Mr. Joe Fontana (London North Centre, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, and members of the House of Commons, I rise on a question of privilege with regard to the premature release of a confidential document that was still work in progress at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
The member for Lakeland, who happens to be the vice-chair of the committee, issued a media advisory, which says:
OTTAWA, Thursday, 16 March 2000: At 3:30 p.m. today in Room 130-S Centre Block, Reform MP Leon Benoit, MP will hold a press conference to make the report of the citizenship and immigration committee public. This report titled, “Refugee Protection and Border Security: Striking a Balance” is marked confidential and has yet to be tabled in the House of Commons.
I note that in the House of Commons Procedure and Practice , chapter 20, at page 884 it says:
Committee reports must be presented to the House before they can be released to the public. The majority of committee reports are discussed and adopted at in camera meetings. Even when a report is adopted in public session, the report itself is considered confidential until it has actually been presented in the House. In addition, where a committee report has been considered and approved during in camera committee meetings, any disclosure of the contents of a report prior to presentation, either by Members or non-Members, may be judged a breach of privilege. Speakers have ruled that questions of privilege concerning leaked reports will not be considered unless a specific charge is made against an individual, organization or group, and that the charge must be levelled not only against those outside the House who have made in camera material public, but must also identify the source of the leak within the House itself.
It is not only a question of privilege for myself but especially for the members of the committee on citizenship and immigration who have worked very hard over the past two or three months, and on Wednesday or Thursday of this week continued to do that work, and, as I said, it was work in progress.
Unfortunately the member for Lakeland and his colleague decided not to participate in those meetings and hence have done this. I think this is an important question of privilege, a privilege that affects each and every member of the House. It is incumbent upon us, because we all cannot sit on each other's committees, that we do work on behalf of each other in these committees.
Therefore, until such time as the document is released to the House, it is rather unfair that the members of the House of Commons do not get to see these reports before they are leaked to the public and, in this case, with intent and purpose as reported by the news media.
I ask that this question of privilege be immediately referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs so that it can deal with this breach of privilege which I believe demeans the value of the House of Commons and the value of our purpose here. After spending the better part of yesterday talking about this institution and about how important and how respected it is, I think this is absolutely deplorable.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask that you immediately refer this breach of privilege by the member for Lakeland to the procedure and House affairs committee for a report back to the House to Commons.