Usual Order of Speaking
that a Member Be Now Heard
to Speak when Order Next Called
of Right to Speak After a Royal Assent Ceremony
to Speak Before and After Divisions
Speaking Once to a Motion
The Right of Reply
Place of Speaking
Remarks Addressed to the Chair
Language of Debate
Use of Lectern
Citation of Documents
Tabling of Documents and Speeches
Displays, Exhibits and Props
Regarding the Contents of Speeches
References to Members
Reflections on the House and the Senate
Reflections on the Chair
References to the Sovereign, Royal Family, Governor General and
Members of the Judiciary
Reference by Name to Members of the Public
Reference to Previous Debates and Proceedings
Repetition and Relevance in Debate
Rule of Relevance
Debates on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne
and the Budget
The Sub judice Convention
and Civil Cases
of Record and Commissions of Inquiry
of the Speaker
Raising a Point of Order
Ruling on a Point of Order
During the Taking of a Vote
of the Chair to Enforce Order and Decorum
Process of Naming
As members of Parliament, we all deal
regularly with differing interpretations of various events or situations and
differing views of documents laid before the House. Members can, and often do,
disagree about the actual facts of the same situation. Disagreements of this
kind form the basis of our debates. Our rules are designed to permit and indeed
to encourage members to present differing views on the given issue. This
tolerance of different points of view is an essential feature of the freedom of
speech and of the decision making process that lie at the heart of our
Speaker Peter Milliken
(Debates, October 1, 2003,
One of the guiding principles of parliamentary procedure is that
debate and other proceedings in the House of Commons be conducted in terms of a
free and civil discourse. Accordingly, the House has adopted rules of order and
decorum governing the conduct of Members towards each other and towards the
institution as a whole. Members are expected to show respect for one another
and for viewpoints differing from their own; offensive or rude behaviour or
language is not tolerated. Emotions are to be expressed verbally rather than
acted out; opinions are to be expressed with civility and freely, without fear
of punishment or reprisal.
Freedom of speech is one of the most
important privileges enjoyed by Members of Parliament. This freedom is
circumscribed, however, by the necessity of maintaining order and decorum when
debate is taking place. Thus, the right to speak is tempered by the written
rules of the House which, in general, impose limitations on what may be said,
and when, by whom and for how long.
The Speaker is charged with maintaining
order in the Chamber by ensuring that the House’s rules and practices are
These rules govern proper attire, the quoting and tabling of documents in
debate, the application of the sub judice convention to debates and
questioning in the House, and the civility of remarks directed towards both
Houses, Members and Senators, representatives of the Crown, judges and courts.
In addition, it is the duty of the Speaker to safeguard the orderly conduct of
debate by repressing disorder when it arises either on the floor of the Chamber
or in the galleries, and by ruling on points of order raised by Members. The
Speaker’s disciplinary powers are intended to ensure that the debate remains
focussed and they permit the Chair to order the withdrawal of Members who
persist in behaving inappropriately. Nonetheless, while it is the Speaker who is
explicitly charged with maintaining the dignity and decorum of the House,
Members themselves must take responsibility for their behaviour and conduct
their business in an appropriate fashion.
This chapter examines the practices and
rules germane to debate in the Chamber and the powers of the Speaker to enforce
order and decorum when breaches occur.
Franks, C.E.S., The Parliament of Canada, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987, pp. 124‑5.
Freedom of speech enables Members to speak in the House (and in its
committees), to refer to any matter, to express any opinion and to say what
they feel needs to be said in the furtherance of the national interest and of
the aspirations of their constituents, without inhibition or fear of legal
prosecution. For further information on freedom of speech, see Chapter 3,
“Privileges and Immunities”.
Standing Orders 10 and 11. For further information, see Chapter 7, “The
Speaker and Other Presiding Officers of the House”.
With few exceptions, a Member may speak to
any motion that has been proposed to the House and which is open to debate. In managing the debate on a motion, the Speaker is responsible for
deciding the order in which Members are recognized and for applying the rules
of debate which govern such matters as speaking once to a motion, the right of
reply and unwarranted interventions.
There is no official order for the
recognition of speakers laid down in the Standing Orders; the Chair relies on
the practice and precedents of the House in this regard. The Standing Orders
simply authorize the Speaker to recognize for debate any Member who seeks the
floor by rising in his or her place. The Member who is “seen” first is accorded the right to speak. This
is commonly referred to as “catching the Speaker’s eye”, an expression dating
back to the early days of British parliamentary procedure. Although the Whips of the various parties each provide the Chair
with a list of Members wishing to speak, the Chair is not bound by these. By tradition, some Members of the House such as party leaders,
Ministers when appropriate, and often opposition critics or spokespersons are
given some priority to speak. A limited number of Members, including the Prime Minister and the
Leader of the Opposition, have special rights accorded to them in the Standing
Orders, but these rights relate only to the length of their speeches. While the Speaker has complete discretion in recognizing Members, the Chair may follow such informal arrangements as may be made or the Chair may be bound by an Order of the House setting down a
specific speaking order.
In the ordinary course of events, after a
motion has been proposed to the House, the Speaker recognizes the mover of the
motion as the first to speak in debate. If the mover chooses not to speak, he
or she is nonetheless deemed to have spoken―simply by nodding, the Member
is considered to have said “I move” and this is taken as equivalent to a speech
in the debate. The Member who seconds a motion is not required to speak to it at
this point, but may choose to do so later in the debate.
The Speaker subsequently “sees” Members
from opposite sides of the House in a reasonable rotation, bearing in mind the
membership of the various recognized parties in the House, the right of reply, and the nature of the proceedings. For example, during the first
round of debate on Government Orders, a representative from the government and
from each of the recognized opposition parties are recognized by the Speaker if
they rise to seek the floor in debate. For subsequent rounds, the Speaker
alternates between Members on the government and opposition benches. The
Speaker has given the floor to independent Members and Members of unrecognized
parties only after Members of recognized parties have participated in debate in
proportion to their membership in the House.
During Private Members’ Business, the Speaker exercises greater discretion in
recognizing Members, ensuring that all parties and groups in the House are
heard and that all sides of the issue under debate are expressed. On supply
days, the Chair may recognize Members from the party sponsoring the opposition
motion more frequently.
During the period for questions and
comments following most speeches, Members may direct questions to the Member who has just completed his
or her speech, or may make brief comments on that speech. When recognizing
Members, the Chair gives preference to Members of parties other than that of
the original speaker, but not to the exclusion of Members from the speaker’s
party. If the questions and comments period is interrupted by another
proceeding, when debate resumes on the motion, the questions and comments
period will continue only if the Member who made the initial speech is present. Since there is no precise time set aside for the length of each
individual question or comment, the Chair will sometimes determine how many
Members are interested in participating in the questions and comments period
and then apportion the time for each intervention accordingly. Members
recognized during the questions and comments period may not move dilatory
motions, propose amendments, or move motions to extend the hours of sitting.
The Speaker’s decision as to who may speak
during debate may be superseded by the House on a motion that another Member
“be now heard”. A decision on this motion settles the order of debate
When two Members rise simultaneously to
“catch the Speaker’s eye”, the Speaker will recognize one of them to speak. By
rising on a point of order, another Member may move that the Member who had not
been recognized be given the floor. The motion “that a Member be now heard” is an exception to the rule
that a motion cannot be moved on a point of order. The motion may not be moved
if the Member first recognized by the Speaker has already begun to speak. If the motion is ruled in order by the Speaker, the question on the
motion is put forthwith without debate. A recorded division may take place. If
the motion is carried, the Member named in it may speak. If
it is defeated, the Member originally recognized retains the right to speak. In either case, a further motion “that a Member be now heard” may
be moved only after the Member ultimately recognized has completed his or her
speech. Thus, it is impossible to move a series of such motions in order to
prevent one particular Member from speaking. In addition, the motion cannot be
no debatable motion is before the House;
no one has yet been given the floor;
the Member named in the motion did not originally rise to be recognized;
give the floor to a Member whose speech would close the debate;
the period for questions and comments following a speech; or
the House has adopted an Order specifying the speaking order to be followed
A Member whose speech is interrupted
pursuant either to a Standing or Special Order, or
by the adoption of a motion to adjourn the debate, may continue speaking to the
full extent of his or her allotted time when debate on the motion resumes.
Likewise, should the proceedings be suspended, the Member who had the floor at
that time retains the right to speak when the proceedings resume. Should this Member not be present in the Chamber when the House
resumes debate, he or she is considered to have yielded the floor and to have
finished speaking. This principle applies as well to the questions and comments
period: if the Member who made the speech is not present upon resumption
of debate, the questions and comments period ends and another Member is
recognized on debate.
If the Usher of the Black Rod arrives at
the door of the House with a message from the Governor General summoning the
House to the Senate for a Royal Assent ceremony, the business of the House is
interrupted. No Member will be recognized to speak on a point of order or a
question of privilege. The business before the House continues when the House returns from
the Senate and the sitting resumes; the Member whose speech was interrupted
upon the arrival of the Usher of the Black Rod is recognized to continue his or
Once the Speaker has put a question to the
House, there may be no further debate, points of order or questions of
privilege. Members must remain seated until the result of the vote is
announced, whereupon Members have sometimes risen on points of order to explain
or simply to refer to their abstention from voting (thereby ensuring that their
words are recorded in the Debates); to
explain how they would have voted had they been present in the Chamber to hear
the question put; to seek consent to have their vote(s) recorded after the
fact; or to inform the Chair how they wish to have their votes recorded
for subsequent divisions to which the results are to be applied. On occasion, Members have risen on points of order after recorded
divisions to seek unanimous consent to change their votes. However, no Member should raise a point of order to comment on how
another Member voted.
In order to expedite the transaction of
House business, the Standing Orders provide that Members may speak only once during
debate on any motion. If a Member inadvertently rises to speak a second time, the Speaker
will interrupt and recognize another to speak.
Since motions, amendments and subamendments
are separate questions, a Member may speak once to each.
However, an amendment is not a separate question until the Speaker proposes it
to the House. Thus the Member who moves an amendment is deemed to have spoken
not only to the proposed amendment, but also to the main motion. Similarly, the Member who moves a subamendment is deemed to have
spoken also to the amendment and cannot do so again, although this does not
affect the Member’s right to speak to the main motion.
After an amendment (or subamendment) has been moved, seconded and proposed to
the House, any Member rising to speak addresses the amendment (or
subamendment). When an amendment (or subamendment) has been disposed of, either
in the affirmative or in the negative, any Member who has not yet spoken to the
main motion (or amendment) may speak to it. An amended main motion is not
considered a new question; only those Members who have not yet spoken to the
main motion may speak to the amended motion.
Any Member who rises to move a debatable
motion must indicate the name of a second Member who formally supports the
motion. A government order must be moved by a Minister, but it may be seconded
by any Member of the House. If a mover chooses not to speak immediately after the motion has
been proposed to the House, he or she loses the right to speak to the motion
except in reply. The seconder may be recognized to speak to the motion later in the
If a Member moves a motion during his or
her speech (e.g., an amendment or a motion to adjourn debate), the act of
moving the motion will terminate the Member’s speech. A
Member who has already spoken to a question may not rise again to propose or
second an amendment or move a motion to adjourn the debate or the House,
although the Member may speak to an amendment if it has been moved by another
Member. If the House should negative a motion to adjourn the debate, the
mover of the motion will be deemed to have exhausted his or her right to speak
to the main question. However, if the motion is adopted, the mover may speak first the
next time the Order is called. If the Member does not then rise, he or she
forfeits the opportunity to speak.
The House will occasionally grant a Member
unanimous consent to speak a second time to a motion.
The Standing Orders also provide for exceptions to the rule of only speaking
once to a question. One such provision, rarely invoked since the implementation
in 1982 of the 10-minute questions and comments period,
allows a Member to speak a second time in order to explain a material part of
his or her speech which may have been misquoted or misunderstood. In doing so, the Member must rise on a point of order, must limit
the intervention to an explanation of the alleged misquotation or
misunderstanding and may not introduce any new matter.
Another provision of the Standing Orders confers upon the movers of certain
kinds of motions a right to speak a second time when no other Member wishes to
speak. This is known as the “right of reply”.
Any Member who has moved a substantive
motion may speak a second time to conclude the debate. By
custom, this right has also been extended to the mover of a motion for second
reading of a bill, but it does not pertain to movers of amendments, the
previous question, an instruction to a committee, or third reading of a bill. The right of reply allows for the rebuttal of criticisms and
arguments directed against a substantive motion, and its effect is to close the
debate. To ensure that no Member wishing to participate in a debate is
prevented from doing so by a sudden or unannounced exercise of the right of
reply, the Speaker must inform the House that the reply of the mover of the
original motion closes the debate.
If a Member moves a motion on behalf of
another Member, a later speech by either will close the debate. However, during the debate on the second reading motion of a
government bill, a Parliamentary Secretary may close the debate on behalf of
the Minister who moved the motion only with the unanimous consent of the House.
Although Ministers may exercise the right of
reply, it is typically private Members who now make use of it, and it is
entrenched in two of the Standing Orders regulating Private Members’ Business.
The mover of an item of Private Members’ Business is entitled to speak in reply
for not more than five minutes at the conclusion of debate. When debate on a motion for the production of papers under “Notices
of Motions (Papers)” has taken place for a total of one hour and 50 minutes, a
Minister (or a Parliamentary Secretary speaking on behalf of the Minister) may
speak for not more than five minutes, whether or not he or she has previously
spoken, and the mover may close the debate by speaking for not more than five
When a Member is addressing the House, no
other Member may interrupt except on an unanticipated question of privilege or
point of order.
