PARLIAMENT of CANADA

About the Committee

INTRODUCTION TO THE STANDING COMMITTEE
ON RULES, PROCEDURES AND THE RIGHTS OF PARLIAMENT

 MANDATE

The Rules Committee is empowered to propose on its own authority amendments to the Rules of the Senate, which govern the operations of the Senate and its committees, and guide the conduct of parliamentary business. The committee may also consider, more broadly, the orders and practices of the Senate and the privileges of Parliament. In addition, this committee examines questions of privilege referred to it.

HISTORY

When the Senate met for the very first time on November 7, 1867, this committee was the first to be formed, as the Select Committee on Orders, Customs and Privileges. It was given the order of reference “to frame Rules, Orders and Regulations for the guidance and government of this House, and of several Officers and Servants connected therewith” (Journals, November 7, 1867, p. 60). The committee presented its first report, with the proposed Rules, Orders and Forms of Proceeding, on December 3, 1867. The Senate adopted these Rules on December 17, 1867. In sessions that followed, the Rules were again considered and amended by select committees at various times.

In 1968, the Senate appointed a Special Committee on the Rules of the Senate to examine the Rules and recommend major changes and improvements. In its third report, the committee recommended the establishment of the Standing Committee on Standing Rules and Orders.

The revision of the Rules in 1991 renamed the committee as the Standing Committee on Privileges, Standing Rules and Orders. It assumed the function of examining the orders, customs and privileges of the Senate, a function previously performed by a separate Committee on Privileges. In September 2001, the committee presented its fifth report, which amended the Rules of the Senate, changing the committee’s name to the current one in order to better reflect its mandate and responsibilities.

Tthe Rules Committee has recently completed a comprehensive revision of the Rules of the Senate. As explained in its report, presented on November 16, 2011, one of the main objectives of this revision was to organize the Rules more logically.

Another purpose of the revisions was to make certain clarifications to the Rules while avoiding significant changes. Many amendments simply reflected current practice. An additional new feature of the revised Rules is the use of constitutional and statutory references as well as lists of exceptions to any particular rule.

The report was studied by a Committee of the Whole during three consecutive Tuesdays in May and June 2012. During this review, several amendments were made, and the revised Rules, as amended, were adopted by the Senate on June 19, 2012. They took effect on September 17, 2012.

SELECTED STUDIES

After the report of November 15, 2011, with the revised Rules, the Rules Committee submitted several further reports proposing additional amendments to the Rules of the Senate.  In late November 2011, the committee presented a report relating to rule changes for leaves of absence and suspensions. This report was adopted on December 16, 2011. Of the other reports proposing changes to the Rules, one was adopted; while another four were debated but had not been adopted before the prorogation of the session.

Finally, on May 8, 2013, a prima facie case of privilege concerning a witness was referred to the Rules Committee. After hearing from the witness in question and representatives of the RCMP, the committee reported on June 20, 2013 that, while there had been an encroachment on the rights of Parliament, it saw no reason to recommend a sanction or censure. The report was adopted by the Senate on June 26, 2013.

SELECTED LEGISLATIVE WORK

Since the purpose of the Rules Committee is to focus on the practices of the Senate, it does not normally review legislation as part of its core functions.

CURRENT WORK

For information on the current work of the committee, you may wish to review the orders of reference the committee has received from the Senate, or review the committee proceedings. Detailed information on current work of the committee can be found on the parliamentary website at: http://senate-senat.ca/rprd.asp .

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