Skip to main content Start of content

House of Commons Procedure and Practice

Second Edition, 2009

 
Search Term(s): Skip to Content 

 

*   References to Members

During debate, Members do not refer to one another by their names[142] but rather by title, position or constituency name in order to guard against the tendency to personalize debate.[143] A Minister is referred to by the portfolio he or she holds.[144] The two main party leaders are generally referred to as the Right Honourable Prime Minister and the Honourable Leader of the Opposition, and other party leaders are identified as the leaders of their respective parties.[145] Former Prime Ministers sitting in the House are also referred to as “Right Honourable”, as are other Members with this designation. Parliamentary Secretaries, House Leaders and Party Whips are typically designated by the posts they hold.

The Speaker will not allow a Member to refer to another Member by name even if the Member speaking is quoting from a document such as a newspaper article. As the Chair once noted, a Member “cannot do indirectly what cannot be done directly”.[146]

Allusions to the presence or absence of a Member or Minister in the Chamber are unacceptable.[147] Speakers have upheld this prohibition on the ground that “there are many places that Members have to be in order to carry out all of the obligations that go with their office”.[148]

Remarks directed specifically at another Member which question that Member’s integrity, honesty or character are not in order.[149] A Member will be requested to withdraw offensive remarks, allegations, or accusations of impropriety directed towards another Member.[150] The Speaker has no authority to rule on statements made outside the House by one Member against another.[151]

*   Reflections on the House and the Senate

Disrespectful reflections on Parliament as a whole, or on the House and the Senate individually are not permitted.[152] Members of the House and the Senate are also protected by this rule. In debate, the Senate is generally referred to as “the other place” and Senators as “members of the other place”.[153] References to Senate debates and proceedings are discouraged[154] and it is out of order to question a Senator’s integrity, honesty or character.[155] This “prevents fruitless arguments between Members of two distinct bodies who are unable to reply to each other, and guards against recrimination and offensive language in the absence of the other party”.[156]

*   Reflections on the Chair

Reflections must not be cast in debate on the conduct of the Speaker or other Presiding Officers.[157] It is unacceptable to question the integrity and impartiality of a Presiding Officer and if such comments are made, the Speaker will interrupt the Member and may request that the remarks be withdrawn.[158] Only by means of a substantive motion for which 48 hours’ written notice has been given, may the actions of the Chair be challenged, criticized and debated.[159] Reflections on the character or actions of the Speaker or other Presiding Officers have been ruled to be breaches of privilege.[160]

*   References to the Sovereign, Royal Family, Governor General and Members of the Judiciary

Members are prohibited from speaking disrespectfully of the Sovereign, the Royal Family, the Governor General or the Administrator of the Government of Canada (in the absence of the Governor General).[161] In the same way, any reference to these persons which appears intended to influence the work of the House is also prohibited.[162]

Attacks against and censures of judges and courts by Members in debate have always been considered unparliamentary and, consequently, treated as breaches of order.[163] As Acting Speaker McClelland explained to the House, “This is a longstanding tradition in our Parliament that we be cautious when we attack individuals or groups, particularly in the judiciary, and those who are unable to come in here and have the same right of free expression as we enjoy with impunity here”.[164] While it is permissible to speak in general terms about the judiciary or to criticize a law, it is inappropriate to criticize or impute motives directed to a specific judge or to criticize a decision made under the law by a judge.[165]

*   Reference by Name to Members of the Public

Members are discouraged from referring by name to persons who are not Members of Parliament and who do not enjoy parliamentary immunity, except in extraordinary circumstances when the national interest calls for this.[166] The Speaker has ruled that Members have a responsibility to protect the innocent, not only from outright slander, but from any slur directly or indirectly implied, and suggested that Members avoid as much as possible mentioning by name people from outside the House who are unable to reply in their own defence.[167]

*   Reference to Previous Debates and Proceedings

In the past, reference to prior debates of the current session were generally discouraged in order to conserve the time of the House and to prevent Members from reviving a debate that had concluded, unless the remarks were relevant to the matter under discussion.[168] Today, the Speaker’s attention is rarely, if ever, drawn to breaches of this rule. Generally, Members should not quote from their former speeches or from the speeches of their colleagues made during the current session;[169] the rule does not apply to speeches on different stages of a bill.[170] Direct reference is permitted, however, when a Member wishes to complain of something said or to clear up a misrepresentation or make a personal explanation.[171]

Members may not speak against or reflect upon any decision of the House.[172] This stems from the well‑established rule which holds that a question, once put and carried in the affirmative or negative, cannot be questioned again. Such reflections are not in order because the Member is bound by a vote agreed to by a majority.[173] The Chair has been quick to call attention to reflections on votes.[174] However, if a Member gives notice of his or her intention to move a motion that a vote be rescinded, the House may reconsider an earlier resolution or order.[175]

*   Unparliamentary Language

The proceedings of the House are based on a long‑standing tradition of respect for the integrity of all Members. Thus, the use of offensive, provocative or threatening language in the House is strictly forbidden. Personal attacks, insults and obscenities are not in order.[176] A direct charge or accusation against a Member may be made only by way of a substantive motion for which notice is required.[177]

If language used in debate appears questionable to the Speaker, he or she will intervene. Nonetheless, any Member who feels aggrieved by a remark or allegation may also bring the matter to the immediate attention of the Speaker on a point of order. Points of order may not be raised during Members’ Statements or Question Period,[178] however, the Speaker may address a matter of unparliamentary language at once if he or she believes the matter to be sufficiently serious to merit immediate attention.[179] Normally, the matter is dealt with at the conclusion of Question Period.[180] Since the Speaker must rule on the basis of the context in which the language was used, points of order raised in regard to questionable language must be raised as soon as possible after the alleged irregularity has occurred.[181]

If the Speaker did not hear the word(s) in question, or if there is a dispute as to what words were actually used, the Chair may set the matter aside pending a review of the record and, if necessary, return to the House at a later time with a ruling.[182] The Speaker has also ruled that if the Chair did not hear the offensive word or phrase and if the offensive language was not recorded in the Debates, the Chair cannot be expected to rule in the absence of a reliable record.[183]

