House of Commons Procedure and Practice
Edited by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit
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4. The House of Commons and Its Members

Dominion Controverted Elections Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-39, s. 70.
See, for example, Journals, December 12, 1968, pp. 517-27; February 23, 1976, pp. 1043-4.
Dominion Controverted Elections Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-39, s. 70.
Dominion Controverted Elections Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-39, ss. 50, 57. Note also ss. 52-4.
Dominion Controverted Elections Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-39,s. 70. See, for example, Journals, June 7, 1990, pp. 1850-1. In 1877, in response to questions concerning the power of the House to order the issue of writs when seats become vacant by a decision of the courts, Speaker Anglin confirmed in a ruling that it was the express duty of the Speaker to order the issue of a writ (Journals, March 1, 1877, pp. 84-6; Debates, March 5, 1877, p. 436).
Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1, s. 31(1) as amended by S.C. 1996, c. 35, s. 87.1.
Constitution Act, 1867, R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 5, s. 128.
Constitution Act, 1867, R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 5, Fifth Schedule. Found below the Fifth Schedule is a note which reads as follows: “The Name of the King or Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland for the Time being is to be substituted from Time to Time, with proper Terms of Reference thereto.”
Affirmation is not mentioned in the Constitution. See Beauchesne, 4th ed., pp. 13-4.
See R.W. Perceval and P.D.G. Hayter, “The Oath of Allegiance”, The Table, Vol. XXXIII, 1964, pp. 85-90. The authors state that the oath of allegiance taken by barons during the Middle Ages is not historically connected to the oath of allegiance now required before a Member may take his seat in the Commons.
Redlich, Vol.II, p. 62.
Redlich, Vol. II, p. 63. Transubstantiation, according to the Roman Catholic church, is the conversion in the Eucharist of the whole substance of the bread into the body and of the wine into the blood of Christ, with only the appearance of bread and wine remaining. See An Act for the More Effectual Preserving the King’s Person and Government by Disabling Papists from Sitting in Either House of Parliament found in English Historical Documents 1660-1714, Andrew Browning (ed.), London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1953, pp. 391-4.
A History of the Vote in Canada, p. 7. The oath of abjuration also included the words “on the true faith of a Christian”, which prevented Jews from taking the oath. See Wilding and Laundy, p. 503. See May, 1st ed., pp. 461-3, for the wording of the three oaths.
Redlich, Vol. II, p. 63. Twenty-seven years earlier, in 1831, the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada had passed a bill allowing Jews who were natural-born British subjects the right to seek public office and the following year, the legislation was approved by the British Parliament. See O’Brien, pp. 139-42.
Redlich, Vol. II, pp. 63-4. According to Wilding and Laundy, the right to make an affirmation was given by the Promissory Oaths Act, 1868. However, there were some objections when a new Member, Charles Bradlaugh, who had no religious beliefs, attempted to affirm instead of taking an oath on the Bible. The Member was excluded from the House. On three separate occasions, he was re-elected to the House and subsequently excluded when he attempted to affirm. On the fifth occasion in 1886, the Speaker would not listen to any objections when the Member took the oath in the ordinary form. In 1888, the Member succeeded in having the Oaths Act adopted. See Wilding and Laundy, pp. 10-11, 53-4.
See John Garner, The Franchise and Politics in British North America 1755-1867, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969, pp. 131-2.
See A History of the Vote in Canada, pp. 10-2.
See Garner, pp. 141-3. See also J. Murray Beck, The Government of Nova Scotia, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1957, pp. 51-2. See also Journal and Proceedings of the House of Assembly, Nova Scotia, April 3, 1823, pp. 292-3.
R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 2, s. 7. The Act made no provision for an elected assembly; government was entrusted to a governor and a legislative council, both appointed by the Crown.
R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 3, s. 29.
R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 4, s. 35.
R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 4, s. 36.
S.C. 1867-68, c. 36. Section 3 of the Actspecified that the form of the oath described in the Act did not supersede the oath described in the Constitution Act, 1867 for Members of Parliament. Section 5 further clarified that the affirmation could be made in lieu of the oath in civil cases. No mention is made of the solemn affirmation for Members of Parliament. See also Oaths of Allegiance Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. O-1.
Beauchesne, 4th ed., p. 13.