Prior to 1982 and the advent of the questions and comments period following
a Member wishing to ask a question during debate had first to obtain the
consent of the Member who was speaking.
The Member allowing the interruption was under no obligation to reply, and was
often reluctant to do so, as the time taken up in this way was subtracted from
his or her speaking time.
While Chair Occupants generally ignore such
incidental interruptions as applause and/or heckling, they are quick to
intervene when unable to hear the Member speaking or when the latter is unable
to continue speaking.
There are also some proceedings during which Members may be recognized to speak
although no motion has been proposed to the House (e.g., Statements by Members,
Oral Questions, Routine Proceedings (including “Statements by Ministers”), and
on questions of privilege). During the Adjournment Proceedings, only those
Members who were notified earlier in the sitting and Ministers (or
Parliamentary Secretaries responding on their behalf) may be recognized to
speak. For further information on debatable and non‑debatable motions,
see Chapter 12, “The Process of Debate”.
Standing Orders 17 and 62. Standing Order 17 exempts Members from the
requirement to be in their places in order to be recognized to speak during
proceedings pursuant to Standing Orders 38(5) (Adjournment Proceedings), 52
(Emergency Debates) and 53.1 (Take-note Debates). Members may also occupy,
speak and vote from places other than those regularly assigned to them during
debate in a Committee of the Whole (Beauchesne, A., Beauchesne’s Rules &
Forms of the House of Commons of Canada, 6th ed., edited by A. Fraser, W.F.
Dawson and J.A. Holtby, Toronto: The Carswell Company Limited, 1989, p.
As noted in Wilding, N. and Laundy, P., An Encyclopaedia of Parliament, 4th ed.,
London: Cassell & Company Ltd., 1972, p. 81: “Up to 1625,
when several members stood up, the House itself had decided whom they wanted to
hear, but in that year the House resolved that ‘if two rise up at once, the
Speaker does determine. He that his eye saw first, has the precedence given’”.
With regard to this practice, Beauchesne pointedly adds: “… the
Speaker is the final authority on the order of speaking” (6th ed.,
p. 137). See comments of the Chair, Debates, May 5, 1994,
p. 3925; November 29, 1994, pp. 8406‑7; September 26,
2006, p. 3284.
By custom, a Member who wishes to make his or her “maiden speech” enjoys the
privilege of being the first to “catch the Speaker’s eye” (Beauchesne, A., Rules
and Forms of the House of Commons of Canada, 4th ed., Toronto: The
Carswell Company Limited, 1958, p. 111). For further information, see the
section in this chapter entitled “Maiden Speech”.
Standing Order 43 stipulates that the Prime Minister, the Leader of the
Opposition, a Minister moving a government order and the Member speaking in
reply immediately after the Minister may speak for more than 20 minutes in any
debate. In response to a point of order raised by an independent Member who had
sat in the House for many years as a Member of a recognized party, the Speaker
ruled that length of service in the House is not a criterion for recognition (Debates,
February 22, 1993, p. 16283).
This has been supported by numerous Speaker’s rulings. See, for example, Debates,
January 27, 1983, p. 22303; May 20, 1986, p. 13443; March
2, 2000, p. 4254.
See, for example, Debates, September 8, 1992, p. 12723;
May 3, 2007, pp. 9024-5.
See, for example, Journals, June 18, 1991, p. 217;
September 17, 1992, pp. 2011‑2; October 21, 2003, p.
8521; November 9, 2006, pp. 672-3.
See, for example, Debates, March 19, 1992, pp. 8479‑80,
8490‑1; June 19, 2007, p. 10858.
During the debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, it is
tradition for the seconder to be recognized to speak after the mover has
spoken. See Chapter 15, “Special Debates”.
For a definition of a recognized party for procedural purposes, see
Chapter 1, “Parliamentary Institutions”.
Standing Order 44(2). The right of reply is discussed in detail later in this
See, for example, Debates, February 22, 1993, pp. 16282‑3;
March 14, 1995, p. 10446; June 12, 2007, p. 10500; December 12,
2007, pp. 2114-6.
For further information, see Chapter 18, “Financial Procedures”.
Standing Order 43(1). The House adopted this provision in 1982 (Journals,
November 29, 1982, p. 5400) and modified it in 2005 (Journals,
February 18, 2005, pp. 451-5). The current version provides for 10 minutes
of questions and comments following the speech of any Member who has unlimited
time or of any Member limited to 20 minutes. In addition, following all
speeches limited to 10 minutes by other Standing Orders, five minutes are
provided for questions and comments. See also Standing Orders 95 and 97.1(2)(c)
(Private Members’ Business), and 126 (Delegated Legislation).
See, for example, Debates, June 9, 1998, p. 7842;
November 5, 1998, p. 9925; February 2, 2005, p. 2992;
March 8, 2005, p. 4163.
See, for example, Debates, October 28, 1985, p. 8075;
March 3, 1986, p. 11126; October 28, 2003, p. 8847.
See, for example, Debates, March 14, 1985, p. 3029. For
further information on dilatory motions, see Chapter 12, “The Process of
See, for example, Debates, June 9, 1986, p. 14128; February
11, 1999, p. 11747.
See, for example, Debates, February 17, 1987, p. 3541; March
25, 1993, pp. 17560-1.
Standing Order 62. On one occasion, when the Speaker had recognized a Member on
a question of privilege, another Member rose on a point of order to move this
motion. The Speaker did not accept the motion “that a Member be now heard”
because such a motion is traditionally moved during the course of a debate, and
a question of privilege has precedence over any other matter (Debates,
April 27, 1989, p. 1003).
See, for example, Debates, October 29, 1999, p. 894; April 18,
2002, p. 10546; June 5, 2003, pp. 6901-2. On several occasions, after
a motion had been proposed to the House, a Member moved that a specific Member
“be now heard”. The Speaker would not allow the motion to be put because only
the mover of the original motion could be recognized at that time (Debates,
November 20, 1986, p. 1368; February 23, 2007, p. 7243).
See, for example, Debates, March 19, 1997, pp. 9227‑9;
May 13, 2005, pp. 5959-60.
See, for example, Debates, November 20, 1997, pp. 6503‑5;
April 18, 2002, p. 10546.
See, for example, Debates, October 28, 1987, p. 10497.
See, for example, Debates, January 31, 1990, p. 7660. There
have, however, been instances in which the Chair has accepted such motions
during Routine Proceedings when no motion was under debate (Journals,
November 7, 1986, pp. 188‑9; April 8, 1987,
See, for example, Debates, November 7, 1986, p. 1191.
See, for example, Debates, September 24, 1990, pp. 13244‑5;
October 29, 1999, p. 894.
See, for example, Debates, December 5, 1963, p. 5471.
See, for example, Debates, October 30, 1991, p. 4231.
See, for example, Debates, June 19, 1991, p. 2109. In 1979,
after the leaders of the three recognized parties had spoken on an opposition
motion, Speaker Jerome explained his reasons for recognizing next in debate,
Fabien Roy (Beauce) the leader of the Social Credit Party, which held only five
seats in the House. As Mr. Roy, began to speak, Yvon Pinard (Drummond) rose on
a point of order to move that another Member “be now heard”. The Speaker ruled
that the Member did not have the floor to move his motion. The following day,
in response to a question of privilege, Speaker Jerome clarified that he had
interpreted the moving of the motion to be an appeal against the ruling he had
just given (Debates, November 6, 1979, pp. 1008‑10;
November 7, 1979, pp. 1048‑9).
For example, when debate is interrupted because of Statements by Members,
Question Period, Private Members’ Business, at the ordinary hour of daily
adjournment, or at the time specified in a special order of the House. See, for
example, Debates, March 17, 1997, pp. 9091‑2.
See, for example, Debates, September 29, 1994, p. 6348;
September 22, 1995, p. 14759; October 6, 2005,
p. 8475; November 9, 2006, p. 4963; June 14, 2007, p. 10590.
See, for example, Debates, December 18, 1990, p. 16906.
See, for example, Debates, December 11, 1986, pp. 2025‑6;
February 3, 1994, p. 896; February 27, 1995, p. 10084;
February 17, 1998, p. 4033; October 28, 2003, p. 8847.
Bourinot, Sir J.G., Parliamentary Procedure and Practice in the Dominion of
Canada, 4th ed., edited by T.B. Flint, Toronto: Canada Law Book
Company, 1916, p. 353.
Debates, December 17, 1990, pp. 16829‑30.
See, for example, Debates, March 11, 1999, pp. 12775‑6;
November 3, 2005, p. 9493; May 11, 2006, p. 1280.
See, for example, Debates, March 20, 1990, pp. 9557‑8.
See, for example, Debates, March 19, 1992, p. 8522;
February 24, 1993, p. 16425; March 25, 2003, p. 4684;
October 24, 2007, p. 346.
See, for example, Debates, June 21, 1994, p. 5665;
November 1, 1994, p. 7539; November 30, 2004, p. 2114.
See, for example, Debates, February 21, 2007, p. 7154; March 27,
2007, p. 8005.
See, for example, Debates, December 9, 1997, p. 3011;
November 27, 2001, p. 7600.
See Debates, May 4, 1993, p. 18921.
Standing Order 44(1). “It is essential to the dispatch of business, that the
rule and order of the House, ‘That no Member should speak twice to the same
question’, should be strictly adhered to; and it is the duty of the Speaker to
maintain the observance of this rule, without waiting for the interposition of
the House; which, in calling to order, seldom produces any thing but disorder.”
See Hatsell, J., Precedents of Proceedings in the House of Commons, Vol.
II, South Hackensack, New Jersey: Rothman Reprints Inc., 1971
(reprint of 4th ed., 1818), p. 105.
See, for example, Debates, May 12, 1998, p. 6826;
May 25, 1998, p. 7107; June 22, 2005, p. 7651. In a
Committee of the Whole, Members may speak as often as they wish (Standing Order
Journals, March 14, 1928, pp. 154‑5. See, for example, Debates,
September 27, 2005, p. 8119; October 21, 2005, pp. 8878, 8880.
See, for example, Journals, February 10, 1953, p. 232; Debates,
November 5, 1991, p. 4609. See also Bourinot, 4th ed.,
p. 345. The same rule applies to the previous question (“That the question
be now put”): the Member who moves the previous question is deemed to have
spoken to both the previous question and the original motion. For further information,
see Chapter 12, “The Process of Debate”.
See, for example, Journals, May 30, 1960, pp. 514‑5.
Beauchesne, 6th ed., p. 138.
See, for example, Debates, January 25, 1983, p. 22176;
January 31, 1985, p. 1845. Upon commencing debate at second or third
reading of a government bill, a Parliamentary Secretary often speaks on behalf
of the Minister after the Minister has moved the motion. See, for example, Debates,
May 29, 2006, p. 1621.
Unanimous consent has sometimes been used to circumvent this practice. See, for
example, Debates, November 18, 1997, p. 1824; March 19,
1998, p. 5138; May 29, 2006, p. 1630. Furthermore, when a
Minister moves an item of government business on behalf of another Minister,
the latter retains both the right to speak to the motion and the right of
In the debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, the
seconder speaks immediately after the mover. For further information, see
Chapter 15, “Special Debates”.
See, for example, Debates, December 11, 1990, p. 16563;
May 11, 1998, p. 6814.
Bourinot, 4th ed., pp. 345‑6.
Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 346.
Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 346.
See, for example, Debates, September 24, 1991, p. 2672;
November 28, 1991, pp. 5481‑2; November 18, 1997,
p. 1824; February 25, 2002, p. 9172.
Standing Order 43(1).
Standing Order 44(1).
See, for example, Debates, March 1, 1991, pp. 17872‑3;
November 27, 1991, p. 5433, and Bourinot (4th ed.,
pp. 350‑1) for an enumeration of the types of violations of this
rule. See also Debates, May 12, 1995, pp. 12525-7.
Standing Order 44(2).
Standing Order 44(2). A substantive motion is a self‑contained proposal
not dependent on another motion or proceeding. Normally such motions require
notice before they can be moved in the House. For further information, see
Chapter 12, “The Process of Debate”.
Standing Order 44(2). Until 1906, the Standing Order only allowed Members who
had moved substantive motions the right of reply. In 1906, the rule was amended
to extend the right of reply to the mover of second reading of a bill, even
though it was well understood that a second reading motion was not a
substantive motion. The reason was given by Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier, who
explained that “When a Bill is moved for the first time the member who
introduces the Bill may make his speech upon it. Our practice generally is to
have that explanation on the second reading”. Thus the exception was a way of
guaranteeing the mover of a bill two opportunities to speak during debate on
second reading (Debates, July 9, 1906, cols. 7467‑70).
The right of reply does not apply to the third reading motion (Debates,
May 4, 1990, p. 11034).
Standing Order 44(3). See, for example, Debates, February 15, 1999,
p. 11866; February 19, 1999, p. 12201; November 24, 2006,
p. 5334; April 20, 2007, p. 8511.
Journals, February 7, 1961, p. 226.
See, for example, Debates, November 7, 1957, pp. 877‑8;
February 11, 1985, pp. 2219‑20. This rule has had a varied
history and, as late as 1984, a Parliamentary Secretary was allowed the right
of reply to close off debate without seeking the unanimous consent of the House
(Debates, June 8, 1984, p. 4492).
