Mr. G. W. Baldwin (Peace River):
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege in respect of which I have given Your Honour notice. Since it affects an issue which we discussed yesterday in the House, I understand that oral notice has been given to the Solicitor General as well.
When I raised my question of privilege yesterday I think Your Honour quite wisely indicated that before the matter was decided Your Honour might wish to avail yourself of assistance and advice from other members of the House on the general issue of whether or not there is a prima facie case of privilege, in the absence of which, of course, no motion could be put.
Let me make it clear at the outset that I do not challenge the right of the authorities, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, in matters involving the criminal law or security to deal with Members of Parliament as Canadians in the same way as other Canadians are dealt with, subject, of course, to their traditional rights and privileges which I shall cite to Your Honour later.
There was one exception to this. There was a fascinating case in the United Kingdom in 1939 when Mr. Duncan Sandys, a Member of Parliament, came into possession of certain information with respect to the armed forces. This is a well known case and is cited in many of the authorities. How the information came into Mr. Sandys' possession is not clear, but he went to the Minister of Defence and asked that it be confirmed. He said if the information was given to him he would remain silent. The minister did not confirm the information but shortly afterward Mr. Sandys was served with a summons. He went into the House, raised the matter as a question of privilege and, as I understand it, the House took the position that only with the approval of the chamber could the summons proceed. This approval having been given, the matter went forward to trial. That is really not the case here.
What we are dealing with here involves the traditional and proverbial rights of Members of Parliament. Both May and Beauchesne deal with this question to some extent. May, for example, in the eighth chapter of the seventeenth edition at pages 122 and 123 states that it is not proper to impugn the conduct of members in the House or to threaten them with future exposure if they take part in debates of the House. The author goes on to say-I am now quoting from page 123:
Conduct not amounting to a direct attempt to influence a member in the discharge of his duties but having a tendency to impair his independence in the future performance of his duty will also be treated as a breach of privilege.
I intend to establish my case by quoting to Your Honour statements from Hansard and from an interview conducted outside the House with the minister. It may be possible that the information collected with regard to Members of Parliament has been collected for no good reason and with no thought of future action, but if this is the case these files are no more than the product of a bureaucratic pack rat and ought to be destroyed.
I should like to quote from the British Bill of Rights:
That the freedom of speech in debates or proceedings in Parliament are not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or place out of Parliament.
This surely remains in force, Mr. Speaker, even if Members of Parliament do not know whose conduct is being impeached or questioned or for what reasons.
Beauchesne's Fourth Edition, paragraph 119 (2), reads as follows:
Freedom of speech is a sacred principle and if there is a place where it should be fully respected that place is the Parliament of the nation, and it is the Speaker's responsibility to see that this principle is not infringed upon.
Attached to the fourth edition of Beauchesne is a very interesting annex dealing with a report brought in by the United Kingdom Parliament on April 5, 1939. It is a very lengthy and useful report but I shall quote only two brief paragraphs. At page 428 of Beauchesne we find this statement:
The dignity and independence of the two Houses...are in great measure preserved by keeping their privileges indefinite. If all the privileges of Parliament were set down and ascertained, and no privilege to be allowed but what was so defined and determined, it were easy for the executive power to devise some new case, not within the line of privilege, and under pretence thereof to harass any refractory member and violate the freedom of Parliament.
My second quotation from the report is as follows:
Your committee would emphasize a point mentioned in the report which they made to the House in the last session of Parliament, namely, that the privilege of freedom of speech enjoyed by Members of Parliament is in truth the privilege of their constituents. It is secured to members not for their personal benefit, but to enable them to discharge the functions of their office without fear of prosecutions civil or criminal.
Having cited that as a very brief synopsis of some of the law, practice and precedents, I now put before Your Honour some of the statements made in this House yesterday and later outside the House. I am referring to page 5032 of yesterday's Hansard, and my first quotation is from a question put by the hon. member for Hamilton West (Mr. Alexander). He asked:
In view of the fact that some time ago one of the officials of the RCMP indicated to me during a meeting of the justice committee that perhaps there would be files on Members of Parliament in the event that complaints were made by constituents
April 20, 1971
RCMP Files on Members of Parliament
or members of the public, would the minister now advise whether, in the event of such complaint against a Member of Parliament, it is the policy to compile a dossier relating to that member?
Your Honour intervened at that point and then the hon. member resumed by asking:
May I ask whether, in the event of a complaint by a constituent against a Member of Parliament, the RCMP, rightly or wrongly, would compile a dossier relating to that member?
The ultimate answer given by the Solicitor General (Mr. Goyer) was:
Mr. Speaker, I do not intend to make a statement on motions. I feel I have replied to the question and if the member does not understand me clearly, I wish he could be more specific.
A little farther down on the same page the hon. member for Egmont (Mr. MacDonald) asked this question:
However, at this time I should like to ask him-
He is referring to the Solicitor General.
-through you, Sir, whether it is now the practice of the RCMP to photograph, and in other ways cover public meetings in which members of this House, as well as civic officials, might participate, as was recently indicated by the premier of Prince Edward Island?