When the House meets for the first time for the despatch of business, the Clerk lays upon the Table the list of duly elected Members certified by the Chief Electoral Officer. The certificate and list are printed in the Journals (see, for example, Journals, September 22, 1997, pp. 1-7). Prior to 1888, Members were permitted to take the oath and their seats on production of the certificate of the Returning Officer in advance of the certificate of the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery, but this practice was discontinued owing to the risk of numerous legal difficulties (see Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 149).
For a recent example of appointments for the purpose of administering the oath, see Journals, September 22, 1997, p. 1.
Following the 36th general election and prior to the opening of Parliament, three of the opposition parties (i.e., the Reform Party, the New Democratic Party and the Progressive Conservative Party) opted to have a collective swearing-in ceremony for their Members. Each ceremony took place in a committee room in the Centre Block. The leader of the party was sworn in first and then the Members recited the oath of allegiance or solemn declaration. Each Member was then invited by the Clerk to sign the Test Roll. The ceremonies were broadcast on the parliamentary channel. In June 1985, the Special Committee on the Reform of the House of Commons had recommended that public awareness of the swearing-in ceremony be increased by broadcasting the ceremony on national television in a similar fashion as is done for the swearing-in of a new cabinet. Members would also be required to take the oath individually. (See pp. 57-8 of the Third Report of the Special Committee on the Reform of the House of Commons, presented on June 18, 1985 (Journals, p. 839)). In its response to the Committee’s report, the government suggested that the House refer this matter to the Board of Internal Economy for consideration and decision (see p. 10 of the Response of the Government of Canada to the Second and Third Reports of the Special Committee on the Reform of the House of Commons (Journals, October 9, 1985, p. 1082)). No subsequent action was taken at that time.
There is an interesting anecdote about the swearing-in of Louis Riel. Louis Riel was duly elected in the riding of Provencher, first in a by-election in 1873 and then in the general election of 1874. While avoiding arrest, he travelled to Ottawa and succeeded in taking the oath of allegiance and signing the Test Roll before the Clerk noticed the signature on the Roll. See Marc Bosc (ed.), The Broadview Book of Canadian Parliamentary Anecdotes, Peterborough: Broadview Press Ltd., 1988, pp. 22-3.
Beauchesne, 4th ed., p. 14. There do not appear to be any cases of Members refusing to take the oath of allegiance. In 1988, following the 34th general election, one Member-elect, John Dahmer (Beaver River) was hospitalized. Arrangements were made to have the Deputy Clerk fly to his bedside to swear him in. Unfortunately, the Member-elect died before the swearing-in ceremony could take place.
In the British House of Commons, on May 14, 1997, in regard to the election of Sein Fein members, Speaker Betty Boothroyd remarked:  "The services that are available to all other Members from the six Departments of the House and beyond will not be open for use by Members who have not taken their seats by swearing or by affirmation".  See British House of Commons Debates, May 14, 1997, cols. 35-6.  See also May, 22nd ed., pp. 242-3, which states that a Members who has not taken the oath may not sit and vote in the House, is fined and the seat is vacated in the same manner as if the Member were deceased.  In Addition, the Member would not receive a salary.
In 1875, the Speaker brought to the attention of the House that a Member who had been duly elected in a by-election had sat and voted in the Chamber without having first taken and subscribed the oath of allegiance (Debates, February 22, 1875, p. 260). George Turner Orton (Centre Wellington) had first been elected in the general election and had been sworn in. Subsequently, his election was overturned. The Member explained that, because he had already sworn the oath, he did not realize he had to be sworn in again upon his re-election (Bourinot, 4th ed., pp. 150-1). The matter was referred to the Select Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections (Journals, February 25, 1875, p. 129). See Debates, February 24, 1875, pp. 322-3; February 25, 1875, pp. 324-5. In its report presented on March 8, 1875, the Committee noted that since neither the British North America Act nor any other statute provided a penalty in the event a Member omitted to take and subscribe the oath, the Member’s seat was not affected by the oversight. However, the Committee recommended that the votes taken by the Member before he took the oath be struck from the records (Journals, March 8, 1875, p. 176). The report was never considered by the House.