In dealing with unparliamentary language, the Speaker takes into account the tone, manner and intention of the Member speaking; the person to whom the words at issue were directed; the degree of provocation; and, most importantly, whether or not the remarks created disorder in the Chamber.[184] Thus, language deemed unparliamentary one day may not necessarily be deemed unparliamentary the following day. The codification of unparliamentary language has proven impractical as it is the context in which words or phrases are used that the Chair must consider when deciding whether or not they should be withdrawn.[185] Although an expression may be found to be acceptable, the Speaker has cautioned that any language which leads to disorder in the House should not be used. Expressions which are considered unparliamentary when applied to an individual Member have not always been considered so when applied “in a generic sense” or to a party.[186]

Should the Speaker find the utterances of a particular Member offensive or disorderly, that Member will be requested to rise in his or her place and to withdraw the unparliamentary word or phrase unequivocally. The Member’s apology is accepted in good faith and the matter is then considered closed.[187] However, if the Member persists in refusing to obey the directive of the Speaker to retract his or her words, the Chair may refuse to recognize the Member until the words have been withdrawn[188] or may “name” the Member for disregarding the authority of the Chair and order him or her to withdraw from the Chamber for the remainder of the sitting.[189]

*   Repetition and Relevance in Debate

The rules of relevance and repetition[190] are intertwined and mutually reinforcing. The requirement that speeches remain relevant to the question before the House flows from the latter’s right to reach decisions without undue obstruction and to exclude from debate any discussion not conducive to that end. The rule against repetition helps to ensure the expeditious conduct of debate by prohibiting the repetition of arguments already made. To neglect either rule would seriously impair the ability of the House to manage its time efficiently.

Notwithstanding their importance, these rules remain difficult to define and enforce, not least because such enforcement must respect the freedom of debate enjoyed by all Members. The rule against repetition can be invoked by the Speaker to prevent the repetition of arguments already made during the debate by any Member.[191] The rule of relevance enables the Chair to counter any tendency to stray from the question before the House or committee. It is not always possible to judge the relevance (or the repetition) of a Member’s remarks until he or she has spoken at some length or even completed his or her remarks.[192] In practice, the Speaker allows some latitude—if the rules are applied too rigidly, they have the potential for severely curtailing debate; if they are neglected, the resultant loss of debating time may prevent other Members from participating in debate. Particular circumstances, the mood of the House and the relative importance of the matter under debate will influence the strictness with which the Speaker interprets these rules.

When enforcing the rules against irrelevance and repetition, the Speaker can call a Member to order and, if necessary, warn the Member that he or she risks being directed to discontinue his or her speech. Such warnings are usually sufficient. However, should the Member persist, the Speaker can proceed to recognize another Member or, if no other Member wishes to speak, to put the question. In the event that the Member should persist in disregarding the Speaker’s instruction or direction, the Speaker has the authority to “name” that Member.[193]

Historical Perspective

It is not certain when the British House of Commons originally adopted the practice of restraining debate that was either repetitious or irrelevant. However, it seems to have been well established by the end of the sixteenth century. A manual of procedure dating from the era of the Elizabethan Parliaments listed among the powers of the Speaker the right to call a Member to order when “any speak to a Bil[sic] and be out of the matter”.[194] During the same period, Speaker Popham, upon his election to the Chair in 1580, requested that Members “speak to the matter … and not to spend too much time in unnecessary motions or superfluous argument”.[195] The Journals for 1604 suggest that the rule of relevance was adopted in that year as an Order of the House and one authority has cited it in this form: “That if any man speak impertinently, or beside the question in hand, it stands with the orders of the House for the Speaker to interrupt him, and to know the pleasure of the House, whether they will further hear him”.[196] In addition to this rule, the House soon thereafter adopted another prohibiting repetition.[197] Both rules proved difficult to enforce, particularly that on relevance which obliged the Speaker to obtain the support of the House in order to direct a Member to keep to the subject of debate. During the eighteenth century, interventions by Speakers were so rare that Members sometimes resented interruptions when they did take place.[198]

When, in 1867, the Canadian House of Commons adopted its rules, no reference was made to repetition in debate, and the rule on relevance was mentioned only in the context of a general order of debate which enjoined Members not to “speak beside the question in debate”.[199] Beyond advising the Member to speak to the subject, the Speaker depended almost entirely upon the support of the House and the goodwill of the Members to enforce the rule.

In a revision of the rules in 1910, the power of the Speaker was augmented. The Chair was empowered to direct a Member to discontinue his or her speech if the Chair deemed it either irrelevant or repetitious after having called the attention of the House to the matter.[200] In moving the adoption of this rule, Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier observed that it was “the English rule copied word for word”.[201] This was hardly less true of the rule which dealt with relevance in a Committee of the Whole and which was adopted at the same time: “Speeches in Committee of the Whole must be strictly relevant to the item or clause under consideration”.[202]

When the rules were again revised in 1927, the powers of the Speaker were further enhanced to permit effective action in the event of refusals to accept direction from the Chair. A special committee on procedure recommended that the Speaker be authorized to “name” a recalcitrant Member or, if in committee, to permit the Chairman to report the Member to the House. The recommendation was accepted by the House without amendment or debate and the powers of the Chair in this regard remain unchanged.[203]

Repetition

Repetition is prohibited in order to safeguard the right of the House to arrive at a decision and to make efficient use of its time. Although the principle is clear and sensible, it has not always been easy to apply[204] and the Speaker enjoys considerable discretion in this regard. The Chair can curtail prolonged debate by limiting Members’ speeches to points which have not already been made.[205] In the context of the legislative process, this latter restriction applies to the Members’ remarks only within the same stage of debate on a bill. Arguments advanced at one stage may legitimately be represented at another. The purpose of this practice is to safeguard the right of the House to reach a decision. The freedom of debate enjoyed by Members does not extend to the repetition of arguments that have already been heard.[206]

Finally, the rule against repetition has been used by Speakers in various other ways to assist the House in making efficient use of its time. Speakers have ruled against the tedious reading of letters even when they were used in support of an argument;[207] the asking of a question during Question Period which was similar to another already asked that day;[208] and the repeating of questions of privilege on the same subject matter.[209]

The Rule of Relevance

Although the House now has rules to limit the length of speeches, at one time there were few limits and debate often strayed beyond the subject in question. In 1882, J.G. Bourinot, then Clerk of the House, felt the need to add this comment to his overview of parliamentary practice:

