The Speaker rules against Anonymous

Last week, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews rose in the House to claim that videos posted by individual(s) claiming to be with Anonymous had violated his rights as a Member of Parliament.

The Speaker has now ruled this morning that the videos do constitute a prima facie question of privilege. Here is the prepared text of his ruling.

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on February 27, 2012, by the Minister of Public Safety (Mr. Toews) regarding cyber campaigns following the introduction in the House by him of Bill C-30, An Act to enact the Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act and to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts.

I would like to thank the Minister for having raised these matters, as well as the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons (Mr. Van Loan), the Minister of Foreign Affairs  (Mr. Baird), the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons (Mr. Lukiwski), the House Leader of the Official Opposition (Mr. Comartin), the Member for Toronto Centre (Mr. Rae), the Member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour (Mr. Plamondon), the Member for Saanich—Gulf Islands (Ms. May) and the Member for Westmount—Ville-Marie (Mr. Garneau) for their interventions.

In raising his question of privilege, the Minister raised three issues, each of which he believed to be a contempt of the House.  The first concerned the use of House resources for the so-called vikileaks30 account on Twitter, which he claimed was used to attack him personally, thereby degrading his reputation and obstructing him from carrying out his duties as a Member of Parliament.  

The Interim Leader of the Liberal Party then rose to inform the House that he himself had intended to rise on a question of privilege, having been informed February 26 that it was an employee of the Liberal Research Bureau who had been responsible for the vikileaks30 site.  The Interim Leader offered his unequivocal apology and that of the Liberal Party to the Minister.  In view of this unconditional apology made personally by the Member and on behalf of his party as a whole, and in keeping with what has been done in similar circumstances in the past, I am prepared to consider this particular aspect of the question of privilege closed.  I also wish to inform the House that the House of Commons Policy on Acceptable Use of Information Technology Resources was applied in this case, given that an unacceptable use of House IT resources occurred.

The Minister also raised the matter of an apparent campaign to inundate his office with calls, emails and faxes.  This, he contended, hindered him and his staff from serving his constituents, and prevented constituents with legitimate needs from contacting their Member of Parliament in a timely fashion.  

As the Member for Windsor—Tecumseh reminded the House, my predecessor Speaker Milliken was faced with a similar situation in 2005, in a matter raised by the former Member for Glengarry–Prescott–Russell.  In his ruling on June 8, 2005, Speaker Milliken concluded that, while the Member had a legitimate grievance that the normal functioning of parliamentary offices had been affected, the Members involved and their constituents had still maintained the ability to communicate through several means.  Thus, he could not find that it was a prima facie case of privilege as the Members were not impeded in their ability to perform their parliamentary duties.

Having reviewed the facts in the current case, I must draw the same conclusion on this second aspect of the question of privilege.

This brings us to the third, and what I consider to be the most troubling, issue raised in the question of privilege, that of the videos posted on the Web site, YouTube, by the so-called Anonymous on February 18, 22 and 25, 2012.  These videos contained various allegations about the Minister`s private life, and made specific and disturbing threats.  The Minister has stated that he accepts that coping with vigorous debate and sometimes overheated rhetoric are part of the job of a politician, but argued that these online attacks directed to both him and his family had crossed the line into threatening behaviour that was unacceptable.  He contended that the threatened actions contained in these videos constituted a deliberate attempt to intimidate him with respect to proceedings in Parliament. 

In House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, it states:

(quote)“It is impossible to codify all incidents which might be interpreted as matters of obstruction, interference, molestation or intimidation and as such constitute prima facie cases of privilege.  However, some matters found to be prima facie include the damaging of a Member’s reputation, the usurpation of the title of Member of Parliament, the intimidation of Members and their staff and of witnesses before committees, and the provision of misleading information.” (unquote)

In spite of the able arguments advanced by the Member for Westmount – Ville-Marie, the Chair is in no doubt that the House has full jurisdiction to decide the matter.  As is noted at page 108 of O’Brien and Bosc:

(quote) “Speakers have consistently upheld the right of the House to the services of its Members free from intimidation, obstruction and interference.  Speaker Lamoureux stated in a 1973 ruling that he had “no hesitation in reaffirming the principle that parliamentary privilege includes the right of a member to discharge his responsibilities as a member of the House free from threats or attempts at intimidation.” (unquote)

Those who enter political life fully expect to be held accountable for their actions — to their constituents, and to those who are concerned with the issues and initiatives they may advocate.  In a healthy democracy, vigorous debate on issues is encouraged.  In fact, the rules and procedures of this House are drafted to allow for proponents and opponents to discuss in a respectful manner even the most difficult and sensitive of matters.  However, when duly-elected Members are personally threatened for their work in parliament – whether introducing a bill, making a statement, or casting a vote, this House must take the matter very seriously.

As noted by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House, threats or attempts to influence a Member’s actions are considered to be breaches of privilege.

