May 30th, 2024

In rare move, House admonishes private citizen for contempt in ArriveCan testimony

By Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press on April 17, 2024.

A person holds a smartphone set to the opening screen of the ArriveCan app in a photo illustration made in Toronto on June 29, 2022. The House of Commons was to admonish a private citizen Wednesday for the first time in more than 100 years in connection with the controversy surrounding the COVID-era app. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giordano Ciampini

OTTAWA – The House of Commons admonished a private citizen Wednesday for the first time in more than 100 years.

It’s just the latest example of ArriveCan fallout as MPs point fingers over the Liberal government’s failure to manage development of the COVID-era app.

GC Strategies partner Kristian Firth was ordered to appear before the bar of the House after refusing to answer certain questions at a committee hearing.

A hush fell over the House of Commons as he appeared shortly after question period alongside his lawyer.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre and several cabinet ministers left prior to his public scolding.

“On behalf of the House of Commons, I admonish you,” Speaker Greg Fergus said directly to Firth, who stood upright and did not look away.

In addition, Firth was ordered to respond to questions that he refused to answer during a House committee meeting last month.

“I’d like to remind you, you must answer all questions that are posed of you,” Fergus warned.

“Everything you say in these proceedings are protected by parliamentary privilege and can not be used against you in any other form.”

No private citizen has been ordered to appear before the bar since 1913, an extraordinary event that places people under the authority of the House.

In 2021, the former head of the Public Health Agency of Canada was admonished for neglecting to release documents related to the firing of two scientists from a Winnipeg lab.

A lawyer for Firth declined to comment on Wednesday.

In an appearance at a House committee last month, Firth said he has had the full weight of government come down on him over false claims against his company.

Those claims, he said, have led to threats against him and his family, including his children.

GC Strategies did not develop or manage the ArriveCan app, but it was tasked by the federal government to assemble a team to complete some parts of the project, which had an overall estimated cost of $60 million.

Canada’s auditor general found that three separate government departments lacked accurate financial records for ArriveCan and failed to deliver the best value for taxpayer dollars.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 17, 2024.

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