PARLIAMENT of CANADA
House of Commons Procedure and Practice
Edited by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit
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16. The Legislative Process

Stages in the Legislative Process

A bill is carried forward through all the stages of the legislative process “by a long chain of standardized motions” which must be adopted by the House before the bill becomes law. [123]  It is these motions, and not the bill, that are the subject of the decisions and debates of the House. These stages “constitute a simple and logical process in which each stage transcends the one immediately before it, so that although the basic motions — that the bill be read a first (second or third) time — ostensibly are the same, and seem repetitious, they have very different meanings”. [124]  Moreover, the House does not commit itself conclusively in favour of a bill until the final stage, when it takes a decision to let the bill pass from the House or not. [125] 

The Standing Orders of the House require that every bill receive three readings, on different days, before being passed. [126]  The practice of giving every bill three separate readings derives from an ancient parliamentary practice which originated in the United Kingdom. [127]  At that time, when the technology was not yet available to reproduce large numbers of copies at low cost, bills were introduced in handwritten form, one copy at a time. In order for Members to know what the content of the bill was, the clerk read the document to them; the idea of “reading” the bill was taken literally. [128] 

Today, a bill is no longer read aloud, but the formality of holding a reading is still preserved. When the Speaker declares that the motion for first reading has passed, a clerk at the Table rises and announces “First reading of this bill”, thus signifying that the order of the House has been obeyed. That scenario is repeated when the House has ordered a second and then a third reading of the bill.

A certification of reading must be affixed to every bill immediately after each of the three readings is adopted. The Clerk of the House is responsible for certifying each reading, and entering the date it passed at the foot of the bill. [129]  A bill remains in the custody of the Clerk throughout all the stages of consideration. No substantive alteration to the bill is permitted without the express authority of the House or a committee, in the form of an amendment. The original bills, certified by the Clerk, form part of the records of the House. [130] 

All bills must go through the same stages of the legislative process, but they do not necessarily follow the same route. Since the House adopted new rules to make the legislative process more flexible, [131]  three avenues now exist for the adoption of legislation (see Figure 16.1):

  • After appropriate notice, a Minister or a private Member may introduce a bill, which will be given first reading immediately. The bill is then debated generally at the second reading stage. It is then sent to a committee for clause-by-clause study.
  • A Minister or a private Member may propose a motion that a committee be instructed to prepare a bill. A bill will be presented by the committee and carried through the second reading stage without debate or amendment.
  • A Minister may move that a bill be referred to a committee for study before second reading.

Regardless of the avenue that the House decides to take, the bill will then have to be carried through report stage, be read a third time and be sent to the Senate for passage before receiving Royal Assent. At the start of a new session, a public bill may, if it is the same bill as was introduced in the preceding session, be reinstated at the stage it had reached at the time of prorogation. This procedure may be effected either by passing a motion to that effect [132]  or, in the case of a private Member’s bill, by invoking the provision of a new Standing Order adopted in 1998. [133] 

On urgent or extraordinary occasions, if the House so decides, a bill may be given two or three readings on the same day, or advanced two or more stages in one day. [134]  This provision of the Standing Orders refers only to the reading stages. [135]  It is up to the House itself, and not the Chair, to determine whether the matter is urgent. [136] 

The following are the stages that a bill must go through when it is introduced in the House of Commons:

  • Notice of motion for leave to introduce and place on the Order Paper;
  • Preparation of a bill by a committee (where applicable);
  • Introduction and first reading;
  • Reference to a committee before second reading (where applicable);
  • Second reading and reference to a committee;
  • Consideration in committee;
  • Report stage;
  • Third reading (and passage);
  • Consideration and passage by the Senate;
  • Passage of Senate amendments by the Commons (where applicable);
  • Royal Assent;
  • Coming into force.

A bill that is introduced in the Senate must go through essentially the same stages, except that it is considered first in the Senate and then in the House of Commons. [137]  Most bills may be introduced in either House, with the exception of bills which involve spending or relate to taxation, which must be introduced in the House of Commons.

Figure 16.1 – The Three Options of the Legislative Process
(Government Bills Originating in the House of Commons)
Image depicting three columns, composed of a series of boxes linked by lines, that shows each step in three different options for the legislative process: 1. the process by which a bill is referred to committee before second reading; 2. the process by which a bill is referred to committee after second reading; and 3. the process by which a committee prepares and brings in a bill.

Notice of Motion for Leave to Introduce and Place on the Order Paper

The introduction of any public bill requires 48 hours’ written notice. [138]  The notice of motion is a prerequisite in the legislative process. Once notice is given for the introduction of a bill, no further notice is required in respect of the bill at the other stages of consideration (with the exception of motions to amend at the report stage). There are separate requirements that apply in respect of the notice required for private bills. [139]

A private Member or a Minister who intends to introduce a bill in the House of Commons must first give notice to the Clerk of the House before 6:00 p.m. (2:00 p.m. on Friday). [140]  The title of the bill to be introduced is then placed on the Notice Paper. The day after it appears on the Notice Paper, the title will appear in the Order Paper in the order that the notices were received, for introduction in the House. This satisfies the 48-hour notice requirement in the Standing Orders. The title of the bill will remain on the Order Paper until the day when the private Member or Minister decides to introduce the bill.

There are special rules dealing with the introduction of bills that involve the expenditure of public funds and bills based on Ways and Means motions. Those provisions are described in Chapter 18, “Financial Procedures”.

Preparation of a Bill by a Committee

The Standing Orders provide that a motion to appoint or instruct a committee to prepare a bill [141]  may be moved by a Minister [142]  or by a private Member. [143]  However, the procedures to be followed in each instance are not entirely the same.

A Minister who wants to instruct a committee to prepare and bring in a bill must give 48 hours’ written notice of the motion he or she intends to move to do so. [144]  Once the notice period has passed, the motion will be placed on the Order Paper under “Government Orders”. When it is called by the government, it may be debated for a maximum of 90 minutes, after which the Speaker will interrupt debate and put all questions necessary to dispose of the motion. [145] 

If a private Member wants to instruct a committee to produce and bring in a bill, the Member must give at least two weeks’ written notice of the motion he or she intends to make. [146]  When that notice period has passed, the motion will be placed on the Order Paper under “Private Members’ Business”. It will then be governed by all the rules relating to Private Members’ Business (that is, it will be subject to the random draw procedure, it will have to be selected as a matter that can be voted on and it will be taken up during the time set aside for Private Members’ Business [147] ).

The adoption by the House of a motion to concur in a report of a committee instructed to prepare and bring in a bill is an order to bring in the bill. [148]  If, at the time the motion for first reading of a bill is moved, the Minister or Member states that the bill is based on the committee report, the motion for second reading will be moved at a later date, without debate or amendment. Consideration of a government bill at the second reading stage may not begin before the third sitting day after first reading. [149]  At least two weeks must elapse between first and second reading of private Member’s bills. [150]  After second reading, the bill goes through the other ordinary stages for public legislation.

Introduction and First Reading

The first real stage in the legislative process is the introduction and first reading of the bill in the House. When the notice period has elapsed and the Member or Minister is ready to introduce his or her bill, the Member or Minister informs the Chair of his or her intention to proceed during Routine Proceedings when the item “Introduction of Government Bills” or “Introduction of Private Members’ Bills” is called. Leave to introduce a bill is granted automatically, and the motion is deemed carried, without debate, amendment or question put. [151]  A Minister does not normally provide any explanation when requesting leave to introduce a bill, but may do so. [152]  On the other hand, a private Member normally provides a brief explanation of the bill he or she is introducing in the House. [153] 

The purpose of first reading is to allow for the bill to be introduced so that it may be printed and distributed to all Members. It is at that point that a specific bill number is assigned to it. Passage of the motion for first reading simply means that the House agrees to the introduction of the bill without any commitment beyond the fact that it should be made generally available for the information of Parliament and the public. [154]  There can be no discussion at this stage. When leave to introduce the bill has been granted, the Speaker proposes the following motion to the House: “That this bill be read a first time and be printed.” That motion is deemed carried, without debate, amendment or question put. [155]  The Speaker then asks: “When shall the billbe read a second time?”, and answers, “At the next sitting of the House.” The question is in fact a formality which enables the bill to be placed on the Order Paper under the heading “Government Orders” or “Private Members’ Business”. [156] 

Senate bills are already printed when they are sent to the House of Commons. Accordingly, the request for leave to introduce the bill is not required. The motion for first reading is deemed carried without debate, amendment or question put. [157]  Senate bills then go through the same stages as House of Commons bills.

Reference to Committee Before Second Reading

Traditionally, when the House proceeds to second reading of a bill, it is asked to give approval to the principle of the bill. However, the effect of adoption of the principle at this stage of the legislative process is to limit the scope of amendments that may be made during committee study and at report stage. In wishing to provide more flexibility in the legislative process, when the House amended its Standing Orders in 1994, [158]  it instituted a new procedure that allows a Minister to move that a government bill be referred to a committee before second reading. [159]  This enables Members to examine the principle of a bill before second reading, and to propose amendments to alter its scope. [160]  This procedure also applies to bills based on Ways and Means motions. [161] 

When the Order of the Day is read for the second reading of a government bill, a Minister may, [162]  after n.tifying representatives of the opposition parties, propose a motion that the bill be forthwith referred to committee before second reading. The Standing Orders are silent as to the manner in which the representatives of the opposition parties are to be notified. However, the practice which has been followed since 1994 is for the Minister to inform the House of the government’s intention at the time of the introduction and first reading of the bill. The motion to refer forthwith the bill to committee is not subject to any amendment, and debate is limited to three hours. At the end of the three hours, or when no more Members rise to speak, the Speaker puts the question on the motion. [163]  If the motion is adopted, the bill is referred to a standing, special or legislative committee for consideration.

