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Instructions to a Committee

In addition to a committee’s initial order of reference, the House may issue further directions to the committee once it has begun a particular study. Directions of this sort are called “instructions” and are sometimes mandatory but usually permissive.

A mandatory instruction is one that directs a committee to deal with a particular issue or to conduct its study in a certain way.

A permissive instruction gives a committee the power to do something it would not otherwise be able to do but does not compel the committee to use that power.

Once a bill has been referred to a committee, including a Committee of the Whole, the House may give the committee an instruction by way of a motion authorizing it to, for example:

A committee that so wishes may seek an instruction from the House. More than one motion of instruction to a committee for the same bill may be proposed, but each motion must be moved separately. Motions of instruction respecting bills are permissive rather than mandatory. It is left to the committee to decide whether or not to exercise the powers given to it by the House.

Motions of instruction are not admissible as amendments to the motion for second reading of a bill, and may not be moved while the bill in question is still in the possession of the House. Motions of instruction may be moved immediately after the motion for second reading, when the House refers the bill to a Committee of the Whole. No notice is required. However, when a motion of instruction is made at this stage of the legislative process, it is not debatable or amendable.

A motion of instruction may also be moved in the form of an independent motion. Forty-eight hours’ written notice is required and, when the motion is moved in the House, it may be debated and amended. Debate on a motion of instruction must be strictly relevant to the instruction, and may not be directed to the substance of the bill. A motion of instruction may be moved in the House even after a committee has begun its deliberations on the bill.

Whether proposed by a Minister or a Member, such a motion may be placed under “Motions” in Routine Proceedings on the Order Paper. If debate on the motion is adjourned or interrupted before the end of the sitting, the motion is transferred to “Government Orders” and the time for resumption of the debate is left for the government to decide.

Admissibility

For a number of reasons, the Chair may rule a motion of instruction to be out of order. A motion of instruction may not be used to deal with an item in a bill that could properly constitute a distinct measure, or to attempt to interfere in the work of a committee that has not yet reported.

A motion of instruction will be ruled out of order if it:

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