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Senators were intimidated, rules the President of the Senate

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Aerial view of the Senate (Archive photo)

The Canadian Press

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Any attempt to intimidate a senator in the exercise of his duties constitutes an attack on his privileges, the President of the Senate declared on Tuesday.

Raymonde Gagné's conclusion comes nearly a month after the Senate plunged into what she described as exceptional chaos during the debate on a bill about pricing carbon that would eliminate most costs on natural gas and propane used on farms.

The incident occurred on November 9, after amendments to the bill recommended by a Senate committee were rejected. One of those amendments was reintroduced, followed by an attempt to adjourn debate, angering conservative senators who support the bill.

The ensuing uproar involved Senator Don Plett, the Conservative leader in the upper chamber, angrily throwing away his earpiece and crossing the aisle to confront and berate two of his colleagues.

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Manitoba Conservative Senator Don Plett (File photo)

These colleagues were Senator Raymonde Saint-Germain, who raised the question of privilege, and Senator Bernadette Clément, who proposed the motion to adjourn the debate. Both are part of the coalition known as the Independent Senators Group.

In an interview last month with The Canadian Press, Ms. Clément described being so shaken by the confrontation that she simply froze.

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Mr. Plett apologized in the Senate two weeks later, admitting “losing his temper,” although he argued last month that his action did not constitute a breach of privilege.

On Tuesday, Ms. Gagné concluded the opposite.

Even if some senators disagreed with the course of events, nothing could justify such a disproportionate reaction, she ruled.

The evidence showed senators shouting at their colleagues and insulting and unacceptable remarks being thrown around the Senate chamber, Gagné said.

All these events could be considered as attempts to intimidate colleagues and undue constraints, or even reprisals against them in the exercise of their duties as parliamentarians, said Ms. Gagné.

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Independent senator Raymonde Saint-Germain (Archive photo)

She rejected arguments from some that Ms. Clément had not been intimidated since she remained in the House and voted on the motion to #x27;adjournment.

Privilege should not be seen as something that only comes into play when there is a truly undesirable outcome, Gagné said. In other words, it is not necessary that harm has been caused, she clarified.

Senators should not have to fear for their safety or any reprisals for simply presenting a motion or voting, said Ms. Gagné.

“It is very possible that if such behavior is not stopped, a senator may soon say to himself, 'Maybe I will sit out this vote, debate, or meeting. . I can't continue to be insulted and threatened." »

Ms. Gagné also addressed Ms. Clément's concerns that a social media post had triggered physical threats that prompted the police to ask him to temporarily leave his home for his own safety.

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The message, written by Conservative House Leader Andrew Scheer, resembled what Ms. Clement called a wanted poster. It included her photo and contact details, and urged people to contact her to complain.

Ms. Gagné claimed that even though he is important not to limit freedom of expression, senators must be careful about what they post and share online.

Senators disagree about what happened before the melee. Some have accused Conservatives of urging the Senate to reject the committee's report so that the Senate as a whole can debate each amendment individually.

The Conservatives have accused several members of the Independent Senate Group of conspiring with the government to delay the bill, including by introducing a flood of amendments.

One ​​of them has already failed. We were to vote on a second one later on Tuesday.

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