In general, during clause by clause consideration of a bill, the committee follows the same rules and procedures that apply to the consideration of bills in committee after second reading. [164] It may hear witnesses and receive briefs. However, the scope of the amendments that may be made to the bill is much wider, given that the committee study is not limited to the principle of the bill, the principle not having been approved yet by the House. At the end of its study, the committee reports the bill to the House, with or without amendment. The report stage of the bill may not be taken into consideration prior to the third sitting day following the presentation of the report. [165] 

When the committee reports the bill to the House, the next stage is essentially a combination of the report stage and second reading. At this stage, Members may propose amendments, after giving written notice two sitting days prior to the bill being called. [166]  When consideration of report stage is concluded, a motion “That the bill, as amended, be concurred in at report stage and read a second time” or “That the bill be concurred in at report stage and read a second time” is put and forthwith disposed of by the House, without debate or amendment. [167]  Once concurred in at report stage and read a second time, the bill is set down for third reading and passage at the next sitting of the House.

Second Reading and Reference to a Committee

Second reading gives Members an opportunity to hold a general debate on the principle [168]  of a bill. Although the Standing Orders of the House make no specific reference to this point, tradition and practice hold that it is at this stage of the legislative process that debate on the general scope of a bill takes place. [169]  Consequently, debate must focus on the principle of the bill and not its individual provisions. [170] 

Recognition of the importance of this stage of the legislative process has evolved over the years. Traditionally, it was felt that second reading was the most important stage in the legislative process. [171]  In 1968, the Special Committee on Procedure and Organization of the House stated in its report, after examining the stages of the process, that the significance of the second reading stage had been exaggerated in the past, and that the decisive stage should occur later in a bill’s passage after it had emerged from a committee. [172]  In the Committee’s view, passage of the motion for second reading simply implied that the House had given preliminary consideration to the bill and that, without any commitment as to the final passage of the bill, it had authorized its reference to a committee for detailed scrutiny. [173] 

Second reading of a bill and reference to a committee are moved in the same motion. The motion specifies the committee (standing, special, legislative) to which the bill is referred. [174]  The Standing Orders require, in specific cases, that a bill be referred to a Committee of the Whole. [175] 

Debate on second reading begins when the Minister or Member, as the case may be, rises when the Order of the Day is read for the second reading of the bill and moves “That Bill   be now read a second time and referred to the   Committee.”

The Standing Orders contain provisions concerning the length of speeches of Members during debate. [176]  There is no time limit for the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Official Opposition. However, no other Member may speak for more than 40 minutes if he or she is the first, second or third Member to speak. In addition, during the five hours of debate that follow the first three Members, no Member may speak for more than 20 minutes, and a period not exceeding 10 minutes is then made available for questions and comments. If there are no questions or comments, or if the time has not been fully used, another Member may then speak. Questions and comments must be relevant to the Member’s speech. [177]  After five hours of debate, any other Member rising to speak has a maximum of 10 minutes, but no period for questions and comments is provided. The Whip of a party may indicate to the Chair at any time during a debate that one or more of the 20-minute or 10-minute periods of debate allotted to Members of his or her party will be divided in two. [178]  By custom, every Member who moves a substantive motion is allowed a reply. Practice is that a Member who proposes a motion for second reading of a bill is also allowed a reply. In the case of government bills, a parliamentary secretary may exercise that right on behalf of the Minister only with the unanimous consent of the House. [179] 

The Standing Orders of the House offer the government a mechanism for limiting debate at second reading, and also at other stages of the legislative process, by using time allocation motions. [180]  This permits the government to establish a timetable for consideration of a public bill. [181] As well, the government has another mechanism, referred to as “closure”, to compel the House to take a decision. [182]  However, this latter procedure is rarely used in relation to bills. [183] 

At the end of the debate, the Speaker puts the question on the motion “That the bill be now read a second time and referred to the committee”. The Speaker asks the House whether it is ready for the question and whether it is the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion. A recorded division may be requested. [184]  Defeat of a motion for second reading results in the withdrawal of the bill; in fact, the bill is deemed to be no longer before the House, and no date is set for consideration of the bill to resume. [185]  Once the motion is adopted, the bill is referred to the appropriate committee.

Amendments to the Motion for Reading

A public bill which was not referred to a committee before second reading may not be amended before being read a second time and being referred to committee. [186]  However, a motion for second reading of a bill may be amended, [187]  but only three types of amendments may be moved without notice: a three months’ or six months’ hoist; a reasoned amendment; and a referral of the subject matter to a committee.

The Hoist Amendment

The hoist is an amendment that may be moved to a motion for the reading of a bill. Its effect is to prevent a bill from being “now” read a second time, and to postpone the reading for three months or six months. [188]  If it is adopted, the bill is withdrawn for the remainder of the current session. If it is defeated, the result of the procedure is nonetheless to have extended the debate and to have allowed Members to speak a second time.

The hoist amendment originated in British practice, where it appeared in the eighteenth century. It enabled the House of Commons to postpone the resumption of the consideration of a bill. It was subsequently agreed that the adoption of such an amendment by the House was tantamount to the rejection of the bill, since the postponement was deliberately set for a date after the end of the session. Normally, if the session went beyond that date, the bill was not placed again on the Order Paper[189] 

Historical events were responsible for the establishment of three or six months as the postponement period. A hundred years ago, sessions rarely lasted longer than six months, and so a six months’ hoist amendment would be proposed at the beginning of a session, and a three months’ hoist in the final weeks of a session. Today, sessions of the House of Commons of Canada are longer, but the length of sessions is neither regular nor fixed in advance.

An analysis of hoist amendments moved in the House of Commons since Confederation shows that the cases in which this procedure has been used fall into two specific periods. The first was from 1867 to about 1920, and the second from 1920 to the present day.

The first hoist amendment was moved on November 28, 1867. [190]  Prior to 1920, it was the government, not the opposition, that used hoist amendments most often. [191] Because the House had only a little time for government business during the short sessions of that era, the government sometimes felt obliged to dispose of a great number of private Members’ bills by using the hoist procedure so that it would have more time to devote to its own legislation.

Since 1920, the period set aside for government business has grown to take up the largest share of the time in the House, and hoist amendments have gradually come to be used almost exclusively by the opposition. From an examination of the precedents, it is clear that hoist amendments were moved to motions for second and third reading during periods when there was considerable tension between the parties. Those amendments rarely passed: of the scores of cases recorded in the Journals, only four succeeded. In each of those four cases, the hoist amendment was moved by the government with the intent of defeating a private Member’s bill.

A hoist amendment must meet a number of requirements if it is to be ruled in order. The purpose of the amendment is to neutralize the word “now” in the motion for reading. It must therefore amend the motion for reading by eliminating all of the words following the word “That” and replacing them with the following proposition: “Bill (number and title) be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time this day three months (or six months) hence.” A hoist amendment requires no notice, may be debated and may not be amended. [192] 

When a hoist amendment is rejected, debate continues on the main motion; however, no more than one hoist amendment may be moved in respect of the same reading motion. [193]  The adoption of a hoist amendment (whether for three months or six months) is tantamount to the postponement of the consideration of the bill for an indefinite period. [194]  Consequently, the bill disappears from the Order Paper and cannot be introduced again, even after the postponement time has elapsed. [195]  The bill is accordingly defeated indirectly. It is no longer possible to place the bill back on the Order Paper, because to do so would be ruled contrary to the decision of the House. Members have tried to apply the hoist amendment to a resolution [196]  or to include it in the text of a reasoned amendment, [197]  but these attempts were ruled out of order.

The Reasoned Amendment

The reasoned amendment, another type of amendment that may be moved at second reading of a bill, allows a Member to state the reasons why he or she opposes second reading of a bill, by introducing another relevant proposal to replace the original question. [198]  A reasoned amendment, which is introduced in the form of a motion, deletes all the words in the main motion after the word “That” and replaces them with other words.

It is difficult to determine precisely when a reasoned amendment was first moved in the House, but it is believed that the first such amendment was introduced in 1882. [199]  An analysis of the reasoned amendments that have been proposed since Confederation shows that there was an initial period, from about 1882 to 1930, which was remarkable for the latitude allowed in the wording of reasoned amendments. In that period, Members were not too concerned with contesting the receivability of reasoned amendments, and the Chair only rarely intervened. In the early 1930s, regular requests began to be made to Speakers to rule as to whether reasoned amendments were in order; during that second period, which lasted until the mid-1960s, a number of precedents were established. Beginning in the 1970s, it became increasingly difficult for Members to move reasoned amendments that were acceptable in procedural terms. [200]  The Chair is therefore now able to refer to a larger body of Canadian precedents in order to determine whether or not a reasoned amendment is in order.

The Standing Orders of the House of Commons contain no provisions respecting reasoned amendments. [201]  However, precedents have established rules of procedure over the years that cover both the form and substance of such amendments. Today, a reasoned amendment generally takes the form of a request to the House to decline to give a bill second reading, for a specific reason. [202]  There are only two broad categories of reasons that are now cited:

  • A reasoned amendment may be declaratory of a principle adverse to or differing from the principles, policy or provisions of the bill; or
  • A reasoned amendment may express an opinion as to any circumstances connected with the introduction or consideration of the bill, or with any other initiative opposed to its progress.

For a reasoned amendment to be in order, it must observe the following rules:

  • It must be relevant and relate strictly to the bill being considered. [203]  A reasoned amendment is not relevant, for example, if it relates to another bill; [204]  is intended to divide the bill; [205]  proposes that the bill be withdrawn and replaced by another bill; [206]  relates to the parent Act rather than to the amending bill; [207]  goes beyond the scope of the bill; [208]  involves the expenditure of funds or proposes changes that go beyond the scope of the royal recommendation. [209] 
  • It must not be a direct negation of the principle of the bill. The procedure to be followed when a Member does not agree with the principle of a bill and wants to reject it is simply to vote against the motion for second reading of the bill. [210] 
  • It must not relate to particulars of the bill, [211]  if what is sought may be accomplished by amendments in committee. [212] 
  • It must not attach a condition to the adoption of the second reading motion. [213] 

A reasoned amendment which is merely a statement of opposition to portions of the bill is not admissible. [214]  On the other hand, a reasoned amendment need not necessarily oppose the principle of a bill in order to be admissible. Opposition to the principle of the bill is only one of the possible conditions for a reasoned amendment to be in order. [215] 

Where a reasoned amendment is ruled to be in order, the House must dispose of it. To date, there have been no instances in which the House has decided in favour of a reasoned amendment. If it were to do so, that would end debate on the bill, and the House would have to forego second reading of the bill. [216]  The order relating to the bill would disappear from the Order Paper.