Beauchesne, 4th ed., p. 14.Beauchesne expounds further that, for example, if a Member, during a state of war, were to make a statement, either outside of the House or on the floor of the Chamber, that was damaging to Canada, but favourable to the enemy, the House as a whole could decide to suspend or even expel the Member. Indeed, the House did expel a Member in 1947 when he was found guilty of treason (Journals, January 30, 1947, pp. 4-8). Expulsions from the House of Commons are discussed later in the chapter and in Chapter 3, “Privileges and Immunities”.
That year, a new political party, the Bloc québécois, was founded and its first Member was elected in a by-election. As required, Gilles Duceppe (Laurier–Sainte-Marie) made a solemn affirmation and signed the Test Roll before taking his seat in the House; he also made another statement, similar to the oath required to be sworn by Members of the Quebec National Assembly, outside the Chamber expressing his loyalty to the people of Quebec. Jesse Flis (Parkdale–High Park) rose on a question of privilege concerning the meaning of the oath of allegiance and the duties and obligations of Members relating thereto. See Debates, October 3, 1990, pp. 13736-42.
Debates, November 1, 1990, pp. 14969-70. Since 1990, private Members have introduced bills to require newly elected Members to swear an oath of allegiance to Canada and the Constitution as well as swearing allegiance to the Queen (see, for example, Debates, October 16, 1990, p. 14189; September 18, 1991, p. 2320; February 12, 1993, p. 15850; January 20, 1994, p. 72; June 18, 1996, p. 3989; September 25, 1997, p. 57).
See Bourinot, 4th ed., pp. 149-53. For examples of introductions, see Debates, February 22, 1995, p. 9941; April 21, 1998, p. 5901. In a departure from this tradition, a newly elected Member from the Northwest Territories was formally introduced to the House on the fourth sitting day of the First Session of the Thirty-Fourth Parliament. Because the House had come back early from a general election, the Member’s election return had not arrived at the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer in time for the opening (see Debates, December 15, 1988, pp. 92-3). In 1980, when the election return of another Member from the Northwest Territories was received late, the Member was not introduced in the House, although the notice of the election return is indicated in the Journals (April 18, 1980, p. 47). In 1989, on the opening day of the Second Session of the Thirty-Fourth Parliament, the Speaker informed the House that the Clerk had received a substitute return of election. The successful candidate was subsequently introduced in the House (Journals, April 3, 1989, pp. 2-3; Debates, p. 1).
This is a very old practice dating back to the seventeenth century in England (see Hatsell, Vol. II, p. 85).
See Beauchesne, 4th ed., p. 17.
In 1878, Speaker Anglin resigned his seat between sessions. He was re-elected in a by-election held before the new session began. When the new session opened, Mr. Anglin, along with several other Members, took the oath, signed the Roll and was in his seat for the election of the Speaker. When the Prime Minister, Alexander Mackenzie, moved that Mr. Anglin be elected Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition, Sir John A. Macdonald, protested the validity of the proceeding, claiming that Mr. Anglin had not been introduced to the House and could not be introduced until a Speaker had been elected and, thus, Mr. Anglin was not a Member and could not be elected Speaker. Mr. Mackenzie contended that, contrary to British practice, the practice in Canada had been that once a Member had been sworn in and signed the Roll, he was entitled to enter the House and take his seat. This view prevailed and the motion to elect Mr. Anglin was adopted shortly thereafter (see Debates, February 7, 1878, pp. 2-12).
In the case of an independent Member, Members of one of the opposition parties assume the ceremonial duties.
See, for example, Debates, September 16, 1996, p. 4222; April 21, 1998, p. 5901.
See, for example, Debates, April 15, 1996, p. 1461. The Members are usually introduced in alphabetical order.
See, for example, Debates, February 20, 1969, pp. 5741-3; January 15, 1991, pp. 16981-3.
For more information on recognized parties, see Chapter 1, “Parliamentary Institutions”.
This rule does not apply when the House is conducting its proceedings as a Committee of the Whole where Members may sit and speak from any seat in the House. For additional information, see Chapter 13, “Rules of Order and Decorum”, and Chapter 19, “Committees of the Whole House”.
