The Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois, which together outnumber the Harper Conservatives in Parliament, passed a motion by a 145-143 vote that seeks to compel the release of thousands of uncensored documents on Afghan prisoners.
If the Conservatives ignore the order, as expected, opposition parties could vote to find the government in contempt, sparking a battle that might result in the courts being asked to weigh the limits of parliamentary privilege.
Ministers or other MPs found in contempt could be admonished and embarrassed by being compelled to appear before the Bar of the House – the floor of the Commons – to face a grilling from MPs.
But this House order-to-produce is a rarely used power and one that is in potential conflict with laws – such as those concerning privacy and national security – that Parliament itself has passed.
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