Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
Content of Flyer–Speaker’s Ruling

Mr. Speaker, I move:


  That the matter of the question of privilege raised by the member for Mount Royal be now referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.


Mr. Speaker, shortly after I raised the question of privilege on November 19 on which you have now ruled, you ruled on another question of privilege raised by the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore to which you have now referred. Accordingly, in the light of that ruling and your ruling today, and in support of the motion to refer, I wish to tender the following submissions in support of the motion to refer and which incorporate as well the rulings that you have made and which adduce as well, for the benefit of the members of the House and the committee to which it will be referred, new evidence which has emerged that supports your ruling and this motion of referral.


Mr. Speaker, you mentioned in your references that sometimes it may be difficult to codify the criteria, but you have set forth in the ruling today and in the ruling of November 19 specific and relevant criteria. I would like to now relate to those and the evidence that can be adduced to support your ruling on the motion.


Mr. Speaker, in your ruling on November 19 on the matter of the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, you found:


  Having reviewed the material submitted, as well as the arguments made, the Chair can only conclude that the mailing sent to the constituents of Sackville—Eastern Shore did distort their member’s true position on the long-gun registry and, at the very least, had the potential to create confusion in their minds. It may also have had the effect of unjustly damaging his reputation and his credibility with the voters of his riding and, as such, infringing on his privileges by affecting his ability to function as a member.


Mr. Speaker, as this House will recall, my original question of privilege was in regard to Conservative ten percenters targeting Jewish constituents in urban areas, such as my riding of Mount Royal.


Indeed, these ten percenters, and they go to a larger question of subvention of public funds, were also an abuse of process in the use of coupling to target more than ten percent through the aggregate use of this ten percenter.


Moreover, as I attested to in the House, the contents of these ten percenters contained serious falsehoods and misrepresentations, and this is putting it mildly, Mr. Speaker. But I want to relate to the criteria that you enunciated both today and in your ruling of November 19:


  –did distort their member’s true position on the long-gun registry and, at the very least, had the potential to create confusion in their minds.


That is as per your ruling, but I may add, Mr. Speaker, and again quoting from your ruling:


  It may also have had the effect of unjustly damaging his reputation and his credibility with the voters of his riding and, as such, infringing on his privileges by affecting his ability to function as a member.


Indeed, what is specifically damaging, and where the breach of privilege is most evident, is in the false and cruel characterizations of my party and myself. This is the only allegation I will deal with. The flyer states that the Liberals “Willingly participated in the overtly anti-Semitic Durban I”.


This is a particularly outrageous accusation to be made in ridings that are targeted because of their Jewish communities, as Durban has emerged for Jews in my own riding and in others as a metaphor for virulent anti-Semitism.


Accordingly, to identify any political party, let alone a Jewish MP, with willingly participating in such an anti-Semitic event is a most loathsome and dangerous accusation that one could make against that party and that member.


Indeed, Mr. Speaker, and this is the important point in respect of your rulings on breach of privilege and in support of the motion now to refer this prima facie breach to the House committee, these accusations have already had damaging and prejudicial effects on my reputation and standing in my constituency, to use your criteria, as the composite of the three accusations in the flyer constitute the most damning accusations one could make. These were attacks on me as a person, as an MP, and as a member of the Jewish community, and on the party to which I am a member.


It not only has sowed confusion, Mr. Speaker, to use your criteria, but anger among some of my constituents. It not only unjustly damaged my reputation and credibility, though that would be bad enough, to use your criteria again, but clearly infringed upon my privileges and prejudicially affected my ability to function as a member.


I might add that some of the responses to the flyers in my riding called upon me to leave Parliament, to in fact even leave the Jewish community, as I had betrayed that community. There could not be a more pernicious and prejudicial fallout from this damaging flyer as that which I have quoted, and I can tender the evidence to you, Mr. Speaker, for the record.


In that regard, I refer this House to the ruling of Speaker Fraser of May 6, 1985, wherein he said:


  –anything tending to cause confusion as to a Member’s identity…[can] impede a Member in the discharge of his duties is a breach of privilege.


Let me quote the full statement of Speaker Fraser:


  It should go without saying that a Member of Parliament needs to perform his functions effectively and that anything tending to cause confusion as to a Member’s identity creates the possibility of an impediment to the fulfilment of that Member’s functions. Any action which impedes or tends to impede a Member in the discharge of his duties is a breach of privilege. There are ample citations and precedents to bear this out.


Mr. Speaker, in our ruling today and in your previous ruling regarding the member of Sackville—Eastern Shore, you have in fact contributed to these principles and precedents.


I bring up the issue of identity, referred to in the ruling of Speaker Fraser, because in my case there can perhaps be no greater betrayal for the people of Jewish religion than the portrayal of one of their own as anti-Semitic, and that holds true as well for the member for Winnipeg South Centre.


This accusation, as set forth in the ten percenter, is absolutely abhorrent. Constituents have reported even receiving this same mailing in their household more than once. They have asked how I could remain with a party that is anti-Semitic, or how, as a Jew, I could be engaging in such self-hatred. This is just some of the evidence respecting the prejudicial fallout and supporting the breach of privilege on its face.


Even my wife, if I may make reference, herself a constituent and who as it turns out received a ten percenter from the President of the Treasury Board, felt compelled to write an op-ed for the National Post on this issue, again evincing the tumult and prejudicial fallout from these flyers. As she wrote, and it bears again on the question of privilege:


  This week, I received the Conservative “ten-percenter” mailing from [the President of the Treasury Board], targeting assumed Jewish households across Montreal’s Mount Royal riding…The mailing makes misleading statements about what the Liberals (including my husband, who has represented this riding for 10 years) did or did not do regarding matters of value to the Jewish community’s members.


  It is presumptuous enough to assume that Canadian Jews only vote on these issues–regardless of concerns over health care, the environment, social justice, poverty–and that they vote as a bloc. In fact, so far as I know, no other religious community in our riding has been so targeted. But even on the “Jewish” values issue, the flyer is a series of false and arguably slanderous statements.


I will end the reference here to her op-ed. I think it makes the point as to how this constituted a breach of privilege and the prejudicial fallout that it has caused.


I will move to one other point and with this I will close.


There is this other point that may also impede members in the discharge of their duties and constitute thereby a breach of privilege. I am referring to how the targeting of Jewish residents was compiled and their reaction to being so targeted, and the concern of a violation of privacy in the creation of such lists.


While I find it offensive enough that the Jewish community is reduced to a single issue voting block by the contents of this flyer, I realize that this matter, standing alone, is not an issue of privilege. But what may well be an issue of privilege and breach of privilege, and where members may be impeded in their duties, is where constituents may become hesitant to communicate with us if they feel their personal information is somehow being compiled and manipulated.


The targeting of specific and identifiable communities on issues of pressing importance to them may not only be regarded by them as an abuse of parliamentary resources, which it clearly is, but one that violates privacy expectations as well as further impeding members in the discharge of their duties.


The Leader of the Opposition has written to you, Mr. Speaker, as chair of the Board of Internal Economy on the issue of ten percenters. Should the Board become seized of this matter, and should the motion be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, I would be prepared to go forward to present this case study of ten percent misuse and abuse, and how it can have prejudicial and damaging effects on members and their ability to discharge their functions.

To view the complete debate in the House of Commons click here