Referral of the Subject Matter of a Bill to a Committee

During debate on the motion for second reading, a Member may propose an amendment to refer the subject matter of a bill to a committee for it to consider and report on the matter to the House. This type of amendment replaces all the words after “That” with words proposing that the bill be not now read a second time, that the order for second reading be discharged, the bill withdrawn from the Order Paper and the subject matter be referred to a committee. [217] 

Certain conditions must be met, however, for this type of amendment to be in order. First, the subject matter of the bill may not be referred to more then one committee [218]  nor to a body not in existence. [219]  Second, an amendment that would attach a condition to the adoption of the motion for reading of a bill is out of order. [220]  Third, the actual provisions of the bill may not be referred to committee, as this would be tantamount to instructing a committee to consider certain provisions of a bill even before the bill has been read a second time and referred to committee. [221] 

Motions of Instruction

Once a bill has been referred to a committee, the House may give the committee an instruction by way of a motion which authorizes it to do what it otherwise could not do, such as, for example, examining a portion of a bill and reporting it separately, [222]  examining certain items in particular, [223]  dividing a bill into more than one bill, [224]  consolidating two or more bills into one bill, [225]  or expanding or narrowing the scope or application of a bill. [226]  On the other hand, a committee that so wishes may seek an instruction from the House. [227] 

The House may give instructions to a Committee of the Whole or any one of its committees. More than one motion of instruction to a committee for the same bill may be proposed, but each motion must be moved separately. [228]  Motions of instruction respecting bills are permissive rather than mandatory. [229]  It is left to the committee to decide whether or not to exercise the powers given to it by the House. [230] 

Motions of instruction derived from British practice during the second half of the nineteenth century. They were incorporated into the practices of the Canadian House of Commons, although they have been used only on rare occasions. Nearly all the precedents on instructions relating to bills took place during a period when bills were referred to a Committee of the Whole after second reading. During debate on the motion “That the Speaker do now leave the Chair”, a Member could move an amendment for the purpose of giving an instruction to that committee. Today, when a bill is referred to a Committee of the Whole, [231]  the House gives its instructions, if any, by a special order. [232] 

Motions of instruction are not admissible as an amendment to the motion for second reading of a bill, and may not be moved while the bill in question is still in the possession of the House. [233]  Motions of instruction may be moved immediately after the motion for second reading where it refers the bill to a Committee of the Whole. [234]  No notice is required. However, when a motion of instruction is made at this stage of the legislative process, it is not debatable or amendable. [235] 

A motion of instruction may also be moved in the form of an independent motion. [236]  Forty-eight hours’ written notice is required [237]  and, when the motion is moved in the House, it may be debated and amended. [238]  Debate on a motion of instruction must be strictly relevant to the instruction, and not be directed to the substance of the bill. [239]  A motion of instruction may be moved in the House even after a committee has begun its deliberations on the bill. [240] 

Whether proposed by a Minister or a Member, such a motion may be placed under “Motions” in Routine Proceedings on the Order Paper[241]  Otherwise, it is placed under Government Business, if the notice is given by a Minister, or under Private Members’ Business, if it is given by a private Member. When it is called during the daily period set aside for “Routine Proceedings”, a motion of instruction is then dealt with as an independent substantive motion, even though it is only meaningful in connection with the bill in the possession of the committee. If debate on the motion is adjourned or interrupted before the end of the sitting, the motion is transferred to “Government Orders” and the time for resumption of the debate is left to the pleasure of the government. [242] 

There are a number of reasons why the Chair may rule a motion of instruction to be out of order. A motion of instruction may not be used to deal with an item in a bill that could properly constitute a distinct measure, or to attempt to interfere in the work of a committee which has not yet reported. [243]  A motion of instruction which is not in proper form, or which is not worded in such a way that the committee will clearly understand what the House wants, will also be out of order. [244]  A motion of instruction will be ruled out of order if it does not relate to the content of the bill, if it goes beyond the scope of the bill (for example, by embodying in it a principle that is foreign to it or by proposing to amend Acts that are not related to the bill), if it is not sufficiently specific, or if it attempts to delete a portion of the bill. [245]  A motion of instruction will also be ruled out of order if it attempts to confer powers to a committee which it already possesses, [246]  if it enables a committee to divide a bill that does not lend itself to such division, [247]  or if it extends the financial prerogatives of the Crown without a Royal Recommendation for that purpose. [248] 

Royal Consent

Royal Consent (which should not be confused with Royal Assent or Royal Recommendation) is taken from British practice and is part of the unwritten rules and customs of the House of Commons of Canada. Any legislation that affects the prerogatives, hereditary revenues, property or interests of the Crown requires Royal Consent, that is, the consent of the Governor General in his or her capacity as representative of the Sovereign. [249]  Consent is therefore necessary when property rights of the Crown are postponed, compromised or abandoned, or to waive some prerogative of the Crown. [250]  For instance, it was required for bills in connection with railways on which the Crown had a lien, [251]  property rights of the Crown (in national parks and Indian reserves), [252]  the garnishment, attachment and diversion of pensions [253]  and amendments to the Financial Administration Act[254] 

However, the consent of the Crown is not required where the bill relates to property that the Crown may hold for the Crown’s subjects. [255]  The fact that the Crown agrees to give consent does not, however, mean that it approves the substance of the measure; it merely means that it agrees to remove an obstacle to the progress of the bill so that it may be considered by both Houses, and ultimately submitted for Royal Assent. [256] 

Although Royal Consent is often given when a bill is read for the second time, [257]  it may be signified at any stage before final adoption. [258]  It may be given in the form of a special message, [259]  but normally it is transmitted by a Minister [260]  who rises in the House and states: “His/Her Excellency the Governor General has been informed of the purport of this bill and has given his/ her consent, as far as Her Majesty’s prerogatives are affected, to the consideration by Parliament of the bill, that Parliament may do therein as it thinks fit”. If consent has not been given, the Speaker will refuse to put the question for passage at third reading. [261]  If, through inadvertence, a bill requiring Royal Consent were to pass all its stages in the House without consent being given, the proceedings in relation to the bill would be declared null and void. [262] 

Consideration in Committee

During consideration in committee, Members examine the clauses of the bill in detail. It is at this stage that they have their first opportunity to propose amendments to the text of the bill. It is also at this stage that witnesses may be invited to present their views and to appear before the committee to answer Members’ questions. A bill is referred to a standing, special or legislative committee for consideration, [263]  normally after the adoption of second reading in the House, but sometimes before second reading. [264]  Occasionally, bills are referred to a Committee of the Whole. Any bill based on a Supply motion must be referred to a Committee of the Whole. [265]  As well, with the unanimous consent of the House, an urgent or non-controversial bill may be referred to a Committee of the Whole, [266] most often after having gone through more than one stage of the legislative process in a single sitting. [267]  The House may also decide, by adopting a special order, to refer a bill to a Committee of the Whole. [268] 

Mandate of the Committee

A bill that is referred to a committee comprises the order of reference to the committee. The committee’s sole mandate is to examine the bill and report it to the House, with or without amendment. [269]  If the bill has already received second reading, the committee is bound by the decision of the House and may not amend the bill contrary to its principle. [270]  This is not the case when the committee is considering a bill that has not yet been given second reading. [271] 

During consideration of a bill, a committee may receive clarification from the House regarding its order of reference. The “instructions” from the House may expand the committee’s mandate by giving it additional powers. [272]

A committee may be asked by the House to reconsider a bill which it has already reported. This reference is normally proposed in the form of an amendment to the motion for third reading of the bill. The House may refer a bill back to a committee to have only certain clauses amended or reviewed; it may refer the bill several times, and it may refer it with or without any limitation. In the latter case, the whole bill is open to reconsideration. When a bill is referred with limitations, the committee can consider only the clauses or amendments referred to it. [273] 

Role of a Committee on a Bill

The role of the committee at this stage of the legislative process is to consider a bill clause by clause and, if necessary, word by word, and to approve the text or to modify it to reflect the committee’s intentions. [274] 

The committee has the power to change the provisions of a bill to such an extent that when it is reported to the House it may be completely different in substance from the bill which was referred to the committee. [275]  For example, the committee may, if it so decides, negative a clause or clauses of a bill (to the extent that nothing is left of the text of the bill) and report the bill to the House with amendments; the committee may also negative all the clauses of a bill and substitute new clauses, as long as the new clauses respect the rules of admissibility. [276] 

Length of Speeches

Every member of a committee may speak as often as he or she wishes and may also speak as long as he or she wishes, subject to the practice that the committee adopts in that respect. [277]  Frequently, a committee will pass motions to govern its proceedings, such as motions to regulate the length of time that members of the committee may speak, to establish the rotation of speakers (usually according to political parties) and to impose time limits for the proposal of certain types of motions or amendments. [278] As well, the length of speeches may be governed by constraints imposed by an order of the House [279]  or, in the case of a private Member’s public bill, by the Standing Orders. [280] 

A committee itself may also limit the time it will spend on consideration of a bill by adopting a motion to that effect. Such a motion may be debated and amended. A committee may also pass the equivalent of a time allocation motion, that is, allotting time for the examination of each clause, [281]  or terminating consideration of a bill at a particular time or date. [282] 

