TheGunBlog.ca — The Royal Canadian Mounted Police undermined the authority of parliament and misled the public with its early web pages on Bill C-71 by suggesting the draft text was law while it was still under review, the Speaker of the House of Commons said this week.
“As Speaker, I cannot turn a blind eye to an approach by a government agency that overlooks the role of Parliament,” House Speaker Geoff Regan told the House of Commons on June 19. “To do otherwise would make us compliant in denigrating the authority and dignity of Parliament. Accordingly, the Chair finds this to be a prima facie matter of contempt of the House.”
The RCMP web pages on Bill C-71 gained attention after TheGunBlog.ca reported May 9 that the federal police seemed to be enforcing the non-existent law. They had printed orders, instructions and deadlines based on the first draft of the proposed legislation, which threatens to confiscate firearms and jail their owners unless they comply.
The Speaker, the chief administrative officer of the House, analyzed the original online content published in May after Glen Motz, an opposition member of parliament, shared his concerns on May 29.
The website was updated the next day with new wording and an introduction saying the information is intended as guidance if the bill becomes law.
Bill C-71 seeks to ban legally owned firearms and to make it tougher for more than 2 million Canadian men and women with federal firearm licenses to buy, sell, own and transport guns.
The government proposed the law in March. It’s currently under review in the House of Commons.
The RCMP didn’t reply to a request from TheGunBlog.ca seeking comment.
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Excerpts from Speaker of the House Geoff Regan to the House of Commons on June 19:
Having reviewed in detail the relevant information on the website, before the disclaimer was added, I found instances where some provisions of the bill were in fact framed as legislative proposals, using such phrases as “proposed legislation” and “is expected to be”. Despite these statements, the vast majority of the information was presented as though the provisions will definitively be coming into effect or are already the law of the land. Nowhere did I find any indication the bill was still in committee and was not yet enacted law.
Parliament’s authority in scrutinizing and adopting legislative proposals remains unquestionable and should not be taken for granted. The Chair is troubled by the careless manner in which the RCMP chose to ignore this vital fact and, for more than three weeks, allowed citizens and retailers to draw improper conclusions as to their obligations under the law. Changing the website after the fact does little to alleviate these concerns. Parliamentarians and citizens should be able to trust that officials responsible for disseminating information related to legislation are paying attention to what is happening in Parliament and are providing a clear and accurate history of the bills in question.
The work of members as legislators is fundamental and any hint or suggestion of this parliamentary role and authority being bypassed or usurped is not acceptable. The government and the public service also have important roles when it comes to legislation, but these are entirely distinct from those of members as legislators. In fact, part of their responsibility is to state loud and clear that legislation comes from Parliament and nowhere else.
As Speaker, I cannot turn a blind eye to an approach by a government agency that overlooks the role of Parliament. To do otherwise would make us compliant in denigrating the authority and dignity of Parliament.
Accordingly, the Chair finds this to be a prima facie matter of contempt of the House.
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