House of Commons Procedure and Practice
Edited by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit
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22. Public Petitions

All authorities agree that the right of petitioning parliament for redress of grievances is acknowledged as a fundamental principle of the constitution. It has been uninterruptedly exercised from very early times and has had a profound effect in determining the main forms of parliamentary procedure.

Speaker Gaspard Fauteux
(Debates, June 18, 1947, pp. 4278-9)


imply defined, a petition is a formal request to an authority for redress of a grievance. Public petitions, addressed to the House of Commons and presented to the House by its Members, constitute one of the most direct means of communication between the people and Parliament. Certainly, it is among the most ancient; the act of petitioning has been described as “the oldest of Parliamentary forms, the fertile seed of all proceedings of the House of Commons”. [1] 

Petitions today may be described as a vehicle for political input, a way of attempting to influence policy-making and legislation and also, judging by their continued popularity, a valued means of bringing public concerns to the attention of Parliament. Petitions also have their place among the tools which Members and Ministers can use to formulate public policy and to carry out their representative duties. In the early 1980s, after many years during which the presentation of petitions appeared to have fallen out of favour, a resurgence of interest occurred which continues without abatement. [2]  This is illustrated by Figure 22.1, which indicates the number of petitions presented during each session from the Seventh Session of the Twelfth Parliament (1917) to the Second Session of the Thirty-Fifth Parliament (1997).

Figure 22.1 – Petitions Presented to the House of Commons Since 1917
Parl. Sess. (year) Petitions Parl. Sess. (year) Petitions Parl. Sess. (year) Petitions
12.7 (1917) 2 788 18.1 (1936) 1 26.3 (1965) 3
13.1 (1918) 2 18.2 (1937) 3 28.2 (1969-70) 2
13.2 (1919) 364 18.3 (1938) 8 28.3 (1970-72) 2
13.3 (1919) 1 18.4 (1939) 10 28.4 (1972) 4
13.4 (1920) 6 18.5 (1939) 10 29.1 (1973-74) 4
13.5 (1921) 11 19.1 (1940) 2 29.2 (1974) 1
14.2 (1923) 3 19.2 (1940-42) 1 30.1 (1974-76) 21
14.3 (1924) 4 19.3 (1942-43) 1 30.2 (1976-77) 12
14.4 (1925) 5 19.5 (1944-45) 22 30.3 (1977-78) 7
15.1 (1926) 6 20.2 (1946) 2 30.4 (1978-79) 2
16.1 (1926-27) 32 20.3 (1947) 8 31.1 (1979) 3
16.2 (1928) 6 20.4 (1947-48) 1 32.2 (1983-84) 185
16.3 (1929) 584 20.5 (1949) 3 33.1 (1984-86) 3 899
16.4 (1930) 178 21.7 (1952-53) 3 33.2 (1986-88) 5 575
17.2 (1931) 5 22.2 (1955) 1 34.1 (1988-89) 16
17.3 (1932) 3 22.5 (1957) 1 34.2 (1989-91) 8 928
17.4 (1932-33) 9 25.1 (1962-63) 1 34.3 (1991-93) 5 282
17.5 (1934) 12 26.1 (1963) 1 35.1 (1994-96) 4 271
17.6 (1935) 3 26.2 (1964-65) 2 35.2 (1996-97) 2 361

This chapter will concern itself with public petitions, the current rules regarding their form, content and presentation, government responses to petitions, and the role and responsibilities of the Clerk of Petitions. Petitions for private bills are dealt with in Chapter 23, “Private Bills Practice”.

Historical Perspective

While the right of the citizen to petition Parliament for redress of a grievance is frequently referred to as fundamental, or as a fundamental principle of the constitution, [3]  the constitution is in fact silent on the matter. The recognition of this right is, however, well entrenched, based as it is on centuries-old tradition and established precedent.

Petitioning the Crown (and later Parliament) for redress of a grievance originated in the time of the thirteenth-century monarch Edward I. Petitioners had recourse to the Crown’s prerogative power, which was above the law. Petitions granted to individuals and communities were in the nature of private laws; those granted to the nation as a whole made public laws.

In medieval times, before Parliament had assumed its present constitution and when its judicial and legislative functions were as yet undefined, Receivers and Triers of petitions appointed by the Crown travelled the country to hear the complaints of the people. Certain matters would be referred to local courts by the Triers, but others would be found appropriate for consideration by the High Court of Parliament.

