Recall of the House During an Adjournment

When the House stands adjourned during a session, the Standing Orders provide the means by which the House may be recalled prior to the date originally specified to transact business as if it had been duly adjourned to the earlier date.95 This process usually begins with a government request made in writing to the Speaker setting out reasons why it is in the public interest to recall the House. The request may be made at any time.96 The decision to recall is taken by the Speaker, after consultation with the government and once the Speaker is satisfied that the public interest would be served by an earlier meeting of the House.97 The Standing Orders make no reference to criteria other than the public interest. Should the Speaker be satisfied of the need for the recall, the Standing Orders further provide for the Speaker to give notice of the day and hour of the resumption of business. Normally, the Speaker requests a period of time following the notice (the practice is a minimum of 48 hours) in which to notify Members individually and allow for their travel time to Ottawa. Depending on the circumstances, a Special Order Paper and Notice Paper (in addition to the regular Order Paper and Notice Paper) may be published at the request of the government.98

When a decision is taken to recall the House, the Speaker advises the Clerk of the House and asks that the necessary steps be taken to resume business. Should the Speaker be unable to act due to illness or any other reason, deputy presiding officers may act in the Speaker’s place for the purpose of this particular Standing Order. The Clerk then ensures that all is made ready for the resumption of the sittings.

House officials are responsible for the logistics of the recall, including informing the Members and publishing the Order Paper and Notice Paper (and a Special Order Paper and Notice Paper, if the government so requests).99

Historical Perspective

For the first 70 years after Confederation, the practice was to end a session of Parliament by prorogation rather than have a lengthy adjournment. In 1940, however, given the uncertainty of the wartime situation, it was deemed advisable to adjourn rather than to prorogue in order to enable the House to reconvene quickly if necessary. The House adopted a motion to adjourn which empowered the Speaker to recall the House if, after consultation with the government, it was concluded that it was in the public interest to do so.100 Similar motions were adopted in subsequent sessions and became routine when the House adjourned for an extended period of time.

The first recall under these circumstances occurred in 1944 when the government wished to apprise the House of the situation arising from the resignation of the Minister of National Defence.101 Several other recalls took place before 1982,102 at which time the practice was codified by the adoption of a Standing Order worded similarly to the adjournment motions used before 1982.103

Cancelling Recall Order

No mechanism exists to cancel an order to recall the House. However, on one occasion, the Speaker issued a formal statement in which he cancelled an earlier notice for recall after receiving such a request from all the recognized parties in the House. The original notice was given on June 26, 1992, for the House to meet on July 15, 1992; the notice of cancellation was given on July 11, 1992, and tabled on September 8, 1992, at which time the Speaker made a statement to the House.104

Order of Business upon Resumption of Sitting

When the House reassembles following a recall, the Speaker informs the House of the reason for the recall, the various steps taken to effect the recall and, if a Special Order Paper and Notice Paper was requested by the government, the steps taken for its publication and circulation.105 Since 1980, the Speaker has also tabled correspondence received from the government concerning the recall.106

A recall has no effect on the ordinary daily order of business of the House. When the House first meets following a recall, Routine Proceedings, Question Period and other proceedings are all held in the usual manner depending on the time of meeting of the House, which is set out in the notice of recall.107 Unless a motion to adjourn to a later date is adopted, or the session is ended by prorogation, the House merely continues on subsequent days with its regular sittings as if it had been adjourned to the recall date. In such cases, the House may well operate outside the calendar for some time, as it did in 1987 when the House was recalled in early August and did not again adjourn for an extended period until the December break, which was in accordance with the calendar.108