PARLIAMENT of CANADA
House of Commons Procedure and Practice
Edited by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit
2000 EditionMore information …
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13. Rules of Order and Decorum

Regardless of how dramatically our opinions may diverge or how passionately we hold to convictions that our political opponents do not share, civility must be respected in the House of Commons. This means that each member is entitled to speak and each member can expect a fair hearing, whether or not we agree with what they say or what they stand for.

Speaker Gilbert Parent
(Debates, March 16, 1998, p. 4902)

O

ne of the basic principles of parliamentary procedure is that proceedings in the House of Commons are conducted in terms of a free and civil discourse. In order that debate on matters of public policy be held in a civil manner, the House has adopted rules of order and decorum for the conduct of Members towards each other and towards the institution as a whole. Members are to show respect for one another and for different viewpoints; offensive or rude behaviour or language is not tolerated. Emotions are to be expressed in words rather than acted out; opinions are to be expressed with civility and freely, without fear of punishment or reprisal. [1] 

Freedom of speech is one of the most important privileges enjoyed by Members of Parliament. [2] This freedom is circumscribed, however, by the necessity of maintaining order and decorum when debate is taking place. Thus, the right to speak is tempered by the written rules of the House which are, in general, limitations on what may be said, and when, by whom and for how long.

The Speaker is charged with maintaining order in the Chamber by ensuring that the House’s rules and practices are respected. [3]  He or she ensures that the rules are followed respecting proper attire, the quoting and tabling of documents in debate, the application of the sub judice convention to debates and questioning in the House, and the civility of remarks directed towards both Houses, Members and Senators, representatives of the Crown, judges and courts. In addition, the Speaker has the duty to maintain an orderly conduct of debate by repressing disorder when it arises either on the floor of the Chamber or in the galleries and by ruling on points of order raised by Members. The Speaker’s disciplinary powers ensure that the debate is focussed and permit the Chair to remove Members who persist in behaving inappropriately. Nonetheless, while it is the Speaker who is charged with maintaining the dignity and decorum of the House, Members themselves must take responsibility for their behaviour and conduct their business in an appropriate fashion.

This chapter examines the practices and rules pertaining to debate in the Chamber and the powers of the Speaker to enforce order and decorum when breaches occur.


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