As Parliament evolved from a primarily judicial to a predominantly legislative body with its judicial functions taken over by the courts, the character of petitions changed. By the end of the fourteenth century, legislative remedy was sought by individuals and corporations who petitioned Parliament or the House of Commons. At the same time, petitions from the Commons to the Crown — these being of a general nature and expressing national grievances — became frequent. The British Parliament’s first legislative acts occurred with the Commons petitioning the King for certain amendments to the law. (This was the precursor to legislation by bill, as later the Commons assumed the task of drafting the desired statute which could then be accepted or rejected — but not amended — by the Crown.) The seventeenth century saw the development of what may be considered the “modern” form of petition — addressed to Parliament, drawn up in a prescribed manner, usually dealing with public grievances. [4] 

In Canada, provisions for petitions (long a feature of the pre-Confederation legislative assemblies) have always been part of the written rules of the House. [5]  The rules adopted in 1867 were somewhat expanded in 1910, and operated without substantial modification for some 76 years. [6]  However, starting in the immediate post-Confederation period, an extensive body of practice began to build, resulting in a collection of form and content requirements which were not codified in the Standing Orders but which had to be met in order for a petition to be acceptable to the House.

In the early and mid-1980s, the resurgence in the use of petitions led to a situation in which the presentation of petitions occupied large amounts of the time of the House, sometimes to the exclusion of other business. [7]  As well, the Chair was at times called upon to intervene or rule on matters relating to the admissibility of petitions and the manner of their presentation. [8]  As a consequence, the Special Committee on the Reform of the House of Commons (the McGrath Committee) made several recommendations intended to clarify the rules relating to petitions, to promote increased uniformity in their presentation, to ensure their receivability as to content and to provide guidelines as to form and the petitioners’ signatures. [9]  In 1986, the House adopted amendments to the Standing Orders based on these recommendations. [10] 

The most significant of the changes adopted in 1986 was the requirement for certification of petitions by the Clerk of Petitions prior to their presentation in the House. Also included were a number of requirements, some previously uncodified but well established by precedent and practice, to be met in order for petitions to be certified correct as to their form and content (for example, petitions must contain a prayer requesting action, must be respectful in tone and must bear original signatures). Guidelines issued by the Speaker made reference to these and to other established practices concerning the presentation of petitions during Routine Proceedings. [11]  A new rule provided for mandatory government replies to petitions.

Several changes were adopted in 1987, in particular a new requirement that signatories to petitions must include their addresses. [12]  As well, the number and sequence of Routine Proceedings rubrics was revised so that “Presenting Petitions”, formerly the fifth of nine items, became the ninth of ten. [13]  In 1991, a further amendment set a limit of 15 minutes on the time provided for the presentation of petitions during the daily routine of business. [14]  An amendment adopted in 1994 provided that the original petitions be transmitted to the Ministry (Privy Council Office) and that government responses to petitions may be tabled by depositing them with the Clerk of the House. [15] 

Current Guidelines for Petitions

Petitions have always been subject to verification by an official of the House of Commons. Amendments to the rules, adopted in 1910, make the first mention of the Clerk of Petitions as the individual charged with this responsibility. [16]  Until 1986, such verification took place after Members presented their petitions; the Standing Orders now provide for petitions to be certified correct as to form and content by the Clerk of Petitions prior to their presentation to the House. [17]  Petitions not meeting the form and content requirements cannot be certified and only certified petitions can be presented to the House. [18] 

Those engaged in drafting petitions may consult the Clerk of Petitions to ensure that the proposed text is in keeping with the rules and practices of the House. Once a petition is signed and ready to be certified, it is sent by a Member to the Clerk of Petitions, accompanied by a written request for certification. The Clerk of Petitions examines each petition received, including its signatures, to ensure that the form and content are in keeping with the requirements. If the petition is in order, a certificate signed by the Clerk of Petitions is attached and the petition is returned to the Member for presentation to the House. If the petition cannot be certified, it is returned to the Member with an explanatory note.

