Conservatives blame William Amos for relieving himself on camera in second incident with Zoom
OTTAWA – Liberal MP William Amos urinating in front of the camera during a virtual procedure was “shocking, reckless” and contemptuous of the House of Commons, the Conservatives have said of his second Zoom failure in less than two months.
Amos made headlines around the world in April when he appeared nude on an internal parliamentary stream of Virtual Question Period.
He said in a statement on Twitter Thursday evening that he had “urinated without realizing (that he) was in front of the camera” during a virtual session of the House on Wednesday evening.
He apologized for what he said was “accidental” and could not be seen by the public, but nonetheless called his actions “totally unacceptable”.
Conservative MP Karen Vecchio, Deputy House Leader of the Opposition, agreed with the latter point, saying it puts lawmakers “in a very uncomfortable position” and is Amos’ s way to relieve himself in the House of Commons.
“To turn on your camera and connect to the Zoom House feed, it’s the same as opening one of those doors behind me and going down to one of the 338 seats in this majestic room”, Vecchio said from the ground, doubling down on the act. “An affront to the dignity” of the room.
She dismissed Amos’ characterization of the incident as occurring in a “non-public setting” and said it was a pattern of behavior that shows the Liberals “failed in their duty to” ensure a safe working environment after the first incident ”.
Vecchio said she was ready to bring a contempt motion if the President agreed that Amos’ actions were prima facie evidence of it.
Carol Hughes, who as Assistant Deputy Speaker chaired proceedings, said she would review the situation and return with a response to the House.
Amos, an MP from Quebec, said he was temporarily stepping down from his role as parliamentary secretary to Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne and from his committee work so he could “ask for help.”
He did not respond to a request for comment.
Like the incident six weeks earlier, Wednesday’s gaffe made headlines overseas, including on CNN, the BBC, the New York Times and the Guardian.
After last month’s embarrassment, Amos said he changed his clothes after jogging and didn’t realize his portable camera was on.
Bloc Québécois MP Sébastien Lemire later apologized for taking a screenshot of the moment, saying he had no idea how quickly the photo caught on in media and ended up circulating online around the world.
The leak of the image drew fierce condemnation from the ruling liberals. Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez called for an investigation and called the incident “petty” and “life changing” for Amos.
Speaker Anthony Rota ultimately ruled that taking the screenshot was an affront to the dignity and authority of the House and sternly reiterated that MPs were strictly prohibited from taking photos of the proceedings.
With that, Rota said he considered the procedural aspect of the incident closed, but the Liberals did not drop the case. They took him to the multi-party internal economy office, the House of Commons governing body, urging it to impose sanctions on Lemire.
At a council meeting earlier this month, Liberal Whip Mark Holland said Lemire should reveal where he sent the image and what his intention was.
That council was scheduled to meet again on Thursday, but the meeting ended up being postponed.
“Shortly before the meeting, the Liberals called for the postponement without giving a specific reason. The request was unusual, but we were prepared to accommodate, ”said Conservative Blake Richards, Chief Opposition Whip, in an email.
The matter should be dealt with in the Procedure and House Affairs Committee, he added.
Rodriguez’s chief of staff Charles-Eric Lépine referred to Amos’ statement when contacted for comment on Friday.
“It is important to have a safe working environment for everyone on Parliament Hill and we take these issues very seriously,” he said in a statement.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Amos’ actions were inappropriate, but warned that explicit footage should never be shared without permission, as it was last month.
“I wish him the best and hope he gets the help he needs,” Singh told reporters.
In a written statement, Vecchio questioned the Liberals’ claim that Amos accidentally showed too much skin in this latest incident.
“This is the second time that Mr. Amos has been caught exposing himself to his colleagues in the House, and the House of Commons, virtual or otherwise, must be safe from this type of unacceptable behavior.
Vecchio also acknowledged that he needed some form of help “or intervention,” she said in her previous comments.
She raised the matter in the House as a question of privilege, which first requires the Speaker to determine that the question is admissible and may take precedence over other Orders of the Day.
If so, the House must consider the matter and ultimately decide whether a breach of privilege or contempt has been committed.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 28, 2021.
Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press