Hearing of Witnesses

A committee to which a bill is referred usually chooses to hold public hearings. [283]  The steering committee of the committee (referred to as the sub-committee on agenda and procedure) may discuss a timetable for meetings and a list of witnesses whom the members wish to invite to appear, and may present its recommendations to the whole committee in the form of a report. The committee may then adopt the report with any amendments deemed necessary. The committee may decide to call on the services of the research officers of the Library of Parliament, [284] or to retain any other specialist it considers necessary to assist in its work. [285] 

Before proceeding with the clause by clause examination of the bill, the Chair of the committee calls Clause 1 for debate (or Clause 2, if Clause 1 contains the short title [286] ) to allow the members of the committee to hold a general discussion on the bill and to question witnesses, if any witnesses are appearing. The practice is that the first witness to appear before the committee is either the sponsor of the bill or the Minister responsible for the bill (or the Minister’s parliamentary secretary). Other witnesses may then be invited to express their views on the bill. Those witnesses may include individuals, experts or representatives of organizations that would be affected by the legislative measure. At this stage, discussion is very open, and relates to both the general principle and the details of the bill. Later, when the committee undertakes its clause by clause consideration of the bill, the Minister responsible, or the Minister’s parliamentary secretary, may return to address the committee. [287]  The officials of the department will also make themselves available during this phase, to provide explanations of certain complex or technical aspects of the legislative measure. [288]

On occasion, committees have considered more than one bill at a single meeting to take advantage of the presence of a Minister and witnesses so that they can be questioned on all bills at the same time. [289]  The bills in question had points in common, so that it was practical to undertake consideration of both simultaneously. However, at the clause by clause stage, the bills were examined separately. [290]  A committee has also considered both a bill that had been referred to it and the subject matter of another bill. [291] 

Clause by Clause Consideration

Once the witnesses have been heard, the committee proceeds to clause by clause consideration of the bill. It is during this phase of the committees’ deliberations that members may propose amendments to the bill.

Order in Which the Elements of the Bill Are Examined

Unless the committee decides otherwise, clause by clause consideration of the bill follows the following order:

  • Clauses;
  • Clauses allowed to stand (if any);
  • Schedules;
  • Clause 1 (short title);
  • Preamble (if any);
  • Title.

The elements of a bill must be considered in a prescribed order: consideration of the preamble (if the bill has one) is postponed until after the clause by clause examination; [292]  consideration of Clause 1, if that clause contains only the short title, is also postponed; the other clauses and the schedules are considered in the order in which they appear in the printed version of the bill. [293]  The new clauses and new schedules are considered in the order in which they would appear in the bill. While some authorities on parliamentary procedure recommend a different order for examining new clauses and schedules, [294]  several years ago, committees adopted the practice of proceeding with new clauses and new schedules in the same manner as for proposed amendments to clauses, that is, in the order in which they would appear in the bill. Committees consider that this approach facilitates clause by clause consideration; it has been used to such an extent that it is now solidly entrenched in the practice of the House of Commons. [295]  Once all the provisions have been decided, the committee returns to consider Clause 1 (if it was postponed), the preamble and, finally, the title. [296] 

Consideration of the Clauses

Each clause of the bill is a distinct question and must be considered separately. The committee Chair calls each clause successively by its number and, after discussion, puts the question on the clause if no amendment is proposed. If an amendment is proposed, the Chair gives the floor to the member, who reads the amendment. A new question is then placed under consideration and there is a new debate. When debate has concluded, the Chair puts the question on the amendment to the clause and, once decided, puts the question on the clause itself (as amended, if applicable). Once the clause is carried, it may not be discussed again without unanimous consent. [297] 

The committee may pass a motion to divide a clause in order to debate the parts separately or to put the question on the parts separately. [298] 

Clauses Allowed to Stand

The committee may, by motion, decide to stand a clause, provided that the committee has not already adopted or negatived an amendment to the clause in question. [299]  If, however, an amendment has been proposed and withdrawn, the clause may be stood. In practice, however, committees often decide, by unanimous consent, to postpone examination of a clause even if an amendment to the clause has been proposed. A committee may also stand part of a bill, or a consecutive group of clauses en bloc. However, a motion to stand part of a clause, or to postpone consideration of the only effective clause of a bill until the subordinate clauses have been considered, is out of order. [300] 

Debate on a motion to postpone consideration of a clause is limited to the issue of postponement, and may not be extended to the merits of the bill or the clause in question. Unless provision to the contrary is made in the motion, clauses which were allowed to stand are considered after all the other clauses of the bill have been disposed of. [301] 

Amendments

Proposed during debate on a clause, an amendment attempts to amend the text of the clause under consideration so that it will be more acceptable, or to propose a new text to the committee. An amendment must be relevant to the clause it is proposed to amend, [302]  and must therefore relate to only one clause of the bill and not to two or more clauses at once. [303]  However, for practical reasons, the Chair may permit debate to range over several other amendments which are interconnected or which raise different aspects of the amendment under consideration. [304]  The purpose of a sub-amendment is to alter an amendment to make it clearer. A sub-amendment must relate to the amendment; it may not enlarge upon the scope of the amendment by bringing up a matter that is foreign to it. [305]  A committee may consider only two amendments at a time, that is, an amendment to a clause and a sub-amendment to the amendment. Once an amendment has been proposed, it may be withdrawn only at the request of the member who moved it and with the unanimous consent of the members of the committee. [306] 

Only a member of the committee, or his or her designated substitute, [307]  is entitled to move an amendment or vote on an amendment. [308]  The Chair of the committee, like the Speaker of the House, may not move motions or vote, except in the case of an equality of voices. [309]  It is generally acknowledged that in the case of an equality of voices, a Chair should vote in such a way as to permit the discussion to continue. A Chair is not required to state reasons for his or her casting vote, or to explain it. [310]  However, when a private bill is before a committee, the Chair may vote on any matter concerning the bill and even has a casting vote if there is an equality of voices. [311] 

Legislative drafting services are available to committee members who wish to move amendments to a bill. Each amendment must be submitted in writing to the Chair of the committee and may be moved in either official language. Unlike the rules that apply to motions presented in the House, it is not necessary for a motion moved in a committee to be seconded. [312] 

Athough a member who intends to move amendments to a bill does not have to provide notice, the normal practice is for the member to communicate with the Chair and clerk of the committee in order to arrange for the translation, compilation and circulation of the amendments to the other members of the committee. [313]  If the Chair has advance notice, he or she will then be able to ensure that a proposed amendment is considered in the right place during consideration of the bill. To ensure that clause by clause consideration proceeds in an orderly manner, a committee may pass a motion setting a deadline for the acceptance of proposed amendments. [314] 

Order in Which Amendments Are Considered

Three types of amendments may be moved during consideration of a clause of a bill: [315] 

  • an amendment to leave out certain words in order to insert or add others;
  • an amendment to leave out a word or words;
  • an amendment to insert or add other words, or to add new clauses or schedules to the bill.

The committee Chair calls the proposed amendments in the order in which they should appear in the bill. However, when several amendments are moved to the same clause, an amendment to leave out words and insert other words takes precedence over an amendment to leave out words. The Chair may rule that an amendment is not moved in the right place, or that it should be moved as a new clause. [316] 

Amendments should be proposed following the order of the text to be amended. If part of a clause has already been amended by the committee, a member may not move an amendment to an earlier part of the clause. [317] 

Admissibility of Amendments

Amendments and sub-amendments that are moved in committee must comply with certain rules of admissibility. It is incumbent upon the Chair to decide on the admissibility of amendments. An amendment must first be moved by a member before the Chair rules as to whether it is admissible; the Chair does not rule on hypothetical motions. When the Chair has to rule on the admissibility of an amendment, he or she relies on the procedural rules that have been established as precedents over the years and on the authorities in parliamentary procedure and practice.

Unlike the situation in the House, where there is no appeal from the Speaker’s decisions, [318]  the decision of a Chair may be appealed to the committee by motion. [319]  However, neither the decision of the Chair nor the motion to appeal may be debated. The Chair’s decision may be reversed only by a majority vote. Consequently, if a motion asking that the Chair’s decision be upheld results in a tie, the decision is upheld. [320] 

If, during debate, the Chair determines that an amendment that was moved (but on which no decision has yet been made) is out of order, the Chair so informs the committee and halts consideration of the motion by the committee. [321] 

•  Rules

The rules concerning the admissibility of amendments are essentially the same for a bill referred to a committee before or after second reading, or for a bill being considered at report stage. [322] However, the rules respecting the principle or scope of a bill do not apply to a bill referred to a committee before second reading, since the principle of the bill has not yet been adopted by the House.

The rules governing the admissibility of amendments to the clauses of a bill may be grouped according to the following characteristics and elements:

Principle and Scope: An amendment to a bill that was referred to a committee after second reading is out of order if it is beyond the scope and principle of the bill. [323]  (This rule does not apply to a bill referred to a committee before second reading, since the principle of the bill has not yet been adopted by the House.) As well, an amendment which is equivalent to a simple negative of the bill or which reverses the principle of the bill as agreed to at second reading [324]  is out of order.

Relevance: An amendment to a bill must be relevant; that is, it must always relate to the subject matter of the bill or the clause under consideration. For a bill referred to a committee after second reading, an amendment is inadmissible if it amends a statute that is not before the committee [325]  or a section of the parent Act unless it is being specifically amended by a clause of the bill. [326]  An amendment of that nature would be admissible, however, in the case of a bill referred to a committee before second reading, as long as it was relevant. In that case, the principle and scope of the bill have not yet been defined, and so a broader examination is possible.

Consistency: The committee’s decisions concerning a bill must be consistent; they must be compatible with earlier decisions made by the committee. An amendment is therefore out of order if it is contrary to or inconsistent with the provisions of the bill that the committee has already agreed to, if it is inconsistent with a decision that the committee has made regarding a former amendment, [327]  or if it is governed [328]  or dependent on [329]  amendments which have already been negatived.

