Did Russia offend parliamentary privilege?

Russia’s travel ban on the Speaker of the House of Commons raises questions

Most of the MPs sanctioned yesterday by Russia as part of the diplomatic tit-for-tat over Crimea seemed to welcome the news with pride. Of the eight, Irwin Cotler, James Bezan, Chrystia Freeland, Ted Opitz and Paul Dewar tweeted their acceptance the honour, while Dean Allison, chair of the foreign affairs committee, said he’d have to cancel plans to buy a vacation property in Sochi.

But the other MP now subject to a Russian travel ban is Speaker Andrew Scheer and, on that note, Liberal deputy leader Ralph Goodale rose with the following question of privilege after QP this afternoon.

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a matter of privilege. Under our rules, we are obliged to raise these items at the earliest possible moment, which I am now taking the opportunity to do.

Earlier today, we learned that Russia had imposed certain sanctions against 13 Canadians, including several members of Parliament, and indeed, the Speaker of the House of Commons, you, sir.

The sanctions are, and are intended to be, deeply insulting. They are intended to punish, intimidate and interfere with the functioning of the House of Commons and the ability of members of Parliament to do their jobs.

The Speaker embodies the rights and privileges of all MPs, and indeed, the very dignity of the whole House. The Russian action constitutes, in my view, a very grave matter of privilege, which I would intend to raise tomorrow, and I wanted to give the House full notice of this matter today, because I suspect a number of members of Parliament would want to express their views on this Russian action taken against the Speaker of the House of Commons of Canada.

Via email, Mr. Goodale told me yesterday that this situation of the Speaker being subject to a ban is “likely unprecedented” and its privilege implications “must be thoroughly investigated.”

For today, I thought it was important not to let this day pass without drawing the House’s attention to the extraordinary circumstance in which a foreign power has levied sanctions on a number of Canadian citizens, including several MPs and including the Speaker who represents the rights and privileges of all Members and the dignity of the House as a whole. This is likely unprecedented. Its “privilege” implications must be thoroughly investigated.

This will presumably at least result in a discussion in the House on Tuesday.




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Did Russia offend parliamentary privilege?

  1. Can’t see how it makes one whit of difference. The Speaker is unlikely – because of the very nature of the position – to ever travel to a foreign country as part of an official government junket. So it is clearly just a symbolic gesture on Russia’s part.

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