"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Contempt, alright

The official Hansard record of one of the most shameful episodes in recent history in the Newfoundland and Labrador legislature, or anywhere in the Westminster Parliamentary world.

Ross Wiseman is not fit to hold his office.

Ross Wiseman, if he had any decency, would resign.

Since he will not, the electors of Trinity North will soon have to solve the Ross Wiseman problem on behalf of everyone else. Hopefully his 35 erstwhile caucus colleagues will then be escorted from the Assembly as well.
MR. SPEAKER: I have had an opportunity to review the statements presented by members with respect to the point of privilege raised by the hon. Government House Leader and I want to share with the House my ruling.

As members of this House, we are granted certain privileges and these include the right not to be molested or intimidated in carrying out our parliamentary duties. We also have the right to say things within this Chamber which may be subject to House discipline which may be, by virtue of our privilege, exempt from the normal civil and criminal remedies of the rest of society. With these privileges comes a great responsibility.

As the Speaker, I find myself once again in a position of having to remind members of the care which they must take when engaged with social media. Twitter and Facebook are wonderful, modern tools allowing us to maintain a connection with our constituents, our friends, and our colleagues as never before. With the use, comes this: a responsibility to use them wisely. That responsibility includes holding yourselves to a higher standard than would be accepted and acceptable for the general public.

I find the comments on Facebook referred to by the Government House Leader to be offensive and intimidating. They certainly require that we examine ourselves as to whether or not this is the kind of discourse that we wish to become involved with.

I have taken the time to examine the Facebook pages in question and have found that the Member for St. John's Centre appears on the list of members of this Facebook, and was invited to join that Facebook group on April 11, 2013. There is no way, however, of determining how this participation was initiated and accepted. There is no evidence that the member made actual comments on this site that would directly connect her to the offensive statements.

In this regard, as stated by Maingot, Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, page 227, "…the Member is entitled to receive the benefit of the doubt." I believe that the benefit of the doubt here extends to any findings of a breach of privilege of the House of Assembly or its members. It cannot be clearly and unequivocally stated that the Member for St. John's Centre was herself carrying out an implied or actual threat; therefore, there is no prima facie case of breach of privilege.

Despite this, such comments, though, diminish the work that we do in this House. An affiliation with this type of discourse by any member of this House is contemptuous of what we do, regardless of the role as a member of the Official Opposition or the Third Party or government.

As stated in O'Brien and Bosc on page 97, "Telecommunications, including… the Internet, should therefore not be used to transmit otherwise defamatory material." I want to broaden that to include the need to avoid the transmission of threatening material and participation in activities that might be seen to be threatening.

Consequently, I find that there has been a contempt against this House. I ask that the member apologize for any disrepute that she may have brought upon this House of Assembly by participating in a social media site which clearly targets a Member of the House of Assembly.

The hon. the Member for St. John's Centre.

MS ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I feel that I –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Speaker has asked the member to apologize. Apologies in this House are to be without qualification and simply put.

I call upon the Member for St. John's Centre.

MS ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will not apologize for something that I have not done. I am sorry; I cannot apologize to the House.

I would also like the opportunity to speak –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Speaker has made a ruling. The Speaker has asked the member to apologize. I ask for the second time, if the member would apologize to the House?

MS ROGERS: Mr. Speaker, I wholly do not condone violence in any way, shape, or form. I cannot apologize for something –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Speaker is going to ask for the third and final time for the Member for St. John's Centre to apologize to the House.

MS ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Out of great respect for this House, I cannot apologize.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the Sergeant-at-Arms if he would escort the Member for St. John's Centre out of the Assembly.



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