Financial Initiative of the Crown: An amendment must not offend the financial initiative of the Crown. An amendment is therefore inadmissible if it imposes a charge on the Public Treasury, [330]  or if it extends the objects or purposes or relaxes the conditions and qualifications as expressed in the Royal Recommendation. [331]  An amendment is also inadmissible if it goes beyond the scope of the Ways and Means motion on which a bill is based, or if it creates a new charge on the people [332] that is not preceded by the adoption of a Ways and Means motion or not covered by the terms of a Ways and Means motions already adopted. [333] 

Form: An amendment is out of order if it simply attempts to delete a clause, since in that case all that needs to be done is to vote against the adoption of the clause in question. [334]  An amendment is also out of order if it is moved at the wrong place in the bill, if it is tendered in a spirit of mockery, or if it is vague or trifling. [335]  As well, an amendment is out of order if it refers to, or is not intelligible without, subsequent amendments or schedules of which notice has not been given, or if it is otherwise incomplete. [336]  Lastly, an amendment which would make a clause unintelligible or ungrammatical is also out of order. [337] 

Interpretation Clause: The interpretation clause of a bill is not the place to propose a substantive amendment to a bill. [338]  In addition, an amendment to the interpretation clause of a bill that was referred to a committee after second reading must always relate to the bill and not go beyond the scope of or be contrary to the principle of the bill. This rule does not apply to a bill that has been referred to a committee before second reading. [339] 

Marginal Notes and Headings: Because the marginal notes attached to each of the clauses of a bill are not part of the text, they cannot be amended, nor can the headings of the various parts of a bill be amended. [340] 

Coming into Force Clause: An amendment to alter the coming into force clause of a bill, making it conditional, is out of order. [341]  This type of amendment goes beyond the scope of the bill and is an attempt to introduce a new question into the bill.

Schedules: An amendment may generally be moved to a schedule, and it is also possible to propose new schedules. [342]  However, there is an exception in the case of a bill to give effect to an agreement (a treaty or convention) that is within the prerogatives of the Crown. If the schedule to such a bill contains the Agreement itself, the schedule cannot be amended. However, amendments may be proposed to the clauses of the bill, as long as they do not affect the wording of the Agreement in the schedule, and even if the consequence of the amendments is to withhold legislative effect from the Agreement or its parts. [343] 

Preamble: In the case of a bill that has been referred to a committee after second reading, a substantive amendment to the preamble is admissible only if it is rendered necessary by amendments made to the bill. [344]  In addition, an amendment to the preamble is in order when the purpose is to clarify it or make the English and French uniform. [345]  If the bill does not contain a preamble, it is not competent for the committee to introduce one. [346]  In the case of a bill that has been referred to a committee before second reading, if there is not already a preamble, one may be presented as long as the proposal is relevant to the bill; in addition, substantive amendments to an existing preamble are admissible. [347] 

The Enacting Formula: The enacting formula is not submitted for the approval of the committee or the House and therefore may not be debated or amended. [348] 

The Title: The long title is postponed until consideration of the bill is concluded. [349]  The title may be amended only if the bill has been so altered as to necessitate such an amendment. [350]  Any change made to the title by a committee becomes effective when the bill is adopted by the House at report stage. [351] 

Putting the Question on Amendments

When an amendment and a sub-amendment have been moved in committee, the Chair of the committee puts the question first on the sub-amendment. If it is negatived, the question is then put on the amendment; if the sub-amendment is carried, the question is then put on the amendment, as amended. Sometimes, with unanimous consent, the committee may arrange a group of amendments to be disposed of as if each amendment had been moved and voted on separately. [352] 

Adoption of the Bill

Once the committee has concluded its clause by clause consideration, the bill in its entirety, with or without amendments, is submitted for the approval of the committee.

Leave to Report to the House

After the bill is adopted, the Chair asks the committee for leave to report the bill to the House. The standard formula is as follows: “Shall I report the bill (as amended) to the House?” If the committee agrees, the Chair reports the bill to the House as soon as possible. However, if a committee does not agree to report the bill immediately, it must do so later.

Reprinting of the Bill

If the number of amendments made by the committee necessitates it, the committee generally orders that the bill be reprinted for the use of the Members who will have to consult it at report stage. [353] 

Report to the House

The committee is bound by its Order of Reference — the bill — and may only report the bill with or without amendment to the House. [354]  Consequently, the committee may not include substantive recommendations in its report. [355]  On several occasions in the House, the Speaker has ruled a report containing recommendations [356]  or a motion to adopt a report containing recommendations out of order. [357]  In 1973, Speaker Lamoureux ruled that “… there is no authority to support the contention that a committee of the House when considering a bill should report anything to the House except the bill itself”. [358] 

On the other hand, after a bill has been reported, there is nothing to prevent a standing committee, under its permanent mandate in the Standing Orders, from presenting another report in which it sets out substantive recommendations concerning that bill. [359] 

Obligation to Report

Every committee is bound to report to the House on a bill and the amendments which have been made to the bill, [360]  and every bill reported from any committee, whether amended or not, must be received by the House. [361]  However, a committee has no authority to submit two reports to the House on one bill, as the effect of this would be to divide the bill. [362]  A committee may negative all the clauses, the title, and even reject the bill. The committee then reports the bill with amendments, although the only thing which may be left is the number. [363] 

Unless an order of the House [364]  or a provision in the Standing Orders [365]  imposes a deadline by which a committee must report a bill to the House, it is up to the committee to decide when it reports the bill. [366]  The House always has the right to modify the terms of the committal of a bill to a committee. If a Minister or a Member believes that a committee to which a bill has been referred is defying the authority of the House by refusing to consider the bill or report it to the House, he or she may choose to bring this fact to the attention of the House and propose that the committee be given a time limit. This may be done by placing on notice a motion to require the committee to report by a certain date. The notice may, where appropriate, be placed under “Government Orders” or “Private Members’ Business”. The Speaker may also allow such a motion to be placed under the rubric “Motions” and be dealt with under Routine Proceedings, on the condition that it is strictly limited to the terms of the committal of a bill to the committee and is not an attempt to interfere with the committee’s proceedings. In so doing, the House would have an opportunity to determine whether the bill should remain in committee or be reported back. [367] 

•  Private Member’s Public Bill

A committee to which a private Member’s public bill has been referred must, within 60 sitting days from the date of the bill’s reference to the committee, either report the bill to the House with or without amendment or present a report containing a recommendation not to proceed further with the bill [368]  or requesting a single extension of 30 sitting days to consider the bill, giving the reasons therefor. If no bill or report is presented by the end of the 60 sitting days, or the 30 sitting day extension if approved by the House, the bill is deemed to have been reported without amendment. [369] 

•  Abandonment of a Bill

On a number of occasions, a committee has presented a report to the House either recommending that a bill be withdrawn [370]  or informing the House that the committee has agreed that the bill not be further proceeded with. [371]  As well, a committee will occasionally decide not to proceed with the consideration of a bill, without reporting it to the House. [372] 

In those circumstances, the final decision as to the fate of a bill lies with the House as a whole, and not solely with the committee, whose function is to carry out the mandate it was given by the House and report the bill. The House alone has the power to prevent the adoption of a bill or to order its withdrawal. [373]  While reminding the House that the Chair does not become involved in matters within a committee, Speaker Fraser pointed out that there is nothing to prevent any Member or Minister from placing on notice a motion to have the House exercise its authority by ordering the committee to resume its consideration of the bill and report it to the House. [374] 

Report Containing Inadmissible Amendments

Since a committee may appeal the decision of its Chair [375]  and reverse that decision, it may happen that a committee will report a bill with amendments that were initially ruled by the Chairman to be out of order. The admissibility of those amendments, and of any other amendments made by a committee, may therefore be challenged on procedural grounds when the House resumes its consideration of the bill at report stage. [376]  The admissibility of the amendments is then considered by the Speaker of the House, whether in response to a point of order [377]  or on his or her own initiative. [378] 

In a 1992 decision, Speaker Fraser ruled: “When a bill is referred to a standing or legislative committee of the House, that committee is only empowered to adopt, amend or negative the clauses found in that piece of legislation and to report the bill to the House with or without amendments. The committee is restricted in its examination in a number of ways. It cannot infringe on the financial initiative of the Crown, it cannot go beyond the scope of the bill as passed at second reading, and it cannot reach back to the parent act to make further amendments not contemplated in the bill no matter how tempting this may be.” [379] 

Presentation of Report

The report of a committee which has completed its examination of a bill is presented to the House by the Chairman of the committee, [380]  during Routine Proceedings, when the rubric “Presenting Reports from Committees” is called. [381]  No debate is permitted at that point.

Report Stage

After a bill is examined in committee, it is considered by the House. At this stage (called “report stage”), Members — particularly those who were not on the committee — may propose amendments, after giving written notice, to the text of the bill as it was presented by the committee. Those motions are then debated.

Historical Perspective

At Confederation, the Standing Orders of the House already laid down the procedure to be followed for the consideration of bills in committee and the presentation of reports to the House. Although bills could be referred to a standing or special committee, they then had to be re-examined by a Committee of the Whole. [382]  The amendments made in committee had to be communicated to the House, which received them immediately. In addition, the Standing Orders provided that if bills were reported with amendments by a Committee of the Whole, they could be debated and amended before the House ordered third reading. If bills were not amended during consideration in a Committee of the Whole, third reading would proceed forthwith at a time to be set by the House.

