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Opposition puts Bev Oda’s fate in Speaker’s hands

House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken will be asked Thursday afternoon to rule on whether International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda is in breach of parliamentary privilege.

NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar has served notice to the Speaker he will raise the issue after Question Period.

"It is increasingly clear that the Minister of International Cooperation made statements in the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development that were deliberately misleading with regard to who had been responsible for a government decision to reject a funding proposal for the Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, known as KAIROS," Mr. Dewar says in his letter to Mr. Milliken.

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"It is my belief that my rights, and the rights of the House of Commons have been breached by the Minister's misleading comments," he added.

This comes after the foreign affairs committee submitted its report Thursday morning to the Speaker, outlining how it believes Ms. Oda breached parliamentary privilege. However, the Conservative MPs on the committee do not agree and have appended a one-page dissenting view.

In it, they argue that it is not Ms. Oda who has mislead the House. Rather, it is the opposition "by mischaracterizing the Minister's communication of her own decision in a way that suggests a breach of privilege."

The dispute centres on who added the word "not" to a Canadian International Development Agency memorandum that had initially approved funding for the faith-based aid group.

At the committee's hearings in December, Ms. Oda testified she did not know who wrote the word "not." Earlier this week, however, she told the House of Commons that she had ordered the change.

"There was never any intent whatsoever, in either the Minister's direction to her staff about having the document in question reflect the Minister's decision, or in staff's implementation of that direction, to give an incorrect impression of officials' advice to the Minister," the Conservatives say in their dissenting view.

In fact, the Tory MPs suggest Ms. Oda was not misleading the committee when she said she didn't know who changed the document – because she "did not know who in her office had actually written the word on the document, as accurately reflected in her answer, 'I do not know'."

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The Speaker, meanwhile, is expected to take Mr. Dewar's request under consideration. If he does rule there is a matter of privilege, Mr. Dewar will then produce a motion to find Ms. Oda in contempt. That issue would then be considered by another Commons committee.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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