A just regard to the privileges and dignity of Parliament demands that its time should not be wasted in idle and fruitless discussion; and consequently every member, who addresses the house, should endeavour to confine himself as closely as possible to the question under consideration.[210]

This advice still applies today as the business of government grows ever more complex and the time of the House is limited. It is often sufficient for the Speaker to remind a Member called to order of the proper subject matter of the debate and to indicate the manner in which the Member’s remarks were irrelevant.[211] During the questions and comments period following most speeches, for example, a Member must address his or her remarks to the arguments expressed in the speech, or the Chair will invoke the rule of relevance.[212] In doing so, Speakers tend to be mindful of the need for some leniency.[213] They have, at times, allowed references to other matters in debate, if they were made in passing and were not the principal theme of the speech.[214]

The rule of relevance applies not only to debate on a main motion but also to any proposed amendments to it.[215] Should an amendment be proposed to a motion, the rule of relevance requires that debate be limited to that amendment until it is disposed of by the House.[216] Arguments ruled irrelevant during debate on a main motion are similarly irrelevant if introduced as the substance of an amendment. Even if an amendment proposes to replace all the words in the main motion after “that” and to substitute an alternative proposition, debate is restricted to the main motion and the amendment; further propositions are irrelevant.[217] Once an amendment is disposed of by the House, it then becomes possible to debate the main motion in its full scope or to consider another amendment.

The previous question has a character that is exceptional with respect to the rule of relevance. “That the question be now put” does nothing to hinder debate on the original motion. On the contrary, Members who have already participated in the debate may speak on the motion again, after the previous question has been moved.[218] However, care must be taken to avoid repetition.

*  Bills

The relevance of debate to a motion before the House applies especially to the consideration of bills as they proceed through the several stages prior to their adoption. According to the practice which developed originally in the British House of Commons, “each stage is regarded as having its own peculiar function and to a certain extent its more or less limited range of debate”.[219] These functions, in turn, provide both the Speaker and the House with guidelines by which to apply the rule of relevance. Thus, for example, the second reading stage of a bill is limited to debate on its principle, whereas debate at report stage treats only motions offered in amendment to a bill. Despite the several opportunities allowed to the House to discuss a bill, the scope of debate is understood to be different at each stage.

Second Reading

During debate on second reading, Members are frequently tempted to delve into the clauses of a bill instead of confining themselves to consideration of the principle of the bill. Such interventions are in breach of the rule of relevance. Interruptions by the Speaker are sometimes required to discourage Members from discussing specific provisions of the bill rather than its principle.[220] In one ruling, the Speaker stated quite clearly that “on a motion for second reading it is out of order to discuss the clauses of the bill”.[221] When the House is considering an amending bill, the rule requires that debate at second reading be limited to the principle of the amending bill and not to the subject matter of the Act which it proposes to amend.[222]

Committee Stage

The referral of a bill to a committee opens the way for close examination of its contents, clause by clause. Today, most bills are sent to standing committees for study, but in the past, the detailed consideration of bills more often took place in a Committee of the Whole and it was in this larger forum that the practice governing the scrutiny of bills developed. Pursuant to the Standing Orders, speeches made in a Committee of the Whole must be strictly relevant to the item or clause under consideration.[223] Chairs have frequently cited this rule and called upon Members to observe it.[224] The same practice applies in standing, special or legislative committees considering bills.

An important exception to the rule of relevance in committee is found in the wide‑ranging debate permitted on Clause 1, or the clause following the short title. Although there is no explicit provision for this in the Standing Orders, it has been an accepted practice since at least the 1930s.[225] Over the years, repetition of second reading debate and the anticipation of clause‑by‑clause debate were gradually excluded from the general debate on Clause 1,[226] which is now limited to the contents of the bill.[227] In the event that an amendment is proposed to Clause 1, discussion is confined to the amendment until it has been disposed of.[228]

Report Stage

According to Beauchesne, the report stage of a bill “is one of reconsideration of events which have taken place in committee. The consideration of a bill is now a more formal repetition of the committee stage with the applicable rules of debate which are proper when the Speaker is in the Chair”.[229] Report stage motions are amendments to clauses in a bill which seek to change, to delete or restore those clauses. To avoid excessive repetition of debate, the Speaker has the power to select and to combine motions in amendment.[230] The Speaker can also control debate through the use of the relevance rule as applied to debate on clauses of a bill. Despite the similarities between debate at report stage to that at committee stage, there is no allowance for a wide‑ranging discussion of a bill as occurs in committee during study of Clause 1. Indeed, once the Order of the Day for the consideration of a bill at report stage is called, discussion is limited to “any amendment of which notice has been given”.[231]

Third Reading

Debate on third reading is intended to permit the House to review the legislative measure in its final form and is therefore strictly limited to the contents of the bill.[232] If an amendment is moved, debate must be relevant to that amendment until the House disposes of it.[233]

*  Debates on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne and the Budget

The traditions and practices of the House allow for the rule of relevance to be relaxed during debate on the motion for an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. During the days allotted to the debate on this motion, Members have the opportunity “to bring forward topics of their own choosing”.[234] Consequently, debate tends to be very wide‑ranging and the Speaker usually makes no effort to apply the rule of relevance. This is not the case, however, when the House is debating the Budget. The remarks of Members must be relevant to the motion before the House. All the same, the terms of the motion (i.e., that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government) are sufficiently broad to permit Members great latitude in their remarks without violating the principle of the rule.[235]

*   The Sub judice Convention

During debate, restrictions are placed on the freedom of Members of Parliament to make reference to matters awaiting judicial decisions in order to avoid possible prejudice to the participants in the courts. This self-restraint recognizes the courts, as opposed to the House, as the proper forum in which to decide individual cases. Matters before the courts are also prohibited as subjects of debate, motions or questions in the House. While precedents exist for the guidance of the Chair, no attempt has ever been made to codify the practice known as the “sub judice convention”.[236] The interpretation of this convention is left to the Speaker since no “rule” exists to prevent Parliament from discussing a matter which is sub judice, that is, “under the consideration of a judge or court”.[237]

The sub judice convention is first and foremost a voluntary exercise of restraint on the part of the House to protect an accused person, or other party to a court action or judicial inquiry, from any prejudicial effect of public discussion of the issue.[238] Secondly, the convention also exists, as Speaker Fraser noted, “to maintain a separation and mutual respect between legislative and judicial branches of government”.[239] Thus, the constitutional independence of the judiciary is recognized. However, as Speaker Sauvé explained, the sub judice convention has never stood in the way of the House considering a prima facie matter of privilege vital to the public interest or to the effective operation of the House and its Members.[240]

There are some situations in which the application of the sub judice convention is fairly straightforward. The convention has been applied consistently to motions, references in debates, questions and supplementary questions and in all matters[241] relating to criminal cases.

