House of Commons Procedure and Practice
Edited by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit
2000 EditionMore information …

3. Privileges and Immunities

The Structure of Privilege

The privileges of the House can be examined from two vantage points: the rights and immunities of its individual Members and the rights of the House in its collective capacity. Within this framework, the individual Member’s rights are subordinate to those of the House as a whole in order to protect the collectivity against any abuses by individual Members. For instance, a Member’s individual privileges may be considered suspended if the House orders that Member to attend in his or her place and answer questions demanded by the House. It is extremely rare, however, that the rights of the House collectively will be used to override those of an individual. [103]  Some of these immunities are applicable to officials of the House and to individuals summoned by the House on official business. [104] 

In addition, both the House in its collective capacity and Members individually have the responsibility to protect from abuse their rights and immunities, particularly freedom of speech. [105]  Members should avoid any arrangement which might limit their independence as Members: [106]  they should not raise trivial matters as matters of privilege or contempt; and they should not use the privilege of freedom of speech to be unfairly critical of others in debate. [107] The House should exercise its powers with regard to privilege and contempt sparingly and ensure that when exercising its power to punish for contempt, the action it orders is appropriate to the offence.

Please note —

As the rules and practices of the House of Commons are subject to change, users should remember that this edition of Procedure and Practice was published in January 2000. Standing Order changes adopted since then, as well as other changes in practice, are not reflected in the text. The Appendices to the book, however, have been updated and now include information up to the end of the 38th Parliament in November 2005.

To confirm current rules and practice, please consult the latest version of the Standing Orders on the Parliament of Canada Web site.

For further information about the procedures of the House of Commons, please contact the Table Research Branch at (613) 996-3611 or by e-mail at