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

3. Privileges and Immunities

Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Twenty-Second Report, Minutes of Proceedings, June 18, 1996, Issue No. 1, p. 50. The report was presented to the House on June 18, 1996 (Journals, pp. 565-6).
Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Twenty-Ninth Report, presented to the House on April 27, 1998 (Journals, p. 706, Sessional Paper No. 8510-361-51).
The most recent example of such an action was the reprimand of Ian Waddell (Port Moody–Coquitlam). See Journals, October 31, 1991, pp. 574, 579; Debates, October 31, 1991, pp. 4271-85, 4309-10.
Maingot, 2nd ed., p. 160.
This responsibility has been described in the Australian House of Representatives Practice and is pertinent to the Canadian House of Commons. See House of Representatives Practice, 3rd ed., pp. 724-6.
It is for this reason that section 327 of the Canada Elections Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. E-2, was enacted to forbid pledges. This section makes it illegal for any candidate for election as a Member of Parliament to sign any written document by way of a demand or claim on the candidate if it requires the candidate to follow any course of action that will prevent him or her from exercising freedom of action in Parliament, if elected, or to resign as a Member if called on to do so by those who present the pledge. See also Chapter 4, “The House of Commons and Its Members”.
See section below, “Freedom of Speech”.
Special Committee on the Rights and Immunities of Members, First Report, presented to the House on April 29, 1977 (Journals, pp. 720-9).
See, for example, May, 22nd ed., Chapter 6, pp. 83-107; Maingot, 2nd ed., Chapters 3-5 and 7, pp. 25-105, 115-23; Redlich, Vol. III, Part IX, Chapter 1, pp. 42-50.
Odgers, 8th ed., pp. 30-2.
Odgers, 8th ed., p. 30.
Odgers, 8th ed., p. 31.
May, 22nd ed., p. 83.
May, 22nd ed., p. 95. See also pages 95-7 for a discussion of the term.
Maingot, 2nd ed., pp. 77-105.
United Kingdom, House of Commons, Select Committee on Parliamentary Privilege, 1966-67, Report, p. 9. In its Third Report to the House, the United Kingdom, House of Commons, Select Committee on Privileges in 1976-77 recommended that a definition of “proceedings in parliament” be legislated, though this did not occur. The proposed definition had originally been suggested by the United Kingdom, Joint Committee on the Publication of Proceedings in Parliament (1969-70). In its Report presented to both Houses on March 30, 1999, the United Kingdom Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege again recommended that a statutory definition be enacted (para. 129, p. 38.)
House of Representatives Practice, 3rd ed., pp. 683-4.
See Maingot, 2nd ed., pp. 90, 92-4, 101-2, for an analysis of the scope of this privilege in relation to the role of the modern Member of Parliament, and the reasons of Hugessen A.C.J., for the Superior Court of Québec in Re Ouellet (No. 1), (1976) 67 D.L.R. (3) 73 (English version) or [1976] C.S. 503 (French version); confirmed by the Court of Appeal of Québec at (1976) 72 D.L.R. (3d) 95 (English version) or [1976] C.A. 788 (French version). See also the ruling given by Speaker Jerome, Debates, May 15, 1978, p. 5411.
See Maingot, 2nd ed., pp. 33-6, for a discussion of freedom of speech and the criminal law.
On December 7, 1984, John Nunziata (York South–Weston) rose on a question of privilege to claim that comments made by Svend Robinson (Burnaby) in committee constituted a contempt of Parliament. Mr. Robinson had alleged United States Central Intelligence Agency penetration at senior management levels of Petro-Canada and had named several individuals as CIA agents. In his ruling, Speaker Bosley noted that the statements made by Mr. Robinson did not constitute a contempt of Parliament in that no Member or official of the House had been obstructed or impeded in the discharge of his or her duty. On December 21, 1984, Mr. Robinson rose in the House to retract his remarks in the committee. He said that he had relied upon a confidential source of information and had availed himself of parliamentary immunity to accuse the Petro-Canada employees of spying for the CIA. He then went on to state: “While the tradition of parliamentary immunity is a long and important one, in retrospect I regret that I used my immunity to name these individuals. I have written to both men to express unreservedly my regret for having publicly named them in the Justice Committee. As well, Mr. Speaker, I wish at this time to issue a complete and unequivocal retraction of the allegations I made and unreservedly apologize to the two individuals involved… .” (see Debates, December 7, 1984, pp. 1004-7; December 11, 1984, pp. 1114-5; December 21, 1984, p. 1447).
Debates, December 11, 1984, p. 1114.
Debates, December 11, 1984, p. 1115.
Maingot, 2nd ed., p. 160.
Griffith and Ryle, p. 90.
For protection provided to the media, see Maingot, 2nd ed., pp. 44-6, 50-9.
Maingot, 2nd ed., pp. 39, 41, 44-6, 90-4.
This was one of the main issues in the famous case of Stockdale v. Hansard. See May, 22nd ed., pp. 86-7, 161-3; Maingot, 2nd ed., pp. 63-75.
Maingot, 2nd ed., pp. 82-94.
