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Members’ Activities

The 43rd Parliament was dissolved on August 15, 2021, and a general election was called for September 20, 2021. The 338 newly elected and returning Members of Parliament gathered for the first time on November 22, 2021, for the opening of the 44th Parliament.

In the Chamber

The House of Commons Chamber is where Members come together to debate important national issues, hold the government to account, receive documents prepared by government departments and agencies, and debate and vote on proposed legislation and other important matters. Presiding over these activities are the Speaker of the House and other Presiding Officers.

More specifically, Members’ work in the Chamber includes the following:

Reviewing and debating bills and motions
Examining public expenditures
Holding the government to account by means of oral and written questions
Considering resolutions on issues of public interest
Presenting petitions (paper or electronic) on behalf of the public

The return of Parliament

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, our institution—rooted in over 150 years of customs, practices and traditions—has had to innovate and adapt. To continue their duties, parliamentarians started meeting in hybrid format, where some Members attend proceedings in person and others participate remotely by videoconference. The House continued to sit in hybrid format until it adjourned for the summer on June 23, 2021.

On August 15, 2021, the Governor General dissolved the 43rd Parliament and a general election was held on September 20, 2021. One week before the 44th Parliament officially opened on November 22, 2021, procedural staff provided newly elected Members with a session in the Chamber as part of the Members’ Orientation Program, to inform them on their role as legislators. For the first time, the session took place in hybrid format, making it possible for Members to participate virtually. Chamber orientation takes a look at a typical sitting day, how to vote, how to participate in proceedings of the House, and provides an overview of the first days of a new Parliament. This year, the session also included a discussion on the ways in which Members participated in hybrid proceedings in the previous Parliament.

As the special order allowing for hybrid proceedings expired at the end of June 2021, Members’ presence was required in the Chamber on November 22, 2021 for the opening of Parliament and the election of the Speaker. Members were also required to consider a motion allowing for hybrid sittings of the House and committees to resume. It was the first time in almost two years that Members met in the Chamber without hybrid or virtual support. Preventative measures remained in place.

The next day, the Governor General delivered the Speech from the Throne in the Senate Chamber with limited in-person attendance. The speech was broadcast live and Members—along with all Canadians—were able to watch the event remotely.

Speaker Rota during the Speech from the Throne on November 23, 2022. The Speaker of the House and Members of Parliament may only enter the Senate Chamber as far as the brass bar at its entrance, a barrier that symbolizes the independence of the two houses of Parliament.
Speaker Rota during the Speech from the Throne on November 23, 2021. The Speaker of the House and Members of Parliament may only enter the Senate Chamber as far as the brass bar at its entrance, a barrier that symbolizes the independence of the two houses of Parliament.

A special order for special times

The Standing Orders of the House of Commons are a collection of the permanent rules adopted by the House to govern its proceedings. There are currently more than 150 standing orders governing the legislative process, the Speaker’s role, the parliamentary calendar, the work of committees, and Private Members’ Business, among other things.

In addition to the Standing Orders, the House may also adopt special orders, which temporarily suspend the regular rules and practices for a limited time, to deal with a particular matter. On November 25, 2021, the House adopted a special order to authorize hybrid proceedings for sittings of the House of Commons and meetings of committees, allowing Members to either attend in person or participate remotely. The motion also included provisions to allow for voting by videoconference as of November 26, 2021, and directed the House Administration to begin onboarding Members to the electronic voting application used in the 43rd Parliament. This application was reinstated on December 9, 2021, and remains in place until June 23, 2022.

The electronic voting application

How do Members vote remotely?

The electronic voting application created by the House Administration allows Members participating in proceedings remotely to vote electronically on motions before the House, while others vote in person using the traditional method.

Continued support during hybrid proceedings

Working behind the scenes, teams from across the Administration made sure that Members and their employees were properly equipped and trained for hybrid sittings. Connectivity and the security of our network were maintained to ensure Members could participate in proceedings on the Hill as well as remotely from across the country. Hybrid meetings of the House were broadcast as usual, and the public portions of committee meetings remained available for Canadians.

In committees

Through committees, Members conduct in-depth studies, consider and potentially amend proposed legislation, and examine government spending. Committees often seek input from stakeholders and will invite ministers, public servants, private citizens, experts and representatives of organizations to appear before them to provide information relevant to a study that the committee has decided to undertake.

Standing committees established under the Standing Orders of the House of Commons are empowered to study all matters relating to their mandate and the various government departments assigned to them by the House.

Standing joint committees are composed of members from both the Senate and the House of Commons and are established pursuant to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons and the Rules of the Senate.

Special committees are appointed by the House of Commons to carry out specific inquiries, studies or other tasks that the House deems important. Special committees exist until their final report has been presented to the House or until the end of the session.

