Parliamentary Privilege: The fast and The Furious

October 22, 2014

Primary Issue At Hand:

Member of Parliament (MP) Yvon Godin allegedly delayed by RCMP on Parliament Hill for just over 60 seconds in September while on foot to vote results in a full hearing by Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

RCMP Boss' Testimony in Brief:

The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs held a hearing on October 21st, 2014 to assess the claim of Parliamentary Privilege Breach and Contempt.

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson's testimony was fair and frank. It also included a video spanning just over 60 seconds which provided a transparent view of events. A German Presidential motorcade was travelling on Parliament Hill at the time of the incident in question and both the RCMP and Ottawa Police Service were assigned the task of ensuring the safe unabated movement of the motorcade. 

Commissioner Paulson's remarks and video reportedly laid to rest any assertion that the RCMP member was less than professional in the interaction with MP Godin.

After the video was played, MP Yvon Godin asserted that the video may have been "sped up".

A report will be submitted by the Committee on whether Contempt occurred.

My Final Two Cents:

In 2010, an MP allegedly bypassed a clearly marked RCMP screening checkpoint. Similarly, in 2013, a senior MP allegedly failed to stop at an RCMP screening check-point resulting in an RCMP "slow pursuit" through several posted stop signs. The event and the interaction by the MP with the RCMP was labelled a "misunderstanding". One would assume that Members of Parliament working on Parliament Hill would have more patience for security personnel keeping them safe on the Hill.

Unlike the above vehicular incidents, MP Yvon Godin's situation was whether his parliamentary privilege was violated as he walked from his office to vote. As with any allegation, it is important to examine the totality of the circumstances which were clearly defined by Commissioner Paulson. It is clear that the RCMP member and Ottawa Police Service officer had no intent to interfere with the parliamentary privilege of the Member of Parliament.

The alleged delay in privilege claimed by MP Godin reportedly lasted a little over 60 seconds according to the video presented by Commissioner Paulson which is about the same amount of time as ordering one's coffee at a drive-thru- clearly NOT a breach in parliamentary privilege in my opinion as the security of Parliament Hill is maintained by police.  

While growing up in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, my foster mother, Christianne, a proud french Acadian, often stressed the need to treat all people the way you would expect to be treated. I am confident there would be many Acadians living in MP Godin's constituency of Acadie-Bathurst (New Brunswick) who would be happy to listen to his gripes about parliamentary privilege and 60 second delays over a coffee and compare them to their struggles in life.

My two cents,

Mel Young     twitter @TheFullMountie

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