About the Committee
INTRODUCTION TO THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE
ON RULES, PROCEDURES AND THE RIGHTS OF PARLIAMENT
The Rules of the Senate authorize the Rules Committee to propose on its own authority amendments to the Rules. These rules govern the deliberative 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.
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, being the annexed Rules, Orders and Forms of Proceeding, on December 3, 1867, which was later adopted on December 17, 1867. In sessions following, the rules were again considered and amended by select committees.
In 1968, the Senate appointed a Special Committee on the Rules of the Senate to examine the Rules of the Senate and recommend improvements. In its third report, the committee recommended the establishment of the Standing Committee on Standing Rules and Orders.
Through the revision of the rules in 1991, the committee was replaced by 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 the Committee on Privileges.
Finally, 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.
Recently, the Rules Committee has completed a comprehensive revision of the Rules of the Senate. As explained in its report, presented 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 that were made simply reflect 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 the Senate sitting as a Committee of the Whole which sat 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 to come into force on September 17, 2012.
In addition to the report of November 15, 2011, the Rules Committee has submitted several reports over the last number of years. Some were adopted; others died on the Order Paper after some debate, but without any decision. Most recently, also in November of 2012, the committee tabled a report relating to rule changes for leaves of absence and suspensions, which was adopted on December 16, 2011. Other significant reports include an examination of the committee system which was tabled in March 2011 but died on the order paper upon dissolution. Three separate times, in April 2010, May 2009 and April 2007, the committee suggested changes to the rules governing Questions of Privilege but none of the reports were subsequently adopted.
SELECTED LEGISLATIVE WORK
Since the purpose of the Rules Committee is to focus on the practices of the Senate, it does not review legislation as part of its core functions.
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 .