In this event, the length of time a Minister would be allowed to speak would
depend on the rules applicable at that time. For example, if a Minister chose
to close the debate during the five hours of debate on a second reading motion
following the first round of speeches, he or she would be entitled to speak for
20 minutes. If a Minister chose to close the debate after that period, he or
she would have 10 minutes to reply. For an example of a Minister closing off
debate on a second reading motion, see Debates,
January 25, 1971, p. 2726.
Standing Order 95(1) and (2). See, for example, Debates, October 31,
1997, p. 1433; October 25, 2006, pp. 4260-1. For further
information, see Chapter 21, “Private Members’ Business”.
Standing Order 97(2). See, for example, Debates, November 2, 1998,
Standing Orders 16(2) and 48.
Standing Order 43(1).
Beauchesne, 4th ed., pp. 113‑4.
See, for example, Debates, November 29, 2006, p. 5517; November 21,
2007, p. 1149.
A Member must be in his or her designated
place and must stand in order to be recognized and to speak. These stipulations
are a practical necessity in view of the difficulties involved in recognizing
Members if each Member were free to speak while seated in a different place
every time he or she addressed the House. The Speaker may exempt any Member
with a disability from these requirements on an ongoing basis. Otherwise,
individual exceptions to these two conditions have occurred, for example, when
a Member has been unable to rise as a result of an injury or illness.
When the Chair Occupant rises, a Member must sit down. Members have been
discouraged from sitting on chair arms or on desks with their backs to the
House. When the House sits as a Committee of the Whole, a Member may rise and
speak from any seat. During proceedings pursuant to Standing Orders 38(5)
(Adjournment Proceedings), 52 (Emergency Debates) and 53.1 (Take‑note
Debates), Members are specifically exempted from the requirement to be in their
designated places in order to be recognized to speak.
Any Member participating in debate must
address the Chair, not the House, a particular Minister or Member, the
galleries, or the television audience. Since one of the basic principles of
procedure in the House is that the proceedings be conducted in terms of a free
and civil discourse,
Members are less apt to engage in direct heated exchanges and personal attacks
when their comments are directed to the Chair rather than to another Member. If
a Member directs remarks toward another Member and not the Speaker, he or she
will be called to order and may be asked to rephrase the remarks.
In a Committee of the Whole, Members must direct their comments to the Chair.
While the Standing Orders prescribe no
dress code for Members participating in debate,
Speakers have ruled that all Members desiring to be recognized at any point
during the proceedings of the House must be wearing contemporary business
Current practice requires that male Members wear jackets, shirts and ties.
Clerical collars have been allowed, although ascots and turtlenecks have been
ruled inappropriate for male Members participating in debate. The Chair has even
stated that wearing a kilt is permissible on certain occasions (for example,
Robert Burns Day).
Members of the House who are in the armed forces have been permitted to wear
their uniforms in the House.
Although there is no notation to this effect in the Journals or in the Debates,
a newly-elected Member introduced in the House in 2005 wore traditional Métis
dress (including a white hooded anorak bearing an embroidered seal emblem) on
that occasion without objection from the Chair.
In certain circumstances, usually for medical
reasons, the Chair has allowed a relaxation of the dress standards allowing,
for example, a Member whose arm was in a cast to wear a sweater in the House
instead of a jacket.
The Constitution Act, 1867
guarantees that a Member may address the House in either English or French.
Given the bilingual nature of the House and the existence of simultaneous
Members rarely have difficulty expressing their views and having them
understood in the Chamber. In addition, all parliamentary publications, such as
the Journals, the Debates, and the Order Paper and Notice
Paper, are printed in both official languages.
Other languages are occasionally used in
debate, but not at great length
and a Member will sometimes provide the Debates editor with a
translation of his or her remarks.
As the Speaker has noted, however, serious difficulties could arise in
maintaining order in debate (and by extension accurate records of the House) if
languages other than English or French were used to any great extent.
Members have also used sign language to make statements and to ask questions
during Question Period.
Although not formally prohibited by a
Standing Order, the practice of reading from a written, prepared speech while
addressing the House was, until recent decades, frowned upon. Members have long
made use of notes when delivering a speech. The practice of discouraging the
reading of speeches is of British derivation, and was intended to maintain the
cut and thrust of debate, which depends upon successive speakers addressing to
some extent in their speeches the arguments put forward by previous speakers.
Although the tradition of not reading
speeches existed at Confederation, in 1886 the House adopted the following
… the growing practice in the Canadian
House of Commons of delivering speeches of great length, having the character
of carefully and elaborately prepared written essays, and indulging in
voluminous and often irrelevant extracts, [which] is destructive of legitimate
and pertinent debate upon public questions, is a waste of valuable time,
unreasonably lengthens the Sessions of Parliament, threatens by increased bulk
and cost to lead to the abolition of the official report of the Debates,
encourages a discursive and diffuse, rather than an incisive and concise style
of public speaking, is a marked contrast to the practice in regard to debate
that prevails in the British House of Commons, and tends to repel the public
from a careful and intelligent consideration of the proceedings of Parliament.
Notwithstanding this, the problem persisted
and several Speakers felt obliged to address it, during the decades that
followed, in statements and rulings discouraging the reading of speeches.
In 1956, Speaker Beaudoin received the consent of the House to have printed in
the Journals a statement on the issue in which he cited the authorities
on procedure (i.e., May, Bourinot, and Beauchesne and
various Speakers) and the practice of the House. His careful summary of
established practice in this regard remains definitive:
A Member addressing the House may refer to
notes. The Prime Minister, the cabinet ministers, the Leader of the Opposition,
the leaders of other parties or Members speaking on their behalf, may read
important policy speeches. New Members may read their [maiden] speeches. The
Members speaking in a language other than their mother tongue, the Members
speaking in debates involving matters of a technical nature, or in debates on
the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne and on the Budget may use
full notes or, if they wish, read their speeches.
As demands on the time and energy of
Members of Parliament continue to increase, their use of speaking notes, and
even of prepared texts, has become more common. The Chair has, accordingly,
shown a disinclination to insist that Members refrain from reading written
speeches. When points of order have been raised in this regard, Chairs have
typically ruled that it is permissible for Members to refer to notes.
It has long been accepted practice for the
Minister of Finance to make use of a lectern during the presentation of the
Budget. Before 2003, however, this convenience was unavailable to other
Members, although Chair Occupants made no objection to Members laying their
speaking notes on books. This changed in 2003, with the adoption by the House
of a committee report recommending that portable lecterns be made available to
all Members upon request.
There is no Standing Order which governs
the citation of documents; the House is guided mainly by custom and precedent.
Generally, the reading of articles from newspapers, books or other documents by
a Member during debate has become an accepted practice and is not ruled out of
order provided that such quotations do not reflect on past proceedings in the
do not refer to or comment on or deny anything said by a Member,
or use language which would be out of order if spoken by a Member.
A speech should not consist of a single
long quotation or a series of quotations joined together with a few original
Members may not quote from the “blues” (the unedited preliminary version of the
Debates) nor may they quote from correspondence when there is no way of
confirming the authenticity of the signature.
They may quote from private correspondence as long as they identify the sender
by name or take full responsibility for its contents. Finally, Members
may not quote from the proceedings of a committee before it has reported to the
Any document quoted by a Minister in debate
or in response to a question during Question Period must be tabled upon
Indeed, a Minister is not at liberty to read or quote from a despatch (an
official written message on government affairs) or other state paper without
being prepared to table it if this can be done without prejudice to the public
As Speaker Glen noted in a 1941 ruling:
… an honourable member is not entitled to
read from communications unless prepared to place them on the Table of the
House. The principle upon which this is based is that where information is
given to the House, the House itself is entitled to the same information as the
honourable member who may quote the document.
A public document referred to but not
quoted by a Minister need not be tabled.
If a Minister quotes a private letter in debate, the letter becomes a public
document and must be tabled on request.
However, a Minister is not obliged to table personal or briefing notes referred
to during debate or Question Period.
Although it is customary to do so under the rubric “Tabling of Documents”, a
Minister is at liberty to table at any time without any requirement for
All documents tabled in the House by a Minister are required to be in both
There has been a long‑standing
practice in the House that private Members may not table documents, official or
Speaker Lamoureux observed that while Ministers must table official documents
cited in debate in support of an argument, this rule has never been interpreted
to apply to any documents referred to by private Members. In 1974, when a
Member attempted to seek unanimous consent to table a document, Speaker
Lamoureux stated that there was “no provision in the rules for a private Member
to table or file documents in any way”. The Speaker concluded by suggesting
that Members “could presumably make them public in a number of other ways”.
However, since the mid‑1980s, Members have been allowed to table
documents or material to which they may have referred during their speeches or
during Question Period with the unanimous consent of the House. These documents
(often copies of correspondence or advertisements) have typically been tabled
in only one language.
Private Members sometimes place material for the information of all Members on
the Table, although this is not considered an official tabling.
In order that the Debates be as
accurate a record as possible of what has been spoken in the House, Members are
not permitted to table speeches for printing in the Debates.
Very rarely, a Member has received the consent of the House to have long lists,
statistics or similar material printed in the Debates as part of a
There have also been instances when the House has given its consent to have
documents or exchanges of letters printed as a formal appendix to the Debates
for the information of the House.
Speakers have consistently ruled out of
order displays or demonstrations of any kind used by Members to illustrate
their remarks or emphasize their positions. Similarly, props of any kind, used
as a way of making a silent comment on issues, have always been found
unacceptable in the Chamber.
Members may hold notes in their hands, but they will be interrupted and
reprimanded by the Speaker if they use papers, documents or other objects to
illustrate their remarks.
Exhibits have also been ruled inadmissible.
During the “Flag Debate” in 1964, the Speaker had to remind Members on numerous
occasions that the display of competing flag designs was not permissible.
Small Canadian flags and desk flags have been disallowed when they have been
used to cause disorder in the House for the purpose of interrupting a Member’s
While political buttons and lapel pins have not been considered exhibits as
long as they do not cause disorder,
the Speaker has interrupted a division to request that certain Members remove
“props” from their lapels.
A Member’s first speech in the House is
referred to as his or her “maiden speech”. Traditionally, the House extends
certain courtesies to a Member delivering a maiden speech. On such occasions,
the Speaker may recognize that Member in preference to others rising at the
same time; however, this privilege will not be granted unless claimed within
the Parliament to which the Member was first elected. The Member is
permitted to read his or her speech
and, by courtesy, is not interrupted.
Additional time beyond that allotted by the rules is sometimes granted by the
Chair to permit a Member to complete his or her speech. Since
consideration of the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne is normally
the first extensive debate in a new session, many new Members take advantage of
the occasion to make their first speeches.
Standing Order 17. See, for example, Debates,
November 9, 2006, pp. 4953-4. Members have been permitted to speak
from a place other than their own by consent of the House. See, for example, Debates,
April 9, 1962, p. 2629.
Standing Order 1.1.
See, for example, Debates, November 24, 1992, p. 13977;
January 24, 1994, pp. 215, 218; February 2, 1998, p. 3181;
October 21, 1998, p. 9229; October 11, 2002, p. 623.
See, for example, Debates, February 24, 1993, p. 16404; June
16, 2005, p. 7357.
Standing Order 17.
Franks, p. 124.
See, for example, Debates, April 18, 1996, pp. 1628‑9;
March 19, 1998, p. 5115; February 7, 2007, p. 6540.
See, for example, Debates, April 10, 2006, p. 306.
Until 1994, the Standing Orders did contain one rule respecting a dress
code: when participating in any proceedings, Members were required to rise
“uncovered”, that is, to remove their hats. The Speaker allowed Members to wear
hats as long as they removed the head gear before rising to speak. See Debates,
March 17, 1971, p. 4338; June 20, 1983, pp. 26564‑6;
June 3, 1992, pp. 11348‑9. However, since Members are no
longer in the habit of wearing hats in the Chamber, this aspect of the Standing
Order had become anachronistic and was finally deleted in June 1994. See
the Twenty‑Seventh Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and
House Affairs (Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, June 9, 1994,
Issue No. 16, p. 3), presented to the House on June 8, 1994 (Journals,
p. 545), and concurred in on June 10, 1994 (Journals,
See, for example, Debates, December 10, 1981, pp. 13920‑1;
September 12, 1983, pp. 26977‑8; August 10, 1988,
p. 18176; August 11, 1988, pp. 18208‑9; April 5,
1990, p. 10206; June 3, 1992, pp. 11348‑9;
November 20, 1992, p. 13745; April 19, 1996, p. 1703;
February 28, 2001, p. 1331.
See Debates, February 19, 1990, pp. 8485‑6; May 3,
1990, pp. 10941‑2; June 14, 2002, p. 12703. On
occasion, male Members not wearing a tie have been permitted to vote. See Debates,
March 31, 1987, pp. 4726‑7; April 5, 1990, p. 10206.
Debates, January 25, 1985, pp. 1685‑6.
Debates, February 4, 1943, p. 162.
Journals, June 6, 2005, p. 834.
See, for example, Debates, April 5, 1990, pp. 10242‑3; February
15, 2000, p. 3527. On one occasion, the Speaker allowed a Member rising on a
point of order to propose a motion for a relaxation of the dress code pending
repair of the Chamber’s air-conditioning system. The motion was adopted (Debates,
May 29, 2002, p. 11884).
