Liberal MP William Amos urinating while on camera during virtual proceedings was “shocking, reckless” and in contempt of the House of Commons, the Conservatives said of his second Zoom lapse in less than two months.
Amos made headlines around the world in April when he appeared naked on an internal parliamentary feed of virtual question period.
He said in a statement Thursday night posted to Twitter that he “urinated without realizing (he) was on camera” during a virtual session of the House on Wednesday evening.
He apologized for what he said was “accidental” and could not be viewed by the public, but nonetheless called his actions “completely unacceptable.”
Conservative MP Karen Vecchio, deputy House leader for the Opposition, agreed with the latter point, saying it put lawmakers “in a very uncomfortable position” and amounted to Amos relieving himself in the Commons itself.
“To turn on your camera and to log into the House’s Zoom feed is the same as opening one of those doors behind me and walking down to any one of the 338 seats in this majestic room,” Vecchio said from the floor, dubbing the deed “an affront to the dignity” of the chamber.
She rejected Amos’s characterization of the incident as occurring in a “non-public setting,” and said it forms a pattern of behaviour that shows the Liberals “failed in their duty to ensure a safe work environment following the first incident.”
Vecchio said she was prepared to put forward a motion of contempt if the Speaker agrees that Amos’s actions amount to a prima faciecase of it.
Carol Hughes, who as assistant deputy speaker was presiding over proceedings, said she would review the situation and come back with a response to the House.
Amos, a Quebec MP, said he is temporarily stepping away from his role as parliamentary secretary to Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne and from his committee work so that he can “seek assistance.”
He did not respond to a request for comment.
Like the incident six weeks earlier, Wednesday’s blunder furnished blush-inducing headlines abroad, including on CNN, BBC, the New York Times and the Guardian.
After last month’s embarrassment, Amos said he was changing his clothes following a jog and did not realize his laptop camera was turned on.
Bloc Québécois MP Sebastien Lemire later apologized for taking a screenshot of the moment, saying he had no idea how the photo quickly made its way to the media and wound up circulating online around the globe.
The leaking of the image prompted fiery condemnation from the governing Liberals. Government House leader Pablo Rodriguez called for an investigation and described the incident as “mean-spirited” 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 issued a stern reminder that MPs are strictly forbidden from taking photographs of proceedings.
With that, Rota said he considered the procedural aspect of the incident to be closed, but the Liberals did not let the matter go. They took it to the all-party board of internal economy, the governing body of the Commons, urging it to impose sanctions on Lemire.
At a board meeting earlier this month, Liberal whip Mark Holland said Lemire should reveal where he sent the image and what his intent was.
That board was set to convene again Thursday, but the meeting ended up being put off.
“Shortly before the meeting, the Liberals asked to postpone without giving a specific reason. The request was unusual, but we were willing to accommodate,” Conservative Blake Richards, chief Opposition whip, said in an email.
The issue should be dealt with at the procedure and House affairs committee, he added.
Charles-Eric Lépine, chief of staff to Rodriguez, referred back to Amos’s statement when reached for comment on Friday.
“It is important to have a safe workplace environment for everyone on Parliament Hill and we take these matters extremely seriously,” he said in a statement.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Amos’s actions were inappropriate, but cautioned that explicit images should never be shared without permission, as they were last month.
“I wish him the best and I hope that he gets the help that 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 Mr. Amos has been caught exposing himself to his colleagues in the House, and the House of Commons, virtual or otherwise, must be free of this type of unacceptable behaviour.”
Vecchio also recognized his acknowledgment that he needs some form of help “or intervention,” she said in her earlier comments.
She raised the matter in the House as a question of privilege, which first requires the Speaker to determine that the issue qualifies and can take precedence over other orders of the day.
If it does, the House must take the matter into consideration and ultimately decide whether a breach of privilege or contempt has been committed.
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