The convention does not apply to legislation or to the legislative process as the right of Parliament to legislate may not be limited.[242] If the sub judice convention were to apply to bills, the whole legislative process could be stopped simply by the initiation of legal proceedings in any court in Canada.

Criminal and Civil Cases

No distinction has ever been made in Canada between criminal courts and civil courts for the purpose of applying the sub judice convention, and it has also had application to certain tribunals other than courts of law. The convention exists to guarantee everyone a fair trial and to prevent any undue influence prejudicing a judicial decision or a report of a tribunal of inquiry. Indeed, in the view of the Special Committee on the Rights and Immunities of Members, “prejudice is most likely to occur in respect of criminal cases and civil cases of defamation where juries are involved”.[243]

Where criminal cases are concerned, the precedents are consistent in barring reference to such matters before judgement has been rendered and during any appeal. Members are expected to refrain from discussing matters that are before a criminal court, not only in order to protect those persons who are undergoing trial and stand to be affected whatever its outcome, but also because the trial could be affected by debate in the House.[244] It has been established that the convention would cease to apply, as far as criminal cases are concerned, when judgement has been rendered.[245] The Speaker has confirmed that a matter becomes sub judice again if an appeal is entered following a judgement.[246]

The precedents are not as consistent where civil cases are concerned. The convention has been applied on some occasions[247] and not on others.[248] However, in 1976, the Speaker ruled that no restriction ought to exist on the right of any Member to put questions respecting any matter before the courts, particularly those relating to a civil matter, unless and until that matter is at least at trial.[249] Although nothing resembling a settled practice has developed in relation to civil cases, the Chair has warned on various occasions of the need for caution in referring to matters pending judicial decisions whatever the nature of the court.[250]

Courts of Record and Commissions of Inquiry

From the precedents, it is clear that the application of the convention is limited to tribunals designated by statute as courts of record.[251] A “court of record” is defined as follows: “1. A court that is required to keep a record of its proceedings. The court’s records are presumed accurate and cannot be collaterally impeached [and] … 2. A court that may fine and imprison people for contempt”.[252] The sub judice convention does not apply, however, to matters referred to royal commissions, although the Chair has cautioned against making reference to the proceedings, evidence, or findings of a royal commission before it has made its report.[253]

Role of the Speaker

Since the sub judice convention is not codified and is voluntary, the jurisdiction of the Speaker in such matters is somewhat difficult to outline. The Speaker’s discretionary authority over matters sub judice derives from his or her role as guardian of free speech in the House. The Chair has the duty to balance the rights of the House with the rights and interests of the ordinary citizen undergoing trial. Indeed, the Speaker intervenes in exceptional cases only where it appears likely that to do otherwise would be harmful to specific individuals. The problem facing a Speaker is that determining when a comment will have a tendency to influence is speculative business—it cannot be done until after the remarks have been made.

In its inquiry, the Special Committee on the Rights and Immunities of Members recommended that when there is doubt in the mind of the Chair, a presumption should exist in favour of allowing debate and against the application of the convention.[254] The Committee concluded that while there can be no substitute for the discretion of the Chair, in the last resort all Members of the House should share in the responsibility of exercising restraint when it seems called for.[255] A Member who feels that there could be a risk of causing prejudice in referring to a particular case or inquiry should refrain from raising the matter. Furthermore, a Member who calls for the suppression of discussion of a matter on grounds of sub judice should be obliged to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Chair that he or she has reasonable grounds for fearing that prejudice might result.[256]

It was also the view of the Committee that the responsibility of the Chair, particularly during Question Period, should be minimal in regard to the sub judice convention, and that the responsibility should principally rest upon the Member who asks the question and the Minister to whom it is addressed. Should a question to a Minister touch upon a matter sub judice, it is likely that the Minister involved will have more information covering the matter than the Speaker, and the Minister might be better able to judge whether answering the question might cause prejudice. In such a situation, the Minister could refuse to answer the question on these grounds, bearing in mind that refusal to answer a question is his or her prerogative. From the precedents, this appears to be the approach the Chair has taken.[257] The Speaker has interrupted only if he or she has felt the sub judice convention was being breached.[258]

*   Personal Explanations

The Chair may occasionally grant leave to a Member to explain a matter of a personal nature although there is no question before the House. This is commonly referred to by Members as “a point of personal privilege” and is an indulgence granted by the Chair. There is no connection to a question of privilege, and one Speaker noted, “There is no legal authority, procedural or otherwise, historic or precedential, that allows this”.[259] Consequently, such occasions are not meant to be used for general debate and Members have been cautioned to confine their remarks to the point they wish to make.[260] When granted, they have been used by Members notably to announce a resignation,[261] or to explain changes in party affiliation, matters affecting them which have occurred outside the Chamber or misinterpreted statements.[262]

Top of Page



[142] There appears, however, to be no procedural impediment to Members referring to themselves by name. See, for example, Debates, October 23, 2006, pp. 4131-2.

[143] Beauchesne, 4th ed., p. 126. See, for example, Debates, October 30, 1997, p. 1388; April 2, 1998, p. 5685; February 26, 2007, p. 7310; March 1, 2007, p. 7494.

[144] Beauchesne, 4th ed., p. 126. See, for example, Debates, October 6, 1997, p. 530; September 16, 2003, pp. 7446-7.

[145] Beauchesne, 4th ed., p. 126.

[146] Debates, November 29, 1985, p. 8991. See, for example, Debates, October 26, 1990, pp. 14767‑8; March 17, 1998, p. 4960; March 1, 1999, p. 12262; October 17, 2006, pp. 3885‑6; October 19, 2006, p. 3980.

