The Speaker ensures that debate conforms to
the rules and practices that the House has adopted in order to protect itself
from excesses. While the House is the master of its own proceedings and the
Speaker its servant, the Speaker has extensive powers to enforce rules of
debate and maintain order so that the House can conduct its business in an
orderly fashion. Indeed, the Standing Orders state explicitly that the Speaker
shall preserve order and decorum, and decide questions of order. In addition, the
Standing Orders empower the Speaker to call a Member to order if the Member
persists in repeating an argument already made in the course of debate or in
addressing a subject which is not relevant to the question before the House.
The preservation of order and decorum has
been a duty of the Speaker since 1867, but the task was never more difficult
than during the early years of Confederation. Speakers at that time were
regularly confronted with rude and disorderly conduct which they were unable to
control. The throwing of paper,
and other missiles, including firecrackers in one case, combined with the
noises Members made imitating cats,
and generally being loud, made for a very riotous assembly. The early
twentieth century House was calmer and more austere, although in 1913, during
the debate on the Naval Aid Bill, disorder in the Chamber grew to a point
almost beyond control.
Subsequent occasions of turbulence were infrequent and usually occurred in
connection with the imposition of closure.
It was not until 1956, during the Pipeline Debate, that the Speaker again had
great difficulty preserving order.
The 1960s with a succession of minority governments and the late 1970s with the
introduction of televised sittings also proved to be challenging. Speakers
Jerome, Sauvé, Francis and Bosley all had to contend with scores of language
breaches and other violations of order and decorum. During the 1990s,
both Speakers Fraser and Parent were obliged to deal with a number of incidents
of disruptive behaviour.
During the minority Parliaments of the
following decade, the decline in decorum continued to the extent that the
Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs was asked to consider
recommending changes to the Standing Orders in order to strengthen the
disciplinary powers of the Chair. While admitting that “drastic options” might
prove necessary in the future, the Committee recommended that the parties
assist and support the Speaker in maintaining decorum and encouraged the
exercise of “the full extent of [the Speaker’s] disciplinary powers”.
Accepted conventions of parliamentary
conduct and respect for the authority of the Chair are normally sufficient to
permit order and decorum to be maintained during debate and other proceedings.
However, if a rule of debate is being breached, the Speaker will
intervene directly to address a Member or the House in general and to call to
order any Member whose conduct is disruptive.
The Speaker’s declarations on disorderly or indecorous conduct are typically
made quickly before any discussion takes place.
Members rarely defy the Speaker’s authority
or risk evoking the Chair’s disciplinary powers. If a Member challenges the
authority of the Chair by refusing to obey the Speaker’s call to order, to
withdraw unparliamentary language, to cease irrelevance or repetition, or to
stop interrupting a Member who is addressing the House, the Chair has recourse
to a number of options. The Speaker may recognize another Member,
or refuse to recognize the Member until the offending remarks are retracted and
the Member apologizes.
As a last resort, the Chair may “name” a Member, the most severe disciplinary
power at the Speaker’s disposal.
“Naming” is the term used to designate a
disciplinary measure invoked against a Member who persistently disregards the
authority of the Chair. If a Member refuses to heed the Speaker’s requests to
bring his or her behaviour into line with the rules and practices of the House,
the Speaker has the authority to name the Member, that is, to address the
Member by name rather than by constituency or title as is the usual practice,
and to order his or her withdrawal from the Chamber for the remainder of the
Alternatively, the Speaker may prefer to let the House take any supplementary
disciplinary action it may choose. In either case, naming is a coercive measure
of last resort.
Until 1927, the British practice of naming
Members applied in both the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada before Confederation and in the House of Commons after Confederation. Although there
were instances of naming before Confederation,
from 1867 until 1927 there was only one case. In 1913, Speaker Sproule, who had
taken the Chair to quell disorder in a Committee of the Whole, cited a British
rule and named Mr. Clark (Red Deer) for “disregarding the authority of the
Chair and flagrantly violating the rules of the House”. After the Member
was named, he apologized to the House, which found his explanation
satisfactory. No motion to suspend him was proposed. Still, in the
46-year interval between Confederation and 1913 and in the years 1914-27, there
were times when the Speaker, facing Members unwilling to respect the Chair’s
calls to order, might have resorted to naming but did not.