Special joint committees are established pursuant to orders adopted by the Senate and the House of Commons and with membership from both houses. These committees are tasked with studying specific matters and exist until their final report has been presented to the Senate and the House of Commons or until the end of the session.

A committee room

Did you know?

Over the past 10 years, a total of 12 special committees or special joint committees have been created:

  • Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying (2022)
  • Special Joint Committee on the Declaration of Emergency (2022)
  • Special Committee on Afghanistan (2021)
  • Special Committee on the Economic Relationship between Canada and the United States (2021)
  • Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying (2020)
  • Special Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic (2020)
  • Special Committee on Canada-China Relations (2020)
  • Special Committee on Electoral Reform (2016)
  • Special Committee on Pay Equity (2016)
  • Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying (2016)
  • Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women (2013)
  • Special Committee on Co-operatives (2012)

First item of business

Committees started meeting shortly after the opening of the 44th Parliament. At the start of each new session, committees must first hold an organization meeting. Although the only item of business on the agenda for an organization meeting is the election of the committee chair, it has become common practice for committees to proceed immediately with the election of the vice-chairs and the consideration of routine motions. Because not all of the rules of the House of Commons necessarily apply to their activities, committees establish their own rules to follow for the duration of a session of Parliament. Each committee is free to organize its own activities, as long as it respects the powers granted to it by the House.

The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs assists the House in determining the composition of many of its committees, which is why it was the first to hold its organization meeting, on December 3, 2021. The meeting was convened following a House order and conducted in hybrid format.

The House adopted a number of motions to allow the Standing Committee on Finance and the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to meet on December 6 and 8, 2021, respectively. The House also ordered that the other standing committees be convened no later than December 17, 2021.

A gavel

Committees at work

Committees provide an opportunity for in-depth discussions on a variety of topics. For example, during this reporting period, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development conducted a study of the vulnerabilities created and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic over 20 meetings, starting in November 2020 and ending in May 2021. The committee heard from 62 witnesses and received 16 briefs as part of this study, which resulted in two reports. The second report, Confronting a Child Rights Crisis and Restoring Hope, was presented to the House on June 9, 2021.

One of the newest committees is the Standing Committee on Science and Research, which examines successes, challenges and opportunities for science in Canada, with reports from the Chief Science Advisor. Three new special committees were also formed during this period: the Special Committee on Afghanistan was created at the start of the 44th Parliament and held its first meeting in December 2021; further to the declaration of emergency under the Emergencies Act, the House adopted a motion on March 2 to create the Special Joint Committee on the Declaration of Emergency; and lastly, the House adopted a motion to create the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying on March 30.

What is the Special Joint Committee on the Declaration of Emergency?

On February 14, 2022, the federal government declared a public order emergency under the Emergencies Act, citing blockades in various locations across Canada—including downtown Ottawa—as the reason for the declaration. This was the first time the Emergencies Act had been invoked since the bill was passed in 1988. The declaration was tabled in the House of Commons and a motion to confirm the declaration was put forward and considered by Parliament. Following debate, the House adopted the motion on February 21, and the declaration of emergency was ultimately revoked on February 23. The Emergencies Act stipulates that a joint parliamentary committee composed of members of both houses of Parliament must be formed to review any declaration of emergency. The Special Joint Committee on the Declaration of Emergency was created on March 2, 2022, and met for the first time on March 14.

Statistics about committees

From April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022, a total of 852 committee meetings were held, including standing and special committees, and their respective subcommittees. 148 committee reports were tabled in the House of Commons and these reports notably covered topics like:

  • Food security in Northern communities
  • Systemic racism in policing in Canada
  • Zero-emission vehicles
  • Urban, rural, and Northern housing
  • Challenges faced by women living in rural communities

Working behind the scenes, Administration employees offered procedural, administrative, technical and logistical support to all committees. Upon request, legal advice was provided to committees, and legislation and amendments were drafted for Members for the study of bills. Between April 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022, the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel appeared before parliamentary committees 8 times.

Improving virtual participation

In response to the continued need for a hybrid environment for committees, the House transitioned to a new, specially configured platform with improved security, simultaneous interpretation, and broadcasting systems to support public and private meetings. In addition, enhancements were put in place for Members’ employees to follow committee meetings remotely, while other adjustments helped facilitate the management of witness panels.

When the House of Commons adopted the special order for the continuation of hybrid proceedings in November 2021, the rule instructing all witnesses to participate remotely was extended. The Administration improved its support to witnesses to make sure the latter were properly equipped to participate in committee meetings. A key concern was making sure that sound quality was adequate for all meeting participants and that interpreters could safely do their work. As a result, specialized teams provided witnesses with online onboarding services, ensured witnesses used the recommended technology, and ran simulations with witnesses before meetings. They also tested connectivity and equipment functionality to ensure the best overall meeting experience.