[147] See, for example, Debates, June 21, 1994, p. 5674; December 5, 1995, pp. 17207‑8; February 6, 1998, p. 3479; February 16, 1999, p. 11941; April 22, 1999, p. 14214; May 5, 1999, p. 14715; November 8, 2006, pp. 4904-5; November 21, 2006, p. 5151.

[148] Debates, April 3, 1987, p. 4875. Speakers have, however, declined to extend the prohibition to references to the absence of Members from committee meetings. See, for example, Debates, February 7, 2003, p. 3308.

[149] Standing Order 18. See, for example, Debates, September 29, 2003, p. 7942; May 4, 2006, p. 958.

[150] Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 361; Beauchesne, 4th ed., p. 115. See, for example, Debates, September 29, 1994, p. 6311; June 9, 1995, p. 13517; October 29, 1996, pp. 5868‑9, 5875; October 6, 1998, p. 8832; April 6, 2005, p. 4750; April 25, 2006, p. 521; May 11, 2006, p. 1260. The use of unparliamentary language is discussed in detail later in the chapter.

[151] See Debates, February 11, 1993, pp. 15792‑3; January 29, 2002, pp. 8444‑5.

[152] Standing Order 18. See also Bourinot, 4th ed., pp. 360‑1. See, for example, Debates, June 8, 1990, pp. 12522‑3, 12533‑4; June 13, 1995, pp. 13734‑5; June 14, 1995, p. 13872; September 24, 1998, p. 8354; February 5, 1999, pp. 11515‑6; June 22, 2005, p. 7622.

[153] See, for example, Debates, January 21, 1994, p. 170; June 8, 1994, pp. 5015‑7; May 16, 2000, p. 6886.

[154] Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 357. See, for example, Debates, December 5, 1985, pp. 9204‑5. It is acceptable to refer to the official printed records of the Senate even though they may not have been formally asked for and communicated to the House.

[155] See, for example, Debates, March 12, 1993, p. 16913; June 23, 2005, p. 7696; May 16, 2007, p. 9563.

[156] May, T.E., Erskine May’s Treatise on The Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament, 22nd ed., edited by Sir D. Limon and W.R. McKay, London: Butterworths, 1997, p. 381.

[157] Beauchesne, 6th ed., p. 49.

[158] See, for example, Debates, January 17, 1991, pp. 17294‑5, 17304‑5; May 25, 1993, p. 19709; May 17, 2006, p. 1544.

[159] See, for example, Debates, June 1, 1956, pp. 4537‑9; Journals, June 4, 1956, pp. 692‑3; June 8, 1956, pp. 725‑6; Debates, March 13, 1964, p. 916; Journals, March 18, 1964, pp. 103‑4; March 19, 1964, pp. 106‑7; Debates, March 9, 1993, p. 16685; March 13, 2000, p. 4397; March 16, 2000, p. 4739. For further information on motions of censure against the Speaker, see Chapter 7, “The Speaker and Other Presiding Officers of the House”, and Mercer, T., “Challenging the Chair”, Canadian Parliamentary Review, Vol. 29, No. 2, Summer 2006, pp. 21‑5.

[160] In 1981, the Leader of the Opposition made remarks which constituted an attack on the authority and impartiality of the Speaker. The following day, a Minister raised a question of privilege on the matter. The Leader of the Opposition subsequently withdrew his remarks and the matter was declared closed (Debates, January 21, 1981, p. 6410; January 22, 1981, pp. 6455‑7). In 1993, a prima facie breach of privilege was found when a Member refused to withdraw disparaging remarks about a Chair Occupant (Journals, March 23, 1993, p. 2688, Debates, pp. 17403‑5). Two days later, the Member apologized and the matter was declared closed (Debates, March 25, 1993, p. 17537). See also Debates, May 14, 1996, p. 2721.

[161] Standing Order 18. For examples of disrespectful references to the Governor General, see Debates, May 23, 1958, p. 406; March 12, 1959, p. 1869; September 27, 1990, pp. 13509, 13513; February 24, 1994, pp. 1799‑1800. Discourteous references to Lieutenant‑Governors have also been ruled out of order. See, for example, Debates, June 20, 1958, p. 1462; March 12, 1959, p. 1870.

[162] Bourinot, 4th ed., pp. 338‑9. See, for example, Debates, March 9, 1910, cols. 5100‑1. May notes: “Her Majesty cannot be supposed to have a private opinion, apart from that of her responsible advisers; and any attempt to use her name in debate to influence the judgement of Parliament is immediately checked and censured. This rule also extends to other members of the royal family, but it is not strictly applied in cases where one of its members has made a public statement on a matter of current interest so long as comment is made in appropriate terms” (May, 23rd ed., p. 436).

[163] Beauchesne, 4th ed., pp. 128‑9; 6th ed., pp. 150‑1. See, for example, Debates, May 16, 1986, p. 13353; September 19, 1991, p. 2401; November 28, 1996, p. 6854; June 8, 1998, pp. 7680, 7691; June 9, 1998, p. 7835. However, Members are not prohibited from giving notice of a substantive motion concerning the conduct of a judge (Debates, February 18, 1926, p. 1106).

[164] Debates, April 1, 1998, pp. 5653‑4. See also Debates, April 2, 1998, p. 5743.

[165] See, for example, Debates, December 1, 1986, p. 1636; June 4, 1998, p. 7575; October 18, 1999, p. 256.

[166] See Speaker Milliken’s remarks, Debates, April 2, 2003, p. 5040, to the effect that this convention applies only to statements which might potentially damage the reputation of a member of the public. In another ruling, Mr. Milliken declined to invoke this prohibition with regard to statements made in a public forum (Debates, May 11, 2005, pp. 5933-4).

[167] See, for example, Debates, May 26, 1987, pp. 6375‑6; November 28, 1991, pp. 5509‑10; April 18, 2005, pp. 5213-4.

[168] Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 357. It is also irregular to refer to discussions held in a Committee of the Whole.

[169] See, for example, Debates, December 4, 1984, p. 896. In practice, this rule is often disregarded by the Chair.

[170] Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 358.

[171] Beauchesne, 6th ed., p. 141.

[172] Standing Order 18.

[173] May, 22nd ed., p. 380.