When the naming sanction was codified in
the 1927 Standing Orders,
it referred simply to the Speaker's power to name a Member who engaged in
persistent irrelevance or repetition;
no reference was made to naming a Member for refusing to retract
unparliamentary language or for disregarding the authority of the Chair.
Furthermore, the Standing Orders did not specify the procedure to be followed
after a Member had been named.
It was not until 15 years later, in 1942, that the first incident of naming
occurred under the amended Standing Orders. In this case, after Speaker Glen
had named Mr. Lacombe (Laval–Two Mountains), the Minister of Finance
immediately moved a motion to suspend Mr. Lacombe. The motion carried easily.
Thus, the practice developed that after being named by the Speaker, a Minister,
usually the Government House Leader, would move a motion to suspend the Member,
typically for the remainder of the day’s sitting. Subsequent naming incidents
occurred in 1944 (twice), 1956, 1961, 1962 (twice) and 1964.
Beginning in 1978, after television had
been introduced in the Chamber, the frequency of naming increased dramatically.
Possibly even more significant than the rise in the number of namings was the
fact that the House appeared increasingly willing to divide on the subsequent
motion to suspend the offending Member. This placed the Speaker in a
potentially vulnerable position in that after naming a Member, it was up to a
Minister (usually the Government House Leader) to move a motion to suspend the
Member, and since the motion was votable, it could be defeated. Thus, the
authority of the Speaker depended, in each case of naming, on the initial
support of the government to move the motion and on the subsequent support of
the House to adopt it.
In 1985, as the number of naming incidents
continued to increase, the Special Committee on Reform of the House of Commons
(the McGrath Committee) addressed the question of “whether the disciplinary
powers of the Chair should be clarified and strengthened”. The Committee’s
final report recommended “that the Speaker be empowered to order the withdrawal
of a member for the remainder of a sitting … [and] that the proceedings
consequent upon the naming of a member be set out in the Standing Orders”.
In February 1986, the government tabled proposed amendments to the
Standing Orders that went beyond the recommendation of the Committee to include
measures that would allow the Speaker, on ordering the withdrawal of a Member
for the second or any subsequent occasion during a session, to suspend him or
her for a period of five days without resort to motion. During debate on
the motion to adopt these new provisions, Members expressed strong support for
the concept of granting the Speaker authority to order the withdrawal of a
Member for one sitting, but were equally hesitant to extend such power further,
preferring to leave subsequent punishments in the hands of the House itself.
In February 1986, the House agreed to certain amendments to the proposed
changes to the Standing Orders, and they came into effect that same month.
The rule changes left untouched the Standing Order that had existed since 1927
but added a new Standing Order granting the Speaker the authority to order the
withdrawal of a Member for the remainder of the sitting. Although the
original method of naming, followed by a votable motion to suspend the Member
for a specified period of time, has not been resorted to since
it remains a practice which can still be referred to by the Speaker or invoked
by the House.
The Speaker typically calls upon a Member
who has transgressed the established standards of decorum to retract the
offending words or otherwise apologize without qualification. Should the Member
hesitate or refuse to comply, the Speaker normally repeats the request, often
with a warning that the persistent disregard will result in the Member being
named. Such exchanges may continue at the Speaker’s discretion, but once it is
clear that the Member will not comply, the Speaker names him or her, and orders
a withdrawal for the remainder of the sitting day. In naming a Member, the
Speaker will say:
(Name of Member), it is my duty to name you
for disregarding the authority of the Chair, and to direct your withdrawal from
the House for the remainder of the sitting.
Alternatively, in some circumstances, after
naming a Member but before ordering his or her withdrawal from the House, the
Speaker may wish the House to decide what disciplinary action to take against a
Member. This option involves a motion, usually proposed by the Government House
Leader, to suspend the Member named from the service of the House for a
specified period of time. Such a motion is neither debatable nor amendable. It
imposes a greater penalty since suspension from the service of the House bars
the Member not only from attendance in the Chamber, but also from participation
in the work of committees, and the proposed suspension may exceed the remainder
of the sitting. Notices standing in the name of the suspended Member are removed
from the Notice Paper for each day of the Member’s suspension.
The Speaker may also order the Sergeant-at-Arms to take the necessary steps to
remove a Member who refuses to leave the Chamber after having been ordered to
During debate in a Committee of the Whole,
if a Member refuses to obey the warning of the Chair to discontinue his or her
unparliamentary behaviour, the Chair of the Committee may rise and report the
conduct of the Member to the Speaker. The Chair may do this on his or her own
initiative without recourse to a motion from the Committee. The Speaker will
deal with the matter as though it had occurred in the House.
Standing Order 10.
Standing Order 11(2). For further information, see the section in this chapter
entitled “Repetition and Relevance in Debate”.
See, for example, Debates, May 9, 1883, p. 1086.
See, for example, Debates, April 25, 1892, col. 1636.
Debates, May 13, 1882, p. 1520.
See, for example, Debates, April 27, 1885, p. 1405.
See, for example, Debates, April 17, 1878, pp. 2063‑4.
It was often suggested, not without some truth, that the root of the problem of
order and decorum lay in the basement of the Parliament Building, just below
the Chamber, where a much‑frequented public saloon plied “intoxicating
liquors” to Members seeking “refreshment” during the lengthy evening debates.
In 1874, the House resolved to instruct the Speaker to close down the bar, but
the decision was not enforced. This was attempted once more in 1881 but again
to no effect. For a discussion on the closing of the bar, see Debates,
February 28, 1881, pp. 1166‑71. The saloon was finally
closed when Wilfrid Laurier became Prime Minister (Debates,
September 15, 1896, col. 1208). See also Ward, N., “The Formative
Years of the House of Commons, 1867‑91”, The Canadian Journal of
Economics and Political Science, Vol. 18, No. 4,
November 1952, pp. 432‑4.
Debates, March 15, 1913, cols. 6015‑22.
See, for example, Debates, September 12, 1917, pp. 5768‑71.
Debates, May 24, 1956, pp. 4292‑313.
Perhaps the worst scene in modern times occurred in 1980 when closure was moved
on a motion to establish a committee to study a constitutional resolution.
Several Members, angered by the closure motion, stormed the Chair, demanding to
be heard. The resulting disorder on the floor of the House led to the entrance,
behind the curtains, of members of the protective staff on the orders of the
Sergeant‑at‑Arms. See Debates, October 23, 1980,
pp. 4049‑51; October 24, 1980, pp. 4065, 4068;
November 6, 1980, p. 4499; November 7, 1980, pp. 4553‑4.
Another particularly serious incident occurred on October 16, 1985, when a
Member, after asking a question about the British Columbia fishing industry,
placed a dead salmon on the Prime Minister’s desk (Debates,
See in particular, Speaker Fraser’s reprimand of Ian Waddell (Port
Moody–Coquitlam) who was called to the Bar of the House for physically
attempting to prevent the Mace from leaving the Chamber (Debates,
October 31, 1991, pp. 4271‑8, 4279‑85, 4309‑10), and
Speaker Parent’s ruling of March 16, 1998, in regard to the disorder which broke out in the Chamber on February 26, 1998, when a
Member of the Bloc Québécois, Suzanne Tremblay (Rimouski–Mitis), attempted to
speak (Debates, March 16, 1998, pp. 4902‑3).
Thirty-Seventh Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs,
presented to the House on March 1, 2007 (Journals, p. 1092).
See, for example, Debates, September 25, 1989, p. 3818;
September 26, 1996, p. 4715; February 6, 1997, p. 7790; September 24,
1998, p. 8354; October 17, 2006, p. 3907.
See, for example, Debates, February 14, 1992, pp. 7039‑40;
February 15, 1993, pp. 15918‑9; February 4, 1997,
pp. 7645‑6; October 17, 2006, p. 3886.
See, for example, Debates, September 26, 1991, p. 2773;
March 24, 1994, p. 2738; November 6, 1995, p. 16238;
May 8, 1996, p. 2482; November 24, 2005, p. 10112.
See, for example, Debates, October 30, 1987, pp. 10583‑4;
November 18, 1987, pp. 10927‑8; January 17, 1991,
pp. 17294‑5, 17304‑5; November 27, 2002, p. 1949.
Standing Order 11(1)(a).