Any forgery or fraud in the preparation of petitions or signatures, or any complicity in or knowledge thereof may be dealt with as a breach of privilege. [19] 


A petition typically begins with a superscription identifying it as a petition and indicating that it is addressed to the House of Commons. This is followed by a statement identifying the petitioners; the petitioners then draw the attention of the House to a statement of grievance which is generally set out in paragraph form. The final and essential part of the petition is a request, called a “prayer”, in which the petitioners specify the action they wish the House to take in response to their grievance. Then follow the signatures and addresses of the petitioners. The recommended form of petition is reproduced as Figure 22.2.

Figure 22.2 – Form of a petition
An image showing the format to be followed for the first and subsequent pages of a typical petition.

Addressed to the House of Commons

As the House of Commons is the body being petitioned, it is therefore the first criterion of acceptability that petitions be addressed to the House of Commons, or to the House of Commons in Parliament assembled, [20]  rather than to the Government, to the Prime Minister, to individual Ministers or Members, or to some outside authority. The words “To the House of Commons” or “To the House of Commons in Parliament Assembled” should normally appear at the beginning of the petition.


Petitions, to be certified for presentation to the House, must contain a prayer; that is, a concise, clearly worded and respectful request that the House take, or refrain from taking, some sort of action in response to an alleged grievance. Petitions without prayers — that is, documents consisting solely of statements of opinion or statements of grievance — cannot be accepted as petitions. [21]  The action sought must fall within Parliament’s jurisdiction. [22]  A petition pertaining to a matter falling outside of Parliament’s authority to act — a matter under the jurisdiction of a provincial or municipal government, for example — could not be certified for presentation to the House. [23] 

Written, Typewritten or Printed on Paper of Usual Size

To be certified, petitions must be written, typewritten or printed on paper of usual size. [24]  The requirement for petitions to be written or printed has been part of the written rules since Confederation. [25]  Petitions with photocopied text are acceptable. Paper of “usual size” is interpreted nowadays to mean 21.5 cm x 28 cm (8.5 x 11 inches) or 21.5 cm x 35.5 cm (8.5 x 14 inches) sheets. Petitions produced on materials other than paper do not meet this requirement; likewise petitions of a non-standard size will not be certified. [26] 

Erasures or Interlineations

To be certified, a petition must be free of erasures or interlineations in its text; [27]  that is, the text of a petition may not be altered by erasing words, crossing out words, or adding words or commentary.

Attachments, Appendices or Lengthy Extracts

In accordance with a practice established in 1876, a petition is not in order if it has letters, affidavits, or other documents appended or attached to it. [28]  Material such as maps, pictures, news articles, explanatory or supporting statements attached or appended to petitions will render them unacceptable for certification and presentation to the House. The proscription on attachments and appendices applies to extraneous matter written, photocopied or affixed on the petition itself. [29]  Petitions incorporating lengthy extracts from other documents or publications have also been deemed irregular. [30]  A return address, however, may appear on the petition without constituting an obstacle to its certification.

Subject Matter Indicated on Every Sheet

When a petition consists of more than one sheet of signatures and addresses, each succeeding page is to contain an indication of the subject matter of the petition [31]  so that petitioners are made fully aware of the nature of the document they are supporting. This is generally achieved by a notation at the top of each additional page, as shown in Figure 22.2.


Petitions may be written in either of the official languages. [32]  They should be respectful and temperate in tone, and there should be no disrespect to the Sovereign or offensive imputation on the character or conduct of Parliament, the courts or any other constituted authority. [33]  For many years, it was customary for petitions to be written in a formal style of expression, opening with the words “To the Honourable the House of Commons in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned … who now avail themselves of their ancient and undoubted right thus to present a grievance common to your Petitioners in the certain assurance that your honourable House will therefor provide a remedy, humbly sheweth” and closing with the words “and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray”. A special committee recommended in 1985 that this traditional language, which it saw as archaic, need not be used. [34]  While petitions couched in the formal style continue to be presented, petitions employing more contemporary wording are equally acceptable to the House, as long as the import is the same. For example, in Figure 22.2, the opening and closing formulae quoted above do not appear, and the petitioners “request” that Parliament respond to their grievance rather than “humbly pray and call upon Parliament” to do so.