The answer of the Solicitor General was:
Mr. Speaker, some hon. members seem to think that they are in the United States. I do not know whether it is the practice or not. What motivates the decisions of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is the need to take action. There is certainly no systematic policy about citizens. Events lead us. If some methods have to be used with regard to an individual, it is because there is a clear indication that it is necessary.
On page 5033 the right hon. member for Prince Albert (Mr. Diefenbaker) asked a question, the last part of which is as follows:
Will the minister give his unequivocal answer that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, for whom he speaks in this House, have not, and are not continuing to have, dossiers on Members of Parliament? Let that be clear and let the House have the answer.
The minister replied and I shall only read the latter part because the first part consisted of an eulogy of the RCMP, with which none of us differ, Mr. Speaker. He said:
Now, I find no provision in the law-and if there is, I should very much like to be enlightened about it-to the effect that Members of Parliament are not also citizens, that they enjoy complete immunity and that they can do anything. If the House wishes to pass such a provision, the people will think that hon. members constitute a special category of citizens in this country.
The right hon. member proceeded to ask another question:
Mr. Speaker, there is no debate. I asked the minister the simple question: Are there dossiers on Members of Parliament? Members do not expect to be treated differently from anybody else, but Members of Parliament have the right to know whether this government has launched upon a system of looking into the lives of individuals through the Mounted Police.
The minister replied:
Mr. Speaker, I said that the department applied no general policy in this respect, and I might add that for the time that
I have been Solicitor General, I have not seen the file of any member.
Mr. Speaker, later, outside the House, the minister was interviewed and the report contains two or three brief statements which I think are very relevant to this issue. This question was asked:
Does the RCMP have dossiers on all Members of Parliament?
A. I prefer this way to put questions than to be a little arrogant.
Q. No, sir, but you can't have dossiers on every citizen in Canada so I know that the RCMP have dossiers on some Members of Parliament?
A. Personally, as I said in the House, personally I never asked to see one dossier of a Member of Parliament and I have never asked to make an inquiry on one Member of Parliament-
The minister gave a further answer with which I should like to conclude, Mr. Speaker;
They might have dossiers on Members of Parliament. I am sure that they have dossiers on some Members of Parliament. You have Members of Parliament who are former civil servants and when a civil servant has to have access to top secret of course he has to accept the security clearance. This is normal and I think this is good.
Q. Now are you saying that it is not the policy to have dossiers on all M.P.S and you are also saying that you are not sure whether or not these dossiers do exist?
A. I am saying that there is no policy to the effect that we will have a dossier on all Members of Parliament. This is the information I have and this is the instruction-and also I am ready to give at any time but I am sure that I don't have to give those instruction. This is the practice.
Mr. Speaker, let me conclude with this very brief argument. I suggest that if you consider the compilation of all the questions and the answers given by the minister you will find there is no clear and categorical denial of the fact alluded to in the form of these questions, that dossiers are being kept in respect of some Members of Parliament as legislative representatives and that this constitutes an infraction of the privileges and immunities of this House. I suggest that this constitutes intimidation and a type of constructive blackmail that can only result in the diminishing of the freedom of members of this House. Surely it comes squarely within the definition of privilege which I have just outlined.
This refusal to give a straightforward and honest answer would be bad enough in connection with any government, but when it comes from a member of this administration which, with a few exceptions and in spite of some rather unbelievable expressions of affection for the parliamentary system, has shown by its actions that it is dedicated to the continuous erosion of legislative independence and freedom, it is unacceptable.
The neat question for Your Honour to decide now is whether a prima facie case has been made out, because more hinges on this than just this question alone. The minister's refusal to answer a consistent line of questioning both inside and outside the House must be interpreted as meaning that the minister is refusing for a very definite reason, and that reason lies in the fact that some dossiers are being kept and some scrutiny is being maintained on some Members of Parliament in their capacity as members. Does this extend to the point of interfering
April 20, 1971
with the telephones of members of this House? There is no question that if they can do the one they can do the other. I think this is an extremely important issue to be decided.
If the facts raise a reasonable probability of a prima facie case, then I suggest to you as Mr. Speaker and as a lawyer that the implications of a prima facie case are not such that we have to establish the point beyond a reasonable doubt and not even by a preponderance of evidence. If the facts indicate to Your Honour there is a doubt, that there is a possibility that the actions of the government and of the police authorities suggest there has indeed been maintained some form of scrutiny or some form of dossiers on Members of Parliament in the exercise of their legislative capacity as representatives of the people, that is a prima facie case. I would go further and suggest that if there is any doubt a parliamentary committee might well make an examination and assist Your Honour on that point. The matter is one which is entirely for Your Honour to decide and in doing so I think Your Honour is entitled to ask for assistance either in the form of advice from individual members or from a committee. I suggest further that if Your Honour should conclude there is a prima facie case on these facts, I would be prepared to consult with Your Honour and the House leaders concerning the form of the motion which might be put.
Subtopic: MR. BALDWIN-KEEPING OF DOSSIERS ON MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT BY ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE