Canadian lawmakers were tuned remotely to a legislative session on Wednesday when suddenly, many noticed one particular Zoom feed.
In his tiny square on the Zoom grid stood William Amos, a member of parliament from Quebec, completely nude.
As soon as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finished answering a question in the main feed from the parliament floor, a colleague swiftly drew attention to the incident — drawing laughs and rebukes from other lawmakers.
“We have seen that the member is in very good shape, but I think that this member should be reminded of what is appropriate and to control his camera,” said Claude DeBellefeuille, a fellow Quebecois lawmaker.
The incident has since gone viral, with Amos, 46, apologizing and explaining that his camera was “accidentally left on as I changed into work clothes after going for a jog.”
“I made a really unfortunate mistake today [and] obviously I’m embarrassed by it,” tweeted Amos, a member of the Liberal Party. “I sincerely apologize to all my colleagues in the House. It was an honest mistake. It won’t happen again.”
While many mocked Amos for the error, others raised concerns that screenshots of his nude mishap were leaked to the public from a video stream only visible to other lawmakers.
“I am very excited to see which MP, or party, goes to the Canadian public and explains how their non-consensual sharing of an intimate image isn’t a violation of the Criminal Code of Canada,” Christopher Parsons, a researcher at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab wrote on Twitter.
Amos is not the first public official caught in a compromising situation during a virtual legislative session. Last September, Juan Emilio Ameri, an Argentine lawmaker, was suspended for inappropriate conduct after he appeared on camera touching and kissing his wife during a virtual session of Congress, The Associated Press reported.
Ameri told a local radio station that he was “very ashamed,” adding that he thought no one was watching his brief encounter with his wife because he had lost Internet connection moments before it came back, the AP reported.
Amos was first elected in 2015 to the House of Commons. The environmental lawyer represents Pontiac, a municipality in western Quebec with about 115,000 residents.
On Wednesday, the legislative body convened for a session in which some lawmakers, including Trudeau, met at the House chambers while others joined from home or an office via Zoom. For hours, lawmakers discussed bills focusing on the economy and abortion.
Later in the afternoon, lawmakers questioned Trudeau on multiple issues for about an hour. Then, just when House Speaker Anthony Rota announced the Q&A period was up, DeBellefeuille spoke up to note that a member of the House had broken a new “record” for failing to respect the dress code.
“We’ve seen a member during question period improperly dressed — that is unclothed,” DeBellefeuille, who appeared virtually, said in French. “So, perhaps remind the members, especially the male members that suits and ties are appropriate or rather called for.”
Moments later, the camera turned to Rota, who was giggling. He thanked DeBellefeuille for her “observations,” noting that he “missed” the incident.
“But as she was speaking I spoke with the technicians and indeed they did see something,” Rota said. “What I would like to do is to remind the members that when they even are at home, they must be aware that there is a camera and a microphone and they need to be aware of their functioning.”
On Twitter, Amos issued a mea culpa for the error.
“It was an honest mistake and it won’t happen again,” he tweeted in French. “We don’t have a need for such distractions during the pandemic!”
By then, a leaked picture of the incident had been shared on social media and published in the Canadian press, drawing jokes from other lawmakers.
Michelle Rempel Garner, a member of the Conservative Party, offered to lend Amos a white dress she had once worn that had caused “a bit of a stir,” referencing a white high-necked sleeveless dress the lawmaker was once criticized for wearing on the House floor.
“Will, there’s a white dress in my office that you can have (warning: it caused a bit of a stir) if you’re really desperate for an ‘in case of emergency’ outfit,” Rempel Garner tweeted along a wink emoji.
Another Conservative Party member, Garnett Genuis tweeted: “When we called for greater transparency, we should have been more specific.”
But others argued that the leaked image should be taken more seriously, pointing out that distributing a non-consensual image of a person can be a crime in Canada.
“Sharing this image is reprehensible. It’s not a joke. It shouldn’t be treated as such,” Parsons tweeted.