Citizenship Ceremony at Sun News Network

Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, my question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

The Canadian Press today reported that at least six federal bureaucrats participated in a citizenship reaffirmation ceremony staged at the Sun News Network studio on October 18, 2011. The event purportedly featured ten new Canadians reciting the citizenship oath. Six of these new Canadians, however, were actually employees of Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The event was arranged by civil servants in Toronto at the request of the minister’s office, and officials were unable to find ten new Canadians who were willing or able to participate.

The ministry’s Twitter feed nevertheless reported, “10 new Canadians are reaffirming their citizenship live at the Sun TV studio in Toronto right now.” Talk about taking a photo op to another level.

I wonder if the Leader of the Government in the Senate could explain why the government agreed to arrange this special ceremony and why it actively misinformed Canadians about its nature.

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I was as interested in this story as Senator Munson apparently is. This is an unusual situation, and it is unfortunate that it ever took place. It was done so without the knowledge of the minister or the minister’s staff.

Senator Munson refers to the Twitter feed. It was obviously believed by everyone that they were in fact people being sworn in. It is an unfortunate incident. The fact of the matter is the minister and his staff did not direct it and were not aware of it.

With that said, I do not know the circumstances surrounding this. It happened last October. I do not know what the lead-up circumstances were, but I would hope that this unfortunate incident does not in any way take away from the very important role and the solemn seriousness of the citizenship ceremonies that are held across the country.

Suffice to say, honourable senators, I was as surprised as Senator Munson was, and obviously this was done without the knowledge of the minister or his staff.

Senator Munson: Honourable senators, there is communication that goes back and forth on this access to information, and one of the quotes is from Mr. Bolland of Sun Media talking to Mr. Kenney’s spokeswoman, and she seems to agree, that “It would seem that both of us have a little egg on our face.” I think maybe a lot of egg on their faces would be more apropos.

What will happen to those bureaucrats, if it is —

The Hon. the Speaker: Order.

Senator Munson: It is not for me.

The Hon. the Speaker: I must remind all honourable senators that the rules prohibit the presence in this chamber of electronic devices that make noise. I think there is one here that is making a noise.

Senator Munson: Maybe that was Sun Media; I am not sure.

Be that as it may, that notwithstanding, as I was saying, one of the spokespersons for Sun Media did say to Mr. Kenney’s spokeswoman, “It would seem that both of us have a little egg on our face.” Apparently, the staff member is apologizing on behalf of the minister. It always seems to be the bureaucrats’ fault. I am curious now, what will happen to the bureaucrats?

Senator LeBreton: The Speaker intervened and said there should not be any noise from electronic devices in the chamber. For a moment I thought, “Why is he calling Senator Munson an electronic device?”

In any event, honourable senators, clearly this was and is an unfortunate incident. Other than, as Senator Munson said, there being egg on a few faces, I do not imagine there will be much more repercussion than that, except that I again want to point out that the citizenship ceremonies held across the country are wonderful ceremonies welcoming new Canadians into the country, and I would hope that this incident does not in any way undermine the importance and the seriousness of those ceremonies.

Senator Munson: Just to set the record straight, the reason the Speaker called me an electronic device is that I have been wired most of my life.

I think, honourable senators, I will not ask the leader another question because she answered them appropriately.

Senator LeBreton: I will not touch the honourable senator’s comment about being wired for most of his life.