which I asked the house to give me an opportunity to analyse the article in question and to study the motion proposed by the hon. member for Edmonton-Strathcona.

As far as I have been able to ascertain there have been only two cases in the history of the Canadian House of Commons when journalists, whose conduct has been complained of by hon. members, have actually been brought to the bar. The first case arose in 1873 and is referred to in the Journals of the House of Commons for that year at page 133. The second case is the well known attack on a member of this house by Mr. E. E. Cinq-Mars in 1906.

A cursory consideration of the facts in both these precedents show that they were cases of flagrantly libellous allusions to members of the house.

Earlier today in my chambers I discussed with the hon. member for Edmonton-Strathcona this aspect of his motion, and I brought to his attention the following annotation contained at page 466, volume 28 of

Halsbury's Laws of England, third edition, which reads as follows:

It is now the usual practice of the House of Commons to refer complaint of breach of privilege or contempt to the committee of privileges for investigation and report before summoning an offender to the bar-

And later on:

a flagrant and obvious contempt would still, however, be considered by the house itself without reference to the committee of privileges.

In the light of all the circumstances the hon. member has agreed that perhaps the motion might be changed. Since a motion can be amended by an hon. member at any time before it is formally put to the house I suggest there is no procedural obstacle to the hon. member for Edmonton-Strathcona being allowed to alter the proposed motion, the one of which he gave notice last week, and I suggest to hon. members that he might be given an opportunity of doing this now.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. NUGENT-MOTION RESPECTING ARTICLE IN "LE DROIT"
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PC

Terence James (Terry) Nugent

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Terence Nugent (Edmonion-Siralh-cona):

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful to the Chair for pointing out the difficulty with the method I had proposed, in that that method presupposed a notion of guilt which carried with it a connotation of unfairness to the newsman.

[DOT] (2:40 p.m.)

I therefore suggest I should like to withdraw that motion and move that the question of breach of privilege raised on Thursday October 20 by myself dealing with an article in Le Droit of October 14, under the by-line of Marcel Pepin be referred to the standing committee on privileges and elections for investigation and report.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. NUGENT-MOTION RESPECTING ARTICLE IN "LE DROIT"
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LIB

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Before proceeding to give my further views concerning the matter that is before the house, I think I should be fair to all hon. members and give any member the opportunity to make additional comment if this is required.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. NUGENT-MOTION RESPECTING ARTICLE IN "LE DROIT"
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LIB

George James McIlraith (Minister of Public Works; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Mcllraiih:

Mr. Speaker, I had some difficulty hearing the form of the motion. Could we have it read?

October 24, 1966

Question of Privilege

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. NUGENT-MOTION RESPECTING ARTICLE IN "LE DROIT"
Permalink
LIB

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

I will read the motion, without putting it to the house:

I move that the question of breach of privilege raised on Thursday October 20. 1966 by the hon. member for Edmonton-Strathcona dealing with an article in Le Droit, Ottawa, Friday, October 14, 1966, under the by-line of Marcel Pepin (English Hansard page 8890), be referred to the standing committee on privileges and elections for investigation and report.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. NUGENT-MOTION RESPECTING ARTICLE IN "LE DROIT"
Permalink
LIB

George James McIlraith (Minister of Public Works; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Hon. G. J. Mcllraiih (Minister of Public Works):

Mr. Speaker, I have just one point to raise in respect of this matter. The article contains several paragraphs and takes about a column in Hansard. The greater part of it reports the events as they happened in the House of Commons, with an opinion of the writer. Unless there is some pinning down of what is to be referred to the committee on privileges and elections it seems to me that committee would be going into matters that are no part of its proper function; not only that, but in so doing the committee would be interfering with the right of members of the press freely to report the proceedings in this house as they see them.

If the hon. member wishes to pin this down it is possible he could do so by referring to certain paragraphs. For instance, there is one-I will read the English translation, but I would hope the committee would deal with the original language of the article when they are dealing with it-where it states:

The latter directed from the public gallery the attack of the Conservative member Terry Nugent against Hon. Mr. Hellyer, Wednesday.

