1. Introduction

This information is intended for individuals who will be appearing or wish to appear before a parliamentary committee of the House of Commons.

The House of Commons creates committees, which execute a large portion of parliamentary work. A committee is a working group constituted of a limited number of Members of Parliament (MPs) who review in detail and improve bills or study issues related to the committee's mandate.

Committees regularly invite private citizens, experts, representatives of organizations, public servants and Ministers to appear before them in order to elicit information (receive evidence) relevant to the study under consideration. These consultations allow witnesses to set out and clarify their points of view, which are often presented in a written brief, and give MPs the opportunity to ask questions.

Witnesses generally appear during public proceedings; however, committees may decide to hear witnesses in private (in camera) if the situation warrants such action.

For additional information on the work of committees, please see the Committee's section on the House of Commons website.

2. Appearance before a Committee

a) Invitation to appear

Committee members provide to the clerk of the committee their lists of suggested witnesses. Committees then select witnesses based largely on the type of study and the amount of time available.

The clerk of the committee then contacts the selected witnesses to invite them to appear in person or virtually, and to establish the date and time of their appearance. Once witnesses have accepted the committee’s invitation to appear, a confirmation form must be completed and returned to the clerk as quickly as possible.

When an organization is called upon to give evidence, it generally determines a representative to appear before the committee, although a committee may also request that a specific individual or office holder attend. Organizations must ensure that their representative has the knowledge and expertise required to answer MPs' questions.

If a witness declines an invitation to appear, a committee may issue a summons to that witness, should the circumstances so require.

b) Confirmation of Appearance

Witnesses must complete the confirmation form and include: their name and professional title, mailing address within Canada or the United States (not a P.O. Box) and telephone number.

Virtual appearance

A House of Commons issued headset with a boom microphone is mandatory for virtual appearances. Witnesses should join the videoconference 30 minutes prior to the official start of their scheduled appearance. This headset will be delivered within 48-72 hours upon receipt of the confirmation form. Should time constraints or location not permit delivery of a House of Commons issued headset, witnesses are authorized to purchase a headset and seek reimbursement for a maximum amount of $250 CAD. The headset purchased must be one of the models shown below. Other models will not be eligible for reimbursement and will not be permitted for use during committee meetings.

  • JABRA EVOLVE2 40 SE Stereo (24189-999-999)
  • JABRA EVOLVE2 40 SE Mono (24189-899-999)
  • KOSS CS300
  • LOGITECH H570e Stereo (981-000574)
  • LOGITECH H570e Mono (981-000570)

These models are all USB-A wired headsets. Should you have concerns about obtaining one of these headsets, please contact the committee clerk.

This graphic lists the six pre-approved headsets that can be used for appearances before committee meetings. The number one choice is the Jabra Evolve 40 SE (Stereo and Mono). The other choices are the following: Sennheiser/EPOS PC-8 USB, Logitech H570e (Stereo and Mono), Logitech H340, Logitech H540 and Koss CS300. All headsets are USB-A wired.

Witnesses appearing virtually will be provided with clear instructions and a House of Commons temporary username and password to access a witness onboarding test and a secure committee meeting. The witness onboarding test is mandatory prior to any virtual appearance. This test must be conducted on the device and from the location used on the day of the appearance. A wired network connection to a computer is highly recommended. The use of mobile devices such as iPads, tablets or smartphones are discouraged.

In-person appearance

Witnesses should not appear in person if experiencing cold, flu or COVID-like symptoms. Witnesses should arrive at the designated building entrance at least 30 minutes before their scheduled appearance with photo identification to pass through airport-style security screening. Witnesses may use the “Parliamentary Business” line when accessing the building. Once through security, witnesses are asked to proceed to the meeting room at least 15 minutes before their scheduled appearance. The clerk will meet witnesses in the room. Please use the map of the Parliamentary Precinct to find the proper entrance to gain access to the committee room.

c) Accessibility

In order to allow for the full participation of all witnesses that appear before the committee, should you require any accommodations to facilitate your appearance, please contact the clerk of the committee at the earliest opportunity to make the necessary arrangements.

d) Expense Claims

When witnesses must travel to give testimony before a committee, the committee will usually reimburse expenses, upon request, for persons appearing as individuals or for one or two witnesses per organization. Expenses include economy class air travel, or other practical modes of transportation, and reasonable costs for accommodation. Meals and dependent care expenses will be reimbursed in accordance with House of Commons rates. Please note the terms of reimbursement on page 4 of the expense claim form before incurring expenses related to your appearance.