R.S. 1985, Appendix II, No. 5, s. 133. The Constitution Act,
1982 also affirms that the English and French languages enjoy “equality of
status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of
the Parliament and government of Canada” (s. 16(1)) and that everyone has
the “right to use English or French in any debates and other proceedings of
Parliament” (s. 17(1)). The only references to language requirements in
the Standing Orders are found in Standing Orders 7(2), 32(4) and 65. Standing
Order 7(2) specifies that the Deputy Speaker must have a full and practical
knowledge of the official language which is not that of the Speaker. Standing
Order 32(4) requires that documents distributed or tabled in the House be in
both official languages. Standing Order 65 requires motions that are seconded
to be read in English and French. See also Debates, November 25,
1998, pp. 10432‑3.
In 1958, the House agreed to the installation in the Chamber of a system for
simultaneous interpretation in both official languages (Journals,
August 11, 1958, p. 402, Debates, pp. 3331‑40). On
occasion, there have been minor technical problems with the simultaneous
interpretation system, but debate has not been unduly hampered because of this
inconvenience to Members. See, for example, Debates, November 1,
1994, p. 7473; March 23, 1999, p. 13311; April 29,
1999, p. 14503; October 16, 2006, p. 3789; October 25, 2006,
p. 4232; November 1, 2007, p. 660.
On one occasion, a Member rose on a point of order to complain about another
Member who had spoken in Inuktitut. The Chair responded that there was no rule
preventing a Member from using a language other than French or English (Debates,
June 12, 1995, p. 13605). See Debates, June 13, 1995,
p. 13702, where the Speaker requested that a Member who had made a speech
in Inuktitut consider answering questions in one of the two official languages.
The Member complied. Other languages which have been used in debate include
Dene‑North Slavey (Debates, October 21, 1991, pp. 3699,
3702), Punjabi (Debates, November 19, 1991, p. 5067), Japanese
(Debates, June 9, 1998, p. 7806), Ojibway (Debates,
November 5, 1998, p. 9893), Salishan (Debates,
November 5, 1998, p. 9893), Cree (Debates, June 19, 2006, p.
2585), Chinese (Debates, June 22, 2006, p. 2863) and Italian (Debates,
May 6, 2008, pp. 5490‑1). On one occasion, there was an
exchange between two Members in Latin and Greek (Debates,
February 18, 1983, p. 22983).
See, for example, Debates, June 4, 1993, pp. 20356‑61; June 13,
1995, p. 13700; March 18, 1998, p. 5041; March 24,
1998, p. 5278; June 9, 1998, p. 7806; May 6, 2008,
Debates, December 8, 1964, p. 10926.
See, for example, Debates, May 13, 1998, pp. 6918‑9;
May 6, 1999, p. 14381; May 30, 2001, p. 4405.
The most notable exception to this practice is when the Minister of Finance is
presenting a Budget.
May, T.E., Erskine May’s Treatise on The Law, Privileges, Proceedings and
Usage of Parliament, 23rd ed., edited by Sir W. McKay, London: LexisNexis UK, 2004, p. 425. See also Bourinot, 4th ed.,
p. 335. In 1947, Speaker Fauteux noted: “If the rule were otherwise
members might read speeches written by other people and the time of the house
[would] be taken up considering the arguments of persons who are not properly
elected representatives of the people.” Debates, May 29, 1947,
Journals, April 19, 1886, pp. 167‑8.
See, for example, Debates, June 14, 1940, p. 781;
February 20, 1942, pp. 730‑1; September 11, 1945,
p. 66; May 29, 1947, pp. 3567‑8; February 20, 1951,
pp. 496‑7; May 29, 1951, pp. 3494‑5.
Journals, January 31, 1956, pp. 92‑102, in particular
See, for example, Debates, September 21, 1983, p. 27358;
November 20, 1990, p. 15456; June 18, 1991, p. 1931;
May 22, 1992, p. 11117; December 9, 1992, p. 14934;
March 30, 2000, p. 5499.
Fourth Report of the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of
the Procedures of the House of Commons, par. 36, presented to the House on
June 12, 2003 (Debates, p. 915), and concurred in on
September 18, 2003 (Journals, p. 995).
Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 336. See Journals, June 21,
1960, p. 675.
Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 336. See, for example, Debates, October
22, 2002, p. 719.
Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 336. See, for example, Debates,
February 25, 1998, p. 4407; April 22, 1999, p. 14202;
November 8, 2006, p. 4895.
See, for example, Debates, July 23, 1963, p. 2549; October 22,
2002, p. 772.
See, for example, Debates, May 31, 1928, p. 3604.
See, for example, Debates, May 16, 1928, p. 3073; May 14,
1973, pp. 3725‑7; April 9, 1976, pp. 12682‑3;
February 14, 1984, pp. 1361‑3; June 6, 2006, p. 2030; October
18, 2007, p. 70. See also Debates, February 1, 1954,
pp. 1644‑5, 1647‑8 where the Speaker defines an unsigned or
See, for example, Debates, April 14, 1943, p. 2179;
September 29, 1994, p. 6314; December 4, 2001,
Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 337; Beauchesne, 4th ed.,
pp. 134‑5. See, for example, Debates, November 5, 1997,
pp. 1582‑3, 1586; February 6, 1998, pp. 3499‑500;
February 23, 1998, p. 4289; April 29, 1998, p. 6293;
February 18, 2004, p. 784; October 2, 2006, pp. 3497, 3499. For
further information on the tabling of documents required by statute or in
respect to administrative responsibilities by Ministers during Routine
Proceedings under the rubric “Tabling of Documents”, see Chapter 10, “The
Beauchesne, 4th ed., p. 134. See also Debates,
November 2, 1983, pp. 28627‑31;
October 17, 1995, p. 15488; June 8, 2006,
Journals, March 7, 1941, pp. 171‑2.
See, for example, Journals, November 16, 1971, p. 922; Debates,
March 4, 1975, p. 3755; February 11, 1983, p. 22755;
November 14, 1984, pp. 219‑20; February 4, 1992,
p. 6376; February 1, 2001, pp. 112-3; October 2, 2006, p. 3496.
Journals, February 22, 1972, p. 15.
See, for example, Debates, October 13, 1987, pp. 9898‑9;
March 12, 2001, p. 1526.
Speaker Milliken reminded Ministers that while they were at liberty to table
documents at any time, they ought not to use such occasions to make statements
(Debates, March 20, 2001, pp. 1960-1). See also Debates,
May 4, 2005, pp. 5657-8.
Standing Order 32(4). There have been occasions when a document has been tabled
in only one language. See, for example, Journals,
March 17, 1998, p. 574; March 16, 1999, p. 1618. On
one occasion, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader sought
unanimous consent to table a newspaper article which was quoted by a Minister
and which was available in English only. Consent was given (Debates,
February 19, 1998, p. 4125). Since 2000, Ministers and Parliamentary
Secretaries have, on occasion, tabled unilingual items of correspondence
without first seeking unanimous consent. See, for example, Journals,
October 26, 2006, p. 587, Debates, p. 4307.
Journals, April 6, 1971, pp. 475‑6. For cases where the
Speaker has refused requests by private Members for unanimous consent to table
a document, see Debates, February 1, 1985, p. 1914;
February 13, 1985, p. 2313; March 25, 1985, pp. 3326‑7;
September 23, 1985, p. 6864; June 27, 1986, p. 15006. In
recent years, this prohibition has been relaxed, and Speakers have permitted
the House to pronounce itself on such requests. See, for example, Debates,
June 8, 2006, p. 2107; December 6, 2006, p. 5698.
Debates, December 3, 1974, p. 1882.
This was first allowed by the Chair on November 15, 1978 (Debates,
pp. 1160‑1), and discouraged (but not forbidden) in the years that
followed. In 1986, Speaker Fraser, noting that “the House has quite clearly
decided to move outside the usual practice”, declined to discourage the
practice further (Debates, October 24, 1986, pp. 709‑10).
The two decades that followed saw numerous instances of tabling by unanimous
consent (see, for example, Debates, December 5, 1990, p. 16330;
November 30, 1992, p. 14276; February 1, 1994, p. 690;
October 17, 1995, p. 15488; October 2, 1997, p. 415;
December 4, 1997, pp. 2706‑7; February 13, 1998,
p. 3866; March 17, 1998, p. 5029; November 24, 1998,
p. 10388; February 16, 1999, p. 11980; October 28, 2003, p.
8835; November 25, 2004, p. 1926; October 27, 2006, p. 4358). On
one such occasion, a document was tabled which had already been tabled by a
Minister earlier in the day. Each tabled copy of the document was assigned a sessional
paper number (Journals, June 1, 2006, p. 223). Also in 2006, a Member obtained unanimous consent to table an audio recording on a tape recorder (Debates,
October 5, 2006, p. 3720). In 2007, a Secretary of State declared himself willing to table a printout from a handheld electronic
“BlackBerry”, but not the device itself (Debates, October 18, 2007,
See, for example, Journals, December 5, 1990, p. 2379;
November 30, 1992, p. 2254; February 1, 1994, p. 88;
March 16, 1994, p. 260; March 20, 1997, p. 1325; October 2, 1997,
p. 70; February 16, 1999, p. 1514; March 11, 1999,
p. 1596; June 21, 2005, p. 942; May 9, 2006, p. 151.
See, for example, Debates, June 13, 1991, p. 1646. See also
the Chair’s comments, Debates, February 24, 1992, p. 7531. In
1992, the House adopted a Special Order allowing Members to table documents as
sessional papers during a debate on proposals for reform of the constitution (Journals,
February 5, 1992, p. 975).
See, for example, Debates, June 3, 1971, p. 6359;
December 3, 1990, p. 16085. This prohibition has, on rare occasions,
been waived by unanimous consent. See, for example, Debates, June 11,
1992, p. 11887.
Debates, December 8, 1997, pp. 2851‑2. Consent is also
sometimes granted for lengthy answers to “starred” questions (i.e., questions
for which oral answers have been requested) on the Order Paper to be
printed in the Debates as if read. See, for example, Debates,
March 10, 2005, p. 4236.
See, for example, Debates, February 8, 1994, pp. 1030, 1095;
March 25, 1994, pp. 2812, 2821‑2. The Speaker has refused to
ask the House for unanimous consent to include as an appendix to the Debates,
the text of a speech given outside the House (Debates,
April 2, 1981, p. 8876). Nonetheless, the House has agreed to
append to the Debates speeches made by the Prime Minister and the
Governor General in the Senate at the installation of the latter (Debates,
February 8, 1995, pp. 9334, 9367‑70; September 27, 2005,
pp. 8132, 8136), remarks made by the Governor General at the funeral
service of a former Member (Debates, January 20, 1994,
pp. 112, 133‑5), and speeches delivered at the unveiling of the
official portrait of a former Prime Minister (Debates, November 20,
2002, p. 1664).
See, for example, Debates, March 30, 2000, p. 5443.
See, for example, Debates, February 11, 1986, p. 10687;
February 9, 1993, p. 15637; March 23, 1994, pp. 2671, 2674;
December 8, 1995, p. 17444; May 7, 1999, p. 14886. Examples
of printed material used as a prop and ruled out of order include
advertisements, newspapers, books, business cards and money (Debates,
April 26, 1989, pp. 994‑5; March 14, 1990, p. 9277;
March 6, 1991, p. 18111; May 25, 1993, p. 19679;
November 1, 1994, p. 7497; April 24, 1996, p. 1889;
April 18, 2005, pp. 5213-4). Speaker Milliken ruled that “a document that has
been recently tabled in the House and is being quoted by Members or used as the
basis for either an answer or a question may sometimes be lifted up, pointed at
or even quoted from” (Debates, November 4, 2005, pp. 9531-2).
These include produce, samples of grain, detergent boxes, boxes of letters and
petitions, a wig, a pen, a toy and chocolates (see, for example, Debates,
June 16, 1969, p. 10156; October 29, 1969, p. 237;
June 10, 1980, p. 1967; June 2, 1982, p. 18022;
February 15, 1985, pp. 2387, 2404; May 5, 1987, p. 5763;
March 13, 1995, p. 10383; March 5, 1997, p. 8649;
November 18, 1997, p. 1846; June 13, 2006, p. 2321). On one
occasion, a petition in the form of a birthday card was deemed an exhibit and
ordered removed from the Chamber (Debates,
July 5, 1982, p. 18990). On another occasion, a Member held up a
sign when the Minister of Finance was making a statement and was subsequently
ordered suspended from the service of the House for the remainder of the day’s
sitting (Debates, June 27, 1985, p. 6270).
See Debates, May 12, 1964, p. 3165; June 12, 1964,
p. 4237; June 16, 1964, pp. 4352‑3; August 17, 1964,
See, for example, Debates, December 14, 1994, p. 9057. On
February 26, 1998, some Members used desk flags to demonstrate their
opposition to certain remarks previously made by Suzanne Tremblay
(Rimouski–Mitis). The Chair found that such use of the flag created disorder in
the House and asked Members that the flags be put back in their desks (Debates,
p. 4488). When Mrs. Tremblay was recognized later in the sitting, Members
began singing the national anthem (Debates, p. 4503). A point of
order was raised (Debates, pp. 4509‑12) and, in his
subsequent ruling, Speaker Parent underlined that the ruling was not about the
flag or the national anthem. It was about “order and decorum and the duty of
the Speaker to apply the rules and practices of the House”. The Speaker
concluded that, until the House decided otherwise, no such displays would be
allowed (Debates, March 16, 1998, pp. 4902‑3).
See, for example, Debates, December 10, 1984, p. 1064;
October 18, 1995, pp. 15537‑8. In 2006, a Member was asked to remove a political button when another Member objected to it (Debates,
September 21, 2006, p. 3064).
