Content of Flyer–Speaker’s Ruling
Mr. Speaker, I understand Your Honour has found a favourable prima facie case of privilege with respect to the document in question. The matter can and will be further reviewed at committee, as it should be.
I would, however, like to put on the record certain clarifications and corrections.
First of all, the document in question does not mention any member of this place.
Let me say that the respected and learned member for Mount Royal, for whom I have great regard, went on at length about supposedly targeting people from a particular community with this ten percenter.
I will leave to the Board of Internal Economy the rules and regulations of distribution of parliamentary communications, including ten percenters, but I would point out to my learned friend that his colleague, the member for Eglinton—Lawrence, circulated similar ten percenters arguing that the official opposition’s record on issues of concern to the Jewish community was superior to that of the government. That ten percenter appeared to have been distributed in areas with a particularly large Jewish population.
Therefore, everything the member just said with respect to distribution of these materials with respect to the flyer in question could equally be said of the distribution of materials from a flyer from the member for Eglinton–Lawrence. I, therefore, underscore at what is at best a basic inconsistency.
I would secondly point out that the flyers in question from the member for Eglinton—Lawrence were distributed several weeks before the flyer in question.
I did not see any members of the government rising to their feet complaining about matters of privilege because of the very similar communications tactic, in fact, the identical communications tactic being used by members of the official opposition. Apparently for them, what is good for the goose is not good for the gander.
There should be one set of rules for official opposition MPs and another set of rules for government MPs, when it comes to distribution of these ten percent documents.
Having said that, to move on to some of the substance of the member’s allegations, I find spurious and reject completely the terribly mistaken inference that he draws from the document in question that it alleges that he or any other member of this place is anti-Semitic.
What the document says is that the Durban conference was overtly anti-Semitic. I am sure that members will be able to present the copious evidence in support of that contention. I think that essentially it is almost a widely accepted fact. It is hardly contentious to allege that there were many acts of overt anti-Semitism, displays of overt anti-Semitism at the first Durban conference.
It is further more a fact, not an opinion, that the previous government decided to participate at Durban I knowing full well about the charged environment of anti-Semitism at that conference.
I can make these other points–
Order. I neglected to say to the minister, when he got up, that we are on questions and comments. I was not sure whether the member for Mount Royal was on a point of order. It appears it was a speech consequent on the motion which it turned into when I put the motion to the House, so we are technically on a 10-minute question and comment period.
Perhaps he would like to put a question based on his comments, but he will have an opportunity to say more later if he wishes because after the question and comment period is over we will resume debate.
I invite the minister to bear that in mind, given the length of his comments already.
Thank you for the clarification, Mr. Speaker. In that case, I will present my subsequent response in the next speaking spot, I will just terminate first, with an assertion and then a question.
I am disturbed by the suggestion that there was any accusation found in the document that any member is anti-Semitic. This is clearly outrageous. The fact that the previous government decided to participate at Durban, knowing full well the atmosphere of anti-Semitism that surrounded it, and the member knows very well because he was there, is a statement of fact. It is equally a statement of fact that this government was the first in the world to decide to withdraw from Durban II because of those concerns. Now that in my judgment is a legitimate policy difference and that is what public debate involves.
However, my question for the member is this. In the year 2000, former minister of immigration, my predecessor in the Liberal government, said that my party was filled with “racists, bigots, anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers”. Now this was not an argument over who attended a conference or the nature of a conference. This was not a conventional political debate about facts. This was truly the most vile kind of defamatory slur against tens of thousands of members of my party, myself included, and the millions of Canadians who voted for it, who she accused of being filled with “racists, bigots, anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers”. I do not recall a single member of the Liberal Party standing and condemning those remarks or even offering any kind of apology for those remarks. That member was promoted in a subsequent cabinet.
Perhaps the member makes a lot of comments that are not on the public record and perhaps he made some private condemnation of those remarks, but I would challenge him. If he really wants to get into these issues, and I hope he is aware of the consequences of this, would he stand in this place and point out where any member of his party condemned the outrageous, defamatory slurs of Elinor Caplan, a former Liberal MP?
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