Skip to main content Start of content

House of Commons Procedure and Practice

Second Edition, 2009

 
Search Term(s): Skip to Content 

 

 

The House delegates certain powers to the committees it creates in order that they can carry out their duties and fulfill their mandates. Committees have no powers other than those delegated to them in this way, and cannot assume other powers on their own initiative.

The exercise of their powers is subject to three fundamental rules. First, they can be exercised only on the territory and within the areas of jurisdiction in which the Parliament of Canada is entitled to legislate.[133] Second, committees can invoke these powers only within and for the purposes of the mandate that the House (and the Senate, in the case of joint committees) has entrusted to them.[134] Finally, barring specific instructions from the House, committees are free to decide whether they will exercise the powers granted to them.

*   Committee Powers by Committee Type

Standing Committees

The Standing Orders set out the powers held by standing committees.[135] Each is given the power to examine and enquire into all such matters as the House may refer to it, to report from time to time and to print a brief appendix to any report, after the signature of the Chair, containing such opinions or recommendations, dissenting from the report or supplementary to it, as may be proposed by committee members. Except when the House orders otherwise, committees are also authorized to send for persons, papers and records, to meet either when the House is sitting or when it stands adjourned, to meet jointly with other standing committees, to print from day to day such papers and evidence as may be ordered by them, and to delegate powers to subcommittees (except the power to report directly to the House).

*   To Examine and Enquire into All Such Matters as the House May Refer to Them

The House gives its standing committees a general power to examine all matters that it may refer to them or that may fall within their mandate and thus stand permanently referred to them.[136] In the absence of specific instructions from the House, it is up to each committee to define the exact nature and scope of the studies it will undertake or that have been entrusted to it. In concrete terms, standing committees exercise this power when they adopt a motion to conduct a particular study[137] and when they meet for this purpose.

*   To Send for Persons

Standing committees often need the collaboration, expertise and knowledge of a variety of individuals to assist them in their studies and investigations. Usually these persons appear willingly before committees when invited to do so. But situations may arise where an individual does not agree to appear and give evidence. If the committee considers that this evidence is essential to its study, it has the power to summon such a person to appear.[138]

A committee exercises this power by adopting a motion to summon one or more individuals to appear before it at a set date, time and location.[139] The summons, signed by the Chair of the committee, is served on each of the individuals by a bailiff. It states the name of the committee concerned, the matter for which the appearance is required, the authority under which it is ordered, and the date and location of the appearance. It also orders the witness to be available from the time of the appearance until duly released by the committee.

The Standing Orders place no explicit limitation on this power. In theory, it applies to any person[140] on Canadian soil.[141] In the unusual case of a person in prison, a committee has presented a report to the House in which it recommended that the Speaker issue a warrant ordering the persons and institutions responsible for the inmate’s detention to bring him before the committee at a set date and time. Once the report had been concurred in by the House, the Speaker issued the warrant.[142]

In practice, certain limitations are recognized on the power to order individuals to appear. Because committee powers do not extend outside Canadian territory, a committee cannot summon a person who is in another country.[143] The Sovereign (whether in Canada or abroad), the Governor General and the provincial lieutenant-governors are also exempt from such a summons.[144]

This applies, as well, to parliamentarians belonging to other Canadian legislatures, because each of these assemblies, like the House of Commons, has the parliamentary privilege of controlling the attendance of its members and any matters affecting them. The same logic explains why a standing committee cannot order a Member of the House of Commons or a Senator to appear. At issue in all these examples is the power to order someone to appear; nothing prevents such individuals from appearing voluntarily before a committee following a simple invitation, apart from the obligation incumbent upon some of them to obtain leave from the House to which they belong.[145]

There is no specific rule governing voluntary appearances by Members of the House of Commons before parliamentary committees. They may appear before a committee if they wish and have been invited. If a Member of the House refuses an invitation to appear before a standing committee and the committee decides that such an appearance is necessary, it may so report to the House,[146] and it will be up to the House to decide what measures should be taken.

If a standing committee wants to request formally that a Senator appear before it, it must obtain the leave of the House of Commons.[147] If the House agrees with the committee, it sends the Senate a message requesting that the Senator appear before the committee.[148] Under the Rules of the Senate, however, even if the Upper House acquiesces to the request of a Commons’ committee to have a Senator appear before it, that Senator need not do so unless he or she thinks fit.[149] At all times, the Rules of the Senate allow Senators to appear of their own free will before committees of the House of Commons without any formal request being sent by the House.[150]

Although they can send for certain persons, standing committees do not have the power to punish a failure to comply with their orders in this regard. Only the House of Commons has the disciplinary powers needed to deal with this type of offence.[151] If a witness refuses to appear, or does not appear, as ordered, the committee’s recourse is to report the matter to the House.[152] Once seized with the matter, the House takes the measures that it considers appropriate.[153]

*   To Send for Papers and Records

The Standing Orders state that standing committees have the power to order the production of papers and records, another privilege rooted in the Constitution that is delegated by the House. In carrying out their responsibility to conduct studies and inquiries, standing committees often have to rely on a wide array of papers to aid them in their work. Such papers, understood to mean written material or items which serve as evidence, information or testimony, may include reports, briefs, notes, statistics, agreements, surveys, calendars, agendas, booklets, photographs, audio recordings[154] and audio-visual documents.

Committees usually obtain such papers simply by requesting them from their authors or owners. If a request is denied, however, and the standing committee believes that specific papers are essential to its work, it can use its power to order the production of papers by passing a motion to that effect. The motion usually orders the person to whom it is directed to provide the committee with the papers in question by a particular date or deadline.[155]

The Standing Orders do not delimit the power to order the production of papers and records. The result is a broad, absolute power that on the surface appears to be without restriction.[156] There is no limit on the types of papers likely to be requested; the only prerequisite is that the papers exist[157]—in hard copy or electronic format—and that they are located in Canada. They can be papers originating from or in the possession of governments, or papers the authors or owners of which are from the private sector or civil society (individuals, associations, organizations, et cetera).[158]

In practice, standing committees may encounter situations where the authors of or officials responsible for papers refuse to provide them or are willing to provide them only after certain parts have been removed. Public servants and Ministers may sometimes invoke their obligations under certain legislation[159] to justify their position.[160] Companies may be reluctant to release papers which could jeopardize their industrial security[161] or infringe upon their legal obligations, particularly with regard to the protection of personal information. Others have cited solicitor-client privilege in refusing to allow access to legal papers or notices.[162]

These types of situations have absolutely no bearing on the power of committees to order the production of papers and records. No statute or practice diminishes the fullness of that power rooted in House privileges unless there is an explicit legal provision to that effect,[163] or unless the House adopts a specific resolution limiting the power. The House has never set a limit on its power to order the production of papers and records. However, it may not be appropriate to insist on the production of papers and records in all cases.[164]

In cases where the author of or the authority responsible for a record refuses to comply with an order issued by a committee to produce documents, the committee essentially has three options.[165] The first is to accept the reasons and conditions put forward to justify the refusal; the committee members then concede that they will not have access to the record or accept the record with passages deleted. The second is to seek an acceptable compromise with the author or the authority responsible for access to the record.[166] Normally, this entails putting measures in place to ensure that the record is kept confidential while it is being consulted: in camera review, limited and numbered copies, arrangements for disposing of or destroying the copies after the committee meeting, et cetera.[167] The third option is to reject the reasons given for denying access to the record and uphold the order to produce the entire record.

