Question of Privilege – Physical Obstruction

Yvon Godin: Mr. Speaker, I am speaking today to raise a question of privilege regarding a worrying incident that took place today on Parliament Hill. I feel that it was a prima facie breach of my privileges as a member.
The incident took place just after 10:40 a.m. As we all know, earlier today, the government proposed a time allocation motion, the 76th of its kind, at the report stage and third reading of Bill C-36.

At approximately 10:40 a.m., the bells were ringing to call in the members for the vote on this motion. The bells were still ringing when I was physically blocked from entering the House of Commons at the appropriate time.

I was denied access because of security measures put in place today for an official visit from a foreign dignitary. An RCMP officer prevented me from entering the parliamentary precinct, saying that he had received very strict instructions not to let anyone pass. That obstruction was a serious breach of my privileges as a member.

I got here just in time to vote. Regardless of whether I was late, access to the parliamentary precinct, whether it is to vote, to participate in a committee meeting, to attend question period, to deliver a speech, or just to listen to the debate, is a strictly protected privilege.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, the second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice states on page 108 that:

In circumstances where Members claim to be physically obstructed, impeded, interfered with or intimidated in the performance of their parliamentary functions, the Speaker is apt to find that a prima facie breach of privilege has occurred.

Incidents involving physical obstruction—such as traffic barriers, security cordons and union picket lines either impeding Members’ access to the Parliamentary Precinct or blocking their free movement within the precinct—as well as occurrences of physical assault or molestation have been found to be prima facie cases of privilege.

I would ask you to consider my question and the facts I just related. I believe you will also find that my privilege was breached and that I was prevented from carrying out my functions as an elected member of the House of Commons.

If you find that there was a prima facie breach of my privileges as a member, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I want to raise what I think is an important perspective on this that has been missed. Converting the House of Commons into the official greeting place for visiting heads of state is a perversion of our Constitution. The place for visiting heads of state is Rideau Hall.

The conversion of the House of Commons as a photo backdrop for political purposes, interfering with the work of this place is, frankly, offensive. I hope perhaps this unfortunate incident will draw attention to the fact that red carpets, flags and in some cases tanks in front of Parliament Hill to greet visiting dignitaries is an inappropriate use of Parliament.

The Acting Speaker: I thank the hon. members for Acadie—Bathurst, Winnipeg North, Burnaby—New Westminster, and Westmount—Ville-Marie.

I note the hon. government House leader reserves the opportunity to perhaps get back to the House once greater facts are known, and for the intervention of the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

As is customary in these cases, we will take these interventions under advisement and get back to the House in due course.