For further information on the British practice, see May, T.E., A Treatise
on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament, 6th ed.,
rev. and enlarged, London: Butterworths, 1868, p. 323; 23rd ed., pp. 448-55.
See also Hatsell, Vol. II, pp. 230‑8, in particular
Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Journals of the Legislative
Assembly of the Province of Canada, September 9, 1852, pp. 125‑6;
May 9, 1861, p. 270.
Debates, March 15, 1913, col. 6019.
Debates, March 15, 1913, cols. 6016‑22.
See, for example, Debates, March 5, 1877, pp. 482‑5;
May 9, 1890, cols. 4717‑8; September 28, 1903,
col. 12562; January 18, 1910, col. 2084. In one case, the
Speaker did take action, although not by naming a Member: “In the session
of 1875 Mr. Domville, member for King's, N.B., made some remarks which
appeared to be most insulting to the House as a body. The Speaker called him to
order but he persisted in repeating the offensive expressions and the Speaker
immediately ordered the Sergeant‑at‑Arms to take him into custody.
Mr. Domville apologized, for in his excitement he did not seem to know
what he had been saying. On a subsequent day, whilst the doors were closed, Mr.
Speaker stated frankly that he believed he had exceeded his power in ordering
the hon. member to be taken into custody” (handwritten endnote in Bourinot’s
personal copy of May, 6th ed., p. 330).
Journals, March 22, 1927, pp. 326‑7.
Standing Orders of the House of Commons, 1927, Standing Order 40(2).
An interpretation of both these points was advanced in the same year by the
Clerk of the House, Arthur Beauchesne, who wrote that a Member's persistent use
of unparliamentary language (in addition to repetition or irrelevance) was sufficient
reason for the Speaker to name that Member (Beauchesne, A., Rules and Forms
of the House of Commons of Canada, 2nd ed., Toronto: Canada Law
Book Company, Limited, 1927, p. 89). As to the procedure to be followed
after naming, Beauchesne cited a British Standing Order: “... the Speaker
shall forthwith put the question, on a motion being made ... ‘That such member
be suspended from the service of the house’” (Beauchesne, 2nd ed.,
Debates, March 24, 1942, pp. 1603‑7. The Minister
apparently followed the procedure set out in Beauchesne (2nd ed.,
Journals, July 4, 1944, p. 526; July 31, 1944,
pp. 761‑2; May 25, 1956, pp. 625‑34;
February 10, 1961, p. 238; March 16, 1962, pp. 241‑2;
Debates, October 5, 1962, p. 233; Journals,
June 19, 1964, pp. 456‑7. The July 4, 1944 incident is the
only case of naming in which a Member was suspended for more than a day (seven
days was the penalty). In the July 31, 1944 case, the Chairman of
Committees of the Whole House ruled that certain remarks by a Member were
unparliamentary and asked the Member to withdraw the words. The Member appealed
the Chairman’s ruling to the House, Speaker Glen took the Chair, and the House
confirmed the Chairman’s ruling. The Speaker asked the Member to withdraw until
the House decided what it would do. In his absence, the House passed a motion
to suspend the Member for the remainder of the sitting day. All this was done
without the Member being “named”. See Debates, July 31, 1944,
pp. 5677‑84. A similar incident occurred in 1956 when the Chairman
of Committees of the Whole reported a Member to the House for not resuming his
seat when directed to do so (Debates, May 25, 1956, pp. 4340‑52).
The broadcasting of House proceedings began in October 1977. There was one
naming in 1978 (Debates, May 16, 1978, pp. 5455‑8) and
another in 1979 (Debates, March 21, 1979, pp. 4382‑5),
while two took place in each of the years 1981 (Debates,
February 23, 1981, pp. 7586‑8; December 3, 1981,
pp. 13685‑7) and 1982 (Debates, May 19, 1982, pp. 17593‑6;
June 16, 1982, pp. 18523‑5). Four incidents occurred in
each of the years 1983 (Debates, March 24, 1983, pp. 24109‑10;
May 20, 1983, pp. 25628‑31; October 19, 1983,
pp. 28129‑31; October 31, 1983, pp. 28593‑4), 1984 (Debates,
May 25, 1984, pp. 4078‑9; June 8, 1984, pp. 4482‑3;
December 17, 1984, pp. 1292‑3; December 19, 1984,
pp. 1363‑4) and 1985 (Debates, May 22, 1985,
pp. 4966‑7; June 19, 1985, pp. 5973‑4; June 27,
1985, p. 6270; October 11, 1985, pp. 7589‑91). Five
Members were named in 1986 (Debates, February 24, 1986,
p. 10889; April 23, 1986, pp. 12568‑9; May 21, 1986,
pp. 13478‑9; May 28, 1986, pp. 13713‑4;
June 11, 1986, pp. 14242‑5).