Since committees do not have the disciplinary power to sanction failure to comply with their order to produce records, they can choose to report the situation to the House and request that appropriate measures be taken. Among the options available to the House is to endorse, with or without amendment, the committee’s order to produce records, thus making it a House order.[168] In the past, the House has sometimes found persons failing to comply with an order to produce records guilty of contempt of Parliament. On occasion, it has even exercised its disciplinary powers.[169]

*   To Sit While the House Is Sitting and When It Stands Adjourned

The Standing Orders give standing committees the power to meet when the House is sitting and when the House is adjourned. This allows committees to meet as they see fit during a session of Parliament.[170]

However, two provisions in the Standing Orders set limits on that freedom. First, a standing committee cannot sit at the same time as a legislative committee on a bill emanating from a department or agency whose activities the standing committee is responsible for overseeing.[171] Second, when the bells are sounded to call in the Members to a recorded division in the House, a standing committee must suspend its meeting unless there is unanimous consent of the members of the committee to continue to sit.[172]

In practical terms, committees meeting within the Parliamentary Precinct are limited by the availability of meeting rooms. Committees are given access to meeting rooms by order of priority based on criteria prescribed in the Standing Orders for periods when the House stands adjourned and when the House is sitting.[173] When committees are travelling in Canada, their power to meet is limited to the places and dates delineated in the special travel authorization granted by the House.

*   To Sit Jointly with Other Standing Committees

Standing committees have the power to meet jointly with other standing committees. The Standing Orders do not limit the number of standing committees that can meet together, but joint meetings usually involve only two parliamentary committees.

This power allows a standing committee to meet with another standing committee,[174] and, by extension, a subcommittee,[175] provided the subcommittee has been given this power by the committee under which it operates. It is also possible for two subcommittees in this situation to meet jointly.[176] The ability to meet jointly does not extend to meetings with legislative or special committees or with parliamentary committees of other chambers.[177]

Joint meetings are voluntary and normally deal with matters of interest to the committees involved. The committees should agree on the subject and the terms in advance of the meeting. All House committees are equal; none can compel another to participate in a joint meeting.[178]

Joint meetings usually take place following formal or informal discussions between the committees, and sometimes come about as a result of discussions or correspondence between committee Chairs, often at the direction of the respective committees.[179] On other occasions, a committee officially adopts a motion inviting another committee to a joint meeting for a specific purpose, or both committees adopt a motion to that effect.[180] Each committee is convened separately by its Chair.[181]

In joint meetings, each committee sits and exercises its powers separately from the other committee. The power given to standing committees is the power to meet jointly, not to form a new committee or a new joint entity. Consequently, if decisions are made, they are made by each committee and its members under its own rules. Each committee produces its own minutes of proceedings as if the meeting were a regular meeting. If a report is adopted during a joint meeting, each committee may present to the House a separate report, even though the two reports will be identical.[182]

*   To Print from Day to Day Papers and Evidence as May Be Ordered by Them

The Standing Orders authorize standing committees to publish from day to day such papers and evidence as they may order be printed.[183] It has become the practice to publish the Minutes of Proceedings, the Evidence and reports that committees present to the House from time to time. The publications provide a permanent record of evidence, decisions and conclusions of studies. Minutes of Proceedings are the official record of committee work and are produced and signed by the clerk of the committee. They are the equivalent of the Journals of the House. Evidence is the edited and revised transcript of what is said before a committee by the members and by witnesses.[184] Reports to the House, meanwhile, may be short documents under one page in length or far more substantial and separately bound works. All committee publications are published in both official languages.

The Standing Order concerning the power to print reflects the earlier practice of making all these papers available in hard copy. In the past, committees produced a document called Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence that contained the material now provided in two publications: Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence. Reports to the House that were considered too short to merit separate publication used to be included in Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence. In 1994, the House began posting its publications on the Internet. Since September 1998, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence have been available in electronic form only; they are no longer printed. As with reports, they are now available in electronic format on the Parliament of Canada Web site.[185] Committees still have the option, however, of adopting a motion to print key reports which they present to the House.[186]

The power to print has gradually changed and is now, by and large, a power to publish. It has been ruled that the power of a committee to have papers printed also includes the power not to publish.[187]

*   To Report to the House from Time to Time

In order to carry out their roles effectively, committees must be able to convey their findings to the House. The Standing Orders provide standing committees with the power to report to the House from time to time,[188] which is generally interpreted as being as often as they wish. A standing committee exercises that prerogative when its members agree on the subject and wording of a report and it directs the Chair to report to the House, which the Chair then does.[189]

Like all other powers of standing committees, the power to report is limited to issues that fall within their mandate or that have been specifically assigned to them by the House. Every report must identify the authority under which it is presented. In the past, when a committee has gone beyond its order of reference or addressed issues not included in the order, the Speaker of the House has ruled the report or a specific part of the report to be out of order.[190]

There are three broad categories of reports likely to be presented by standing committees: administrative or procedural reports, reports based on an order of reference from the House and substantive reports. Depending on rules and practices, the form, the content and the timeframe for the presentation of reports can vary considerably from category to category.