For virtual appearances, if a House-issued headset cannot be delivered in time for the scheduled appearance, witnesses may purchase one and seek reimbursement for a maximum amount of $250 CAD.

Witnesses who wish to claim travel and other expenses related to the appearance must submit an expense claim form within 60 days of their appearance. For other expenses related to your appearance, please contact the clerk of the committee.

3. How to Prepare for an Appearance

a) Submission of a written brief

A brief is an opportunity to submit, in writing, opinions, observations and recommendations on a subject being considered by a committee. Any individual or organization can submit a brief to a committee, even if that person or organization has not had the opportunity to appear before the committee. Witnesses that appear before a committee are encouraged to submit a brief to support their presentation, but it is not mandatory for them to do so.

For more information on the requirements for the submission of briefs, consult the Guide for Submitting Briefs to House of Commons Committees on the Committees' website or contact the clerk of the appropriate committee.

b) Documents used by witnesses during the meeting

Witnesses should submit to the clerk of the committee the documents regarding their appearance as soon as possible in advance of the meeting. In addition to the confirmation of appearance form, such documents may include a brief, speaking notes and reference material. The committee reserves the right to decide which documents that it receives will be translated and distributed to its members.

Speaking notes must be submitted to the clerk by email at least 72 hours before the meeting. These will only be provided to the interpreters to assist with the simultaneous interpretation of the witness's testimony.

Please note that all documents distributed to committee members must be in both official languages.The clerk may arrange for translation if a minimum of three working days is provided.

c) Opening statement at the meeting

Each organization or witness appearing as an individual has a limited amount of time (determined by the committee, but usually between 5 and 10 minutes) at the beginning of their testimony to make an opening statement. The clerk of the committee will inform the witness of how much time they have been allotted. This time can be used to express opinions, views or even to elaborate on the statements made in the written brief.

d) Meeting proceedings

It is recommended that witnesses speak at a moderate pace since their testimony is being recorded, interpreted and transcribed. Witnesses can speak or answer questions in the official language of their choice (English or French) and simultaneous interpretation is available.

After the witnesses' opening statements, members of the committee will ask questions. In every case, the Chair directs the meeting by turning the time over to members of the committee and witnesses. Please note that, usually, witnesses address members of the committee through the Chair. For example, "Thank you Mr. Chair. I would say that...".

e) Swearing-in of a witness

While a witness is not usually sworn in, the decision to swear in a witness is entirely at the discretion of the committee. Witnesses appearing before committees may be assisted by counsel, but they must first seek the committee’s permission. When permitted, the role of the legal representative must be strictly advisory, and the representative cannot ask questions or reply on behalf of the witness. When required, the witness may either swear an oath or make a solemn affirmation.

f) Parliamentary privilege

Testimony before a parliamentary committee is protected by parliamentary privilege. This means that witnesses enjoy the same freedom of speech and immunity from prosecution or civil liability as do Members of Parliament. However, this immunity does not apply if the same testimony is repeated publicly outside a parliamentary meeting. In exceptional circumstances, the House could also decide to waive this protection.

g) Recording of the meeting

All public meetings are webcast or televised and the recordings are available on the committee’s website. The minutes of meetings and the transcripts of testimony (called "Evidence") are available on the Committees website, usually within 14 days. An unrevised transcript is usually available within 72 hours following a meeting and can be provided by submitting a request to the clerk of the committee.

For witnesses that are appearing virtually, please note that screenshots are not permitted. For those in person, the taking of photos while the meeting is in progress is also prohibited.

4. Resource Persons

The clerk of the committee is the procedural and administrative officer and advises the Chair and members of the committee. The clerk organizes meetings and calls witnesses. The clerk will inform witnesses of the committee's requirements and the procedure for appearing before a committee. The committee analyst is the subject matter expert and can answer questions about the content and direction of the committee's study.

You may find a committee's contact information on the Committees website.