Over the years, it was oberved that amendments were being proposed only in committee, and that when they were presented to the House, a motion to concur in the amendments was made and the question on the motion called immediately. [383]  In 1955, the House amended its Standing Orders to reflect this practice. It was agreed that amendments had to be presented to the House and that the motion for concurrence in the amendments had to be disposed of forthwith before the bill was ordered for third reading at the next sitting of the House. [384]  The effect of these amendments to the Standing Orders was to eliminate what then constituted the equivalent of report stage. In 1968, the House performed a thorough revision of its legislative process. After that revision, all bills, except for those based on Supply or Ways and Means motions, were to be referred to standing or special committees, and would not be reconsidered by a Committee of the Whole House. In addition, the House revived report stage and gave the Speaker the power to select and group amendments. It also adopted provisions relating to notice of amendments and the length of speeches at this stage of the legislative process. [385] 

In recommending that report stage be revived, the 1968 Special Committee on Procedure considered that stage to be essential in order to provide all Members of the House, and not merely members of the committee, with an opportunity to express their views on the bills under consideration and to propose amendments, where appropriate. However, the intent of the Committee was not for this stage to become a repetition of committee stage. Unlike committee stage where the bill is considered clause by clause, there was not to be any debate at report stage unless notices of amendment were given, and then debate would have to be strictly relevant to those proposed amendments.

The provisions relating to report stage have been amended slightly since 1968. The House has made changes in respect of the length of speeches, [386]  and clarified the purpose of report stage and the factors by which the Speaker is to be guided in selecting and grouping amendments. [387]  Other changes were also made in 1994 to reflect the new procedure which allows a Minister to propose that a government bill be referred to a committee before second reading. [388] 

Notice of Amendment

In order that a motion to amend a bill [389]  may be considered at report stage, notice must be given in writing [390]  at least one sitting day prior to the commencement of report stage, if the bill was referred to committee after second reading, [391]  and two sitting days before, if the bill was referred to committee before second reading. [392]  Notice must be received by the Clerk of the House before 6:00 p.m. Monday to Thursday, and before 2:00 p.m. on Friday, to appear on the Notice Paper for the next sitting day. [393]  During an adjournment period, the deadline for giving notice is 6:00 p.m. on the Thursday before the House resumes sitting. [394]  No notice may be given on the day on which consideration of report stage of a bill commences, or on the days following. [395] 

Amendment as to Form Only

The Standing Orders provide one exception to the notice requirements. A Minister may propose an amendment without notice, if the amendment is in relation only to the form of a government bill. [396]  In that case, debate must relate solely to the amendment. The purpose of this rule is to facilitate the incorporation into a bill of amendments that are made necessary by the acceptance of other amendments. It is then up to the Chair to determine whether the amendment is of a strictly consequential nature flowing from the acceptance of another amendment, or if it would change the intent of the bill.

Notice of Royal Recommendation

In the case of an amendment containing financial implications which requires a Royal Recommendation, [397] the Standing Orders provide that notice of the Royal Recommendation must be given no later than the sitting day before report stage is to commence. The notice must be printed on the Notice Paper along with the amendment to which it pertains. [398] 

Admissibility of Motions in Amendment

It is up to the Speaker to decide what amendments will be considered at report stage. The Speaker does not rule on whether the purport of the amendment or its substance is worthy of debate. The Speaker decides only whether the amendment is procedurally acceptable within the framework of the rules established for the admissibility of amendments presented at report stage. [399] 

At report stage, a bill is examined as a whole and not clause by clause as is the case at committee stage. Generally, the rules relating to the admissibility of amendments presented at committee stage also apply to motions in amendment at report stage. [400] However, certain rules apply only to report stage. For instance, since 1968 when the rules relating to report stage came into force, a motion in amendment to delete a clause from a bill has always been considered by the Chair to be in order, even if such a motion would alter or go against the principle of the bill as approved at second reading; [401]  and a motion to amend a number of clauses of a bill is out of order. [402] 

At report stage, the Speaker has ruled out of order a motion in amendment that offended the financial initiative of the Crown; [403]  that proposed to alter an agreement that was within the prerogatives of the Crown; [404]  and that proposed to alter the long title of a bill, when no substantial changes had been made to the bill that would have necessitated a change in the title. [405] 

The Chair has also ruled out of order motions in amendment to a bill that was referred to a committee after second reading, although the same motions in amendment would have been admissible if the bill had been referred to a committee before second reading. For example, the Speaker has ruled out of order a motion in amendment that went beyond the scope of the bill or the clause in question; [406]  that was contrary to the principle of the bill as adopted at second reading; [407]  that proposed to change the interpretation clause by making a substantive amendment which exceeded the scope of the bill; [408]  that would amend a statute not contemplated by the bill; [409]  that would amend, not a clause of the bill amending the parent Act, but a section of the parent Act itself; [410]  and that was equivalent to a simple negative of the bill. [411] 

The Chair has also ruled that because report stage is not a reading stage, motions in amendment cannot be moved in the form of reasoned amendments, as such amendments can only be moved on second and third reading of a bill. [412] 

Since motions in amendment at report stage are open to debate, they fall into the category of substantive motions that are subject to amendment and sub-amendment. [413]  An amendment to a report stage motion must be strictly relevant to that motion [414]  and the debate thereon is limited to the amendment itself. An amendment with the same objective as a motion already at report stage has been ruled out of order, because it was in reality a new substantive motion for which notice should have been given before report stage commenced. [415] 

Power of the Speaker to Select Amendments

In 1968, fearing that Members would take advantage of report stage to move similar amendments of little importance or which were dilatory in nature, [416]  the Special Committee on Procedure recommended in its report that a rule be adopted to permit the Speaker “to select and combine the amendments of which notice had been given”. [417]  Such a rule was then adopted. [418] 

In 1985, the Special Committee on the Reform of the House of Commons (McGrath Committee) deplored the fact that “[a]lthough successive Speakers since 1968 have used the power under the Standing Order to combine amendments, they have never used the power to select”. [419]  The Committee specifically recommended that the Speaker use the power to select motions in amendment at report stage. In 1986, the House decided to add a note to that effect to the Standing Order in question. [420] 

Under the Standing Order, the Speaker thus has the power to select or group motions in amendment to be proposed at report stage. [421]  The process of selecting and grouping motions in amendment has been refined since the 1970s. In the early years of the new rule, Speaker Lamoureux regularly consulted the House before making a final decision as to the admissibility and grouping of amendments. [422]  Over the years, however, Speakers started to consult the House only when they were experiencing difficulties as to whether an amendment was in order. As Speaker Fraser explained in a ruling, the Chair followed a review process whereby motions in amendment were the subject of very extensive discussion, in some cases, between the Member filing the motion and the Clerk’s staff. [423]  Until 1994, all motions in amendment proposed by Members appeared on the Notice Paper, even the ones that were out of order. In June 1994, the Standing Orders were changed to provide that only those motions found to be in order by the Speaker were to appear on the Notice Paper[424]  When a motion is found to be out of order, the Member is informed of the reasons for the decision by letter.

Normally, the Speaker will not select a motion in amendment previously ruled out of order in committee, unless the reason for it being ruled out of order was that it required a Royal Recommendation. [425]  As well, the Speaker should only select motions in amendment that were not or could not be presented in committee. [426]  A motion previously defeated in committee will only be selected if the Speaker judges it to be of such significance as to warrant a further consideration at report stage. [427]  For the purpose of debate, the Speaker will also group motions that have the same intent and are interrelated. In so doing, the Speaker will consider whether individual Members will be able to express their concerns during the debate on another motion.

On the other hand, the Speaker may, if he or she thinks fit, call upon any Member who has given notice of an amendment to give such explanation of the subject of the amendment as may enable the Speaker to form a judgement upon it. When an amendment is selected that has been submitted by more than one Member, the Speaker, after consultation, will designate which Member will propose it (normally, the Member who first gave notice of the motion). [428] 

The Speaker’s decision on the grouping of motions in amendment at report stage addresses two matters: the grouping for debate and the voting arrangements.

Motions in amendment are grouped for debate according to two factors: the content and the place where they are to be inserted in the bill. Motions are grouped according to content if they could form the subject of a single debate; if, once adopted, they would have the same effect in different places of the bill; or if they relate to the same provision or similar provisions of the bill. Motions in amendment are combined according to the place where they are to be inserted in the bill when they relate to the same line (or lines). These motions in amendment will then be part of a single scheme for voting purposes.

When the Speaker selects and groups motions in amendment, he or she also decides on how they will be grouped for voting, that is, the Speaker determines the order in which the motions in amendment will be called and the consequences of one vote on the others. The purpose of the voting scheme is to avoid the House having to vote twice on the same issue.

The Speaker delivers his or her decision regarding the grouping of motions in amendment after the order for the consideration of report stage of the bill has been read. The Speaker informs the House of the motions in amendment that he or she has selected and grouped for debate as well as the voting arrangements [429]  and, where applicable, of the motions in amendment that have not been selected, stating the reasons. [430] 

Debate

When the Order of the Day for the consideration of report stage is called, the House commences its consideration of any amendment of which notice has been given, and each amendment is open to debate and amendment. [431]  However, if no notice of amendment has been given at report stage, no debate is held. [432] 

The report stage of any bill that has already been adopted at second reading cannot be taken into consideration prior to the second sitting day following the presentation of the committee’s report. [433]  The report stage of a bill that has not yet been adopted at second reading cannot be taken into consideration prior to the third sitting day following the presentation of the report. [434]  The minimum number of sitting days between the presentation of the committee’s report and commencement of debate at report stage must be strictly observed. [435] 

After ruling on the grouping of motions for debate, the Chair reads the motions in the first group (or the motion in that group, if there is only one). The motions that have been moved and seconded are then debated. Once a motion has been moved, it may be withdrawn only with unanimous consent. [436] 

When the Member who gave notice of a motion in amendment is absent, the motion may not be debated unless it is moved by another Member with the unanimous consent of the House. [437]  When notice of a motion in amendment is given by the government, it may be moved by any Minister in the absence of the Minister responsible.