Administrative and procedural reports are essentially reports in which standing committees ask the House for special permission or additional powers, or those that deal with a matter of privilege or procedure arising from committee proceedings.[191] Most of the time, the decision to report in these cases is made voluntarily and the committee reports at the time it deems fit, unless a deadline has been set by the House.[192]

Reports that are based on an order of reference from the House generally follow a set form depending on the type of study. Most reports in this category are very succinct. For example, reports on estimates simply state whether the committee adopted, reduced or negatived the votes.[193] Such reports must, however, be presented within the period prescribed by the Standing Orders, failing which the estimates are deemed to have been reported.[194] When standing committees study an appointment or proposed appointment, their reports on the matter usually indicate that they considered the appointment and briefly state their opinion on the candidate’s qualifications and abilities.[195] The Standing Orders do not set a deadline for presenting such reports, but they do prescribe a timeframe for committee consideration of appointments or proposed appointments. Reports on the study of bills can be very short or extremely lengthy. If the committee did not amend the bill in the course of its study, the report simply states that the committee studied the proposed legislation and is reporting it without amendment. However, if the committee adopted amendments to the bill, the report provides details of each amendment. The Standing Orders require committees to report any amendment to a public bill.[196] Committees are required to present a report on every private bill referred to them.[197] There is no requirement for standing committees to report on a private Member’s bill referred to them, but the Standing Orders provide that if no report is presented within a certain period, the bill is deemed to have been reported without amendment.[198]

Substantive reports are usually produced when a committee decides to undertake, on its own initiative, a study on an issue within its mandate.[199] From time to time, substantive reports are also produced by committees that wish to make further recommendations to the House on orders of reference (bills, estimates, appointments) in addition to presenting their usual reports.[200] Normally, exercising the power to report in the case of substantive reports is voluntary and done within the timeframe chosen by the committee. The content of substantive reports is determined entirely by the committee. Substantive reports can also be very short, presenting nothing more, for example, than resolutions adopted by the committee,[201] but are often long in cases where the committee has conducted a comprehensive study on a particular subject. A study may give rise to one or more reports, and interim reports may be presented prior to a final report.

Top of Page

*   To Print a Brief Appendix to Any Report Containing Opinions or Recommendations Dissenting or Supplementary to It

A committee report reflects the opinion of the committee and not that of the individual members. Members of the committee who disagree with the decision of the majority may not present a separate report. There is no provision in the Standing Orders or the practices of the House for presenting minority reports.[202]

Where one or several members of a standing committee are not in agreement with the committee’s report or wish to make supplementary comments, the committee is authorized under the Standing Orders[203] to append such opinions to the report, following the signature of the committee Chair.[204] Committee members may exercise this power by adopting a motion to this effect. The wording of the Standing Orders does not limit the type of report to which such opinions may be appended. As a rule, however, committees authorize such appendices for substantive reports.

Dissenting or supplementary opinions may be presented by any member of a committee,[205] but committees have in some cases restricted this practice to specific Members or political parties.[206] Although committees have the power to append these opinions to their reports, they are not obliged to do so.[207]

In agreeing to append a dissenting or supplementary opinion, the committee will often specify the maximum length of the text (number of pages, font type and size, line spacing),[208] the deadline for submission to the committee clerk (date and time) and the format in which it is to be submitted (in one or both official languages, electronic format).[209]

Committees are not responsible for the content of these opinions. They are not, strictly speaking, part of the report. The authors of these opinions alone are responsible for their content. However, the Speaker has pointed out that, although the committees may have given them carte blanche, the authors must strictly adhere to parliamentary practice, in both the wording and format of supplementary or dissenting opinions.[210]

*   To Delegate to Subcommittees All or Any of Their Powers

The Standing Orders specifically authorize standing committees to delegate to subcommittees all or part of their powers, except for the power to report to the House.[211] There is no limit to the number of subcommittees that can be established by a committee. This power is exercised when a committee adopts a motion to create a subcommittee, giving it a mandate, direction and powers.[212]

Standing Joint Committees

Since a joint committee exists only by order of both Houses, the powers provided to it by the House of Commons can be exercised by the committee only if it is similarly empowered by the Senate.

There are, however, some differences in the powers conferred by the House on standing joint committees, which are the same as those of its standing committees,[213] and those conferred by the Senate. The Rules of the Senate prohibit committees from sitting during a sitting of the Senate and when the Upper House is adjourned for more than a week.[214] Moreover, unlike the House, the Senate does not give its committees the power to hold joint meetings with other standing committees.

Various other powers are, however, conferred by both the Senate and the House of Commons and may be fully exercised by standing joint committees: the power to examine and enquire,[215] the power to send for persons, papers and records, the power to print papers and evidence, the power to report[216] and the power to establish subcommittees.[217] Although the Rules of the Senate do not specifically provide for this, the Upper House does, in practice, allow its committees to append to their reports “comments” from some members.[218]

Legislative Committees

A legislative committee is empowered to examine and enquire into a bill[219] referred to it and to report the same with or without amendments. It is not empowered to present a substantive report concerning the bill,[220] although it may present administrative or procedural reports.[221] A legislative committee may also be created to prepare and bring in a bill.[222]

In examining a bill, a legislative committee may send for officials of government departments, agencies and Crown corporations and other persons whom the committee deems competent in technical matters.[223] It may also send for papers and records, sit while the House is sitting, sit while the House stands adjourned, and print papers and evidence.[224] A legislative committee may also delegate to a subcommittee on agenda and procedure the power to schedule meetings of the committee and to send for witnesses, papers and records, subject to approval by the full committee.[225] A legislative committee does not have the power to sit jointly with other parliamentary committees[226] or to append dissenting or supplementary opinions or recommendations to its reports.

Special Committees

Special committees possess only those powers that are provided to them by the House in the order of reference that establishes them[227] or by subsequent motion. Depending on whether its mandate concerns a particular subject matter or consideration of a bill, a special committee may be given the powers of a standing[228] or legislative[229] committee.

Special Joint Committees

Special joint committees possess only those powers that are provided to them by both Houses in the order of reference establishing them. As a general rule, special joint committees receive the powers of standing committees of the House,[230] but may sometimes receive more limited powers.[231]

Subcommittees

Subcommittees possess only those powers that are conferred on them by the main committees to which they report or by the House, if they are created directly by the House and it has stipulated their powers. For a subcommittee created by a committee or one created by the House for which the House has not identified powers, it is up to the main committee to specify the power(s) it wishes to delegate to the subcommittee. In all cases, the powers conferred on a subcommittee may not exceed those of the main committee that created it nor include powers that the main committee does not possess. Powers may be delegated at one time or at various times. Similarly, a committee may, if necessary, withdraw powers previously conferred on a subcommittee.