Matters Under the Authority of the House

It has been said that the prayer of a petition must request action which is within the powers of the House to take. [35]  Therefore, it follows that the petition as a whole must set forth a case for which the House has the authority to intervene. [36]  Matters of provincial or municipal responsibility or those which properly belong before a court of law or tribunal may not be made the subject of a petition to be presented to the House of Commons. Over the years, the House has chosen to delegate certain matters to the courts and other administrative and regulatory bodies. Petitions dealing with matters which the House has delegated to another body have not always been found acceptable. [37] 

Requesting Expenditure of Public Funds

Historically, petitions making direct requests for the expenditure of public funds which have not received the recommendation of the Crown (Royal Recommendation) have not been allowed to be presented to the House. [38]  At issue is the fundamental principle of the Crown’s initiative in respect of the expenditure of public money. [39]  Many rulings from the Chair have upheld the practice of rejecting petitions involving the expenditure of public revenue [40]  while at the same time seeking to preserve, without setting undue limitation on, the time-honoured right of the citizen to petition the House for redress of a grievance. In 1869, when a petition was called into question because it appeared to request a grant of public funds not recommended by the Crown, the Speaker defined it as a request for legislation rather than money, thus creating a distinction between direct requests, which could not be accepted, and indirect requests (later described as requests for legislation or for “such measures as the House may think expedient to take”), which could be accepted. [41]  In 1987, the Speaker upheld the decision of the Clerk of Petitions to reject a petition calling upon Parliament to provide federal funding to the provinces and territories for non-profit child care, but went on to make the following observation:

The right to petition Parliament is fundamental to our parliamentary system, and it is not unreasonable to assume that the remedy, in many a situation, could only be found through the expenditure of public funds. A petitioner is entitled to petition for relief in a burdensome situation, so that a mere change in wording could well render a petition in order which might otherwise be out of order. A petition praying for the enactment of a measure which would provide the relief being sought might avoid the restriction imposed by our practice. [42] 

Signatures and Addresses

From 1867 until 1986, it was possible for a lone individual to petition the House. The amendments to the Standing Orders adopted in 1986 introduced a new requirement that a petition, to be certified, would have to contain at least 25 signatures. [43]  In 1987, a further amendment added the requirement for addresses as well as signatures. [44]  Petitioners must not sign for anyone else. Written addresses may be in the form of complete home addresses or simply the names of the petitioners’ town and province of residence. Petitions must contain original signatures written directly on the document and not pasted or otherwise transferred to it. [45]  In 1872, a petition received by telegraph was ruled out of order because it contained no original signatures; [46]  in 1986, the Speaker ruled that for the same reason, photocopied signatures were unacceptable. [47]  A Member may sign a petition but should ask another Member to present it. [48]  The signatures of Members inscribed on petitions are not counted towards the required 25 signatures and addresses. [49] 

Petitions signed exclusively by non-resident aliens have traditionally been found unacceptable. [50]  However in 1984, a petition signed by Canadian citizens as well as by foreigners was received with the unanimous consent of the House; [51]  in a similar situation arising in 1990, the Speaker ruled that the right of Canadians to petition their House of Commons would be better served if such petitions, provided they were otherwise in order, could be presented notwithstanding the presence of “the occasional signature of a non-Canadian not resident in Canada”. [52] 

Presentation of Petitions

As outsiders are not permitted to address the House directly, petitions are presented by Members. Therefore, groups and individuals with petitions for the House must enlist the aid of Members to have their petitions certified and presented. Members are not bound to present petitions and cannot be compelled to do so; [53]  nevertheless, it is evident that many Members consider it a duty to present to the House petitions brought forward by citizens. [54]  The Member, whose role it is to make the presentation on behalf of the petitioners, is not required to be in agreement with the content of any petition he or she may choose to present, and no such inference is to be drawn. [55] 

Once they have been certified by the Clerk of Petitions, petitions are ready for presentation to the House and are returned to the Members who submitted them. A certified petition is not to be altered or tampered with in any way; nor is the certificate to be removed. No rule or practice specifies a time period during which a petition must be presented following its certification; nor must a petition necessarily be presented by the Member who had it certified. [56]  The Speaker has observed that various reasons might prevent a Member from presenting a certified petition expeditiously, but has also found merit in the view that petitions ought to be presented promptly after certification so that petitioners may have confidence that petitions brought to the House are answered as quickly as possible. [57] 