During debate at this stage, no Member may speak more than once or longer than 10 minutes on any motion in amendment or group of motions. [438]  Unlike second reading and third reading stages, Members’ speeches are not followed by a questions and comments period. [439]  Of course, debate at report stage is subject to the general rules of debate, such as the rule of relevance. [440] 

Deferral of Recorded Division

When a recorded division is demanded on any motion in amendment proposed during report stage of a bill, the Speaker may defer the calling in of the Members for the vote until some or all subsequent motions in amendment to the bill have been debated. In practice, the Speaker defers all recorded divisions that are demanded until the consideration of report stage has been completed. A recorded division, or divisions, is deferred in this manner from sitting to sitting. [441]  In cases where there are an unusually large number of motions in amendment for consideration at report stage, the Speaker may, after consulting with the representatives of the parties, direct that deferred divisions be held before all motions in amendment have been taken into consideration. [442] 

Concurrence at Report Stage

The report stage of a bill that has not yet been read a second time is an integral part of the second reading stage of the bill. [443]  At the end of report stage, a motion “That the bill, as amended, be concurred in at report stage and be read a second time” or “That the bill be concurred in at report stage and read a second time” is moved, the question is put on the motion, and the House disposes of it forthwith, without amendment or debate. [444] 

At the end of report stage of a bill that has already been read a second time, the motion for concurrence at report stage is also put forthwith, without amendment or debate. The wording of the concurrence motion will vary, depending on whether the original bill has been amended or not, and depending on the stage at which the amendments were made. If, for example, a bill was not amended in committee or at report stage, the motion is as follows: “That the bill be concurred in at report stage.” However, if a bill was amended in committee, but not at report stage, the motion will read as follows: “That the bill, as amended, be concurred in at report stage.” When the bill was amended at report stage, but not in committee, the motion is as follows: “That the bill be concurred in at report stage, with amendments”. Lastly, if the bill was amended in committee and at report stage, the following motion is made: “That the bill, as amended, be concurred in at report stage, with further amendments”.

If no motion in amendment is moved at report stage of a bill that has already been read a second time, no debate may take place and consideration of report stage becomes a mere formality preceding third reading. [445]  A bill that is reported from a Committee of the Whole, with or without amendments, may not be debated or amended at report stage. [446]  The House must dispose of the bill at report stage as soon as it is received from a Committee of the Whole. [447] 

Third Reading (and Passage)

Third reading is the final stage that a bill must pass in the House of Commons. It is at this point that Members must decide whether the bill should be adopted, and ultimately become law. Although third reading is often regarded as a mere formality, it is still a decisive stage in the legislative process. In the case of a highly controversial bill, it could be a most crucial debating stage for Members. [448] 

Third reading and passage of a bill are moved in the same motion. They may take place in the same sitting as report stage if no amendment has been proposed at that stage or if the bill has been reported from a Committee of the Whole, with or without amendment. [449]  When debate has taken place on a bill at the report stage, it may not be presented for third reading and passage before the next sitting of the House. [450]  As well, when a bill has been considered by a committee before second reading and the report and second reading stages have then been combined, it may not proceed to third reading and passage until the next sitting of the House. [451] 

Debate on third reading commences when the Order of the Day is read for third reading and the Minister or Member, as the case may be, moves: “That the bill be now read a third time and do pass.” [452]  The rules relating to the length of speeches during debate are the same as the rules governing the length of speeches and questions and comments at second reading. [453] 

Debate at this stage of the legislative process focusses on the final form of the bill. The amendments that are admissible at this stage are exactly the same as those that were admissible at second reading stage. [454]  It is in order to propose an amendment for a three-or six-month hoist, [455]  as well as a reasoned amendment. [456]  However, at third reading stage, reasoned amendments must deal strictly with the bill and not be contrary to the principle of the bill as adopted at second reading. [457] 

An amendment to refer the subject matter of a bill to a committee at second reading stage becomes, at third reading, an amendment to recommit the bill to a committee with instructions to reconsider certain clauses for a specific purpose. [458]  The purpose of such an amendment may be to enable the committee to add a new clause, to reconsider a specific clause of the bill or to reconsider previous amendments. [459]  However, an amendment to recommit a bill should not seek to give a mandatory instruction to a committee. [460]  In addition, an amendment to recommit a bill to a committee other than the committee which previously considered it has been ruled out of order by the Chair. [461]  If the amendment to recommit a bill back to the committee is carried, the committee may consider only the part of the bill that is specified in the order of reference.

When the motion for third reading has been carried, the Clerk of the House certifies that the bill has passed, with the date, at the foot of the bill. [462]  The bill is then sent to the Senate for approval. Defeat of a motion for third reading will result in the withdrawal of the bill. [463] 

Consideration and Passage by the Senate

Once the House of Commons has passed a bill, a message is sent to the Senate asking it to pass the bill as well. [464]  When the Senate considers a bill, it follows a legislative process that is very similar to the one in the House of Commons. When the Senate has passed a bill, it so informs the House of Commons by message.

Because most government bills originate in the House of Commons, the Senate is sometimes asked to expedite its consideration of a bill. The Senate Rules provide for a procedure known as pre-study, which involves referring the subject matter of a bill that has been introduced in the House of Commons, but has not yet been adopted at first reading in the Senate, to a standing committee. [465]  In this way, the Senate may consider the bill and form its opinion even before the bill is sent to it by the House of Commons. Then, when the bill is received, the Senate is in a position to adopt or amend it in a very short time.

Passage of Senate Amendments (if any) by the House of Commons

When the Senate adopts a bill without amendment, a message is sent to the House of Commons to inform it that the bill has been passed [466]  and Royal Assent is normally given very shortly afterwards, or in the following few days. The bill itself is not sent back to the House, unless it is a Supply bill. [467]  However, when the Senate amends the bill, it informs the House of the amendments in the message it sends to the House, [468]  and sends the bill back to the House. The Senate sometimes sends the House messages containing the observations or recommendations of the Senate committee that examined the bill. [469]  Messages from the Senate are printed in the Journals when they are received by the House.

When the House receives amendments to a bill from the Senate, the amendments are then submitted to the House for consideration. It is not for the Speaker of the House of Commons to rule as to the procedural regularity of proceedings in the Senate and of the amendments it makes to bills. [470]  Rather, it is for the House itself to decide whether it accepts or rejects the amendments proposed by the Senate, and if the House so desires it may state the reasons for rejecting or amending them. A motion for the consideration of Senate amendments requires 24 hours’ written notice. [471]  The sponsor of a bill may use such a motion to move that the House concur in, [472]  amend or reject [473]  the amendments made by the Senate. The motion may at the same time reject certain amendments made by the Senate, and concur in or amend others. The motion must relate exclusively to the Senate amendments, and not to other provisions of the bill that are not contemplated by the amendments. The House may want to reject the Senate amendments for a variety of reasons, for instance, because it believes that they are in contradiction to the principle of the bill [474]  or infringe the financial initiative of the Crown and the House of Commons. [475] 

The motion will appear on the Notice Paper under the heading “Motions Respecting Senate Amendments to Bills”. The motion will be considered during Government Orders, if the bill in question is a government bill, or during Private Members’ Business, if it is a private Member’s bill.

The Senate makes amendments to bills fairly often, and the House is normally quite disposed to accept them, since the amendments generally involve corrections to drafting errors or improvements to administrative aspects. [476]  When debate takes place on Senate amendments, Members who speak must confine themselves to the amendments being considered and may not address other aspects of the bill, or the bill as a whole. [477]  The motion for the consideration of Senate amendments itself is open to amendment and sub-amendment during debate. [478]  With the exception of the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, no Member may speak for more than 20 minutes. [479]  Following each 20-minute speech, a period not exceeding 10 minutes is made available for questions and comments. Motions for time allocation [480]  and for closure [481]  may be moved by the government to limit or close debate.

When the House agrees to the Senate amendments, a message to that effect is sent to the Senate and the bill is sent back to it while awaiting Royal Assent. If the House amends or rejects the Senate amendments, it so acquaints the Senate by message as well. The Senate may then reconsider its amendments, having regard to the message from the House. It may decide to accept the decision of the House, to reject that decision and insist that its amendments be maintained, or to amend what the House has proposed. Regardless of what the Senate decides, it sends another message to the House to inform it of the decision. Communication between the two Houses goes on in this way until they ultimately agree on a text. If it is impossible for an agreement to be reached by exchanging messages, the House that has possession of the bill may ask that a conference be held.

Conference Between the Houses

When a disagreement arises between the House of Commons and the Senate as to the amendments to be made to a bill, there are two possible ways of proceeding: the disagreement may be communicated in a message (this is normally the first step taken), or an attempt may be made to resolve it by holding a conference. Although this practice has fallen into disuse, [482]  a conference may be requested by either of the two Houses in the following cases: to communicate a resolution or an address to which the concurrence of the other House is desired; to discuss the privileges of Parliament; to discuss any matter that warrants the use of this procedure; to require or to communicate statements of facts on which bills have been passed by either House; to offer reasons for disagreeing to, or insisting on, amendments to a bill. [483] 

Either of the two Houses may request that a conference be held, as long as it is in possession of the bill or other matter that is to be the subject of the conference. [484]  The Standing Orders of the House stipulate that the House is required to prepare and agree to the reasons to be given before a message is sent to the Senate requesting that a conference be held. [485]  However, the terms and conditions regarding consent to and preparation for the holding of the conference, and the course of proceedings at conferences, are governed by custom and tradition rather than by the Standing Orders. [486] 

Until 1906, the process relating to the holding of conferences was rather complex. The role of representatives at the conference was limited to communicating the reasons to the representatives of the other House. There could be no discussion. In October 1903, three conferences were held, only one of which was a free conference, to resolve a dispute regarding amendments that the Senate wished to make to a bill from the House. [487]  The process was found to be so complex that new rules were incorporated into the Standing Orders in 1906, [488]  following the passage of a joint resolution of the two Houses the preceding year. [489]  The purpose of that amendment to the Standing Orders was to make conferences “free” [490]  to facilitate agreement. The representatives (who are called managers) were thereby given the freedom to talk and negotiate as they saw fit. [491] 

Although the two Houss frequently transmit messages to each other, they have rarely held conferences. No conference has taken place since 1947, and there have been only 16 since 1903. [492]  Of these 16 conferences, 13 were held after the provisions relating to the holding of free conferences came into effect in 1906. [493]  All of these “free” conferences were held at the request of the House of Commons, and they were all held to resolve disputes in respect of bills.