[174] See, for example, Journals, June 1, 1955, pp. 654‑7, in particular p. 656; Debates, May 19, 1960, p. 4025; October 20, 1970, p. 402; May 11, 1983, pp. 25363‑6; November 3, 1983, p. 28661; May 4, 1993, p. 18921; May 14, 1993, pp. 19470‑1; April 6, 1995, pp. 11608, 11612; September 24, 1996, p. 4656; May 7, 1998, p. 6690; May 11, 1999, p. 15001; September 16, 2003, p. 7439.

[175] Standing Order 18. For further information, see Chapter 12, “The Process of Debate”.

[176] Standing Order 18. See, for example, Debates, February 25, 1998, pp. 4401‑2; October 28, 1998, p. 9512; May 3, 2006, p. 848. This includes any allegation that a Member has lied or misled the House. See, for example, Debates, November 1, 2006, pp. 4533, 4538; March 28, 2007, pp. 8035-6.

[177] See Speaker Michener's ruling, Journals, June 19, 1959, pp. 581‑6 and Speaker Fraser’s ruling, Debates, December 11, 1991, pp. 6141‑2.

[178] Standing Order 47.

[179] See, for example, Debates, March 24, 1993, p. 17482; October 22, 1997, p. 964; October 18, 2005, p. 8678; October 19, 2006, pp. 4008, 4013.

[180] See, for example, Debates, October 22, 1997, pp. 971‑2; April 22, 1999, pp. 14225, 14229; April 6, 2005, pp. 4747, 4750.

[181] See, for example, Debates, June 13, 1986, pp. 14370‑2; March 5, 1987, p. 3882; December 9, 1997, p. 3018; March 27, 2007, pp. 7985-7.

[182] See, for example, Debates, February 5, 1997, pp. 7716‑7; February 17, 1999, pp. 12000‑1; March 22, 2007, pp. 7794-5; March 4, 2008, p. 3625.

[183] See Debates, December 12, 1991, pp. 6218‑9; October 30, 2006, pp. 4414-5. See also Debates, February 10, 1998, pp. 3714‑5, when a Member accused another Member of an obscene gesture. The Speaker indicated that it would be difficult to check because the gesture would not be recorded and he did not see it. Speakers have, on occasion, found that there was sufficient corroborating evidence for alleged unparliamentary remarks neither heard by the Chair nor recorded in the Debates (Debates, November 28, 2001, p. 7614).

[184] See, for example, Debates, June 8, 1998, p. 7707; October 7, 1998, p. 8885; November 5, 1998, pp. 9917‑8; March 18, 1999, pp. 13092‑3; October 29, 2004, p. 958; November 4, 2004, p. 1189; October 31, 2005, p. 9255. On one occasion, the Speaker dismissed a point of order alleging unparliamentary language upon learning that what had given offence was the inaccurate English simultaneous interpretation (“Italian salute”) of a French expression (“bras d’honneur”) (Debates, June 14, 2006, pp. 2372-3).

[185] Lists of terms ruled unparliamentary have been included in the index to the Debates, in Bourinot (4th ed., pp. 361‑4) and in Beauchesne (6th ed., pp. 142‑50). In 1991, a government motion calling upon Members to refrain from the use of offensive and abusive language and for vigorous enforcement of Standing Order 18 was debated on three occasions but never came to a vote (Journals, October 23, 1991, pp. 521-2; October 25, 1991, pp. 535-6; November 21, 1991, pp. 703-4). Neither did the work of an unofficial “Special Advisory Committee to the Speaker on Unparliamentary Language and the Speaker’s Authority to deal with Breaches of Decorum and Behaviour”, convened by Speaker John Fraser in 1992 and chaired by the Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees of the Whole, Andrée Champagne, lead to significant change in this regard. The Committee’s report (June 22, 1992), which took the form of draft amendments to the Standing Orders, was never presented to the House, nor were its recommendations ever implemented or formally debated. During the Thirty-Ninth Parliament, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, in its Thirty-Seventh Report, presented to the House on March 1, 2007 (Journals, p. 1092), declined to recommend changes to the Standing Orders to strengthen the disciplinary powers of the Chair, and called upon all parties to support a vigorous exercise of its existing powers.

[186] See, for example, Debates, November 4, 1987, p. 10741; November 18, 1987, pp. 10927‑8; December 14, 1987, pp. 11761‑2; October 26, 1998, p. 9379; February 18, 1999, p. 12094; May 6, 2004, p. 2847.

[187] See, for example, Debates, September 25, 1998, p. 8401; October 30, 1998, p. 9641; February 16, 1999, pp. 11972‑3; March 25, 1999, pp. 13483‑4; October 28, 2004, p. 898; May 5, 2005, p. 5722; April 25, 2006, p. 521.

[188] On one occasion, when Jim Fulton (Skeena) refused to retract his remarks, Speaker Fraser chose not to recognize the Member until a withdrawal was made three weeks later (Debates, October 29, 1987, pp. 10542‑3; October 30, 1987, pp. 10583‑4; November 18, 1987, pp. 10927‑8). See also Debates, November 27, 2002, p. 1949; March 28, 2007, p. 8036.

[189] See, for example, Debates, February 12, 1997, pp. 8016‑7; October 1, 1997, pp. 332, 334‑5; October 2, 1997, p. 367; December 1, 1998, pp. 10726‑7, 10730‑1; December 6, 2002, p. 2380. For further information, see the section in this chapter entitled “Naming”.

[190] Standing Order 11(2).

[191] Dawson (Dawson, W.F., Procedure in the Canadian House of Commons, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1962, p. 108) highlighted the difficulty in enforcing this rule by noting that, “the whole system of procedure is based on an assumption of repetition” and referred to three readings given to a bill.

[192] Bourinot, South Hackensack, New Jersey: Rothman Reprints Inc., 1971 (reprint of 1st ed., 1884), p. 349. See also the Chair’s remarks, Debates, June 17, 1992, p. 12297; June 23, 1992, p. 12641; February 1, 2002, p. 8584.

[193] Standing Order 11(2). For cases of a Speaker directing a Member to discontinue his or her speech, see Debates, May 26, 1947, pp. 3450‑1; August 25, 1958, p. 4073. If a Member persists in breaching the repetition or relevance rule in a Committee of the Whole, he or she is reported to the House by the Chair if the Committee so directs. For further information, see Chapter 19, “Committees of the Whole House”.