Debates, June 22, 1995, pp. 14465‑6. See also Debates,
September 18, 1995, p. 14508; October 2, 1995, pp. 15108‑9.
Beauchesne, A., Rules and Forms of the House of Commons of Canada,
3rd ed., Toronto: Canada Law Book Company, Limited, 1943, pp. 91‑2.
See the section in this chapter entitled “Reading of Speeches”.
On one occasion, the Speaker interrupted a Member during her maiden speech in
an attempt to quell heckling (Debates, January 30, 2001, pp. 18-9).
See, for example, Debates, February 25, 1994, p. 1882;
April 14, 1994, p. 3027.
See, for example, Debates, September 25, 1997, pp. 69‑71;
September 26, 1997, pp. 164‑6; April 6, 2006, p. 66.
During debate, Members do not refer to one another
by their names but rather by title, position or constituency name in order to
guard against the tendency to personalize debate. A
Minister is referred to by the portfolio he or she holds.
The two main party leaders are generally referred to as the Right Honourable
Prime Minister and the Honourable Leader of the Opposition, and other party
leaders are identified as the leaders of their respective parties. Former Prime Ministers sitting in the House are also referred to as
“Right Honourable”, as are other Members with this designation. Parliamentary
Secretaries, House Leaders and Party Whips are typically designated by the
posts they hold.
The Speaker will not allow a Member to
refer to another Member by name even if the Member speaking is quoting from a
document such as a newspaper article. As the Chair once noted, a Member “cannot
do indirectly what cannot be done directly”.
Allusions to the presence or absence of a
Member or Minister in the Chamber are unacceptable.
Speakers have upheld this prohibition on the ground that “there are many places
that Members have to be in order to carry out all of the obligations that go
with their office”.
Remarks directed specifically at another
Member which question that Member’s integrity, honesty or character are not in
order. A Member will be requested to withdraw offensive remarks,
allegations, or accusations of impropriety directed towards another Member. The Speaker has no authority to rule on statements made outside the
House by one Member against another.
Disrespectful reflections on Parliament as
a whole, or on the House and the Senate individually are not permitted. Members of the House and the Senate are also protected by this
rule. In debate, the Senate is generally referred to as “the other place” and
Senators as “members of the other place”.
References to Senate debates and proceedings are discouraged and it is out of order to question a Senator’s integrity, honesty
or character. This “prevents fruitless arguments between Members of two distinct
bodies who are unable to reply to each other, and guards against recrimination
and offensive language in the absence of the other party”.
Reflections must not be cast in debate on
the conduct of the Speaker or other Presiding Officers.
It is unacceptable to question the integrity and impartiality of a Presiding
Officer and if such comments are made, the Speaker will interrupt the Member
and may request that the remarks be withdrawn.
Only by means of a substantive motion for which 48 hours’ written notice has
been given, may the actions of the Chair be challenged, criticized and debated. Reflections on the character or actions of the Speaker or other
Presiding Officers have been ruled to be breaches of privilege.
Members are prohibited from speaking
disrespectfully of the Sovereign, the Royal Family, the Governor General or the
Administrator of the Government of Canada (in the absence of the Governor
General). In the same way, any reference to these persons which appears
intended to influence the work of the House is also prohibited.
Attacks against and censures of judges and
courts by Members in debate have always been considered unparliamentary and,
consequently, treated as breaches of order.
As Acting Speaker McClelland explained to the House, “This is a longstanding
tradition in our Parliament that we be cautious when we attack individuals or
groups, particularly in the judiciary, and those who are unable to come in here
and have the same right of free expression as we enjoy with impunity here”. While it is permissible to speak in general terms about the
judiciary or to criticize a law, it is inappropriate to criticize or impute
motives directed to a specific judge or to criticize a decision made under the
law by a judge.
Members are discouraged from referring by
name to persons who are not Members of Parliament and who do not enjoy
parliamentary immunity, except in extraordinary circumstances when the national
interest calls for this. The Speaker has ruled that Members have a responsibility to protect
the innocent, not only from outright slander, but from any slur directly or
indirectly implied, and suggested that Members avoid as much as possible
mentioning by name people from outside the House who are unable to reply in
their own defence.
In the past, reference to prior debates of
the current session were generally discouraged in order to conserve the time of
the House and to prevent Members from reviving a debate that had concluded,
unless the remarks were relevant to the matter under discussion. Today, the Speaker’s attention is rarely, if ever, drawn to
breaches of this rule. Generally, Members should not quote from their former
speeches or from the speeches of their colleagues made during the current
session; the rule does not apply to speeches on different stages of a bill. Direct reference is permitted, however, when a Member wishes to
complain of something said or to clear up a misrepresentation or make a
Members may not speak against or reflect
upon any decision of the House. This stems from the well‑established rule which holds that a
question, once put and carried in the affirmative or negative, cannot be
questioned again. Such reflections are not in order because the Member is bound
by a vote agreed to by a majority. The Chair has been quick to call attention to reflections on votes. However, if a Member gives notice of his or her intention to move a
motion that a vote be rescinded, the House may reconsider an earlier resolution
The proceedings of the House are based on a
long‑standing tradition of respect for the integrity of all Members.
Thus, the use of offensive, provocative or threatening language in the House is
strictly forbidden. Personal attacks, insults and obscenities are not in order. A direct charge or accusation against a Member may be made only by
way of a substantive motion for which notice is required.
If language used in debate appears
questionable to the Speaker, he or she will intervene. Nonetheless, any Member
who feels aggrieved by a remark or allegation may also bring the matter to the
immediate attention of the Speaker on a point of order. Points of order may not
be raised during Members’ Statements or Question Period,
however, the Speaker may address a matter of unparliamentary language at once
if he or she believes the matter to be sufficiently serious to merit immediate
attention. Normally, the matter is dealt with at the conclusion of Question
Period. Since the Speaker must rule on the basis of the context in which
the language was used, points of order raised in regard to questionable
language must be raised as soon as possible after the alleged irregularity has
If the Speaker did not hear the word(s) in
question, or if there is a dispute as to what words were actually used, the
Chair may set the matter aside pending a review of the record and, if
necessary, return to the House at a later time with a ruling. The Speaker has also ruled that if the Chair did not hear the offensive
word or phrase and if the offensive language was not recorded in the Debates,
the Chair cannot be expected to rule in the absence of a reliable record.
In dealing with unparliamentary language,
the Speaker takes into account the tone, manner and intention of the Member
speaking; the person to whom the words at issue were directed; the degree of
provocation; and, most importantly, whether or not the remarks created disorder
in the Chamber. Thus, language deemed unparliamentary one day may not necessarily
be deemed unparliamentary the following day. The codification of
unparliamentary language has proven impractical as it is the context in which
words or phrases are used that the Chair must consider when deciding whether or
not they should be withdrawn. Although an expression may be found to be acceptable, the Speaker
has cautioned that any language which leads to disorder in the House should not
be used. Expressions which are considered unparliamentary when applied to an
individual Member have not always been considered so when applied “in a generic
sense” or to a party.
Should the Speaker find the utterances of a
particular Member offensive or disorderly, that Member will be requested to
rise in his or her place and to withdraw the unparliamentary word or phrase
unequivocally. The Member’s apology is accepted in good faith and the matter is
then considered closed. However, if the Member persists in refusing to obey the directive
of the Speaker to retract his or her words, the Chair may refuse to recognize
the Member until the words have been withdrawn
or may “name” the Member for disregarding the authority of the Chair and order
him or her to withdraw from the Chamber for the remainder of the sitting.
The rules of relevance and repetition are intertwined and mutually reinforcing. The requirement that
speeches remain relevant to the question before the House flows from the
latter’s right to reach decisions without undue obstruction and to exclude from
debate any discussion not conducive to that end. The rule against repetition
helps to ensure the expeditious conduct of debate by prohibiting the repetition
of arguments already made. To neglect either rule would seriously impair the
ability of the House to manage its time efficiently.
Notwithstanding their importance, these
rules remain difficult to define and enforce, not least because such
enforcement must respect the freedom of debate enjoyed by all Members. The rule
against repetition can be invoked by the Speaker to prevent the repetition of
arguments already made during the debate by any Member.
The rule of relevance enables the Chair to counter any tendency to stray from
the question before the House or committee. It is not always possible to judge
the relevance (or the repetition) of a Member’s remarks until he or she has
spoken at some length or even completed his or her remarks. In practice, the Speaker allows some latitude—if the rules are
applied too rigidly, they have the potential for severely curtailing debate; if
they are neglected, the resultant loss of debating time may prevent other
Members from participating in debate. Particular circumstances, the mood of the
House and the relative importance of the matter under debate will influence the
strictness with which the Speaker interprets these rules.
When enforcing the rules against
irrelevance and repetition, the Speaker can call a Member to order and, if
necessary, warn the Member that he or she risks being directed to discontinue
his or her speech. Such warnings are usually sufficient. However, should the
Member persist, the Speaker can proceed to recognize another Member or, if no
other Member wishes to speak, to put the question. In the event that the Member
should persist in disregarding the Speaker’s instruction or direction, the
Speaker has the authority to “name” that Member.
It is not certain when the British House of
Commons originally adopted the practice of restraining debate that was either
repetitious or irrelevant. However, it seems to have been well established by
the end of the sixteenth century. A manual of procedure dating from the era of
the Elizabethan Parliaments listed among the powers of the Speaker the right to
call a Member to order when “any speak to a Bil[sic] and be out of the matter”. During the same period, Speaker Popham, upon his election to the
Chair in 1580, requested that Members “speak to the matter … and not to spend
too much time in unnecessary motions or superfluous argument”. The Journals for 1604 suggest that the rule of relevance was
adopted in that year as an Order of the House and one authority has cited it in
this form: “That if any man speak impertinently, or beside the question in
hand, it stands with the orders of the House for the Speaker to interrupt him,
and to know the pleasure of the House, whether they will further hear him”. In addition to this rule, the House soon thereafter adopted another
prohibiting repetition. Both rules proved difficult to enforce, particularly that on
relevance which obliged the Speaker to obtain the support of the House in order
to direct a Member to keep to the subject of debate. During the eighteenth
century, interventions by Speakers were so rare that Members sometimes resented
interruptions when they did take place.
When, in 1867, the Canadian House of
Commons adopted its rules, no reference was made to repetition in debate, and
the rule on relevance was mentioned only in the context of a general order of
debate which enjoined Members not to “speak beside the question in debate”. Beyond advising the Member to speak to the subject, the Speaker
depended almost entirely upon the support of the House and the goodwill of the
Members to enforce the rule.
In a revision of the rules in 1910, the
power of the Speaker was augmented. The Chair was empowered to direct a Member
to discontinue his or her speech if the Chair deemed it either irrelevant or
repetitious after having called the attention of the House to the matter. In moving the adoption of this rule, Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier
observed that it was “the English rule copied word for word”. This was hardly less true of the rule which dealt with relevance in
a Committee of the Whole and which was adopted at the same time: “Speeches
in Committee of the Whole must be strictly relevant to the item or clause under
When the rules were again revised in 1927,
the powers of the Speaker were further enhanced to permit effective action in
the event of refusals to accept direction from the Chair. A special committee
on procedure recommended that the Speaker be authorized to “name” a
recalcitrant Member or, if in committee, to permit the Chairman to report the
Member to the House. The recommendation was accepted by the House without amendment
or debate and the powers of the Chair in this regard remain unchanged.
Repetition is prohibited in order to
safeguard the right of the House to arrive at a decision and to make efficient
use of its time. Although the principle is clear and sensible, it has not
always been easy to apply and the Speaker enjoys considerable discretion in this regard. The
Chair can curtail prolonged debate by limiting Members’ speeches to points
which have not already been made. In the context of the legislative process, this latter restriction
applies to the Members’ remarks only within the same stage of debate on a bill.
Arguments advanced at one stage may legitimately be represented at another. The
purpose of this practice is to safeguard the right of the House to reach a
decision. The freedom of debate enjoyed by Members does not extend to the
repetition of arguments that have already been heard.
Finally, the rule against repetition has
been used by Speakers in various other ways to assist the House in making
efficient use of its time. Speakers have ruled against the tedious reading of
letters even when they were used in support of an argument; the asking of a question during Question Period which was similar
to another already asked that day; and the repeating of questions of privilege on the same subject
Although the House now has rules to limit
the length of speeches, at one time there were few limits and debate often
strayed beyond the subject in question. In 1882, J.G. Bourinot, then Clerk
of the House, felt the need to add this comment to his overview of
A just regard to the privileges and dignity
of Parliament demands that its time should not be wasted in idle and fruitless
discussion; and consequently every member, who addresses the house, should
endeavour to confine himself as closely as possible to the question under
This advice still applies today as the
business of government grows ever more complex and the time of the House is
limited. It is often sufficient for the Speaker to remind a Member called to
order of the proper subject matter of the debate and to indicate the manner in
which the Member’s remarks were irrelevant.
During the questions and comments period following most speeches, for example,
a Member must address his or her remarks to the arguments expressed in the
speech, or the Chair will invoke the rule of relevance.
In doing so, Speakers tend to be mindful of the need for some leniency. They have, at times, allowed references to other matters in debate,
if they were made in passing and were not the principal theme of the speech.