If that does denote some act or some participation on the part of the hon. member which would cast some reflection on him, then it well may be privileged; but if it merely describes the conduct of a spectator in the gallery, then there is no privilege involved so far as the hon. member is concerned. The other parts of the story have no relationship to any question of privilege. For instance, there is this paragraph:

Our informant maintains that half a dozen superior navy officers have been plotting at the Chester club in Halifax since the appointment of General Allard.

Surely whether such a meeting did or did not go on, or whether there was or was not that kind of action, it is legitimate for a reporter to report that, and it is of no concern as a question of privilege to any hon. member because it is not related to any hon. member in the house.

I could point out other paragraphs, such as the following:

The appointment of General Allard and the replacement of Rear Admiral Landymore by Rear Admiral O'Brien, an Irish Catholic, has angered the defenders of the bastion.

Where is there an interference with the privilege of an hon. member of the house in that kind of a statement?

My point is that the motion is lacking in precision and does not have a reference to the committee for study which would enable it to do its work and find out whether or not there has been a breach of privilege. I respectfully submit that the hon. member should be required either to describe the point of privilege or to cite the paragraph which in his opinion offends against privilege. Your Honour would then have to rule as to whether they constituted what could be considered as a breach of privilege.

The new motion with which we are confronted today is really totally different from the motion presented last week, and to the extent that it does seek to refer a matter to the committee on privileges and elections it is acceptable, but there is no use in attempting to clear up the procedural point raised by the hon. member by making the mistake of materially weakening or curtailing the right of the press to report events here as they see them. That is undoubtedly their right, and we must not through any carelessness in our procedure cut down or in any way restrict that valuable right of freedom of the press to report.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. NUGENT-MOTION RESPECTING ARTICLE IN "LE DROIT"
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RA

David Réal Caouette

Ralliement Créditiste

Mr. Real Caoueile (Villeneuve):

Mr. Speaker, I find that the motion introduced by the member for Edmonton-Strathcona (Mr. Nugent) is written in English only and reads as follows:

I move that the question of breach of privilege raised on Thursday, October 20, 1966, by the hon. member for Edmonton-Strathcona, dealing with an article in Le Droit, Ottawa, Friday. October 14, 1966, under the by-line of Marcel Pepin, (English Hansard page 8890) be referred to the standing committee on privileges and elections for investigation and report.

[DOT] (2:50 p.m.)

Mr. Speaker, over the weekend I heard some people suggest that the member for Edmonton-Strathcona seemed to attack a French speaking journalist because he is French.

October 24, 1966

Mr. Speaker, the motion of the member for Edmonton-Strathcona could have been introduced against several other members of the press gallery, against anyone in the house, in order to call them before the committee on privileges and elections. If we spent our time bringing up articles written or opinions expressed by journalists against us, the committee on privileges and elections would be summoning journalists all day long and even all year round, especially as far as we are concerned, we, members of the Ralliement Credi-tiste.

Mr. Speaker, I think the motion of the hon. member is not serious. On the other hand, I believe that journalists are the first to flout the freedom of the press, because instead of complying with that freedom, they indulge in licence of the press, which is entirely different.

An opinion can be stated, as long as it is pointed out that it is one's opinion, but to misquote knowingly someone, Mr. Speaker, is no longer freedom of the press. From that point of view I would accept the motion of the member for Edmonton-Strathcona, but as we complain that freedom is often violated-and by the way, especially as far as we are concerned-I think that this motion should be ruled out of order, because as I said earlier, we could introduce similar motions each day against any reporter or owner of a Canadian newspaper.

