For much of its history, the House had no written rules specifying days during a session when it
would not sit. If the House wished to adjourn for a period of time during a session, it was
necessary to adopt a special adjournment motion, even for a statutory holiday.
Until 1940, sessions tended to be short, beginning in January or February and ending in May or
June of the same calendar year. During the years of the Second World War, the burden of
government business grew and session length increased; a pattern of long and irregularly timed
sessions established itself.
In 1964, the House adopted a Standing Order specifying certain days (mainly statutory holidays)
during a session when the House would not sit. Despite this, sessions continued to be long and
adjournments unpredictably timed.
The notion of scheduled adjournments again came to the fore in the early 1980s when the
motion to adjourn for the summer became the occasion for extended and rancorous debate. In
late 1982, the House adopted a series of measures intended to better organize the time of the
House and of Members who, along with responsibilities in the Chamber, were occupied with work in
committees and in their constituencies. Chief among these measures was the House
calendar, providing for the first time a fixed schedule of sittings and adjournments for the House
and adding some degree of predictability to the scheduling of sitting and non-sitting periods.
The calendar adopted in 1982 divided the year into three parts (assuming the House to be in session
through an entire calendar year), separated by adjournments at Christmas, Easter and the
summer months. Since its implementation, the calendar has undergone some modifications. The
Christmas and summer adjournments were extended slightly in 1991 and, within the three
main sitting periods, additional brief adjournments were added in 1983 and 1991. These were for the
most part clustered around existing statutory holidays observed by the House, with the result
that each trimester was further broken down into two to three sitting periods.
In 2001, the provisions relating to the parliamentary recess in March and the Easter
adjournment were removed. The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, aware
that the recess in March seldom coincided with many of the spring breaks for schools, and that
the Easter break could fall anywhere between March 22 and April 25, recommended that the
House resume sitting one week earlier after the Christmas adjournment, so that a two-week
recess could be scheduled in March in addition to the Easter recess. Furthermore, the Committee
recommended that the Speaker schedule the March recess in consultation with the House
Leaders, and that the dates of the recess be adjusted annually so as to coincide with
varying school breaks across the country.
For more information please see House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Chapter 8, "The Parliamentary Cycle", and Chapter 9, "Sittings of the House".