A Joint Address to Parliament is a speech made by a distinguished visitor, usually a foreign head of state or head of government, to Members of the Senate and the House of Commons.
These extra-parliamentary events usually take place in the House of Commons Chamber, and the regular proceedings of the House are suspended for the occasion. The assembly does not constitute a sitting of the House and the Mace is not present at its usual location on the Clerk’s Table
The proceedings are jointly presided over by the Speakers of the Senate and of the House.
The House usually decides to broadcast the event and to append the text of the address, along with the related remarks by Canadian parliamentarians, to Hansard.
Distinguished visitors are met in the Rotunda of the Centre Block by the Prime Minister, the Speakers of both Houses and other dignitaries, where they sign the Senate and House of Commons visitors books.
At the appointed time, the official party enters the House of Commons Chamber and is introduced by the Speaker of the House. The Prime Minister then provides an official welcome and invites the visitor to address the assembly.
When a Joint Address takes place, the House of Commons becomes a grand hall, accommodating Members of both the House and the Senate, as well as the various guests invited for the occasion.
The seating arrangements in the House are not what they would be for a regular sitting. The Speaker of the House takes the Speaker’s Chair, with the Speaker of the Senate seated in a chair to his or her right. The Clerk’s Table is cleared of its usual material and a lectern is placed at its head.
The Prime Minister and the distinguished visitor are seated along the side of the Table to the Speaker’s right; the Clerk of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Commons are seated along the other side of the Table.
Senators and Justices of the Supreme Court are seated on the floor of the House in front of the Table. Members of the official delegation and other dignitaries are seated along the back wall of the Chamber. Members of the House of Commons take their usual seats.
All seats in the galleries overlooking the House of Commons are assigned to invited guests. Gallery privileges are suspended, and access to the galleries is strictly controlled for this occasion.
At the conclusion of the address, the Speakers of the Senate and of the House make remarks. At this point, the official party exits the Chamber and proceeds to the House of Commons Speaker’s Chambers.