The powers that a committee may delegate to subcommittees may be limited by the Standing Orders or by orders of the House. Standing committees may not delegate their power to report to the House.[232] Special committees that have the power to create subcommittees may delegate all their powers, unless the order of reference establishing them includes a restriction in this regard.[233] A legislative committee may only delegate to a subcommittee on agenda and procedure its power to schedule meetings, and to send for witnesses, papers and records, subject to approval by the full committee.[234] It may not, for instance, delegate its power to study and examine the bill under consideration, or to report on it. Standing joint committees may delegate all their powers to subcommittees except the power to report to the House of Commons and the Senate.[235] Special joint committees empowered to create subcommittees may delegate all their powers to them, unless the order of reference establishing them contains restrictions in this regard. For the most part, they may not delegate their power to report to both Houses.[236]

*   Obtaining Additional Powers

If a standing, legislative or special committee requires additional powers, they may be conferred on the committee by an order of the House—by far the most common approach[237]—or by concurrence in a committee report requesting the conferring of those powers.[238] Standing joint and special joint committees may obtain additional powers in the same way, except that authorization must come from both the House and the Senate.[239]

When a subcommittee requires additional powers, it may request them through a report to the main committee.[240] If the powers requested exceed what the main committee may delegate, the main committee may request them through a report to the House or the House may adopt a motion to grant them directly.[241]



[133] In referring to the power to summon persons, papers and records, Bourinot states that the House of Commons and the Senate have such power and may use it “within the limits of their jurisdiction”. See Bourinot, Sir J.G., Parliamentary Procedure and Practice in the Dominion of Canada, 4th ed., edited by T.B. Flint, Toronto: Canada Law Book Company, 1916, p. 70.

[134] In 2008, Speaker Milliken observed that “the House has taken great care to define and differentiate the responsibilities of its committees … Inherent in the power the House grants to its committees is the basic principle that each committee will respect its mandate” (Debates, March 14, 2008, p. 4182).

[135] Standing Order 108(1)(a) and (b). Formerly the Standing Orders contained no provisions on the powers of standing committees. Powers were granted in the motion establishing each committee (see, for example, Journals, November 7, 1867, p. 5; April 6, 1868, p. 184; January 12, 1905, p. 9) or, after a list of standing committees was added to the Standing Orders, by a separate motion. Among the powers usually granted were the power to examine any matter that the House might refer to them, the power to report from time to time, and the power to send for persons, papers and records. See, for example, Journals, November 28, 1910, p. 28. In 1965, the Standing Orders were amended to give powers to the standing committees on a permanent basis. In addition to the powers listed above, the power to print from day to day such papers and evidence as the committees might order was included at that time (Journals, June 11, 1965, p. 228). Subsequently the list was extended to include the power to sit while the House is sitting or stands adjourned, to delegate to subcommittees any of their powers except that of reporting directly to the House (Journals, December 20, 1968, pp. 562‑79, in particular p. 575), to sit jointly with other standing committees of the House and to append dissenting or supplementary opinions or recommendations to their reports (Journals, March 26, 1991, pp. 2801‑27, in particular pp. 2819‑20; April 11, 1991, p. 2904; May 23, 1991, pp. 61‑2).

[136] Regarding the power of standing committees to review all matters relating to their general mandate as set out in the Standing Orders, see also Standing Order 108(2).

[137] This may be a separate motion dealing specifically with the study or, for example, a motion to adopt the schedule of future committee business in which the study in question appears. See, for example, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, Minutes of Proceedings, May 11, 2006, Meeting No. 2.

[138] This power, delegated to standing committees by the House, is part of the privileges, rights and immunities which the House of Commons inherited when it was created. They were considered essential to its functions as a legislative body, so that it could investigate, debate and legislate, and are constitutional in origin. For further information, see “Procedural Framework for Committee Activities” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Proceedings”, and Chapter 3, “Privileges and Immunities”.

[139] This is normally determined by the committee itself, but may be left to the discretion of the committee Chair and clerk. See, for example, Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Minutes of Proceedings, June 13, 2002, Meeting No. 61. Summons may occasionally order a witness to appear no later than a certain date. Prior to the amendment of the Standing Orders in 1994, a certificate had to be filed with the Chair attesting that the evidence of a potential witness was material and important before a summons could be served. Since then, the certificate has no longer been required (Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, June 9, 1994, Issue 16, pp. 3, 7‑8, in particular p. 8; Journals, June 8, 1994, p. 545; June 10, 1994, p. 563).

[140] With respect to the appearance of officials or public servants from other levels of government, see the decision of the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island (AG Canada v. MacPhee et ors., 2003 PESCTD 06). In this decision, Mr. Justice Wayne D. Cheverie found no reason why two officials of the federal Canadian Food Inspection Agency should be exempt from an Order to appear before the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Forests and Environment of Prince Edward Island’s Legislative Assembly. The Legislative Assembly had mandated its Committee to study and investigate the potato wart crisis. As part of its study, the Committee wished to hear from representatives of the Agency.

[141] It is possible that the power of a standing committee could apply to a Canadian non‑resident temporarily in Canada. See May on the subject of foreign or Commonwealth nationals temporarily resident in the United Kingdom (May, T.E., Erskine May’s Treatise on The Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament, 23rd ed., edited by Sir W. McKay, London: LexisNexis UK, 2004, p. 764). See also Lee, D., The Power of Parliamentary Houses to Send for Persons, Papers & Records: A Sourcebook on the Law and Precedent of Parliamentary Subpoena Powers for Canadian and other Houses, Toronto: University of Toronto Press Incorporated, 1999, p. 171. In this sourcebook, Mr. Lee cites a case from the Senate of Canada. In 1904, the Upper House considered a motion to summon a citizen of the United States before the Bar of the Senate for refusing to answer questions before a Senate committee. The motion expressly mentioned the fact that the witness was then in Ottawa. The Speaker of the Senate ruled the motion in order, but it was amended so that the witness was not, in the end, summoned to appear. On occasion, witnesses who are not Canadian citizens, or who do not live in Canada, have appeared voluntarily before a standing committee. See, for example, the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, Minutes of Proceedings, March 1, 2000, Meeting No. 16.

[142] See the First Report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, presented to the House and concurred in on November 27, 2007 (Journals, p. 219). In this instance, the Committee recommended that the Speaker issue any necessary warrants for the appearance of businessman Karlheinz Schreiber, who was at that time in the custody of Ontario’s Correctional Services at the Toronto West Detention Centre. The day before his appearance, he was transferred to the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre. He appeared before the Committee on November 29, 2007 (Minutes of Proceedings, Meeting No. 5). Mr. Schreiber appeared before the Committee again on December 4 (Minutes of Proceedings, Meeting No. 6). While at this meeting, he heard that he had been granted bail. Subsequently, he appeared before the Committee on a number of occasions. The warrant issued by the Speaker for his initial appearance on November 29 called on the authorities to ensure that the witness would be available to appear before the Committee until such time as his presence was no longer required. It provided for Mr. Schreiber’s re-admission to the detention centre immediately after his appearance. See also May, 23rd ed., p. 759; Lee, p. 57; Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 72.