On April 14, 1987, Otto Jelinek (Minister of State for Fitness and Amateur Sport) raised a question of privilege regarding oral questions asked about an alleged conflict of interest involving himself. Speaker Fraser ruled that the Minister’s capacity to function as a Minister and a Member was not impaired. See Debates, April 14, 1987, pp. 5124-34; May 5, 1987, pp. 5765-6.
Debates, May 5, 1987, pp. 5765-6.
Debates, September 30, 1994, p. 6371. On September 27, 1994, Svend Robinson (Burnaby–Kingsway) raised a point of order concerning remarks made by Roseanne Skoke (Central Nova) during second reading debate on Bill C-41 (Criminal Code Amendment (sentencing)) on September 20, 1994. Speaker Parent gave his ruling on September 30, stating that although he realized there existed a profound difference of opinion between the two Members, he acknowledged that the remarks made by Ms. Skoke were within the context of debate and not directed at any particular Member. See Debates September 20, 1994, pp. 5912-3; September 27, 1994, pp. 6183-4.
The Speaker ruled on a question of privilege raised by Harvie Andre (Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs) on May 21, 1987, concerning questions asked by Ian Waddell (Vancouver–Kingsway) which, in the Minister’s view, implied that he was in a possible conflict of interest situation. The Speaker ruled that he was satisfied that there was no accusation directed against the Minister. See Debates, May 21, 1987, pp. 6299-306; May 26, 1987, pp. 6375-6.
This ruling was given on December 3, 1991, following a point of order raised by Nelson Riis (Kamloops) on November 28, 1991, concerning remarks about the President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada made by Felix Holtmann (Portage–Interlake) during “Statements by Members”. See Debates, November 28, 1991, pp. 5498-9, 5509-10; December 3, 1991, pp. 5679-82.
Debates, December 3, 1991, p. 5681.
For a complete discussion of the sub judice convention, see Chapter 13, “Rules of Order and Decorum”.
See Special Committee on the Rights and Immunities of Members, First Report, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, April 4, 1977, Issue No. 1, Appendix “C”,“The Sub Judice Convention in the Canadian House of Commons”, pp. 1A: 11-2. See also Philip Laundy, “The Sub Judice Convention in the Canadian House of Commons”, The Parliamentarian, Vol. 57, No. 3 (July 1976), pp. 211-4.
The practice has been codified in some jurisdictions either by the adoption of Standing Orders (Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, India (Lok Sabha), New Zealand) or by way of resolution (United Kingdom (House of Commons)). See also May, 22nd ed., pp. 333, 383-4.
The report was presented to the House on April 29, 1977 (see Journals, pp. 720-9).
Standing Orders 10 and 11. See also Chapter 7, “The Speaker and Other Presiding Officers of the House”, and Chapter 13, “Rules of Order and Decorum”.
See Bourinot, 4th ed., pp. 42-7; May, 22nd ed., pp. 100-7; Maingot, 2nd ed., pp. 151-8.
For its origins and history in the United Kingdom and Canada, see May, 1st ed., pp. 86-7, and Maingot, 2nd ed., pp. 152-5.
For a discussion of the meaning of the term “felony”, see Edward McWhinney, “Forfeiture of Office on Conviction of an ‘Infamous Crime’,” Canadian Parliamentary Review, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Spring 1989), pp. 2-6.
On February 16, 1965, G.J. McIlraith (President of the Privy Council) raised a question of privilege concerning the effects on the privileges of the House of the arrest of Gilles Grégoire (Lapointe) outside the Parliament Buildings on two warrants for traffic offences. The Speaker ruled the matter prima facie, and it was subsequently referred to the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections. On March 19, 1965, the Committee presented its Fourth Report which found that the privilege of freedom from arrest of the Member had not been infringed (Journals, February 16, 1965, pp. 1035-6; March 19, 1965, pp. 1141-2).
Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 43; Maingot, 2nd ed., pp. 151, 156-7.
Maingot, 2nd ed., pp. 157-8. Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 44, notes that while the House will not normally interfere if a Member is committed for contempt, it does reserve the right to inquire into the nature of the offence and protect Members in proper cases.
Bourinot, 4th ed., pp. 46-7. Bourinot also notes, based on English practice, that failure to inform the Speaker has not been viewed as a matter of privilege (p. 47).
Maingot, 2nd ed., p. 155.
Maingot, 2nd ed., p. 159; May, 22nd ed., p. 106.
Jury selection is a matter of provincial jurisdiction. While exemption from jury duty is claimed as a right by the House of Commons, provincial jury legislation usually includes Members of Parliament as one of the exempt categories. In some provincial statutes, the staff of Members of the Legislative Assembly as well as officers of the Assembly are also exempted from jury duty. See, for example, The Jury Act, Revised Statutes of New Brunswick, 1973, c. J-3.1, s. 3; Juries Act, Revised Statutes of Ontario, 1990, c. J-3, s. 3; Jurors Act, Revised Statutes of Québec, c. J-2, s. 4; The Jury Act, 1981, Statutes of Saskatchewan, 1980-81, c. J-4.1, s. 4.
Maingot, 2nd ed., p. 160.

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