Our parliamentary system has many different parts to it, some of which we don’t see as often. Everyday you can turn on CPAC and watch what’s going on in the Chamber of the House of Commons itself, but that is only part of the action that takes place. A lot of it happens in committee rooms all around Parliament Hill as different committees discuss and debate various topics of national importance. While all of those meetings can be heard and listened to online, the majority of them are not televised. Some are everyday, but they are in the minority.
Therefore most Canadians don’t see what happens and what takes place in those committees, unless something gobsmackingly bad happens. That was the case from the whole Michael Cooper incident last week, for which he was removed from the committee by the Conservatives. While that was a very weak response to what he did, it brought more attending to what the Justice Committee was studying at the time, which is the serious topic of online hate. So it was with that in mind when I heard about the agenda for todays meeting, and more specifically, who was called to testify:
Let that list sink in for a moment folks and think about what it means. At the start of every committee study, it is common practice that each party submits a list of witnesses they would like to call, usually in order of their priority. Being that the number of meetings are usually limited, each party isn’t likely to get many of their witnesses called, so normally the practice is to put the witnesses you want to hear from the most near or at the top of your list, to help ensure they get invited to come. Normally in a committee study like this, many eminent and qualified witnesses will never get to appear because there simply isn’t enough time to have them all testify. So the fact that those names ended up getting invited to this meeting and were seen as a big enough priority for the party that invited them, is just shocking to me. So how did they get there? PressProgress takes it from here:
According to their reporting, neither the Liberal MPs nor the lone NDP MP on the committee had any of these three people on their lists. And given that there are only three recognized official parties in the House of Commons, therefore only three parties officially recognized in committees, that leaves just one left; the Conservative Party of Canada. And who was the lead Conservative on the committee and the Vice Chair of the committee? None other than Mr. Cooper himself. Did he place the invite? There was no comment from Mr. Cooper’s office but someone from that caucus put that name in there. Someone in Mr. Scheer’s caucus thought that this would be a good idea. So what exactly did this testimony bring to this committee today?
What a bloody circus. Did this committee really need to hear any of this from these witnesses? What exactly did the Conservatives expect to gain from putting these people up to say these things? What the Conservatives did here is beyond the pale in my eyes because they gave people a legitimate platform, the legitimacy of Parliament, to say the things that are quoted above. This meeting was just ugly and I don’t think helped to fight online hate speech at all.
My only question is who are the Conservatives going to punish for this crap and does Mr. Scheer really expect everyone to just gloss this over? This is a serious lack of judgement from someone here and if Mr. Scheer doesn’t come down on whoever that is hard, it just shows that he also has a serious lack of judgement, beyond a serious problem within his caucus. We’ll see what comes from this episode but this mornings Justice Committee meeting was far from the best moment that a committee has seen in this Parliament or any other.