[194] Snow, V.F., Parliament in Elizabethan England: John Hooker’s Order and Usage, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1977, p. 169.

[195] Hatsell, Vol. II, p. 232.

[196] Hatsell, Vol. II, p. 230.

[197] The entry in the Journals reads: “… if any superfluous motion, or tedious speech be offered in the House, the party is to be directed and ordered by Mr. Speaker”. See Hatsell, Vol. II, p. 230.

[198] Even so formidable a character as Speaker Arthur Onslow could not manage to enforce the rule on his own authority (Thomas, P.D.G., The House of Commons in the Eighteenth Century, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971, pp. 217-8).

[199] Rules, Orders and Forms of Proceedings of the House of Commons of Canada, 1876, Rule No. 13.

[200] Rules of the House of Commons of Canada, 1910, Rule No. 19.

[201] Debates, April 29, 1910, col. 8377.

[202] Rules of the House of Commons of Canada, 1910, Rule No. 13(5).

[203] Debates, March 18, 1927, p. 1351.

[204] In more blatant cases, the Speaker has been able to specify the date and cite the page on which the same speech had previously been delivered. In one instance, the Speaker was able to predict that the Member was about to begin paragraph six of his speech and, in another, the Speaker cited five instances in which the same appeal had previously been made (Debates, June 9, 1955, p. 4610; April 19, 1956, p. 3073). On another occasion, once a Member had stated that he was going to repeat some of the material he had previously used in the same debate, the Speaker would not allow him to proceed (Debates, February 17, 1956, p. 1290). See also Speaker Beaudoin's remarks (Debates, May 24, 1955, p. 4065).

[205] See, for example, Debates, June 9, 1955, p. 4609. On one occasion, a Member was chided because his remarks were “not much more than a repetition of what has been said by others who preceded him”. Accordingly, the Member was directed to shorten his remarks so that the House could “get down to the work properly before [it]” (Debates, August 31, 1917, p. 5237).

[206] See Debates, May 24, 1955, p. 4065.

[207] See, for example, Debates, April 19, 1922, p. 944.

[208] See, for example, Debates, November 21, 1977, p. 1063. In 1986, Speaker Bosley established that since time is scarce during Question Period, Members should avoid merely repeating questions that have already been asked, although Members may ask other questions on the same issue (Debates, February 24, 1986, p. 10879).

[209] See, for example, Debates, December 9, 1998, pp. 11120-1.

[210] Bourinot, 1st ed., p. 349.

[211] See, for example, Debates, November 5, 1990, pp. 15159‑60; February 4, 1992, p. 6343; April 28, 1999, p. 14450; April 29, 1999, pp. 14492, 14497; June 13, 2005, p. 6989; October 16, 2006, p. 3830.

[212] See, for example, Debates, February 6, 1987, pp. 3195‑6, where the Chair ruled the remarks out of order and recognized another Member. See also Debates, June 7, 1994, p. 4930; June 7, 2006, p. 2085.

[213] See, for example, Debates, February 8, 1993, pp. 15520, 15523; November 2, 1999, p. 971; October 16, 2006, p. 3830.

[214] See, for example, Debates, April 9, 1919, p. 1330; May 4, 1920, p. 1954; March 22, 1921, p. 1193; May 10, 2007, p. 9344; November 23, 2007, pp. 1303-4. One Speaker remarked that a matter raised outside the question in a debate would more properly “form by itself a subject of a special substantive motion” (Debates, March 27, 1923, p. 1553).

[215] May, 23rd ed., p. 400: “Stated generally, no matter ought to be raised in debate on a question which would be irrelevant if moved as an amendment, and no amendment should be used for importing arguments which would be irrelevant to the main question”.

[216] See, for example, Debates, June 2, 1914, p. 4647.

[217] May, 23rd ed., p. 400: “[such an amendment] … by concentrating debate on the main question and the amendment as alternative propositions, does tend to exclude consideration of other [otherwise] relevant alternatives”.

[218] For further information on the previous question, see Chapter 12, “The Process of Debate”, and Chapter 14, “The Curtailment of Debate”.

[219] May, T.E., Erskine May’s Treatise on The Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament, 20th ed., edited by Sir C. Gordon, London: Butterworths, 1983, p. 527.

[220] See, for example, Debates, April 2, 1913, col. 7014; March 25, 1920, pp. 734, 750‑1; May 26, 1978, p. 5795.

[221] Debates, February 16, 1979, p. 3321. See also Debates, October 28, 1991, p. 4085.

[222] Beauchesne, 6th ed., pp. 199‑200. This is a position which has been maintained by the Speaker on several occasions (Journals, November 14, 1949, pp. 237‑8; Debates, May 6, 1959, p. 3402; Journals, October 15, 1962, pp. 76‑7).

[223] Standing Order 101(2). For further information, see Chapter 19, “Committees of the Whole House”.

[224] Debates, November 30, 1977, pp. 1418‑20; November 30, 1978, pp. 1657, 1665‑6; December 10, 1979, p. 2213; December 11, 1979, pp. 2239, 2244; September 30, 1991, pp. 2937, 2979.

[225] It is not exactly clear when this practice started; however, several Members claim that it was a custom which had grown during the years prior to the Second World War (Debates, June 6, 1947, p. 3878; June 30, 1947, p. 4845; July 14, 1947, p. 5570).

[226] Debates, May 11, 1960, pp. 3783‑4, 3788‑9.

[227] Debates, March 23, 1965, p. 12693.

[228] Debates, August 2, 1960, p. 7418; November 30, 1978, pp. 1657, 1665.

[229] Beauchesne, 6th ed., p. 211.

[230] Standing Orders 76(5) and 76.1(5).

[231] Standing Orders 76(6) and 76.1(6).

[232] Beauchesne, 6th ed., p. 214; May, 23rd ed., p. 628.

[233] On one occasion, the Speaker corrected a Member who had assumed that he could talk on the amendment as if it were the third reading motion: “My ruling is that a member should only address himself to the last question submitted to the House … the fact that a member has not spoken to the third reading of the Bill is no justification for his travelling over the same ground on this question (the amendment) that he would have covered if he had spoken to the third reading of the Bill” (Debates, June 2, 1914, p. 4647).