The rule of relevance applies not only to
debate on a main motion but also to any proposed amendments to it. Should an amendment be proposed to a motion, the rule of relevance
requires that debate be limited to that amendment until it is disposed of by
the House. Arguments ruled irrelevant during debate on a main motion are
similarly irrelevant if introduced as the substance of an amendment. Even if an
amendment proposes to replace all the words in the main motion after “that” and
to substitute an alternative proposition, debate is restricted to the main
motion and the amendment; further propositions are irrelevant. Once an amendment is disposed of by the House, it then becomes
possible to debate the main motion in its full scope or to consider another
The previous question has a character that
is exceptional with respect to the rule of relevance. “That the question be now
put” does nothing to hinder debate on the original motion. On the contrary,
Members who have already participated in the debate may speak on the motion
again, after the previous question has been moved.
However, care must be taken to avoid repetition.
The relevance of debate to a motion before
the House applies especially to the consideration of bills as they proceed
through the several stages prior to their adoption. According to the practice
which developed originally in the British House of Commons, “each stage is
regarded as having its own peculiar function and to a certain extent its more
or less limited range of debate”. These functions, in turn, provide both the Speaker and the House
with guidelines by which to apply the rule of relevance. Thus, for example, the
second reading stage of a bill is limited to debate on its principle, whereas
debate at report stage treats only motions offered in amendment to a bill.
Despite the several opportunities allowed to the House to discuss a bill, the
scope of debate is understood to be different at each stage.
During debate on second reading, Members
are frequently tempted to delve into the clauses of a bill instead of confining
themselves to consideration of the principle of the bill. Such interventions
are in breach of the rule of relevance. Interruptions by the Speaker are
sometimes required to discourage Members from discussing specific provisions of
the bill rather than its principle. In one ruling, the Speaker stated quite clearly that “on a motion
for second reading it is out of order to discuss the clauses of the bill”. When the House is considering an amending bill, the rule requires
that debate at second reading be limited to the principle of the amending bill
and not to the subject matter of the Act which it proposes to amend.
The referral of a bill to a committee opens
the way for close examination of its contents, clause by clause. Today, most
bills are sent to standing committees for study, but in the past, the detailed
consideration of bills more often took place in a Committee of the Whole and it
was in this larger forum that the practice governing the scrutiny of bills
developed. Pursuant to the Standing Orders, speeches made in a Committee of the
Whole must be strictly relevant to the item or clause under consideration. Chairs have frequently cited this rule and called upon Members to
observe it. The same practice applies in standing, special or legislative
committees considering bills.
An important exception to the rule of
relevance in committee is found in the wide‑ranging debate permitted on
Clause 1, or the clause following the short title. Although there is no
explicit provision for this in the Standing Orders, it has been an accepted practice
since at least the 1930s. Over the years, repetition of second reading debate and the
anticipation of clause‑by‑clause debate were gradually excluded
from the general debate on Clause 1, which is now limited to the contents of the bill. In the event that an amendment is proposed to Clause 1, discussion
is confined to the amendment until it has been disposed of.
According to Beauchesne, the report
stage of a bill “is one of reconsideration of events which have taken place in
committee. The consideration of a bill is now a more formal repetition of the
committee stage with the applicable rules of debate which are proper when the
Speaker is in the Chair”. Report stage motions are amendments to clauses in a bill which seek
to change, to delete or restore those clauses. To avoid excessive repetition of
debate, the Speaker has the power to select and to combine motions in
amendment. The Speaker can also control debate through the use of the
relevance rule as applied to debate on clauses of a bill. Despite the
similarities between debate at report stage to that at committee stage, there
is no allowance for a wide‑ranging discussion of a bill as occurs in
committee during study of Clause 1. Indeed, once the Order of the Day for the
consideration of a bill at report stage is called, discussion is limited to
“any amendment of which notice has been given”.
Debate on third reading is intended to
permit the House to review the legislative measure in its final form and is therefore
strictly limited to the contents of the bill.
If an amendment is moved, debate must be relevant to that amendment until the
House disposes of it.
The traditions and practices of the House
allow for the rule of relevance to be relaxed during debate on the motion for
an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. During the days allotted to
the debate on this motion, Members have the opportunity “to bring forward
topics of their own choosing”. Consequently, debate tends to be very wide‑ranging and the
Speaker usually makes no effort to apply the rule of relevance. This is not the
case, however, when the House is debating the Budget. The remarks of Members
must be relevant to the motion before the House. All the same, the terms of the
motion (i.e., that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the
government) are sufficiently broad to permit Members great latitude in their
remarks without violating the principle of the rule.
During debate, restrictions are placed on
the freedom of Members of Parliament to make reference to matters awaiting
judicial decisions in order to avoid possible prejudice to the participants in
the courts. This self-restraint recognizes the courts, as opposed to the House,
as the proper forum in which to decide individual cases. Matters before the
courts are also prohibited as subjects of debate, motions or questions in the
House. While precedents exist for the guidance of the Chair, no attempt has
ever been made to codify the practice known as the “sub judice
convention”. The interpretation of this convention is left to the Speaker since
no “rule” exists to prevent Parliament from discussing a matter which is sub
judice, that is, “under the consideration of a judge or court”.
The sub judice convention is first
and foremost a voluntary exercise of restraint on the part of the House to
protect an accused person, or other party to a court action or judicial
inquiry, from any prejudicial effect of public discussion of the issue. Secondly, the convention also exists, as Speaker Fraser noted, “to
maintain a separation and mutual respect between legislative and judicial
branches of government”. Thus, the constitutional independence of the judiciary is
recognized. However, as Speaker Sauvé explained, the sub judice
convention has never stood in the way of the House considering a prima facie
matter of privilege vital to the public interest or to the effective operation
of the House and its Members.
There are some situations in which the
application of the sub judice convention is fairly straightforward. The
convention has been applied consistently to motions, references in debates,
questions and supplementary questions and in all matters relating to criminal cases.
The convention does not apply to
legislation or to the legislative process as the right of Parliament to
legislate may not be limited. If the sub judice convention were to apply to bills, the
whole legislative process could be stopped simply by the initiation of legal
proceedings in any court in Canada.
No distinction has ever been made in Canada between criminal courts and civil courts for the purpose of applying the sub
judice convention, and it has also had application to certain tribunals
other than courts of law. The convention exists to guarantee everyone a fair
trial and to prevent any undue influence prejudicing a judicial decision or a
report of a tribunal of inquiry. Indeed, in the view of the Special Committee
on the Rights and Immunities of Members, “prejudice is most likely to occur in
respect of criminal cases and civil cases of defamation where juries are
Where criminal cases are concerned, the
precedents are consistent in barring reference to such matters before judgement
has been rendered and during any appeal. Members are expected to refrain from
discussing matters that are before a criminal court, not only in order to
protect those persons who are undergoing trial and stand to be affected
whatever its outcome, but also because the trial could be affected by debate in
the House. It has been established that the convention would cease to apply,
as far as criminal cases are concerned, when judgement has been rendered. The Speaker has confirmed that a matter becomes sub judice
again if an appeal is entered following a judgement.
The precedents are not as consistent where
civil cases are concerned. The convention has been applied on some occasions and not on others. However, in 1976, the Speaker ruled that no restriction ought to
exist on the right of any Member to put questions respecting any matter before
the courts, particularly those relating to a civil matter, unless and until
that matter is at least at trial. Although nothing resembling a settled practice has developed in
relation to civil cases, the Chair has warned on various occasions of the need
for caution in referring to matters pending judicial decisions whatever the
nature of the court.
From the precedents, it is clear that the
application of the convention is limited to tribunals designated by statute as
courts of record. A “court of record” is defined as follows: “1. A court that is required to keep a record of its proceedings. The court’s records are presumed
accurate and cannot be collaterally impeached [and] … 2. A court that may fine and imprison people for contempt”. The sub judice convention does not apply, however, to
matters referred to royal commissions, although the Chair has cautioned against
making reference to the proceedings, evidence, or findings of a royal
commission before it has made its report.
Since the sub judice convention is
not codified and is voluntary, the jurisdiction of the Speaker in such matters
is somewhat difficult to outline. The Speaker’s discretionary authority over
matters sub judice derives from his or her role as guardian of free
speech in the House. The Chair has the duty to balance the rights of the House
with the rights and interests of the ordinary citizen undergoing trial. Indeed,
the Speaker intervenes in exceptional cases only where it appears likely that
to do otherwise would be harmful to specific individuals. The problem facing a
Speaker is that determining when a comment will have a tendency to influence is
speculative business—it cannot be done until after the remarks have been made.
In its inquiry, the Special Committee on
the Rights and Immunities of Members recommended that when there is doubt in
the mind of the Chair, a presumption should exist in favour of allowing debate
and against the application of the convention.
The Committee concluded that while there can be no substitute for the discretion
of the Chair, in the last resort all Members of the House should share in the
responsibility of exercising restraint when it seems called for. A Member who feels that there could be a risk of causing prejudice
in referring to a particular case or inquiry should refrain from raising the
matter. Furthermore, a Member who calls for the suppression of discussion of a
matter on grounds of sub judice should be obliged to demonstrate to the
satisfaction of the Chair that he or she has reasonable grounds for fearing
that prejudice might result.
It was also the view of the Committee that
the responsibility of the Chair, particularly during Question Period, should be
minimal in regard to the sub judice convention, and that the
responsibility should principally rest upon the Member who asks the question
and the Minister to whom it is addressed. Should a question to a Minister touch
upon a matter sub judice, it is likely that the Minister involved will
have more information covering the matter than the Speaker, and the Minister
might be better able to judge whether answering the question might cause
prejudice. In such a situation, the Minister could refuse to answer the
question on these grounds, bearing in mind that refusal to answer a question is
his or her prerogative. From the precedents, this appears to be the approach
the Chair has taken. The Speaker has interrupted only if he or she has felt the sub
judice convention was being breached.
The Chair may occasionally grant leave to a
Member to explain a matter of a personal nature although there is no question
before the House. This is commonly referred to by Members as “a point of
personal privilege” and is an indulgence granted by the Chair. There is no
connection to a question of privilege, and one Speaker noted, “There is no
legal authority, procedural or otherwise, historic or precedential, that allows
Consequently, such occasions are not meant to be used for general debate and
Members have been cautioned to confine their remarks to the point they wish to
When granted, they have been used by Members notably to announce a resignation,
or to explain changes in party affiliation, matters affecting them which have
occurred outside the Chamber or misinterpreted statements.
There appears, however, to be no procedural impediment to Members referring to
themselves by name. See, for example, Debates, October 23, 2006, pp.
Beauchesne, 4th ed., p. 126. See, for example, Debates,
October 30, 1997, p. 1388; April 2, 1998,
p. 5685; February 26, 2007, p. 7310; March 1, 2007, p. 7494.
Beauchesne, 4th ed., p. 126. See, for example, Debates,
October 6, 1997, p. 530; September 16, 2003, pp. 7446-7.
Beauchesne, 4th ed., p. 126.
Debates, November 29, 1985, p. 8991. See, for example, Debates,
October 26, 1990, pp. 14767‑8; March 17, 1998,
p. 4960; March 1, 1999, p. 12262; October 17, 2006,
pp. 3885‑6; October 19, 2006, p. 3980.
See, for example, Debates, June 21, 1994, p. 5674;
December 5, 1995, pp. 17207‑8; February 6, 1998,
p. 3479; February 16, 1999, p. 11941; April 22, 1999,
p. 14214; May 5, 1999, p. 14715; November 8, 2006, pp.
4904-5; November 21, 2006, p. 5151.
Debates, April 3, 1987, p. 4875. Speakers have, however,
declined to extend the prohibition to references to the absence of Members from
committee meetings. See, for example, Debates, February 7, 2003,
Standing Order 18. See, for example, Debates, September 29, 2003, p.
7942; May 4, 2006, p. 958.
Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 361; Beauchesne, 4th ed.,
p. 115. See, for example, Debates, September 29, 1994,
p. 6311; June 9, 1995, p. 13517; October 29, 1996,
pp. 5868‑9, 5875; October 6, 1998, p. 8832; April 6, 2005,
p. 4750; April 25, 2006, p. 521; May 11, 2006, p. 1260. The use
of unparliamentary language is discussed in detail later in the chapter.
See Debates, February 11, 1993, pp. 15792‑3; January 29,
2002, pp. 8444‑5.
Standing Order 18. See also Bourinot, 4th ed., pp. 360‑1.
See, for example, Debates, June 8, 1990, pp. 12522‑3,
12533‑4; June 13, 1995, pp. 13734‑5; June 14,
1995, p. 13872; September 24, 1998, p. 8354; February 5,
1999, pp. 11515‑6; June 22, 2005, p. 7622.
See, for example, Debates, January 21, 1994, p. 170;
June 8, 1994, pp. 5015‑7; May 16, 2000, p. 6886.
Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 357. See, for example, Debates,
December 5, 1985, pp. 9204‑5. It is acceptable to refer to the
official printed records of the Senate even though they may not have been formally
asked for and communicated to the House.
See, for example, Debates, March 12, 1993, p. 16913;
June 23, 2005, p. 7696; May 16, 2007, p. 9563.
May, T.E., Erskine May’s Treatise on The Law, Privileges, Proceedings and
Usage of Parliament, 22nd ed., edited by Sir D. Limon and
W.R. McKay, London: Butterworths, 1997, p. 381.
Beauchesne, 6th ed., p. 49.
See, for example, Debates, January 17, 1991, pp. 17294‑5,
17304‑5; May 25, 1993, p. 19709; May 17, 2006, p. 1544.
See, for example, Debates, June 1, 1956, pp. 4537‑9; Journals,
June 4, 1956, pp. 692‑3; June 8, 1956, pp. 725‑6;
Debates, March 13, 1964, p. 916; Journals,
March 18, 1964, pp. 103‑4; March 19, 1964, pp. 106‑7;
Debates, March 9, 1993, p. 16685; March 13, 2000,
p. 4397; March 16, 2000, p. 4739. For further information on motions
of censure against the Speaker, see Chapter 7, “The Speaker and Other
Presiding Officers of the House”, and Mercer, T., “Challenging the Chair”,
Canadian Parliamentary Review, Vol. 29, No. 2, Summer 2006,
In 1981, the Leader of the Opposition made remarks which constituted an attack
on the authority and impartiality of the Speaker. The following day, a Minister
raised a question of privilege on the matter. The Leader of the Opposition
subsequently withdrew his remarks and the matter was declared closed (Debates,
January 21, 1981, p. 6410; January 22, 1981, pp. 6455‑7).
In 1993, a prima facie breach of privilege was found when a Member
refused to withdraw disparaging remarks about a Chair Occupant (Journals,
March 23, 1993, p. 2688, Debates, pp. 17403‑5). Two
days later, the Member apologized and the matter was declared closed (Debates,
March 25, 1993, p. 17537). See also Debates, May 14,
1996, p. 2721.
Standing Order 18. For examples of disrespectful references to the Governor
General, see Debates, May 23, 1958, p. 406; March 12,
1959, p. 1869; September 27, 1990, pp. 13509, 13513;
February 24, 1994, pp. 1799‑1800. Discourteous references to
Lieutenant‑Governors have also been ruled out of order. See, for example,
Debates, June 20, 1958, p. 1462; March 12, 1959,
Bourinot, 4th ed., pp. 338‑9. See, for example, Debates,
March 9, 1910, cols. 5100‑1. May notes: “Her Majesty
cannot be supposed to have a private opinion, apart from that of her responsible
advisers; and any attempt to use her name in debate to influence the judgement
of Parliament is immediately checked and censured. This rule also extends to
other members of the royal family, but it is not strictly applied in cases
where one of its members has made a public statement on a matter of current
interest so long as comment is made in appropriate terms” (May, 23rd
ed., p. 436).
Beauchesne, 4th ed., pp. 128‑9; 6th ed.,
pp. 150‑1. See, for example, Debates, May 16, 1986,
p. 13353; September 19, 1991, p. 2401; November 28, 1996,
p. 6854; June 8, 1998, pp. 7680, 7691; June 9, 1998,
p. 7835. However, Members are not prohibited from giving notice of a
substantive motion concerning the conduct of a judge (Debates,
February 18, 1926, p. 1106).
Debates, April 1, 1998, pp. 5653‑4. See also Debates,
April 2, 1998, p. 5743.
See, for example, Debates, December 1, 1986, p. 1636;
June 4, 1998, p. 7575; October 18, 1999, p. 256.
See Speaker Milliken’s remarks, Debates, April 2, 2003, p. 5040, to the
effect that this convention applies only to statements which might potentially
damage the reputation of a member of the public. In another ruling, Mr.
Milliken declined to invoke this prohibition with regard to statements made in
a public forum (Debates, May 11, 2005, pp. 5933-4).
See, for example, Debates, May 26, 1987, pp. 6375‑6;
November 28, 1991, pp. 5509‑10; April 18, 2005, pp.
Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 357. It is also irregular to refer to
discussions held in a Committee of the Whole.
See, for example, Debates, December 4, 1984, p. 896. In
practice, this rule is often disregarded by the Chair.
Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 358.
Beauchesne, 6th ed., p. 141.
Standing Order 18.
May, 22nd ed., p. 380.
See, for example, Journals, June 1, 1955, pp. 654‑7, in
particular p. 656; Debates, May 19, 1960, p. 4025;
October 20, 1970, p. 402; May 11, 1983, pp. 25363‑6;
November 3, 1983, p. 28661; May 4, 1993, p. 18921;
May 14, 1993, pp. 19470‑1; April 6, 1995,
pp. 11608, 11612; September 24, 1996, p. 4656; May 7, 1998,
p. 6690; May 11, 1999, p. 15001; September 16, 2003,
Standing Order 18. For further information, see Chapter 12, “The Process
Standing Order 18. See, for example, Debates, February 25, 1998,
pp. 4401‑2; October 28, 1998, p. 9512; May 3, 2006,
p. 848. This includes any allegation that a Member has lied or misled the
House. See, for example, Debates, November 1, 2006, pp. 4533, 4538;
March 28, 2007, pp. 8035-6.
See Speaker Michener's ruling, Journals, June 19, 1959,
pp. 581‑6 and Speaker Fraser’s ruling, Debates,
December 11, 1991, pp. 6141‑2.
Standing Order 47.
See, for example, Debates, March 24, 1993, p. 17482;
October 22, 1997, p. 964; October 18, 2005, p. 8678;
October 19, 2006, pp. 4008, 4013.
See, for example, Debates, October 22, 1997, pp. 971‑2;
April 22, 1999, pp. 14225, 14229; April 6, 2005, pp. 4747, 4750.
See, for example, Debates, June 13, 1986, pp. 14370‑2;
March 5, 1987, p. 3882; December 9, 1997,
p. 3018; March 27, 2007, pp. 7985-7.
See, for example, Debates, February 5, 1997, pp. 7716‑7;
February 17, 1999, pp. 12000‑1;
March 22, 2007, pp. 7794-5;
March 4, 2008, p. 3625.
See Debates, December 12, 1991, pp. 6218‑9; October 30,
2006, pp. 4414-5. See also Debates, February 10, 1998,
pp. 3714‑5, when a Member accused another Member of an obscene
gesture. The Speaker indicated that it would be difficult to check because the
gesture would not be recorded and he did not see it. Speakers have, on
occasion, found that there was sufficient corroborating evidence for alleged
unparliamentary remarks neither heard by the Chair nor recorded in the Debates
(Debates, November 28, 2001, p. 7614).
See, for example, Debates, June 8, 1998, p. 7707;
October 7, 1998, p. 8885; November 5, 1998,
pp. 9917‑8; March 18, 1999, pp. 13092‑3; October 29,
2004, p. 958; November 4, 2004, p. 1189; October 31, 2005,
p. 9255. On one occasion, the Speaker dismissed a point of order alleging
unparliamentary language upon learning that what had given offence was the
inaccurate English simultaneous interpretation (“Italian salute”) of a French
expression (“bras d’honneur”) (Debates, June 14, 2006, pp. 2372-3).
Lists of terms ruled unparliamentary have been included in the index to the Debates,
in Bourinot (4th ed., pp. 361‑4) and in Beauchesne
(6th ed., pp. 142‑50). In 1991, a government motion calling upon Members to refrain from the use of offensive and abusive
language and for vigorous enforcement of Standing Order 18 was debated on three
occasions but never came to a vote (Journals, October 23, 1991, pp.
521-2; October 25, 1991, pp. 535-6; November 21, 1991, pp. 703-4).
Neither did the work of an unofficial “Special
Advisory Committee to the Speaker on Unparliamentary Language and the Speaker’s
Authority to deal with Breaches of Decorum and Behaviour”, convened by Speaker John Fraser in 1992 and chaired by the Deputy
Speaker and Chairman of Committees of the Whole, Andrée Champagne,
lead to significant change in this regard. The Committee’s report (June 22,
1992), which took the form of draft amendments to the Standing Orders, was
never presented to the House, nor were its recommendations ever implemented or
formally debated. During the Thirty-Ninth Parliament, the Standing Committee on
Procedure and House Affairs, in its Thirty-Seventh Report, presented to the
House on March 1, 2007 (Journals, p. 1092), declined to
recommend changes to the Standing Orders to strengthen the disciplinary powers
of the Chair, and called upon all parties to support a vigorous exercise of its
See, for example, Debates, November 4, 1987, p. 10741;
November 18, 1987, pp. 10927‑8; December 14, 1987,
pp. 11761‑2; October 26, 1998, p. 9379; February 18,
1999, p. 12094; May 6, 2004, p. 2847.
See, for example, Debates, September 25, 1998, p. 8401;
October 30, 1998, p. 9641; February 16, 1999, pp. 11972‑3;
March 25, 1999, pp. 13483‑4; October 28, 2004, p. 898;
May 5, 2005, p. 5722; April 25, 2006, p. 521.
On one occasion, when Jim Fulton (Skeena) refused to retract his remarks, Speaker
Fraser chose not to recognize the Member until a withdrawal was made three
weeks later (Debates, October 29, 1987, pp. 10542‑3;
October 30, 1987, pp. 10583‑4; November 18, 1987,
pp. 10927‑8). See also Debates, November 27, 2002, p. 1949;
March 28, 2007, p. 8036.
See, for example, Debates, February 12, 1997, pp. 8016‑7;
October 1, 1997, pp. 332, 334‑5; October 2, 1997,
p. 367; December 1, 1998, pp. 10726‑7, 10730‑1;
December 6, 2002, p. 2380. For further information, see the section in
this chapter entitled “Naming”.
Standing Order 11(2).
Dawson (Dawson, W.F., Procedure in the Canadian House of Commons,
Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1962, p. 108) highlighted the
difficulty in enforcing this rule by noting that, “the whole system of procedure
is based on an assumption of repetition” and referred to three readings given
to a bill.
Bourinot, South Hackensack, New Jersey: Rothman Reprints Inc.,
1971 (reprint of 1st ed., 1884), p. 349. See also the Chair’s
remarks, Debates, June 17, 1992, p. 12297; June 23, 1992,
p. 12641; February 1, 2002, p. 8584.
Standing Order 11(2). For cases of a Speaker directing a Member to discontinue
his or her speech, see Debates, May 26, 1947, pp. 3450‑1;
August 25, 1958, p. 4073. If a Member persists in breaching the
repetition or relevance rule in a Committee of the Whole, he or she is reported
to the House by the Chair if the Committee so directs. For further information,
see Chapter 19, “Committees of the Whole House”.
Snow, V.F., Parliament in Elizabethan England: John Hooker’s Order
and Usage, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1977, p. 169.
Hatsell, Vol. II, p. 232.
Hatsell, Vol. II, p. 230.
The entry in the Journals reads: “… if any superfluous motion, or
tedious speech be offered in the House, the party is to be directed and ordered
by Mr. Speaker”. See Hatsell, Vol. II, p. 230.
Even so formidable a character as Speaker Arthur Onslow could not manage to
enforce the rule on his own authority (Thomas, P.D.G., The House of Commons
in the Eighteenth Century, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971,
Rules, Orders and Forms of Proceedings of the House of Commons of Canada, 1876, Rule No. 13.
Rules of the House of Commons of Canada, 1910, Rule No. 19.
Debates, April 29, 1910, col. 8377.
Rules of the House of Commons of Canada, 1910, Rule No. 13(5).
Debates, March 18, 1927, p. 1351.
In more blatant cases, the Speaker has been able to specify the date and cite
the page on which the same speech had previously been delivered. In one instance,
the Speaker was able to predict that the Member was about to begin paragraph
six of his speech and, in another, the Speaker cited five instances in which
the same appeal had previously been made (Debates, June 9, 1955,
p. 4610; April 19, 1956, p. 3073). On another occasion, once a
Member had stated that he was going to repeat some of the material he had
previously used in the same debate, the Speaker would not allow him to proceed
(Debates, February 17, 1956, p. 1290). See also
Speaker Beaudoin's remarks (Debates, May 24, 1955, p. 4065).
See, for example, Debates, June 9, 1955, p. 4609. On one
occasion, a Member was chided because his remarks were “not much more than a
repetition of what has been said by others who preceded him”. Accordingly, the Member
was directed to shorten his remarks so that the House could “get down to the
work properly before [it]” (Debates, August 31, 1917,
See Debates, May 24, 1955, p. 4065.
See, for example, Debates, April 19, 1922, p. 944.
See, for example, Debates, November 21, 1977, p. 1063. In
1986, Speaker Bosley established that since time is scarce during Question
Period, Members should avoid merely repeating questions that have already been
asked, although Members may ask other questions on the same issue (Debates,
February 24, 1986, p. 10879).
See, for example, Debates, December 9, 1998, pp. 11120-1.
Bourinot, 1st ed., p. 349.
See, for example, Debates, November 5, 1990, pp. 15159‑60;
February 4, 1992, p. 6343; April 28, 1999, p. 14450;
April 29, 1999, pp. 14492, 14497; June 13, 2005, p. 6989;
October 16, 2006, p. 3830.
See, for example, Debates, February 6, 1987, pp. 3195‑6,
where the Chair ruled the remarks out of order and recognized another Member.
See also Debates, June 7, 1994, p. 4930;
June 7, 2006, p. 2085.
See, for example, Debates, February 8, 1993, pp. 15520, 15523;
November 2, 1999, p. 971; October 16, 2006, p. 3830.
See, for example, Debates, April 9, 1919, p. 1330; May 4,
1920, p. 1954; March 22, 1921, p. 1193; May 10, 2007, p.
9344; November 23, 2007, pp. 1303-4. One Speaker remarked that a matter raised
outside the question in a debate would more properly “form by itself a subject
of a special substantive motion” (Debates, March 27, 1923,
May, 23rd ed., p. 400: “Stated generally, no matter ought
to be raised in debate on a question which would be irrelevant if moved as an
amendment, and no amendment should be used for importing arguments which would
be irrelevant to the main question”.
See, for example, Debates, June 2, 1914, p. 4647.