[143] See May, 23rd ed., p. 764.

[144] See Lee, pp. 1‑2. The author explains that the person of the Sovereign is inviolate and that the Sovereign therefore cannot be compelled to attend any court or tribunal in the Realm, including the “High Court of Parliament”.

[145] For an example of the voluntary appearance by parliamentarians belonging to a provincial legislature, see Subcommittee on Fiscal Imbalance of the Standing Committee on Finance, Minutes of Proceedings, March 21, 2005, Meeting No. 7.

[146] For an example of a standing committee reporting the non-appearance of a Member, see the Sixth Report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, presented to the House on March 10, 2008 (Journals, p. 550). The House did not act on the report. Also, in August 2008, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security adopted a resolution to the effect that Maxime Bernier (Beauce) had refused to testify before the Committee. The resolution recommended that the House order the Member to appear before the Committee at a date and time to be set by the Committee. Parliament was dissolved and this resolution could not be presented to the House in the form of a report (Minutes of Proceedings, August 25, 2008, Meeting No. 40).

[147] This can be done by the concurrence of the House in a committee report making such a request, or by special order of the House.

[148] See, for example, Journals, May 9, 1996, pp. 341‑2; Fifth Report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, presented to the House on October 31, 2006 (Journals, pp. 601‑2). In this case, the House did not act on the report and no message was sent to the Senate. For an example where a message was sent to the Senate and the Senate agreed to the request by the House, see Journals, April 9, 1877, pp. 234, 237.

[149] On the other hand, if the request involves a Senate officer, and the Upper House grants leave, the officer must appear before the Commons committee. See Senate Rule 124(2).

[150] Senate Rule 124(4); this rule has been in force since 1979 (Journals of the Senate, November 22, 1979, p. 178; December 4, 1979, p. 216). For an example of a voluntary appearance by a Senator without any message between the two Houses, see Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, Minutes of Proceedings, February 28, 2008, Meeting No. 15.

[151] The disciplinary powers of the House include the power to reprimand a person who is not a Member. They also include the power to suspend or expel Members from the House. For further information, see Chapter 3, “Privileges and Immunities”. For a critical discussion of these powers, see Robert, C. and Armitage, B., “Perjury, Contempt and Privilege: The Coercive Powers of Parliamentary Committees”, Canadian Parliamentary Review, Vol. 30, No. 4, Winter 2007, pp. 29‑36.

[152] See, for example, Journals, April 26, 1878, pp. 218‑20; August 27, 1891, p. 454; September 24, 1891, p. 531; June 7, 1894, p. 242.

[153] In 1891, the Public Accounts Committee reported that André Senécal, the government’s Superintendent of Printing, had disobeyed an order to appear before it. The House adopted a motion ordering him to appear at the Bar of the House. When Mr. Senécal failed to do so, the House ordered that he be taken into the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms. The Sergeant‑at‑Arms was however unable to find him. No other action was taken (Journals, August 27, 1891, p. 454; September 1, 1891, p. 467). In 1894, two witnesses, Mr. Provost and Mr. Larose, did not appear before the Committee on Privileges and Elections as ordered. The Committee reported this and the House adopted a motion ordering them to appear at the Bar of the House. In response to their refusal to obey this order, the House ordered that they be taken into the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms and brought before the Bar. This was done and the witnesses were subsequently released (Journals, June 7, 1894, p. 242; June 11, 1894, p. 289; June 13, 1894, pp. 299‑301).

[154] In 2005, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts ordered that a witness provide a copy of the answering machine tape that he referred to during his testimony. See Minutes of Proceedings, May 2, 2005, Meeting No. 32.

[155] See, for example, Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, Minutes of Proceedings, March 20, 2007, Meeting No. 11. In 2003, during its study of Bill C-25, Public Service Labour Relations Act, the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates asked the Privy Council Office for copies of certain papers related to the bill. The Committee did not set a specific deadline for delivery of the papers, but decided to suspend its clause-by-clause consideration of the bill until it received them. See Minutes of Proceedings, April 8, 2003, Meeting No. 29; April 9, 2003, Meeting No. 30.

[156] See comments by the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections (Journals, May 29, 1991, p. 95).

[157] There have been occasions when committees asked organizations to provide, in list or table form, information they were likely to hold. See, for example, Standing Joint Committee on Official Languages, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, January 21, 1987, Issue No. 3, pp. 3-4; Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Minutes of Proceedings, February 19, 2004, Meeting No. 4. For further information on the compilation of information held by a person or organization, see Lee, p. 46.

[158] On the subject of papers from private bodies or individuals, May notes that there is no restriction on the power of committees in that regard provided such papers are relevant to the committee’s work as defined by its order of reference. See May, 23rd ed., p. 757.

[159] For example, federally, the Access to Information Act (R.S. 1985, c. A-1, ss. 13-26) and the Privacy Act (R.S. 1985, c. P-21, ss. 18-28) both contain provisions exempting certain types of records which the government can or must refuse to disclose. In the access to information system, records obtained in confidence from other governments; records which could be injurious to the defence of Canada or any state allied with Canada; records pertaining to industrial secrets; financial, trade and technical information belonging to the government; confidential Cabinet and Privy Council documents are all examples of records the disclosure of which to requestors may or must be denied. In 1973, the government communicated to the House of Commons (Journals, March 15, 1973, p. 187) its vision of the general principles applicable to papers likely to be tabled in the House in response to notices of motion for the production of papers. They were not formally approved by the House, but those principles have been observed ever since. For further information about the principles and exemptions, see Chapter 10, “The Daily Program”.

[160] See, for example, Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Minutes of Proceedings, March 11, 2004, Meeting No. 9.

[161] For an example, see footnote No. 166 in this chapter.

[162] See, for example, Standing Committee on Miscellaneous Estimates, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, April 5, 1984, Issue No. 6, pp. 30-3; May 3, 1984, Issue No. 13, p. 6.

[163] See Lee, p. 185.

[164] In 1991, the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections pointed out, “The House of Commons recognizes that it should not require the production of documents in all cases; considerations of public policy, including national security, foreign relations, and so forth, enter into the decision as to when it is appropriate to order the production of such documents” (Journals, May 29, 1991, p. 95). The House of Commons took note of the Committee’s report and referred it to the Standing Committee on House Management for further study (Journals, June 18, 1991, pp. 216‑7).

[165] A committee can at any time use its power to call witnesses to have the individuals concerned appear before the committee to provide an explanation. See, for example, Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, Minutes of Proceedings, March 20, 2007, Meeting No. 11; March 29, 2007, Meeting No. 13.