I have carefully reviewed the online videos in which the language used does indeed constitute a direct threat to the Minister in particular, as well as all other Members.  These threats demonstrate a flagrant disregard of our traditions and a subversive attack on the most fundamental privileges of this House.  As your Speaker and the guardian of those privileges, I have concluded that this aspect – the videos posted on the Internet by Anonymous – therefore constitutes a prima facie question of privilege and I invite the Minister to move his motion. 




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The Speaker rules against Anonymous

  1. Well that doesn’t look silly, not at all.

  2. Oh man, that was a remarkably dumb thing to do.

  3. Yet Toews threatens ordinary Canadians on a daily basis — Point of Privilege Mr. Speaker!!!

  4. Camille Paglia ~ Are we like late Rome, infatuated with past glories, ruled by a complacent, greedy elite, and hopelessly powerless to respond to changing conditions?

  5. This is outrageous! Our government can’t even considered investigating calls of corruption from within or in related industries (Electro-motive anyone).
    Yet Toews is allowed to falsely accuse most Canadians of supporting child pornography and he doesn’t just get away with it, he gets to punish people who spoke up against him.
    This kind of behaviour in a family, friends, or business would be firmly handled yet he gets to behind a speaker (appointed by the liberals, not the people) who obviously lets him have his way.

    • The speaker wasn’t appointed by the liberals. He was elected by the house. In any case he’s a conservative.

  6. Stay tuned. Next up the Motion, followed in part 3 with the Vote.  There’s still hope for common sense.  (Fingers crossed though, just in case.)

  7.  It would seem there is a less than balanced interpretation of privilege in this case, I agree.  How Minister Toews got away with the statement he made to another Member (not accusing all Canadians, by the way) is confusing.  Rather one-sided IMO.

    • Speaker bias?

  8. What about all the conservative propoganda created on Iggy and his family.. Where was that ruling !!!

  9. Meanwhile there is a  new anonymous video out.  Poor Vic, he just can’t get ‘no respect’.

  10. What about his little slap re: Irwin Cottler?

    • This is the opposite, because it’s happened to a Conservative.  The victim party!

  11. So…

    Which Liberal staffer will take responsibility for Anonymous?

    Oh I’m sorry…is it only Conservatives for which we get to bestow guilt based on reputation for perpetrating similar activities?

    • Anonymous is world-wide and involves thousands of hackers.

      Which is why it’s so absurd for the Speaker to rule them ‘out of order’

      • Right, because “hacking” is synonymous with posting videos to YouTube. If you’d ever been in an Anonymous IRC chan, you’d realize that they don’t even know about these videos, because they’re that irrelevant. But I don’t suspect you’d even know what IRC is.

        • Does your mom beat you with an ugly stick every morning or do you enjoy being cranky Rick?  That kind of anger can’t be good for your ticker.

          • Who’s angry? I just enjoy pointing out Emily’s spectacular lack of knowledge. I would think if anybody would be angry it would be you other guys on the Left who are made to look like fools via association. She makes you all look nuts!

          • So when will one of you on the right criticize Dean De; Maestro?

          • Rick — again with the passive aggressive act. I can imagine your right brain and left brain playing good cop, bad cop with each other. 

            And Emily doesn’t speak for anyone except herself and she has every right to express herself as she sees fit. I’m sure she’s willing to accept responsibility for every dotted ‘i’ and crossed ‘t’ that comes from her keyboard.

            By extension, because your first reaction appears to be to attack, are we to come to the conclusion that all of Steve’s supporters are actually pit bulls disguised as people? I don’t believe they are, I know many people that support the Cons but I certainly don’t take it personally. Heck, I know many Con supporters that can’t stand Harper — that’s how divisive he is.

          • Rick often gets in over his head, and then he tries to insult his way out.

        • Thanks for relaying the Internet chat message about Irritable Rick Condition.

          • True enough, the ‘old internet’ is vague enough to most that your explifimications of acronyms could well be plausible. Still, much as it’s hard to admit, Rick Omen has a point: Anonymous mostly works in old tunnels vestigial in new forms, no?

          • Can you explain what that means to a non-tech person?  Is it some kind of alternete to internet?

          • Too much to go into here, JanBC. Let’s just say that once upon a time there was a thing called ‘the internet’. It emerged from ARPAnet and was largely composed of various ‘stations’ and tools like Internet Relay Chat (IRC), ‘the WELL’, (whole earth ‘lectronic link) and a thing called ‘usenet’. All of these were popularly subsumed, in the early 90s by the WWW, as largely developed by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN.

            My understanding, and I could be totally wrong, is that a group like ‘anonymous’ would be using those older network tools, or a version of them that has been repurposed for the WWW. In addition, there is likely a prodigious use of ‘Tor’ which is a means to protect online…er…anonymity.Again, could be totally off base here. Someone like Jesse Hirsch would have a WAY better answer to this. 

            (Edit: Or, for the purposes of this publication the awesome Jesse Brown. Too many Jesse’s…)

        • I suspect you can’t find your ass with both hands and a flashlight.

          Now get back to work and stop boring everyone on here with your nonsense.

        • They most certainly do know all about these videos, to suggest otherwise is underestimating them.  You’ve probably been on one of the decoy IRC channels!

