'Lapse in judgment': Liberal MP apologizes for joining hybrid House proceedings from washroom stall

Liberal MP Shafqat Ali has apologized after being called out by the Conservatives for participating in House of Commons proceedings virtually from a washroom stall on Friday.

The incident took place on Friday afternoon in the House of Commons. During a debate on a private members' bill, Conservative MP Laila Goodridge rose on a point of order, flagging to Assistant Deputy Speaker Alexandra Mendes that it appeared the Liberal MP for Brampton Centre MP Shafqat Ali was participating from "a washroom."

Following this interjection, after checking with her officials, Mendes informed the House, that "a page has confirmed that there was a member that appeared to be in the washroom."

"I'd like to remind everyone that especially online we have to be very prudent on how we use our devices, and to be aware of the surroundings when you are online," Mendes said to MPs at the time, before House business carried on.

Rising on a question of privilege alleging "contempt of the House" on Monday morning, Conservative House Leader John Brassard said it didn't bring him any pleasure to do so, but he felt the need to raise the "occurrence of misconduct," as House administration indicated the incident had occurred, but there had been no follow up.

Approximately an hour and a half later, Ali appeared in the House chamber virtually from his riding, to speak to the incident.

"I want to take this opportunity to apologize sincerely and unreservedly to all members of Parliament for the unfortunate event that transpired last Friday," he said.

The incident did not occur on the public feed of the House chamber and was only visible to MPs and those who have access to the internal Zoom-like system MPs use for their hybrid proceedings.

Brassard told the House of Commons on Monday that he had spoken with MPs who witnessed the incident who said it appeared Ali entered the men's washroom inside West Block, citing the familiarity of the door hinges and coat hook.

"Based on the angle… I am informed that it appeared that the camera was mounted on the ledge or ridge on the wall just above the back of the toilet. The member of Parliament was literally using the washroom while participating in a sitting of the House of Commons, the cathedral of Canadian democracy. I can't believe I actually just said those words, madame speaker," Brassard said.

Ali has asked for the House and MPs to forgive him for his "lapse in judgment."

"I take this matter extremely seriously, and I promise never to repeat this error again."

On Friday, prior to Mendes indicating there was an MP who appeared to be in a washroom, Liberal MP and parliamentary secretary to the Government House Leader Kevin Lamoureux rose in the House to say that MPs "have to be very careful" about raising concerns like this.

He suggested that the Conservatives were using "virtual Parliament as a mechanism to embarrass people."

"The most important thing I believe, is that the member has the camera on and that they're in the room," he said.

In voicing his disproval of how Lamoureux responded, Brassard said Monday that "the room in question was a toilet stall" and what transpired constitutes "a serious breach of the rules of decorum and an affront against the dignity of the House of Commons."

"Frankly, madam speaker, we've now had two years with Zoom meetings, two years with hybrid Parliament. Surely to God, we've figured out when and where to turn our cameras on and off," Brassard said.

This is not the first time an issue has been raised about a Liberal MP conducting themselves inappropriately while participating in the hybrid House of Commons. In the last Parliament, then-Liberal MP Will Amos twice exposed himself during virtual proceedings. He said he was seeking help, and did not seek re-election in 2021.

Similar to what happened in the last Parliament, the Conservatives had asked that the latest matter be referred to the Procedure and House Affairs Committee for further consideration.

However, after question period, Deputy House Speaker Chris d'Entremont said that given Ali's "sincere apology," he considered the matter closed.

Though, he did issue a warning to all MPs: "I do take this opportunity to again, encourage all members to always be vigilant when participating remotely in proceedings of the House. If you don't have to have the camera on, turn it off."