[166] In its attempt to obtain the financial statements of Canada’s five major meat packers in the course of its study on beef pricing, the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri‑Food adopted a motion stating that the financial statements would not be copied for the Committee members, but would be provided to the Office of the Law Clerk and the analyst assigned to the committee by the Library of Parliament. The analyst would review the information and prepare a report to the Committee drafted in such a fashion as to protect specific sensitive business information that could disclose the identity of any person or corporation. The motion also provided for a mechanism for the retention and eventual destruction of the records (Minutes of Proceedings, April 21, 2004, Meeting No. 15). After presenting two reports in the House on the matter (Third Report presented to the House and concurred in on May 6, 2004 (Journals, p. 388); Fourth Report presented to the House on May 13, 2004 (Journals, p. 416)), the Committee reiterated its requests to the meat packers concerned in the new session of Parliament following the dissolution of Parliament which had occurred in the meantime. It then obtained the records requested (Minutes of Proceedings, October 14, 2004, Meeting No. 2).

[167] Following the refusal of the Solicitor General to provide two reports to the Standing Committee on Justice and the Solicitor General, on the grounds of privacy, the Committee reported the matter to the House. Subsequently, a question of privilege was raised by Derek Lee (Scarborough–Rouge River) concerning the Minister’s refusal to provide the reports sought by the Committee. No ruling was delivered as to whether the matter constituted a prima facie breach of privilege, but the issue was referred to the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections. Parliament was prorogued before the Committee had completed its deliberations, but the reference was revived in the next session allowing the Committee to conclude its work. The Committee presented a report which concluded that the Standing Committee on Justice and the Solicitor General had been within its rights to insist on the production of the two reports and recommended that the House order the Solicitor General to comply with the order for production. The House subsequently adopted a motion to that effect, with the proviso that the reports be presented at an in camera meeting of the Standing Committee on Justice and the Solicitor General. See Standing Committee on Justice and the Solicitor General, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, May 29, 1990, Issue No. 39, p. 3; December 4, 1990, Issue No. 56, p. 3; December 18, 1990, Issue No. 57, pp. 4‑6; Journals, December 19, 1990, p. 2508; February 28, 1991, p. 2638, Debates, pp. 17745‑6; Journals, May 17, 1991, p. 42; May 29, 1991, pp. 92‑9; June 18, 1991, pp. 216‑7; Standing Committee on Justice and the Solicitor General, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, June 19, 1991, Issue No. 4, pp. 5‑6.

[168] Beauchesne states, “A committee cannot require an officer of a department of the Government to produce any paper which, according to the rules and practice of the House, it is not usual for the House itself to insist upon being laid before it” (Beauchesne, A., Beauchesne’s Rules & Forms of the House of Commons of Canada, 6th ed., edited by A. Fraser, W.F. Dawson and J.A. Holtby, Toronto: The Carswell Company Limited, 1989, p. 236). One way for a committee to determine whether the House would support it is through a report recommending that the order to produce be upheld. See, for example, the Third Report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, presented to the House and concurred in on May 6, 2004 (Journals, p. 388).

[169] In 1891, a witness was summoned to the Bar of the House for refusing to produce documents requested by the Committee on Privileges and Elections. He was questioned and ordered to produce the documents requested (Journals, June 5, 1891, p. 205; June 16, 1891, pp. 211-2). In 2003, three private companies were found guilty of contempt of Parliament for failing to comply with an Order to produce papers from the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food (Third Report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, presented to the House and concurred in on May 6, 2004 (Journals, p. 388)).

[170] For example, committees occasionally meet while the House is in summer recess. See, for example, Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Minutes of Proceedings, July 26, 2007, Meeting No. 61.

[171] Standing Order 115(1), which must be complied with even if a committee meets in a place other than a committee room within the Parliamentary Precinct.

[172] Standing Order 115(5).

[173] Standing Order 115(2), (3) and (4). For further information, see “Times of Meetings and Room Allocation” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Proceedings”.

[174] See, for example, the joint meeting of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade (Minutes of Proceedings, November 22, 2004, Meeting No. 10) with the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food (Minutes of Proceedings, November 22, 2004, Meeting No. 11).

[175] See, for example, the joint meeting between the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade (Minutes of Proceedings, April 1, 2003, Meeting No. 27) and its Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Development (Minutes of Proceedings, April 1, 2003, Meeting No. 4).

[176] For example, during the First Session of the Thirty‑Seventh Parliament, the Subcommittee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities (Minutes of Proceedings, May 30, 2001, Meeting No. 6; June 5, 2001, Meeting No. 8; March 19, 2002, Meeting No. 18) and the Subcommittee on Children and Youth at Risk (Minutes of Proceedings, May 30, 2001, Meeting No. 6; June 5, 2001, Meeting No. 7; March 19, 2002, Meeting No. 20), both operating under the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, held three joint meetings.

[177] This has happened, however. See, for example, the joint meeting of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade (Minutes of Proceedings, May 8, 2001, Meeting No. 18) and the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. However, the House Committee’s Minutes of Proceedings referred to the meeting as “informal”.

[178] This is true unless the House orders otherwise or a standing committee directs one of its subcommittees to sit jointly with another committee. In 2001, for example, the House adopted an opposition motion ordering the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs “to sit frequently, including joint meetings with ministers and officials of the government and the military” (Journals, October 15, 2001, pp. 708-9). The motion was passed in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

[179] See, for example, the direction given to the Chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women (Minutes of Proceedings, October 26, 2005, Meeting No. 43) for a joint meeting with the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

[180] See, for example, Standing Committee on National Defence, Minutes of Proceedings, May 29, 2007, Meeting No. 55; Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, Minutes of Proceedings, May 29, 2007, Meeting No. 58.

[181] See, for example, Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Minutes of Proceedings, November 15, 2004, Meeting No. 8, and November 22, 2004, Meeting No. 10; Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, Minutes of Proceedings, November 16, 2004, Meeting No. 8, and November 22, 2004, Meeting No. 11.

[182] In one extraordinary case, two subcommittees of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities met jointly and concurred in a common draft report which they presented to the main committee. Both subcommittees were acting with the consent of the main committee. See the Fourth Report of the Standing Committee, presented to the House on June 12, 2001 (Journals, pp. 533-4).

[183] Standing Order 108(1)(a).

[184] Committees can also append to their Evidence papers which they feel are especially important: a brief to the committee, a preliminary statement from a witness who could not be heard in full, letters or briefing material, and so on. See, for example, Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Minutes of Proceedings, March 22, 2005, Meeting No. 25. For further information, see also “Reporting of Activities and Deliberations” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Proceedings”.

[185] See the Parliament of Canada Web site at www.parl.gc.ca.