[234] Beauchesne, 6th ed., p. 82.

[235] See Debates, March 10, 1992, pp. 7949‑50.

[236] On December 13, 1976, the House appointed a special committee “to review the rights and immunities of Members of the House of Commons, to examine the procedures by which such matters are dealt with by the House, and to report on any changes it may be desirable to make” (Journals, p. 230). The Committee held three meetings during which it studied how the rights and immunities of Members are affected by the sub judice convention. The First Report of the Special Committee on the Rights and Immunities of Members, presented to the House on April 29, 1977 (Journals, pp. 720‑9) but not concurred in, remains the definitive study of the sub judice convention in Canada and is still used today by the Speaker when dealing with such matters arising in the House.

[237] Speakers have, however, discouraged all comments on matters sub judice rather than to allow Members to test the limits of the convention and the Speaker’s discretion (Debates, June 13, 2003, pp. 7280-1).

[238] Laundy, P., “The Sub Judice Convention in the Canadian House of Commons”, The Parliamentarian, Vol. 57, No. 3, July 1976, pp. 211‑4.

[239] Debates, March 8, 1990, p. 9007.

[240] Debates, March 22, 1983, pp. 24027‑8.

[241] See, for example, Debates, December 6, 1990, p. 16411; February 3, 1993, p. 15368; March 16, 1999, p. 12911.

[242] Debates, October 4, 1971, pp. 8395‑6; March 31, 1981, pp. 8793‑4; October 21, 1999, pp. 467-8.

[243] Journals, April 29, 1977, p. 728.

[244] See Speaker Fraser's rulings, Debates, June 1, 1989, p. 2419; November 7, 1989, p. 5655; and Deputy Speaker Milliken's ruling, Debates, March 16, 1999, p. 12911.

[245] See Speaker Lemieux’s ruling, Debates, February 10, 1928, p. 366.

[246] See Speaker Lamoureux’s ruling, Debates, May 2, 1966, pp. 4583‑4. In 1995, a Member rose on a point of order to contend that a Minister had contravened the convention during Question Period by commenting on a case under appeal in the Alberta courts. The Minister maintained that there was a difference between commenting on the facts of a case before the courts and stating the government’s opinion on a ruling rendered by the courts. In his response to the point of order, Speaker Parent ruled that he could not conclude that the Minister had contravened the convention by stating that the government disagreed with the ruling and planned to challenge the decision (Debates, April 6, 1995, pp. 11618‑9).

[247] See, for example, Debates, June 7, 1938, p. 3625.

[248] See, for example, Debates, May 22, 1973, pp. 3990‑1; July 9, 1973, pp. 5402‑3.

[249] See Speaker Jerome’s ruling, Debates, February 11, 1976, p. 10844. This view was reiterated in a ruling given in 1987, although Speaker Fraser cautioned that a contrary ruling could be made if the Chair felt the question was about to prejudice the rights of either litigant (Debates, December 7, 1987, p. 11542). In a ruling delivered on April 20, 2005, Speaker Milliken declined to apply the sub judice convention to references to media reports that a Member not charged with any offense was “under investigation” by the police, while at the same time urging Members to refrain from such references out of respect for their colleagues (Debates, pp. 5334-5).

[250] See, for example, Debates, April 6, 1995, pp. 11618‑9; March 16, 1999, p. 12911; May 13, 2004, pp. 3136-7, 3162.

[251] See Speakers’ rulings, Debates, March 5, 1947, pp. 1051‑2; June 12, 1951, p. 3975; November 2, 1951, p. 662. In a 1933 incident, a Member attempted to debate charges brought against a county court judge whose conduct had been referred to a commission of inquiry. Speaker Black did not allow the discussion, even though the commission was not defined as a court of record (Debates, March 30, 1933, pp. 3558‑9).

[252] Black, H.C., Black’s Law Dictionary, 8th ed., edited by B.A. Garner, St. Paul, Minnesota: Thomson West, 2004, p. 380.

[253] Debates, March 21, 1950, p. 949; October 17, 1957, p. 119; May 2, 1966, pp. 4589‑90; Journals, November 9, 1978, p. 128. The Speaker noted that “the body carrying out [the inquiry] is an investigatory body and not a judicial body coming to decision. … no decision of that body could in any way be prejudiced, surely, by a debate or discussion here” (Debates, October 31, 1977, p. 433). Investigations conducted by the Ethics Commissioner (after 2006, the “Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner”) of possible breaches of the “Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons” have been treated by Speakers as if subject to the sub judice convention. See, for example, Debates, June 7, 2005, p. 6738.

[254] Journals, April 29, 1977, p. 728. For an example of an instance in which the Speaker has applied this principle, see Debates, June 8, 1987, pp. 6817‑20 (opposition motion on a supply day).

[255] Journals, April 29, 1977, p. 728.

[256] See Speaker Bosley’s ruling, Debates, January 27, 1986, p. 10194.

[257] See, for example, Debates, February 14, 1986, pp. 10828‑9; December 18, 1990, pp. 16901, 16905‑6; October 11, 1991, p. 3643; December 4, 1996, p. 7087.

[258] See, for example, Debates, November 7, 1989, pp. 5654‑6; June 12, 1996, p. 3711; October 20, 1997, pp. 829‑30; February 13, 1998, p. 3854. On occasion, such interruptions have been more admonitory than declarative. See, for example, Debates, May 13, 2004, p. 3136.

[259] Debates, November 21, 1990, p. 15526.

[260] In 1996, Speaker Parent advised the House that Jean‑Marc Jacob (Charlesbourg) would be rising to make a solemn declaration to the House. The Speaker cautioned Members that the statement was not to incite debate. The Speaker subsequently interrupted Mr. Jacob and ruled that “the words being used [in the statement] tend more toward a debate than a solemn declaration”. The Member was not allowed to continue (Debates, June 18, 1996, p. 4027).

[261] See, for example, Debates, March 15, 1984, pp. 2138‑9; May 12, 1986, p. 13149; February 3, 1988, p. 12581; September 24, 1990, p. 13215; October 11, 2002, p. 632.

[262] See, for example, Debates, April 9, 1991, pp. 19231‑2; November 26, 1992, pp. 14113‑5; January 24, 1994, p. 197; March 20, 2001, pp. 1869-70.

Top of Page