    • Not at all.  If I recall, the Conservatives had no problem bestowing guilt upon the NDP for vikileaks.    

      • Or calling us a bunch of child pornographers.

        • Accusing Layton of sympathizing with the Taliban.

      • Exactly and I don’t believe they ever said what they based it on.

        • When the Ottawa Citizen traced the Twitter account to an HoC IP address, the Conservatives wrongly jumped to the conclusion that it was the NDP behind it all.

    • While it is possible that the “Anonymous” posts are by someone who also is a member of one of the opposition parties &/or working on Parliament Hill, Anonymous is a worldwide group whose aims are much wider than just targeting ol’ Vic and his bill. So I get your drift but think they get a pass on this… for now, anyway.

      Besides, if the Liberals had that kind of reach and power, they’d still be in office. :-)

    • Actually, my guess it is coming from the same bunch active in the Canadian Occupy anti-capitalist garbage.  They get very vocal when someone disagrees with them and are known to dig up dirt.

      “Occupy Canada movement unscathed by Maclean’s attack

      Coyne was born into an elite Canadian family. He is the son of former Bank of Canada Governor James Coyne, most likely a member of our country’s top 1 percent. He is a charter member of a group of Canadian journalists who support the neo-liberal ideology of big business and the Harper Conservatives. I understand that many people boycott Maclean’s because of its misadventures in journalism. Coyne’s article is another reason to stay away from this Rogers’ product. Personally, I haven’t read the magazine for years.”

      http://www.vancouverobserver.com/blogs/civicvoices/2011/11/03/occupy-canada-movement-unscathed-macleans-attack?page=0,0

      • Dirt ! Dirt, I say !

      • So you support the internet snooping bill as it is currently written?

      • Almost everybody involved in Anonymous supports OWS. They’re basically the same crowd, just one is offline.

      • Thanks for the link. It pretty much sums up my concerns with Coyne. It
        easily explains several of the stances he has taken on various issues.
        Bottom line is that Coyne’s reality of the world differs greatly from
        the experiences of the vast majority of Canadians. How can anyone take
        the guy seriously on education when he honestly can’t relate to what it
        is like to be buried by debt at such an early age. It’s a safe bet that
        Andrew did not have to take out any student loans…

        • Amazing that these same talking points were used against Coyne when he said he was voting Liberal in the last election.

  12. Is this ruling about the vague “we’re going to embarrass you, Mr. Toews!” threat or the subsequent video that was basically full of plausible innuendo?  Because I would think that the video message qualifies as free speech, if the outright lies spread about Cotler qualify.

    • You decide.  Pretty personal stuff, in print now.  Unproven.  Not just Toews.  Not nice.

      “None of the allegations have been proven, nor has Toews’ office responded to the latest video. Anonymous acknowledged there is no definitive proof of the affair, nor allegations of political corruption in Toews’ appointment of Everett.”

      http://www.vancouverobserver.com/politics/commentary/2012/03/03/vic-toews-targeted-second-anonymous-smear-campaign?page=0,1

      •  I don’t get what’s unproven here.  His babysitter had a child, that’s a fact; it’s his, or at least he has claimed it is, that’s a fact; she may have been underage when he started sleeping with her . . . well, okay, that’s not a fact, but still, there seems to be enough to stop hiding behind that “unproven” thing.

        • Umm…. Correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding was that he had an affair with the babysitter, but that he did not have a child with her. The child is from another mistress, from a later date.

          • Vic is the only one who can  straighten out the tangled web of his infidelity, given what is out there.

        • The Anonymous video isn’t about his babysitter baby.  It’s about a possible second affair with someone he subsequently appointed to the bench in Manitoba.  I’m not going to repeat the specific allegations here, because it does strike me more as innuendo than the proven babysitter affair and baby.

      • I decide what?  I’m curious if the Speaker’s ruling pertains to the earlier vague threat from Anonymous or the delivery of said threat in form of the innuendo video.

  13. If this were the 1950s, there would be absolutely no doubt in the land who’s behind these Anonymous screeds. Where are the Commies now when we really need them?

    • Yeah, things were easier back then when everything could be blamed on mysterious ‘commies’ that were supposedly everywhere.

      Hippies never had the same cachet somehow.  Heh

      Now I see they’re trying to claim Occupy and Anonymous are the same…..probably hippie/commie types….showing they know nothing about either crowd.

  14. Given that the Minister and the Speaker combined can do somewhere between jack and squat to Anonymous, can someone tell me why I should care?

  15. In fact, Anonymous did not merely threaten to release damaging details about Toews – they did, TWICE. Both reveal marital infidelity, but the second alleges that one affair led to the appointment of a judge while Toews was Justice Minister – a very serious accusation of corruption: 

    Hacktivists Anonymous expose Stacey Meek as Vic Toews’ mistress (http://www.vancouverobserver.com/politics/news/2012/02/22/anonymous-reveals-name-vic-toews-alleged-mistress

    Vic Toews targeted in second Anonymous smear campaign (http://www.vancouverobserver.com/politics/commentary/2012/03/03/vic-toews-targeted-second-anonymous-smear-campaign)

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