[186] See, for example, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, Minutes of Proceedings, February 26, 2008, Meeting No. 17.

[187] See, for example, Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Minutes of Proceedings, May 27, 1999, Meeting No. 146. In that instance, the Committee agreed, while studying a bill amending the provisions of the Criminal Code dealing with flight, to prohibit publication of the testimony given by two witnesses whose case was before the courts.

[188] Standing Order 108(1)(a).

[189] See, for example, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, Minutes of Proceedings, February 26, 2008, Meeting No. 17; Journals, February 28, 2008, p. 484.

[190] See, for example, Debates, June 13, 1984, p. 4624; Journals, December 13, 1984, p. 188; December 14, 1984, p. 192, Debates, pp. 1242-3; Debates, February 28, 1985, pp. 2602-3; Journals, May 15, 2008, p. 827, Debates, pp. 5924-5. See also Speaker Milliken’s observations on the matter on March 14, 2008 (Debates, pp. 4181-3) and June 20, 2008 (Debates, pp. 7209-10).

[191] See, for example, the Third Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, presented to the House on February 12, 2008 (Journals, p. 423), and the Third Report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, presented to the House on April 14, 2008 (Journals, p. 701).

[192] For example, a standing committee that would like to have more than 60 sitting days to study a private Member’s bill must present a report to that effect to the House within the 60 days, failing which the bill is deemed under the Standing Orders to have been reported without amendment. See Standing Order 97.1(1).

[193] See, for example, the Second Report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, presented to the House on December 3, 2007 (Journals, p. 250).

[194] Standing Order 81(4) and (5). For further information on this subject, see “Estimates” under the section in this chapter entitled “Studies Conducted by Committees”.

[195] Standing Orders 110 to 111.1. See, for example, the Third Report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, presented to the House on February 1, 2008 (Journals, p. 371).

[196] Standing Order 75(2).

[197] Standing Order 141(5).

[198] Standing Order 97.1(1).

[199] Substantive reports can also be produced when the House decides to have a committee study a specific subject through a special order of reference, but that is less common. See, for example, Journals, November 2, 2004, pp. 182-3, and the Thirteenth Report of the Standing Committee on Finance, presented to the House on June 9, 2005 (Journals, pp. 857-8).

[200] See, for example, the Third Report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, presented to the House on May 31, 2001 (Journals, p. 458). The report was titled “Beyond Bill C-2: A Review of Other Proposals to Reform Employment Insurance”. The report followed an initial report from the Committee on Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act and the Employment Insurance (Fishing) Regulations that had been presented to the House on March 23, 2001 (Journals, p. 217).

[201] See, for example, the First Report of the Standing Committee on Finance, presented to the House on November 29, 2007 (Journals, pp. 234-5) and concurred in on February 5, 2008 (Journals, pp. 389-90).

[202] Speaker Parent pointed out in a 1994 ruling: “Regardless of how the media or Members themselves may label such dissent, the House has never recognized or permitted the tabling of minority reports. Speaker Lamoureux twice condemned the idea of minority reports, explaining to the House that what is presented to the House from a committee is a report from the committee, not a report from the majority” (Debates, November 24, 1994, p. 8252).

[203] Standing Order 108(1)(a). Prior to the addition of this provision to the Standing Orders in 1991, only the committee report could be presented to the House, and there was no provision for appending the opinions of those members who differed from the majority (Journals, April 11, 1991, pp. 2905‑32, in particular p. 2924). On occasion, the House did give consent for dissenting opinions to be presented (see, for example, Journals, June 16, 1993, p. 3318, Debates, p. 20921). Although the current wording of the Standing Order restricts its application to standing committees, Speaker Parent has ruled that, unless the House explicitly directs otherwise, the practice of allowing it to apply to special committees as well will be permitted to continue (Debates, November 24, 1994, p. 8252).

[204] On November 16, 1994, Michel Gauthier (Roberval) raised a point of order on the receivability of the report of the Special Joint Committee Reviewing Canada’s Foreign Policy. The dissenting opinions to the report had been printed in a separate volume, and therefore did not immediately follow the Chair’s signature. The Member argued that, in the absence of a decision by the Committee, there was no authority to print the report in that format. Speaker Parent ruled that the report’s format did not contravene the spirit of the Standing Order, but expressed the view that committees should, in future, “ensure by means of explicit and carefully worded motions in keeping with the terms of Standing Order 108(1)(a) that their members are perfectly clear as to the format in which these reports will be presented to the House” (Debates, November 16, 1994, pp. 7859‑62; November 24, 1994, pp. 8252‑3).

[205] Dissenting or supplementary opinions have been presented by government Members and opposition Members alike. See, for example, the Fifth Report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, presented to the House on April 2, 2008 (Journals, p. 630). Dissenting opinions have also been presented by committee Chairs and parliamentary secretaries. See, for example, the Seventh Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, presented to the House on April 2, 1998 (Journals, p. 664), and the First Report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, presented to the House on March 23, 1998 (Journals, p. 608).

[206] See, for example, the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, Minutes of Proceedings, November 24, 2005, Meeting No. 50. When a committee concurs in a report, the Chair may ask if any members wish to present a dissenting or supplementary opinion. On occasion, the Members or parties that expressed an interest are authorized to submit such opinions. In 2003, a Member raised a question of privilege in the House because the committee of which he was a member had not allowed his supplementary opinion to be appended to a report. The Chair ruled that this was not a prima facie question of privilege, mentioning that committees are the masters of their own proceedings (Debates, June 5, 2003, pp. 6906-7).

[207] Committees have negatived motions to append dissenting opinions. See, for example, Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings, November 25, 1997, Meeting No. 7.

[208] Such opinions are traditionally much shorter than the reports to which they are appended. There have, however, been cases where the opinions were longer than the reports themselves. See, for example, the Fourth Report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, presented to the House on June 22, 2006 (Journals, p. 345) and concurred in on June 6, 2007 (Journals, pp. 1483-5).

[209] See, for example, Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, Minutes of Proceedings, March 13, 2008, Meeting No. 19.

[210] Debates, April 16, 2002, pp. 10462-3.

[211] Standing Order 108(1)(a).

[212] See, for example, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, Minutes of Proceedings, November 13, 2007, Meeting No. 1.

[213] Standing Order 108(1)(a). No distinction is made between standing committees of the House and standing joint committees.

[214] Senate Rule 95(2) and (4). In their first report to both Houses, the two standing joint committees usually work around this by recommending that these committees may sit when the Senate is sitting and adjourned. This permission is granted when the Senate concurs in the report. See, for example, the First Report of the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament, presented to the Senate on December 4, 2007 (Journals of the Senate, p. 215) and concurred in on December 6, 2007 (Journals of the Senate, p. 243).

