A petition is used to draw attention to an issue of public interest or concern and to request that action be taken. A public petition, signed by Canadian residents and addressed to the House of Commons, the Government of Canada, a Minister of the Crown, or a Member of the House of Commons, is one of the most direct means for people to communicate with Parliament. Two forms of public petitions are acceptable: paper petitions and electronic petitions.
As outsiders are not permitted to address the House directly, petitions must be presented by Members. Therefore, petitioners must send their petition to a Member asking the Member to present it on their behalf.
Before a Member can present a petition in the House, the rules of the House of Commons require that it must first be certified correct as to form and content.
Petitions for certification should be sent by a Member to the Clerk of Petitions, Private Members’ Business Office, Room 314-C, West Block, or submitted via the electronic petition system on the House of Commons website. A paper petition meeting the requirements for certification will be returned to the Member with a certificate attached, signed by the Clerk of Petitions. An electronic petition is subject to an initial verification. Once it is published on the House of Commons website, it is open for signature for 30, 60, 90, or 120 days, as determined by the e-petitioner when the petition was created. If the petition receives 500 valid signatures, it can be certified by the Clerk of Petitions for presentation in the House of Commons; if not, the petition is deemed withdrawn and cannot be presented.
Petitions may be submitted for certification or to the electronic system during periods of adjournment or prorogation. However, petitions cannot be published online or certified during a dissolution (election period).
A certified petition is not to be altered or tampered with in any way; nor is the certificate to be removed.
The rules of the House require that the government reply to a petition within 45 calendar days. If a petition remains without a response at the expiration of this time, a standing committee of the House is required to look into the Government’s failure to respond. The Member is then informed of the absence of a response, and is sent a form, to be signed by the Member, on which the Member must indicate the committee to which the Government’s failure to respond will be referred.
This form must accompany the certified petition when the petition is presented in the House.
Any Member of Parliament may be asked to present a petition even if he or she does not represent the petitioners.
Once a petition has been certified, the Member presenting it must endorse the petition by signing the back of the last page of the petition.
A Member may present a certified and endorsed petition in the House on any sitting day during Routine Proceedings when the Speaker calls “Presenting Petitions”. A maximum of 15 minutes each sitting day is provided for the presentation of petitions.
Routine Proceedings takes place at 3:00 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, 10:00 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and at 12:00 noon on Fridays.
To be recognized to present a petition, a Member must be in his or her assigned place.
A Member with more than one petition to present on a given day is advised to present them all when given the floor, as individual Members are recognized by the Chair only once during “Presenting Petitions”. This allows more Members to be recognized within the 15-minute time limit.
When presenting a petition, no debate is permitted. A Member may make a brief factual statement, referring to the petition being duly certified, its source, the subject matter of the petition and its request, and the number of signatures it carries. Petitions are not to be read in their entirety. The statement is reproduced in Debates, the official record of the debates, and a record of the petition appears in the Journals for that day.
A certified and endorsed petition may also be presented by a Member at any time during a sitting of the House by filing it with a Clerk at the Table in the Chamber. A record of the petition appears in the Journals for that day.
Certified petitions presented to the House are forwarded to the Privy Council Office, which is responsible for their reception and processing. The petitions ultimately end up in the Library and Archives Canada collection.
A Member wishing a copy of a petition already presented in the House should contact the Office of Parliamentary Returns of the Privy Council (Tel. 613–943-5040; Fax 613–943-5051)).
For further information, please contact the Clerk of Petitions at the following address:
Clerk of Petitions
Private Members’ Business Office
Room 314-C, West Block
House of Commons