Petitions are presented by Members, including Ministers. [58]  The Speaker traditionally does not present petitions, but instead asks the assistance of another Member to do so. This practice originated in the British House of the late eighteenth century, a time when petitions were routinely debated. Presenting petitions would have led to the Speaker participating in the proceedings of the House, which would have been at odds with the essential neutrality of the Chair. [59]  In choosing to present a petition, a Member must be satisfied of its fitness and regularity, for it is a long-standing rule of the House that the Member is answerable for any improprieties and impertinences therein. [60]  In addition, every Member presenting a petition must endorse it (i.e., they sign the back of the petition, or the back of the first page). [61] 

Certified petitions may be presented in two ways: orally during Routine Proceedings, [62]  or by filing them with the Clerk of the House during any sitting of the House. [63]  In practice, the majority of petitions are presented during Routine Proceedings. [64] 

Presentation During Routine Proceedings

Certified petitions are presented daily during Routine Proceedings, under the rubric “Presenting Petitions”. A maximum of 15 minutes is provided for the presentation of petitions. [65]  To be recognized, Members must be in their assigned places. [66]  Members with more than one petition to present on a given day are advised to present them all when given the floor, as individual Members are recognized by the Chair only once during “Presenting Petitions”. [67]  This allows more Members to be recognized within the 15-minute time limitation.

No debate is permitted during the presentation of petitions. [68]  Any comment on the merits of a petition — even a Member’s personal agreement or disagreement with the petitioners — has been deemed to constitute a form of debate and is therefore out of order. [69]  Members are permitted a brief factual statement, in the course of which they may allude to the petition being duly certified, to its source, to the subject matter of the petition and its prayer, and the number of signatures it carries. [70]  In any event, petitions are not to be read in their entirety and Members presenting them should avoid straying into debate or argument. [71]  In view of the limited time available and of the number of Members with petitions to present on any given day, the Chair is generally quick to intervene when Members appear to be making speeches, indulging in debate, or launching on the lengthy reading of the full text of a petition.

Presentation by Filing with the Clerk of the House

Since 1910, Members have had the option of presenting petitions at any time during a sitting of the House, by filing them with the Clerk of the House. [72]  The Member may approach the Table, or may hand the certified and endorsed petition to a page, with instructions to deliver it to the Table where it is received by the Clerk or by a Table Officer on behalf of the Clerk.

Following Presentation

When petitions are presented during Routine Proceedings, the Members’ remarks are recorded, transcribed and printed in the Debates for that day. An entry is also made in the Journals, the official record of House proceedings. The petitions are listed as having been certified correct and presented pursuant to the Standing Orders. Petitions filed with the Clerk are of course not mentioned in the Debates, but they are listed in the Journals. Certified petitions once presented to the House (by either method) are then delivered to the Clerk of Petitions who is responsible for their reception and processing.

Petitions have been presented which were later found to be uncertified; in such cases, while the Debates contain the transcription of the Members’ remarks, the petitions in question are not recorded in the Journals[73]  They are examined by the Clerk of Petitions; if in order, they are certified and then filed with the Clerk on the Member’s behalf; only then is the presentation noted in the Journals. If the petitions cannot be certified, they are returned to the Members. On one occasion, a Member who attempted to present an uncertified petition was called to order and admonished by the Chair. [74] 

Copies of Petitions

Anyone who wishes to read or consult a petition after it has been presented may do so by making arrangements with the Clerk of Petitions. A Member who requests a photocopy of a petition, including the signatures, is entitled to receive it. [75] 

Government Response to Petitions

Since 1986, the Standing Orders have provided that the Ministry shall respond within 45 calendar days to every petition referred to it. [76]  After certified petitions are presented to the House, they are deposited with the Clerk of Petitions. Under the authority of the Clerk of the House, the original petition is forwarded to the Privy Council Office, [77] which makes arrangements with the appropriate government departments and agencies for the preparation and collection of replies. Government responses to petitions are generally tabled in the House during Routine Proceedings, under the rubric “Tabling of Documents”, but may also be deposited with the Clerk. [78]  Petitions receive individual responses. Any Member who has presented a petition is provided with a copy of the response at the time it is tabled. After being tabled in the House, government responses to petitions (unlike the petitions themselves) become sessional papers. [79] 

The tabling of government responses to petitions is entered in the Journals. If the tabling is done during Routine Proceedings, the government spokesperson, usually the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader, simply informs the House that responses to a certain number of petitions are being tabled; no reference is made to specific petitions or the content of the responses, and the intervention is transcribed in the Debates.

