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Liberals interfering with 'exclusive jurisdiction' of House, Speaker tells court

Last Updated Jul 22, 2021 at 3:30 pm MDT

OTTAWA — House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota says a federal attempt to shield documents related to the firing of two scientists is a violation of parliamentary privilege and must be tossed out of court.

In a notice of motion filed today in Federal Court, Rota says pursuant to its parliamentary privileges, the House of Commons has the power to send for the “persons, papers and records” it deems necessary to its functions. 

He says this constitutionally entrenched power is fundamental to Canada’s system of parliamentary democracy, and to Parliament’s critical role in acting as the “grand inquest of the nation” and in holding the executive branch of government to account.

The Liberal government asked the court last month to prohibit disclosure of records concerning dismissal of two scientists from Canada’s highest-security laboratory.

The move came shortly after Rota reprimanded Public Health Agency of Canada head Iain Stewart over his repeated refusal to provide the unredacted documents to MPs on the Canada-China relations committee.

Stewart has advised the attorney general in a notice under the Canada Evidence Act that sensitive or potentially injurious information would be revealed should the documents be given to the committee.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2021.

The Canadian Press