Mr. Speaker, for those reasons and considerations I think that the member for Edmonton-Strathcona should be a little more lenient and simply withdraw his motion in order not to make a point of conscience out of it.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. NUGENT-MOTION RESPECTING ARTICLE IN "LE DROIT"
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PC

Marcel Joseph Aimé Lambert

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Marcel Lambert (Edmonton West):

Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to suggest to the hon. member for Villeneuve to consult his deskmate, the hon. member for Megantic (Mr. Langlois) who, in November 1962, found himself forced to refer to the house, and then to the committee on privileges and elections, an article published in some newspapers, as well as the editorial of a certain newspaper, about a parliamentary delegation because he had been offended. And strangely enough the seconder of the motion was none other than the present Minister of National Defence (Mr. Hellyer). At that time not a single onjection was raised. The question was that the house itself could not discuss the pros and cons of the article.

Question of Privilege

We have a committee on privileges and elections which can study the matter, hear testimony and then report to the house which, then, will reach a decision. That is all we are asking for at this time; it is not for the Chair to decide if an article offends an hon. member or violates his privileges. It must only establish a prima facie case.

And I suggest to Your Honour that, in the circumstances, there is not much difference between the editorial about which we are complaining and that of 1962. It is unfortunate that at that time we did not get a decision or at least a recommendation, but other events stole the limelight from the investigation on that editorial.

Therefore, with all due respect, I suggest to Your Honour that the editorial and the complaints be referred to the committee on privileges and elections for study and report, after which we will be able to decide what to do.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. NUGENT-MOTION RESPECTING ARTICLE IN "LE DROIT"
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RA

David Réal Caouette

Ralliement Créditiste

Mr. Caouette:

Will the hon. member allow me a question?

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. NUGENT-MOTION RESPECTING ARTICLE IN "LE DROIT"
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PC

Marcel Joseph Aimé Lambert

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Lambert:

Yes, of course.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. NUGENT-MOTION RESPECTING ARTICLE IN "LE DROIT"
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RA

David Réal Caouette

Ralliement Créditiste

Mr. Caouette:

Was the matter raised by the hon. member for Edmonton West in 1962 referred to the committee on privileges and elections at that time?

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. NUGENT-MOTION RESPECTING ARTICLE IN "LE DROIT"
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PC

Marcel Joseph Aimé Lambert

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Lambert:

As far as I remember, Mr. Speaker, yes, the motion was agreed to by the house without discussion. That matter had been referred to the committee but there were then several questions before it, and then general elections were held quite soon after.

I think that the hon. member and his colleagues were involved in some discussions on a matter which had also been referred to the committee.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. NUGENT-MOTION RESPECTING ARTICLE IN "LE DROIT"
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RA

David Réal Caouette

Ralliement Créditiste

Mr. Caouette:

Mr. Speaker-

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. NUGENT-MOTION RESPECTING ARTICLE IN "LE DROIT"
Permalink
LIB

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Order. The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. NUGENT-MOTION RESPECTING ARTICLE IN "LE DROIT"
Permalink
PC

J.-H.-Théogène Ricard (Progressive Conservative Party Caucus Vice-Chair)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Theogene Ricard (Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot):

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Villeneuve tried in his few remarks to give the impression that one Conservative member was trying to discredit the French Canadians.

I am myself a French Canadian, Mr. Speaker, and it is as such that I would like to make a few remarks.

Besides being a French Canadian, I am a Conservative member from Quebec. And it is as-

October 24, 1966

Question of Privilege

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. NUGENT-MOTION RESPECTING ARTICLE IN "LE DROIT"
Permalink
RA

David Réal Caouette

Ralliement Créditiste

Mr. Caouette:

I rise on a question of privilege.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. NUGENT-MOTION RESPECTING ARTICLE IN "LE DROIT"
Permalink
LIB

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Order. One question of privilege at a time. We are now considering a question of privilege. I suggest to the hon. member for Villeneuve (Mr. Caouette) to let the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot complete his remarks, and if afterwards he wishes to rise on a point of order, I will listen to him.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. NUGENT-MOTION RESPECTING ARTICLE IN "LE DROIT"
Permalink
RA

David Réal Caouette

Ralliement Créditiste

Mr. Caouette:

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot is not speaking on a question of privilege.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. NUGENT-MOTION RESPECTING ARTICLE IN "LE DROIT"
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October 24, 1966