For example, during the Thirty-Fifth Parliament (1994-97), the overflow of government Members sat to the immediate left of the Speaker. During the Twenty-Fourth Parliament (1958-62), the overflow of government Members sat to the left of the Speaker at the far end of the Chamber. During the Thirty-Third Parliament (1984-88) when there were 211 government Members, the overflow of government Members was situated both immediately to the left of the Chair and in the desks at the far end of the left-hand side of the Chamber, effectively splitting the overflow of government Members to book-end those Members of the opposition parties.
During the Twenty-Fifth Parliament (1962-63), 19 Members of the New Democratic Party sat on the government side of the House at the far end of the Chamber. During the Second Session of the Twenty-Seventh Parliament (1967-68), two independent Members sat on the government side of the House at the far end of the Chamber. During the Thirty-First Parliament (1979), the five Members of the Social Credit Party sat on the government side of the House at the far end of the Chamber.
In response to a point of order, Speaker Parent explained the process followed in assigning seats to parties (Debates, September 30, 1998, pp. 8584-5).
In 1994, at the beginning of the Thirty-Fifth Parliament (1994-97), the leader of the Reform Party (Preston Manning) chose to sit in the second row of seats; he eventually moved to the front benches.
See Speaker Fraser’s ruling, Debates, September 24, 1990, pp. 13216-7. In 1963, a number of Social Credit Party Members from Quebec formed a new party, the Ralliement des Créditistes. As a result, Speaker Macnaughton was asked to decide a number of issues, including the recognition of parties and a new seating arrangement for the Chamber. In a statement given September 30, 1963, the Speaker informed the House that he believed the Chair should not be placed in a position to decide matters affecting the character or existence of a party because those decisions could be mistaken as political decisions. He concluded that the House itself had to resolve the various issues which had arisen as a result of the emergence of a new party. The House subsequently adopted a motion to refer these matters to the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections (Journals, September 30, 1963, pp. 385-8). In its Second Report to the House, the Committee recommended that the NDP (which had become the third largest party in the House) be seated next to the Official Opposition; that the Social Credit Party be seated to the left of the New Democratic Party; and that the new party occupy the seats to the left of the Social Credit Party (Journals, October 9, 1963, p. 423). The report was concurred in on October 21, 1963 (Journals, pp. 465-6). At the beginning of the Thirty-Fifth Parliament (1994-97), “independent Members” included representatives of the New Democratic Party (nine Members), the Progressive Conservative Party (two Members), and independent Members (originally just one Member, but the numbers grew to four over the life of the Parliament). The Speaker assigned each independent Member a seat according to his or her precedence in the House. Later as the result of a point of order regarding the party status of the NDP, the Speaker modified the seating plan to allow the NDP and Progressive Conservative caucuses each to be seated together and identified as such. The other independent Members were assigned the remaining seats according to their seniority. See Debates, June 16, 1994, pp. 5437-40, in particular p. 5439.
It appears from seating plans for the Chamber that the Speaker, normally a government Member, used to be assigned a desk on the government side near the Chair. No desk has been assigned to a Speaker since the Thirty-First Parliament (1979) when, following a change of government, Speaker Jerome was elected to a second term, becoming the first opposition Member to be nominated by the governing party to preside over the House. See Beauchesne, 6th ed., p. 37.
See, for example, Debates, February 18, 1965, p. 11457; August 29, 1966, pp. 7731-2; December 3, 1969, p. 1532; May 4, 1971, p. 5470; June 27, 1978, pp. 6777-8; November 21, 1990, pp. 15526-9. In many instances, no record of the change in the party affiliation or status appears in the Debates or the Journals. The Speaker is advised of the change through correspondence or by means of a press release issued by the Member. During the Thirty-Third Parliament (1984-88), one government Member became an independent Member, and then a member of the New Democratic Party before finally sitting again as an independent Member (see Debates, May 14, 1986, p. 13268; December 16, 1986, p. 2152; October 26, 1987, p. 10384). During the Thirty-Fourth Parliament (1988-93), a government backbencher, Gilbert Chartrand (Verdun–St. Paul), chose to sit as an independent with other Members who had formed a new party, the Bloc Québécois; a year later, the same Member received permission to return to the Progressive Conservative Party caucus and sit with its Members (see Debates, May 22, 1990, p. 11631; April 9, 1991, pp. 19231-2).

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