The Standing Orders provide no sanction to apply in the event the government fails to respond to petitions within the 45-day time frame. Complaints have been raised about breaches of this rule. [80]  In 1993, however, the Speaker found a prima facie question of privilege concerning the failure to table an Order in Council and in his ruling made reference to earlier complaints that responses to petitions, answers to written questions and responses to committee reports were not always tabled within the prescribed time limits. [81]  The matter of timeliness was referred to the committee dealing with matters of privilege, which stated in a report to the House that “statutory and procedural time limits must be complied with … It may be that the time periods set out in the Standing Orders and certain statutes need to be reviewed … Until this is done, however, it is essential that the deadlines be respected.” [82] 

While normally all proceedings would be terminated when Parliament is prorogued, the Speaker has ruled that government responses to petitions have the same status as orders for return (documents which the House has ordered to be produced and presented in the House). [83]  Pursuant to the rules, such orders are considered to have been readopted at the start of a new session without a motion to that effect. [84]  Thus, government responses to petitions, ordered in a previous session, must be tabled in a new session following a prorogation. [85] 

Redlich, Vol. II, p. 239.
This may be attributed in part to the fact that the rules permit Members to initiate petitions, solicit signatures and make an oral presentation in the House; and in part to Members’ awareness that presenting large numbers of petitions serve not only to raise issues of public concern, but also to use time and so delay the business of the House (see note 7). Recently, the British House of Commons and the Australian House of Representatives experienced similar renewals of interest in petitioning. See House of Representatives Practice, 3rd ed., pp. 734, 812-3; May, 21st ed., p. 761, note 3; 22nd ed., p. 816, note 2.
See, for example, Speakers’ rulings, Journals, June 7, 1972, pp. 361-2; Debates, June 30, 1987, pp. 7821-2. All six editions of Beauchesne describe petitioning as a fundamental principle of the Constitution.
May, 10th ed., pp. 493-5; Wilding and Laundy, pp. 561-3, 620-1; May, 22nd ed., p. 809; Redlich, Vol. I, pp. 6-25.
Certain constituent parts of what is now Standing Order 36 can be traced to Rules 85-7, 80 and 73 used in the United Province in 1860, 1853 and 1841 respectively; and to the 1825 Rule 43 of the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada (O’Brien, p. 442).
Journals, December 20, 1867, pp. 116-7, 122; April 29, 1910, pp. 535-6; March 22, 1927, p. 339. See also Standing Order 73 in the Permanent and Provisional Standing Orders of the House of Commons, September 9, 1985, pp. 67-8.
On May 19, 1983, for example, because of the number of petitions presented, the daily routine of business occupied the balance of time available for that day’s proceedings (Journals, pp. 5910-1; Debates, pp. 25591-612). On December 19, 1985, 365 petitions were presented (including 7 filed with the Clerk); this is thought to be the largest number of petitions presented during a single sitting of the House. The daily routine of business was not completed and again the House was not able to return to Orders of the Day (Journals, pp. 1444-8; Debates, pp. 9631-7). See also, for October 27 and 28, 1983, Journals, pp. 6356-59, 6362-67, and Debates, pp. 28393-415, 28456-85.
See, for example, Debates, April 6, 1982, p. 16198; Journals, October 5, 1983, pp. 6264-5.
See pp. 44-5 of the Third Report of the Special Committee on Reform of the House of Commons, June 1985, presented on June 18, 1985 (Journals, p. 839).
The motion encompassing the proposals was tabled on February 6, 1986 (Journals, p. 1665) and adopted as amended on February 13, 1986 (Journals, p. 1710).
On February 26, 1986, the Speaker wrote to all Members, drawing their attention to the changes in the Standing Orders concerning petitions and explaining the process by which petitions would henceforth be certified. The coming into force of the new rules left some Members holding uncertifiable petitions which would have been acceptable under the old rules (Debates, March 5, 1986, p. 11208). This difficulty was circumvented by the adoption of a special order allowing Members a limited period of time in which to file these petitions with the Clerk of the House (Journals, April 22, 1986, pp. 2048-9).