[215] Unlike the standing committees of the House of Commons, the majority of Senate committees may not undertake a study of any kind without being specifically mandated by the Senate to do so. In the case of standing joint committees, this authorization to examine and enquire is given when the Senate approves the first report of these committees, which usually pertains to their mandate. The Senate occasionally adopts orders of reference concerning standing joint committees to give them additional mandates, for instance, to examine estimates set out in the votes. See, for example, Journals of the Senate, February 28, 2008, p. 607. Such orders are usually communicated by a message to the House of Commons. See, for example, Journals, February 28, 2008, pp. 489-90.

[216] Senate Rule 90.

[217] Senate Rule 96(4). Logically, these subcommittees may only receive powers that are duly held by standing joint committees.

[218] See the decision of the Speaker of the Senate, Journals of the Senate, December 11, 2002, pp. 412-3; see, for example, the Second Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, presented to the Senate on June 21, 2006 (Journals of the Senate, p. 255).

[219] Usually, only one bill is referred to a given legislative committee. On four occasions, either two related bills were referred to a single legislative committee at once, or a second related bill was referred to a legislative committee already in existence (Journals, September 23, 1985, p. 1015; May 26, 1986, p. 2208; November 25, 1987, p. 1882; May 17, 1990, pp. 1715‑6).

[220] See Speaker Lamoureux’s ruling regarding the reporting of bills, Journals, December 20, 1973, pp. 774‑5.

[221] A legislative committee has reported to the House seeking permission to travel; however, the House did not take action on the report (Journals, February 3, 1988, p. 2130).

[222] Standing Order 68(4) and (5).

[223] Since an amendment to the Standing Orders in 1991, legislative committees are restricted to calling only technical witnesses (Journals, April 11, 1991, pp. 2904‑32, in particular p. 2927). The Standing Orders do not define, however, what constitutes a technical witness. The debates in the House at the time the Standing Orders were amended provide some insight into the rationale for this amendment. At that time, the Government House Leader stated, “When legislation passes at second reading in this House, it has received approval in principle—the principle is approved. The role of the [Legislative] Committee is not to debate again whether the legislation is appropriate in principle, by touring the country and hearing from groups about the principle, but rather to look at all the details” (Debates, April 8, 1991, pp. 19137‑8). The Parliamentary Secretary to the Government Leader also stated, in reference to legislative committees: “Legislative committees will be legislative committees. They will not try to act as standing committees. They will not try to be something they were not designed to be. They will look at technical witnesses and they will meet with them. Technical witnesses may include members of a department, people who work for a department, lawyers who are familiar with the subject area, or interest groups that have a technical response to a bill” (Debates, April 9, 1991, p. 19195). In 2005, the Chair of a legislative committee made a decision on a point of order raised regarding the witnesses the committee may invite to appear. Referring to decisions by the Speaker of the House that confirmed his reluctance to interfere with the proceedings of a legislative committee (see, for example, Debates, March 16, 1993, pp. 17072-3), the Chair ruled that the committee may decide who qualifies as a technical witness able to provide assistance in the consideration of a bill (Legislative Committee on Bill C-38, Evidence, May 30, 2005, Meeting No. 7, p. 1).

[224] Standing Order 113(5).

[225] Standing Order 113(6). Legislative committees were not empowered to create subcommittees when the Standing Orders concerning them were first adopted. The power to create a subcommittee on agenda and procedure was added to the Standing Orders in 1986 (Journals, February 6, 1986, pp. 1644‑66, in particular p. 1659; February 13, 1986, p. 1710).

[226] See, for example, Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Minutes of Proceedings, May 8, 2006, Meeting No. 3.

[227] See, for example, Journals, November 28, 2002, p. 236.

[228] See, for example, Journals, April 8, 2008, pp. 665-7.

[229] See, for example, Journals, October 10, 1990, p. 2094. Special committees mandated to examine bills do not always have the same powers as legislative committees. For example, during the Second Session of the Thirty-Seventh Parliament, the Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs received all the powers conferred on standing committees (Journals, October 7, 2003, pp. 1104-5) in preparation for its consideration of a government bill (Journals, October 21, 2003, pp. 1140-1). This allowed the Committee to present a substantive report before it presented its report on the bill itself. See the Committee’s First and Second Reports, presented to the House on November 6, 2003 (Journals, p. 1248).

[230] See, for example, Journals, November 22, 1991, p. 717.

[231] See, for example, Journals, October 1, 1997, pp. 59-61.

[232] Standing Order 108(1)(a). For an example of partial delegation of powers, see Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, Minutes of Proceedings, November 13, 2007, Meeting No. 1. For an example of full delegation (excluding the power to report directly to the House), see Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Minutes of Proceedings, June 6, 2006, Meeting No. 7. The House has on occasion given a subcommittee the power to report directly. See, for example, Journals, April 19, 1993, p. 2796.

[233] When special committees have the same powers as standing committees, they may not delegate to their subcommittees their power to report directly to the House.

[234] Standing Order 113(6).

[235] Standing Order 108(1) and Senate Rule 96(4).

[236] See, for example, Journals, November 18, 1997, pp. 224-6; Journals of the Senate, October 28, 1997, pp. 123-5.

[237] Such orders are often adopted by unanimous consent of the House following negotiation among the parties. For standing committees, see, for example, Journals, March 5, 2008, pp. 513-4. For legislative committees, see, for example, Journals, February 10, 1988, p. 2166. For special committees, see, for example, Journals, April 6, 1990, p. 1511; November 19, 2002, p. 203.

[238] For standing committees, see, for example, Journals, April 24, 1985, p. 506; May 10, 1985, p. 602. For special committees, see, for example, Journals, February 27, 2003, p. 482.

[239] See, for example, Journals, February 25, 1994, p. 206; March 7, 1994, p. 214. Approval may only be required by one House if the other House has already conferred the powers in question. See, for example, Journals of the Senate, February 11, 1992, p. 507, where the Senate authorized television and radio broadcasting of the proceedings of the Special Joint Committee on Conflicts of Interest. The House of Commons, through Standing Order 119.1, had already approved this television and radio broadcasting.

[240] See, for example, Subcommittee on Public Safety and National Security of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Minutes of Proceedings, February 22, 2005, Meeting No. 6; Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Minutes of Proceedings, February 24, 2005, Meeting No. 23.

[241] See, for example, Journals, April 24, 1985, p. 506; May 10, 1985, p. 602; December 5, 1995, p. 2208; June 12, 2003, p. 915.

Top of Page