Liberal MP, Government House Leader seek investigation into leaked nude photo
OTTAWA -- Liberal MP William Amos and Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez are calling for an investigation into who took and shared a photo of Amos when he “accidentally” appeared nude in a non-public view of the virtual House of Commons on Wednesday.
Amos -- who has represented the Quebec riding of Pontiac since 2015 -- has apologized for the error, explaining that he was changing into work clothes after coming back from a jog and was unaware that his camera on, revealing himself to his parliamentary colleagues.
“The past 24 hours have been difficult at a professional and personal level, but I will not allow this to distract me from the work of representing my Pontiac constituents and Canada,” Amos said in an updated statement on Thursday evening.
The leaked screenshot showed Amos without clothes behind a desk in his office, holding something in his hand at an angle that covered his genitals from view.
Because he was not speaking, Amos did not appear on the version of the publicly-accessible House of Commons feed, but rather on the internal view of the Zoom-like platform that MPs and their staff can see.
It’s a view of the proceedings that MPs and staff have been reminded on past occasions that they are not permitted to take photos of, in the same way that photos are not to be taken in the physical chamber when it is in session.
“It is most unfortunate that someone shared, without my consent, a photo in which I was changing my clothes,” Amos said. “This photo came from a video feed that only MPs or a very small number of staff had access to. No person deserves to suffer such harm. I expect the Speaker of the House of Commons to conduct a thorough investigation, as requested by Government House Leader, the Honorable Pablo Rodriguez.”
Rising on a point of order Thursday morning asking the House of Commons Speaker to launch an immediate investigation, Rodriguez called the conduct of the unknown person who took a screenshot of the situation that was later leaked and posted online and shared with some news outlets, “extremely unfortunate.”
He wants House of Commons Speaker and Liberal MP Anthony Rota to determine who took the photo so that the House can decide the proper action to take.
Rota said he’d take it under advisement and would get back to members about whether the issue will be explored further.
“It is mean-spirited and life changing for one of our colleagues. Taking a photo of someone who is changing clothes, and in the nude, and sharing it without their consent could very well be criminal,” Rodriguez said.
“Did the person who took the screenshot give any thought to the ramifications of their actions? Did they think of the members’ family, children, friends?” asked the government’s lead in the Chamber, speaking about the “dark and destructive” state of politics at present.
Before Wednesday’s events unfolded, Amos had been scheduled to attend a regional funding announcement alongside Procurement Minister Anita Anand Thursday morning. He was not present and when asked about it, Anand said her colleague was “taking a day.”
She said that as an MP she found the actions of the person who took the photo concerning, and hopes that all participants in the virtual parliament follow the rules in the future.
Bloc Quebecois MP Claude DeBellefeuille first raised the incident shortly after question period on Wednesday.
“It might be worth reminding members, especially the men, that a jacket and tie are mandatory, but so are a shirt, underwear and pants… I think members need to be reminded to be careful and check if their camera is on,” she said in French.
In a statement, NDP whip Rachel Blaney said the NDP agrees the matter should be investigated.
“The NDP was glad to hear the Government raise this issue with the Speaker. We think what has happened to Mr. Amos is not only wrong but also potentially a very serious breach of the rules of the House,” she said.
Chief Government Whip Mark Holland issued a statement Thursday saying that shortly after the photo was shared he heard from the Bloc and NDP expressing sympathy and “made compelling cases that this breach of privacy did not happen from within their offices.” He called the incident a “terrible violation” of an “upstanding” MP and is demanding accountability so what happened to Amos does not happen again.
“It could have happened to any of us. The video was private and not visible to the public… It is forbidden to share video or images from any non-public portions of Parliamentary proceedings. Despite this fact, someone from that small group of people shared the image that is now all over social media,” Holland said. “We must know who is responsible for leaking non-consensual images from a private video feed… This is not inside the scope of normal or acceptable partisan politics.”
Asked for comment, Conservative Whip Blake Richards sent CTVNews.ca a statement saying he didn’t appreciate what Holland was implying.
“We have no reason to believe that a member of our caucus was involved. In fact, as soon as we became aware that the Member was on camera, my office informed the Liberal Whip’s office. I was hoping that could be the end of it and I’m disappointed that the issue was raised publicly in the House by the Bloc, drawing attention to it and setting off a media frenzy,” Richards said.
MPs have been conducting their parliamentary business through a hybrid version of the House of Commons for nearly a year now, to accommodate pandemic public health guidance like limiting travel and maintaining physical distance by lowering the number of people present in the Chamber.
With files from CTVNews.ca Writer Ben Cousins