Canadian lawmaker apologises for taking nude photo of colleague

OTTAWA (NYTIMES) – A member of Canada’s House of Commons apologised Wednesday (April 21) for having taken a nude photo of one of his colleagues during a Zoom call, an episode that prompted mockery, anger and calls for an investigation after the image circulated widely on social media.

The lawmaker, Sébastien Lemire, a member of the Bloc Québécois, acknowledged having taken the photo of William Amos, a Liberal Party member from Quebec, when Amos appeared nude on Zoom during a legislative session last week. Lemire said he did not know how the photo had ended up on social media.

Amos had said he had been changing into his work clothes after a jog and had been unaware that the camera on his computer was on. Although other lawmakers who were logged into a private Zoom call could see Amos standing naked between the flags of Canada and Quebec, the video was not streamed publicly because Amos was not speaking at the time.

Addressing the House on Wednesday, Lemire took responsibility for taking a photo of Amos.

“I would like to present my apologies to the House for breaching the standing orders by taking a picture of a member on April 14,” Lemire said in French. “I personally apologised to him, but I also wanted to do so publicly, to him personally, to his family, to his colleagues and anyone I may have offended. I’d like to say, to conclude, that I have no idea how that photo made its way into the media.”

It was not immediately clear what action, if any, the House would take in response to Lemire’s acknowledgement. After Lemire’s remarks, Anthony Rota, the House speaker, thanked Lemire and said, “I will come back to the House with my decision.” A spokesperson for Lemire said Wednesday that the lawmaker would have no further comment. A spokesperson for Amos said that Amos would not comment because the speaker was considering an investigation.

After the photo of Amos appeared on social media, jokes soon followed, including some from other legislators.

“When we called for greater transparency, we should have been more specific,” Garnett Genuis, a Conservative member of Parliament, wrote on Twitter, alongside the photo.

But other lawmakers said they were furious that someone had taken the photo of Amos while he was naked and that someone had then uploaded the image to social media.

Canadian law forbids publishing, distributing or making available an “intimate image of a person knowing that the person depicted in the image did not give their consent to that conduct.”

“Taking a photo of someone who is changing clothes and in the nude and sharing it without their consent could very well be criminal,” Pablo Rodriguez, the leader of the government in the House of Commons, said last week during a House session.

“Did the person who took the screenshot give any thought to the ramifications of their actions? Did they think of the member’s family, children, friends and the fact that internet is forever?” Mark Holland, the chief government whip, was among those who had called for an investigation, saying the dissemination of the photo was “a terrible violation” and a “potentially criminal act.”

“We must know who is responsible for leaking nonconsensual images from a private video feed,” he said in a statement last week. Amos “made an unintentional error; his screen was on while in the middle of getting dressed,” Holland added. “It could have happened to any of us.”

Amos had said last week that it was “most unfortunate that someone shared, without my consent, a photo in which I was changing my clothes.” “This photo came from a video feed that only MPs or a very small number of staff had access to,” he said in a statement. “No person deserves to suffer such harm. I expect the speaker of the House of Commons to conduct a thorough investigation.” Amos had also apologised to his colleagues.

“I made a really unfortunate mistake today & obviously I’m embarrassed by it,” he said on Twitter on April 14. “My camera was accidentally left on as I changed into work clothes after going for a jog. I sincerely apologise to all my colleagues in the House. It was an honest mistake + it won’t happen again.”

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