A witness participates remotely in a committee meeting

International and interparliamentary activities

Parliamentary diplomacy promotes dialogue and cooperation among the world’s legislators. The Speaker and Members of the House of Commons represent Parliament internationally in a number of ways and, this past year, they engaged virtually with their counterparts on a wide range of topics of national and international interest.

Given the ongoing restrictions on international travel and visiting delegations, the Speaker engaged in new forms of virtual diplomacy to maintain positive relations with parliaments around the world. For example, Speaker Rota participated in numerous virtual meetings and courtesy calls with his counterparts and members of the diplomatic corps of the European Union and in Austria, Estonia, Lithuania, New Zealand, Tuvalu, the United Kingdom and the United States to name a few.

Parliamentary associations and interparliamentary groups: promoting Canada's interests

Over the past year, Canadian parliamentarians participated in over 290 virtual events hosted by the various parliamentary associations and interparliamentary groups, including the following:

Canada-United States Interparliamentary Group logo

Canada-United States Interparliamentary Group

A bilateral meeting of the Canada-United States Interparliamentary Group was held virtually on May 18, 2021 with counterparts from the US Senate. During this meeting, Canadian and American legislators discussed cross-border trade, defence cooperation, energy, and the environment.

67th Annual Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly logo

67th Annual Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly

From October 8 to 11, 2021, the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association took part remotely in the 67th Annual Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. During the session, parliamentarians from North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member countries and partner nations discussed key issues affecting the security of the Euro-Atlantic area, including lessons learned from NATO’s engagement in Afghanistan, democratic resilience and disinformation, climate change, as well as defence spending and innovation.

18th Plenary Assembly of ParlAmericas logo

18th Plenary Assembly of ParlAmericas

Canada is a member of ParlAmericas, a network of 35 legislatures that provides parliamentarians with a forum to engage counterparts in the Western hemisphere on important issues of mutual interest. On December 10, 2021, the 18th Plenary Assembly of ParlAmericas was held virtually. Canadian delegates reported on our country’s initiatives to improve digital literacy, reverse the effects of climate change, and build inclusive democratic models.

A first-ever virtual Parliamentary Officers’ Study Program

The Parliamentary Officers’ Study Program provides senior parliamentary staff from foreign legislatures and other Canadian jurisdictions an opportunity to learn about the operations of the Canadian Parliament and compare them with their own practices. Over the past year, a platform was created for the program to host, for the first time, entirely virtual sessions. The new system was developed exclusively for Parliament and specifically tailored to its reality. Two live virtual programs—one in English and one in French—took place in January and February 2022, with Canadian participants from four provinces and international participants from 30 different countries.

A virtual meeting of the Parliamentary Officers’ Study Program

Finding new ways to connect

This year, the Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians launched its virtual Parliament to Campus Program, which allows former parliamentarians to communicate with university students to share their insights and experience of public service.

Ceremonies and visits

Official visits

In addition to organizing important events such as the opening of Parliament and the Speech from the Throne, the Administration’s parliamentary protocol team planned a number of official visits this year: it supported a virtual visit from Joe Biden, President of the United States, and an in-person visit from Vjosa Osmani‑Sadriu, President of Kosovo, as well as visits from several premiers.

Speaker Rota meets with Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu on November 24, 2021
Speaker Rota meets with Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu on November 24, 2021.

Address by a distinguished visitor

Before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Members had already begun to discuss the situation and, on February 16, unanimously resolved to support Ukraine’s sovereignty. Since the outbreak of war, the conflict has often been the subject of debate in the House of Commons, and on February 28, the House unanimously adopted a motion condemning the attack and calling on the government to implement various sanctions on Russia and provide support to Ukraine. On March 15, 2022, His Excellency Mr. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine, addressed the Canadian Parliament by video link, and Members, Senators and guests attended the first joint address to Parliament since the House of Commons moved to West Block. This was also the first time a joint address was delivered via video link.

Watch the President of Ukraine’s address to Parliament on March 15, 2022
Watch the President of Ukraine’s address to Parliament on March 15, 2022.

Remembering former parliamentarians

Every year, on behalf of Parliament, the Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians organizes a memorial service in honour of Members and Senators who passed away in the previous year. This year, a virtual memorial service was held on September 14, 2021.

September 30, 2021 marked the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

The day honours the lost children and survivors of residential schools, as well as their families and communities. This federal statutory holiday was created through legislation adopted by both houses of Parliament. On June 3, 2021, Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code (National Day for Truth and Reconciliation) received Royal Assent.

The Peace Tower on Parliament Hill is illuminated orange