Over the years, the exchange of messages and the appearance of Ministers before House and Senate committees have considerably reduced the need to use this procedure. [494]  However, if the two Houses were to reach a deadlock because of a disagreement respecting amendments to be made to a bill, a Member, usually the Member responsible for the bill, could propose that a message be sent to the Senate asking it to participate in a free conference on the amendment or amendments in dispute. [495]  Once the message was approved and sent to the Senate, the Senate in turn would send a message to the House to inform the House of its response. If the Senate agreed to participate in the conference, a message would also be sent to the House of Commons to inform it of the time and place chosen for the conference, and of the names of the Senators (who are called managers) who would be acting for the Senate. A similar motion would be moved in the House of Commons to designate the representatives of the House (who normally include the Member responsible for the bill) [496]  and order that a message to this effect be sent to the Senate.

At the time agreed upon, the managers would meet to try to get the two Houses out of the deadlock. The records of proceedings show that in the event that the House was sitting at the time chosen for the conference, the Speaker would rise and announce that the time had come to hold the conference, and the Clerk would give the names of the managers who would then go to the Senate. [497] When the House managers arrived in the Senate, the Speaker of the Senate would announce the names of the Senate managers, and they would leave the Senate chamber. Since no official report or minutes were prepared for those conferences, there is very little information available as to how free conferences were held in the past and on the other people who attended them in addition to the managers from the two Houses.

A free conference means that the discussion continues until an agreement is reached, but there are three possible outcomes: the conference fails; a compromise is reached; the House accepts the Senate amendments, or the Senate accepts the House amendments, as the case may be. If the conference fails, the matter is closed and the bill simply remains on the Order Paper where it dies at the end of the session. [498]  During that time, no new bill may be introduced in the House in respect of the same subject matter and containing similar provisions. If a compromise is reached, one of the representatives of the House submits a report to the Members concerning the conference and moves that the report be approved and a message be sent to the Senate so informing the Senate. Lastly, if the House decides not to press for its amendments to be approved, it accepts the Senate amendments and sends a message to the Senate to so notify it.

Royal Assent

Royal Assent brings all three constituent elements of Parliament together (the Crown, the Senate and the House of Commons). Royal Assent, which is an integral part of the legislative process, is the stage that a bill must complete before officially becoming an Act of Parliament. A version of the bill that is identical to the version passed by the two Houses is approved by a representative of the Crown and is given “the complement and perfection of a law”. [499]  This essentially ceremonial procedure takes place in the presence of Members and Senators, after the Members have been summoned by the Usher of the Black Rod to go to the Senate to attend the Royal Assent ceremony.

The origins of Royal Assent go back to the time of Henry VI (1422-61; 1470-1). [500]  Under his reign, it became practice to introduce bills in both Houses in the form of complete statutes, and not in the form of petitions as had been the case since the early days of the constitution of the British Parliament. Royal Assent was given by the Sovereign in person until 1541; in that year, to spare King Henry VIII the indignity of having to give Royal Assent to the bill for the execution of his wife, Katharine Howard, the task was assigned for the first time to a royal commission. [501]  It then became common practice to appoint Lords Commissioners with responsibility for giving Royal Assent on behalf of the Sovereign. The last time that the Monarch granted Royal Assent in person in Great Britain was on August 12, 1854, under the reign of Victoria. [502]  In 1967, the British Parliament passed the Royal Assent Act which now allows a bill to acquire the force of law on simple report of Royal Assent by the Speakers of the two Houses. [503]  This procedure eliminates the need for holding a ceremony. [504] 

In the Canadian House of Commons, the ceremony of Royal Assent has sometimes been criticized, [505]  but Parliament has remained faithful to the conventions of Royal Assent, the rules of which come down directly from the rules that were in effect in Great Britain at the time of Confederation. [506]  Neither the Standing Orders of the House nor the Constitution Act specifically mention the precise procedure for giving Royal Assent. Initially, the practice was for Royal Assent to be deferred to the end of a parliamentary session, when the Governor General was present for the prorogation of Parliament. This practice gradually disappeared over time, and today Royal Assent is given to bills at any time during a session. [507]  As well, during adjournments of the House, the Speaker may, at the request of the government, give notice that the House will meet at an earlier time for the purposes of Royal Assent; being convened “for those purposes only”, the House cannot proceed to any other business. [508] 

When the House is sitting and there are bills that require Royal Assent, the House may suspend its proceedings until a specific time, [509]  until the call of the Chair [510]  or until the call of the bell. [511]  In the absence of any special arrangements to extend the sitting, the proceedings are interrupted at the normal hour of adjournment and the House stands adjourned until the next sitting day. [512]  If the ceremony is scheduled for the same time as other items of business, a decision must be made as to which matter will take precedence. [513] 

In the Canadian Parliament, the Governor General will normally give Royal Assent in person, in the case of laws of great importance and when Parliament is to be prorogued. At other times, it is given by a deputy: the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada or one of the other judges of the Supreme Court.

The Ceremony

When a bill has been passed by both Houses of Parliament and is ready to receive Royal Assent, a special copy is printed on parchment. The Clerk of the House and the Clerk of the Senate both sign the back of it. The Governor General’s residence then informs the Speaker of the House that the Governor General or the Deputy Governor will be going to the Senate to give Royal Assent to bills. The Speaker of the House then relays the message to the Members. [514] 

At the appointed time, the Usher of the Black Rod of the Senate informs the House that the Governor General or the Deputy Governor has asked them to proceed to the Senate. Before entering the Commons chamber, he or she knocks three times on the door. [515]  Debate that is then taking place is interrupted by the Speaker. [516]  Quorum is not required to receive the message from the Usher of the Black Rod. [517]  The Sergeant-at-Arms announces to the Speaker that the messenger from the Senate wishes to enter. The Speaker replies: “Admit the messenger”, after which the doors are opened to allow the Usher of the Black Rod to enter. Because the House cannot always arrange for its order of business to coincide with the time when Royal Assent is to be given, it sometimes has to make the messenger wait. This situation has prompted considerable discussion regarding the use of the House’s time, particularly in respect of the appropriateness of moving on to other business while the House is waiting for the Senate messenger. [518] 

When the Usher of the Black Rod has entered and bowed three times, he or she goes forward to the Table and acquaints the Speaker that it is the desire of the Governor General or his or her Deputy that the House attend him or her immediately in the Senate. [519]  The Usher of the Black Rod then leads the House to the Senate, followed, in order, by the Sergeant-at-Arms bearing the Mace, the Speaker, the Clerk and the Table Officers, and the Members.

While the Speaker and the Members gather at the Bar of the Senate, the Usher of the Black Rod moves towards the far end of the Senate Chamber. He or she bows to the Governor General or the Deputy Governor and says: “Order!” The Speaker of the House then raises his or her hat and bows to the Governor General (or the Deputy Governor). A clerk who is at the Table in the Senate then reads the titles of the bills that are to receive Royal Assent, in English and French, with the exception of Supply bills. The Clerk of the Senate displays the bills and states: “In Her Majesty’s name, His/Her Excellency the Governor General (the Honourable the Deputy of the Governor General) doth assent to these bills.”

If there is a Supply bill to be assented to, the Speaker of the House of Commons brings it into the Senate Chamber and reads a message, in both official languages, asking that it be given Royal Assent, using the following formula:

May it Please Your Excellency (Honour [520]): The Commons of Canada have voted supplies to enable the Government to defray certain expenses of the public service. In the name of the Commons, I present to Your Excellency (Honour) the following Bill: (title), to which Bill I humbly request Your Excellency’s (Honour’s) Assent.

A Senate clerk at the Table goes to the Bar, where the Speaker of the House of Commons gives the clerk the Supply bill, and then returns to the Table. After reading the title of the Supply bill in both official languages, the Clerk of the Senate reads the Royal Assent, using the following formula:

In Her Majesty’s name, His/Her Excellency the Governor General (the Honourable the Deputy to the Governor General) thanks her loyal subjects, accepts their benevolence and assents to this Bill.

The representative of the Crown consents to the enactment of all of the bills by nodding his or her head. This is the act by which Royal Assent is officially given and as of that moment the bills have the force of law, unless the bills provide another date on which they are to come into force. [521] The Usher of the Black Rod then turns to face the exit from the Senate, indicating that the ceremony is concluded. The Speaker of the House raises his or her hat, bows to the representative of the Crown, and withdraws from the Chamber with the Members returning to the House of Commons.

Upon returning to the House, the Speaker takes the Chair and informs the Members that the Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty’s name, Royal Assent to certain bills. The House resumes the business that had been interrupted, or adjourns if the hour for adjournment has already passed. Normally, the ceremony lasts no more than 20 minutes. [522] 

A bill may not be given Royal Assent if it has not gone through all of the stages of the legislative process in both Houses. However, a bill may be read three times and be given Royal Assent at the same sitting. [523]  The Constitution Act, 1867 provides for the circumstances in which statutes may be disallowed or Royal Assent withheld, but does not specify the procedure to be followed. [524] 

Coming into Force

A distinction must be made between the date on which a legislative measure is enacted by Parliament and the date on which it comes into force. The Interpretation Act contains provisions governing the coming into force of statutes. [525]  A bill becomes law after it has been passed by both Houses in the same form, but the Act comes into force either when it receives Royal Assent, if no date of commencement is provided for in the Act, [526]  or on another date provided for in the Act. Accordingly, an Act may come into force on one or more dates specified in the Act itself or fixed by an order of the Governor in Council.


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