Journals, June 3, 1987, pp. 1016, 1026.
Journals, June 3, 1987, pp. 1016-8.
Journals, April 11, 1991, pp. 2905, 2908-9. This was one of an extensive package of amendments to the Standing Orders put forward by the government with a view to “modernizing” the rules and improving Parliament as a forum for debate (Debates, April 8, 1991, p. 19133). No particular reason was given for this change; however, it is worth noting that the presentation of quantities of petitions had in the past resulted in disruption to the agenda of the House (see note 7); the institution of a time limit eliminated the risk of any recurrence of this.
Journals, June 10, 1994, p. 563. (See the Twenty-Seventh Report of the Procedure and House Affairs Committee, presented June 8, 1994.)
Debates, April 29, 1910, cols. 8365-6; Journals, April 29, 1910, pp. 535-6. See also Rules of the House of Commons of Canada, 1910, Rule 75.
Standing Order 36(1).
On rare occasions, petitions failing to satisfy form and content requirements (and thus not certified) were presented with the unanimous consent of the House (Journals, February 18, 1987, p. 503; Debates, February 18, 1987, p. 3568). In an unusual proceeding in 1992, unanimous consent was given for an uncertified petition to be “received” by the House— although the Standing Orders no longer provide for petitions to be received— and referred to a standing committee for consideration (Journals, November 18, 1992, p. 2070).
Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 237. While doubts have been expressed from time to time concerning the authenticity of signatures (see, for example, Debates, May 21, 1885, pp. 2023-9; October 28, 1983, pp. 28475-9), no breach of privilege alleging fraud or forgery in the preparation of petitions has yet been found.
Standing Order 36(2)(a).
Journals, March 22, 1876, p. 180; Debates, April 23, 1879, pp. 1453-4.
Standing Order 36(2)(b).
On one occasion pre-dating the requirement for certification, a Member presented a petition concerning safety at a certain street intersection in her constituency. The Speaker suggested that such petitions be directed to the competent municipal authority. The Clerk of Petitions later reported that this petition had failed to meet the requirements as to form (Debates, June 11, 1985, p. 5648; Journals, June 12, 1985, p. 796).
Standing Order 36(2)(c).
Rule 86, adopted December 20, 1867 (Journals, p. 122).
Prior to the adoption of this rule, petitions of unusual style were presented from time to time and judged by the Clerk of Petitions to be in accordance with the prevailing requirements as to form. See, for example, Debates, December 10, 1974, p. 2099; Journals, December 11, 1974, p. 187; Debates, April 6, 1982, p. 16196; Journals, April 7, 1982, p. 4698-A.
Standing Order 36(2)(d).
Debates, March 28, 1876, pp. 867-8; February 23, 1978, p. 3200.
May, 22nd ed., p. 811.
Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 235.
Standing Order 36(2)(e).
Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 235; see also the Official Languages Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.), s. 22.
Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 231. See, for example, Journals, March 30, 1905, p. 234; April 5, 1909, p. 234.
See p. 45 of the Third Report of the Special Committee on Reform of the House of Commons, presented on June 18, 1985 (Journals, p. 839).
Standing Order 36(2)(b).
Journals, February 16, 1956, p. 163; June 7, 1972, pp. 361-2.
For example, petitions questioning the return of a Member were not received because the House had vested in the courts the responsibility for matters relating to the election of Members (Journals, April 20, 1874, p. 82; February 15, 1881, pp. 199-200). On the other hand, petitions concerning the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the independent agency regulating the broadcasting system) have at different times been rejected (Journals, June 7, 1972, pp. 361-2; October 24, 1973, pp. 591-2) and accepted (Debates, April 30, 1984, p. 3235; Journals, May 1, 1984, p. 400).
Journals, May 7, 1868, p. 297. For historical background on the principles underlying this long-standing convention, see Redlich, Vol. III, pp. 119-24.
