Special committees are appointed by the House to carry out specific inquiries, studies or other tasks that the House judges to be of special importance. Each special committee is created by means of an order of reference adopted by the House (in the case of special joint committees, by both the House and the Senate). This order defines the committee’s mandate and usually enumerates its powers, membership and the deadline for submitting its final report. A special committee ceases to exist once its final report has been presented to the House, or at prorogation or dissolution.
Special joint committees are established by orders of reference from both Houses to deal with matters of great public importance. The House that wishes to initiate a special joint committee first adopts a motion to establish it and includes a provision inviting the other House to participate in the proposed committee’s work. Once the originating House has been informed of the agreement of the other House, the committee can be organized. A special joint committee ceases to exist when it has presented its final report to both the House and the Senate, or at prorogation or dissolution.
The mandate of a special joint committee is outlined in its order of reference. Special joint committees have been appointed to deal with such issues as child custody, foreign policy and the creation of a code of conduct for Members and Senators. They have also been struck to deal with legislation, by being empowered either to prepare a bill or to study a bill following second reading.