Beauchesne appeared to have anticipated this problem as early as
1927: “The vote on the motion that a member be suspended from the service
of the House after having been named by the Speaker is a mere formality, as a
rejection of the motion would assuredly be followed by an immediate resignation
of the Speaker, a circumstance which his complete freedom from partisanship
would render unwelcome even to the parties in opposition” (Beauchesne,
2nd ed., p. 92). Between 1944 and 1986, there were 19 instances when
the Member named was suspended after a recorded division was taken on the
motion. On several occasions, the offending Member withdrew from the Chamber
after having been named, and the House took no further action (Debates,
October 5, 1962, p. 233; February 23, 1981, pp. 7586‑8;
May 20, 1983, pp. 25628‑31; May 25, 1984,
pp. 4078‑9; December 19, 1984, p. 1364). On one occasion,
the named Member withdrew, but in the absence of a formal motion for
suspension, the Leader of the Opposition insisted that there be one so that his
party could vote against it. The Prime Minister refused to move the motion. The
House was left with no choice, however, when the named Member returned to the
Chamber and resumed his seat. The Member left the Chamber when the suspension
motion was finally put and agreed to on a recorded division (Debates,
June 19, 1964, pp. 4489‑94, 4521‑5).
Third Report of the Special Committee on the Reform of the House of Commons,
p. 37, presented to the House on June 18, 1985 (Journals,
Third Report of the Special Committee on the Reform of the House of Commons,
p. 38, presented to the House on June 18, 1985 (Journals,
Journals, February 6, 1986, pp. 1645‑6.
Debates, February 11, 1986, p. 10668.
Journals, February 13, 1986, p. 1710. These changes were made
permanent on June 3, 1987 (Journals, p. 1016).
Standing Order 11(2).
Standing Order 11(1). Under Speaker Fraser (1986‑93), only one Member was
named (Debates, March 24, 1993, pp. 17482, 17486‑8).
During the Thirty‑Fifth Parliament (1994‑97), Speaker Parent named
six Members, two on the same day (Debates, September 30, 1994,
pp. 6386‑7; May 29, 1995, pp. 12900‑3;
November 2, 1995, pp. 16144‑5; April 24, 1996,
p. 1894; February 12, 1997, pp. 8016‑7), and during the
Thirty‑Sixth Parliament (1997‑2000), he named four Members (Debates,
October 1, 1997, pp. 334‑5; December 1, 1998,
pp. 10730‑1; February 15, 2000, pp. 3573-4; April 5, 2000, pp.
5716-7). During the Thirty-Seventh Parliament (2001-04), one Member was named
by the Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees of the Whole, Bob Kilger (Debates,
December 6, 2002, pp. 2379-80). No Member was named during the Thirty‑Eighth
Parliament (2004-05), during the Thirty-Ninth Parliament (2006-08) or during
the First Session of the Fortieth Parliament (2008).
Journals, October 11, 1985, p. 1094.
Beauchesne, 4th ed., pp. 44‑5.
Standing Order 11(1)(b). No Member has been physically removed from the
Chamber after being named by the Speaker. There have been, however, instances
where, at the request of the Speaker, a Member has been escorted from the
Chamber by the Sergeant‑at‑Arms (Debates, July 4, 1944,
p. 4514; May 19, 1982, p. 17596).
Standing Order 11(2).
See, for example, Debates, May 25, 1956, pp. 4340‑52;
March 16, 1962, pp. 1888‑90. For further information, see
Chapter 19, “Committees of the Whole House”. The Chair of any standing,
special, joint or subcommittee may not take such action. The committee may only
decide to report these offences to the House.