See Section 54 of the Constitution Act, 1867 (R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 5),which states that the House shall not adopt or pass any vote, resolution, address or bill for the appropriation of any part of the public revenue that has not been first recommended to the House by a message from the Governor General, that is, by a Royal Recommendation.
For example, see Journals, February 5, 1912, p. 181; August 24, 1946, p. 767. A petition praying for an increase to the old age pension was allowed because the Royal Recommendation had been granted to a bill having the same purpose (Journals, May 19, 1947, p. 423).
Journals, April 20, 1869, pp. 22-3.
Debates, June 30, 1987, p. 7821.
Journals, February 13, 1986, p. 1710.
Journals, June 3, 1987, pp. 1016, 1026.
Standing Order 36(2)(f).
Journals, May 3, 1872, p. 80.
Debates, January 24, 1986, p. 10143.
May, 22nd ed., p. 815.
Standing Order 36(2)(g).
See, for example, Journals, October 5, 1983, pp. 6264-5.
Debates, November 20, 1984, pp. 412-3.
Debates, December 19, 1990, pp. 16963-4.
Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 232.
See, for example, the general discussion on petitions on February 13, 1990 (Debates, pp. 8233-42). In presenting petitions, Members occasionally make reference to their “duty” in this respect (Debates, December 1, 1981, p. 13549; October 20, 1989, p. 4953; March 14, 1994, p. 2226).
Debates, November 25, 1986, pp. 1501, 1505; February 25, 1994, pp. 1863-4.
See Debates, October 21, 1997, p. 878 (petitions presented on behalf of a Member who had resigned).
Debates, May 28, 1987, pp. 6500-1; September 22, 1987, p. 9172; March 8, 1988, p. 13490.
See, for example, Debates, December 12, 1991, p. 6176.
Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 231. See also Debates, April 23, 1879, pp. 1453-4; March 23, 1987, pp. 4433-4. Other Presiding Officers have presented petitions (see, for example, Journals, October 26, 1994, p. 829 (Bob Kilger, Assistant Deputy Chairman of Committees of the Whole); June 19, 1995, p. 1784 (Shirley Maheu, Deputy Chairman of Committees of the Whole)).
Standing Order 36(3). This has been part of the written rules since Confederation.
Standing Order 36(4).
Standing Order 36(6).
Standing Order 36(5).
Statistics compiled by the Clerk of Petitions indicate that 2107 of 2361 petitions presented in the Second Session of the Thirty-Fifth Parliament (1996-97) were presented orally during Routine Proceedings.
Standing Order 36(6). Rarely is the entire 15 minutes taken up (see, for example, Debates, March 13, 1995, pp.10393-7).
Standing Order 36(6).
Debates, October 28, 1983, p. 28457; June 11, 1985, p. 5649; November 7, 1986, pp. 1190-1.
Standing Order 36(7).
Debates, April 27, 1994, p. 3576; June 22, 1995, p. 14413; November 20, 1995, p. 16547; November 4, 1996, pp. 6068-9. Members had been known to inform the House of their personal views as they presented petitions. See, for example, Debates, June 9, 1947, p. 3912; March 29, 1985, p. 3510; April 26, 1994, p. 3483.
Debates, April 26, 1989, p. 975.
See, for example, Debates, April 6, 1982, p. 16198; March 14, 1990, p. 9284; September 16, 1991, p. 2173; December 8, 1992, pp. 14806-7; May 7, 1993, pp. 19111-2; September 28, 1998, p. 8474.
Standing Order 36(5).
On May 22, 1992, two Members presented petitions which were not recorded in that day’s Journals (Debates, pp. 11088-9; Journals, p. 1546).
Debates, May 15, 1992, p. 10794.
Debates, January 20, 1986, p. 9946.
Standing Order 36(8).
From 1986 to 1994, a copy of each petition was forwarded to the Privy Council Office. Since the Standing Order changes in 1994, the original petition is now transmitted to the Privy Council Office.
See, for example, Journals, September 19, 1994, pp. 683-5 (depositing with the Clerk); February 6, 1995, p. 1076 (tabling during Routine Proceedings).
A sessional paper is any document tabled (or deemed tabled) in the House during a given session and as such is available for public scrutiny.
See, for example, Debates, February 8, 1993, pp. 15560-2.
Debates, April 19, 1993, pp. 18104-6.
See the One Hundred and First Report of the Standing Committee on House Management, deemed tabled on September 8, 1993 (Journals, p. 3338).
Debates, June 27, 1986, p. 14969.
Standing Order 49.
See, for example, Journals, February 29, 1996, p. 17, when responses to petitions presented in the First Session of the Thirty-Fifth Parliament were tabled early in the Second Session.

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