May, 23rd ed., p. 400: “[such an amendment] … by concentrating
debate on the main question and the amendment as alternative propositions, does
tend to exclude consideration of other [otherwise] relevant alternatives”.
For further information on the previous question, see Chapter 12, “The
Process of Debate”, and Chapter 14, “The Curtailment of Debate”.
May, T.E., Erskine May’s Treatise on The Law, Privileges, Proceedings and
Usage of Parliament, 20th ed., edited by Sir C. Gordon, London: Butterworths, 1983, p. 527.
See, for example, Debates, April 2, 1913, col. 7014;
March 25, 1920, pp. 734, 750‑1; May 26, 1978,
Debates, February 16, 1979, p. 3321. See also Debates,
October 28, 1991, p. 4085.
Beauchesne, 6th ed., pp. 199‑200. This is a position
which has been maintained by the Speaker on several occasions (Journals,
November 14, 1949, pp. 237‑8; Debates,
May 6, 1959, p. 3402; Journals, October 15, 1962,
Standing Order 101(2). For further information, see Chapter 19,
“Committees of the Whole House”.
Debates, November 30, 1977, pp. 1418‑20;
November 30, 1978, pp. 1657, 1665‑6; December 10, 1979,
p. 2213; December 11, 1979, pp. 2239, 2244;
September 30, 1991, pp. 2937, 2979.
It is not exactly clear when this practice started; however, several Members
claim that it was a custom which had grown during the years prior to the Second
World War (Debates, June 6, 1947, p. 3878; June 30,
1947, p. 4845; July 14, 1947, p. 5570).
Debates, May 11, 1960, pp. 3783‑4, 3788‑9.
Debates, March 23, 1965, p. 12693.
Debates, August 2, 1960, p. 7418; November 30, 1978, pp. 1657,
Beauchesne, 6th ed., p. 211.
Standing Orders 76(5) and 76.1(5).
Standing Orders 76(6) and 76.1(6).
Beauchesne, 6th ed., p. 214; May, 23rd ed.,
On one occasion, the Speaker corrected a Member who had assumed that he could
talk on the amendment as if it were the third reading motion: “My ruling
is that a member should only address himself to the last question submitted to
the House … the fact that a member has not spoken to the third reading of the
Bill is no justification for his travelling over the same ground on this
question (the amendment) that he would have covered if he had spoken to the
third reading of the Bill” (Debates, June 2, 1914, p. 4647).
Beauchesne, 6th ed., p. 82.
See Debates, March 10, 1992, pp. 7949‑50.
On December 13, 1976, the House appointed a special committee “to review
the rights and immunities of Members of the House of Commons, to examine the
procedures by which such matters are dealt with by the House, and to report on
any changes it may be desirable to make” (Journals, p. 230). The
Committee held three meetings during which it studied how the rights and
immunities of Members are affected by the sub judice convention. The
First Report of the Special Committee on the Rights and Immunities of Members,
presented to the House on April 29, 1977 (Journals,
pp. 720‑9) but not concurred in, remains the definitive study of the
sub judice convention in Canada and is still used today by the Speaker
when dealing with such matters arising in the House.
Speakers have, however, discouraged all comments on matters sub judice
rather than to allow Members to test the limits of the convention and the
Speaker’s discretion (Debates, June 13, 2003,
Laundy, P., “The Sub Judice Convention in the Canadian House of
Commons”, The Parliamentarian, Vol. 57, No. 3, July 1976,
Debates, March 8, 1990, p. 9007.
Debates, March 22, 1983, pp. 24027‑8.
See, for example, Debates, December 6, 1990, p. 16411;
February 3, 1993, p. 15368; March 16, 1999, p. 12911.
Debates, October 4, 1971, pp. 8395‑6; March 31, 1981,
pp. 8793‑4; October 21, 1999, pp. 467-8.
Journals, April 29, 1977, p. 728.
See Speaker Fraser's rulings, Debates, June 1, 1989, p. 2419;
November 7, 1989, p. 5655; and Deputy Speaker Milliken's ruling, Debates,
March 16, 1999, p. 12911.
See Speaker Lemieux’s ruling, Debates, February 10, 1928,
See Speaker Lamoureux’s ruling, Debates, May 2, 1966,
pp. 4583‑4. In 1995, a Member rose on a point of order to contend
that a Minister had contravened the convention during Question Period by
commenting on a case under appeal in the Alberta courts. The Minister
maintained that there was a difference between commenting on the facts of a
case before the courts and stating the government’s opinion on a ruling
rendered by the courts. In his response to the point of order, Speaker Parent
ruled that he could not conclude that the Minister had contravened the
convention by stating that the government disagreed with the ruling and planned
to challenge the decision (Debates, April 6, 1995, pp. 11618‑9).
See, for example, Debates, June 7, 1938, p. 3625.
See, for example, Debates, May 22, 1973, pp. 3990‑1;
July 9, 1973, pp. 5402‑3.
See Speaker Jerome’s ruling, Debates, February 11, 1976,
p. 10844. This view was reiterated in a ruling given in 1987, although
Speaker Fraser cautioned that a contrary ruling could be made if the Chair felt
the question was about to prejudice the rights of either litigant (Debates,
December 7, 1987, p. 11542). In a ruling delivered on April 20, 2005,
Speaker Milliken declined to apply the sub judice convention to
references to media reports that a Member not charged with any offense was “under
investigation” by the police, while at the same time urging Members to refrain
from such references out of respect for their colleagues (Debates, pp.
See, for example, Debates, April 6, 1995, pp. 11618‑9;
March 16, 1999, p. 12911; May 13, 2004, pp. 3136-7, 3162.
See Speakers’ rulings, Debates, March 5, 1947, pp. 1051‑2;
June 12, 1951, p. 3975; November 2, 1951, p. 662. In a 1933
incident, a Member attempted to debate charges brought against a county court
judge whose conduct had been referred to a commission of inquiry. Speaker Black
did not allow the discussion, even though the commission was not defined as a
court of record (Debates, March 30, 1933, pp. 3558‑9).
Black, H.C., Black’s Law Dictionary, 8th ed., edited by B.A.
Garner, St. Paul, Minnesota: Thomson West, 2004, p. 380.
Debates, March 21, 1950, p. 949; October 17, 1957,
p. 119; May 2, 1966, pp. 4589‑90; Journals,
November 9, 1978, p. 128. The Speaker noted that “the body carrying
out [the inquiry] is an investigatory body and not a judicial body coming to
decision. … no decision of that body could in any way be prejudiced, surely, by
a debate or discussion here” (Debates, October 31, 1977,
p. 433). Investigations conducted by the Ethics Commissioner (after 2006,
the “Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner”) of possible breaches of the
“Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House
of Commons” have been treated by Speakers as if subject to the sub
judice convention. See, for example, Debates, June 7, 2005, p. 6738.
Journals, April 29, 1977, p. 728. For an example of an
instance in which the Speaker has applied this principle, see Debates,
June 8, 1987, pp. 6817‑20 (opposition motion on a supply day).
Journals, April 29, 1977, p. 728.
See Speaker Bosley’s ruling, Debates, January 27, 1986,
See, for example, Debates, February 14, 1986, pp. 10828‑9;
December 18, 1990, pp. 16901, 16905‑6; October 11, 1991,
p. 3643; December 4, 1996, p. 7087.
See, for example, Debates, November 7, 1989, pp. 5654‑6;
June 12, 1996, p. 3711; October 20, 1997, pp. 829‑30;
February 13, 1998, p. 3854. On occasion, such interruptions have been
more admonitory than declarative. See, for example, Debates,
May 13, 2004, p. 3136.
Debates, November 21, 1990, p. 15526.
In 1996, Speaker Parent advised the House that Jean‑Marc Jacob (Charlesbourg) would be rising to make a solemn declaration to the House. The Speaker
cautioned Members that the statement was not to incite debate. The Speaker
subsequently interrupted Mr. Jacob and ruled that “the words being used [in the
statement] tend more toward a debate than a solemn declaration”. The Member was
not allowed to continue (Debates, June 18, 1996, p. 4027).
See, for example, Debates, March 15, 1984, pp. 2138‑9;
May 12, 1986, p. 13149; February 3, 1988, p. 12581;
September 24, 1990, p. 13215; October 11, 2002, p. 632.
See, for example, Debates, April 9, 1991, pp. 19231‑2;
November 26, 1992, pp. 14113‑5; January 24, 1994,
p. 197; March 20, 2001, pp. 1869-70.
A point of order is an intervention by a
Member who believes that the rules or customary procedures of the House have
been incorrectly applied or overlooked during the proceedings. Members may rise
on points of order to bring to the attention of the Chair any breach of the
relevance or repetition rules, unparliamentary remarks, or a lack of quorum. They are able to do so at virtually any time in the proceedings,
provided that the point of order is raised and concisely argued as soon as the irregularity occurs.
Points of order respecting procedure must be raised promptly and before the
question has passed to a stage at which the objection would be out of place. As
a point of order concerns the interpretation of the rules of procedure, it is
the responsibility of the Speaker to determine its merits and to resolve the
Although Members frequently rise claiming a
point of order, genuine points of order rarely occur. Indeed, points of order
are often used by Members in attempts to gain the floor to participate in
debate; in such cases, the Speaker will not allow the Member intervening to continue. One point of order must be disposed of before another one is
raised. Should a point of order be raised during consideration of a question of
privilege, the point of order will usually be given precedence until the Chair
has determined whether or not a rule has been breached and the matter settled. The Speaker has, on occasion, refused to hear a point of order
during the consideration of a question of privilege.
The necessity to control disorder either on the floor or in the galleries would
oblige the Speaker to put aside a point of order temporarily.
Any Member can interrupt a Member who has
the floor of the House during debate and bring to the Chair’s attention a
procedural irregularity the moment it occurs, in which case the Member who has
the floor resumes his or her seat until the matter is resolved or disposed of. When recognized on a point of order, a Member should only state
which Standing Order or practice he or she considers to have been breached; if
this is not done, the Speaker may request that the Member do so.
Under the Standing Orders, a brief debate
on the point of order is possible at the Speaker’s discretion. This rule was carried over at Confederation from the Legislative
Assembly of the Province of Canada. Many Members interpreted the rule to mean that any question of
order was to be discussed before the Speaker ruled. In fact, the practice and
rule did not coincide until 1906, when the rule was amended to legitimize the
custom of allowing debate on points of order at the discretion of the Speaker. In the early 1980s, there were increasingly prolonged discussions
on points of order, and Chair Occupants felt compelled to intervene and
sometimes to refuse to recognize Members on points of order. Despite pressure from Members, successive Speakers relied more and
more on the literal meaning of the Standing Order and, while still allowing
debates on points of order, limited these considerably. When a point of order
is raised during a speech, the Speaker will decide whether the intervention is
included in the amount of time allotted to that particular stage of debate.
There are numerous exceptions to the rule
that a point of order must be raised at the moment a procedural irregularity
occurs. Points of order arising out of the debate on the adjournment motion
(Adjournment Proceedings) are taken up on the next sitting day.
Points of order arising out of Question
Period or the time set aside for Statements by Members are usually delayed
until after Question Period. From Confederation until 1975, it was the practice of the House
that points of order were raised as soon as the procedural irregularities on
which they were based occurred, including during Question Period. In 1975, however, as part of a reform in the sequencing of House
business and the conduct of Question Period, the House agreed that points of
order should not be raised during Question Period.
Although the decision of the House in this regard resulted only in a
provisional understanding, successive Speakers upheld its spirit, despite
strong objections from Members, even after it ceased to be in effect in
October 1977, when the House declined to make certain sessional orders
permanent. The Speaker nevertheless continued this new practice. The condition was also applied, in 1982, to the time for Statements
by Members. The practice was finally codified in the Standing Orders in 1986. If a Member rises on a point of order during Statements by Members
or Question Period, the Speaker advises that he will hear the Member after
Any other matter being raised as a point of
order should be brought to the Speaker’s attention after Routine Proceedings
(held at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday, at 3:00 p.m. on Monday and
Wednesday, and at noon on Friday), although the Speaker now typically invites Members to raise such
points of order following Question Period.
A Member may not direct remarks to the
House or engage in debate by raising a matter under the guise of a point of
order. A Member may not rise on a point of order to move the adjournment
of the House, the adjournment of debate, or the extension of the sitting or to proceed to the Orders of the Day.
In addition, Members may not rise on a point of order during a quorum count. Despite the rule that Members may not rise on a point of order to
move a substantive motion, Members frequently rise on points of order to seek the unanimous
consent of the House to move such a motion.
During Routine Proceedings, Members have been permitted to rise on points of
order to ask about the status of a question on the Order Paper or of a notice of motion for the production of papers. Members have also risen on points of order to seek unanimous
consent to extend the time for questions and comments following a speech or to proceed to Private Members’ Business before the designated
A Minister may rise on a point of order at
any time during a sitting to table a notice of a ways and means motion,
although the Chair has suggested that such notices should be tabled at the end
of Government Orders and before the start of Private Members’ Business hour, or
after a Member has resumed his or her seat and before another Member is
recognized during debate. A Minister may also rise on a point of order at any time during the
proceedings to give oral notice of a time allocation
or closure motion.
A point of order may be raised after debate
has concluded but before the Speaker puts the question, or after the vote has
been taken, but a Member may not interrupt the Speaker when he or she is
putting the question to the House. There have been occasions when the Chair was obliged to refuse
points of order either after calling in the Members for a vote or before
declaring the result of the division. If attention is called to a breach of order during the course of a
division, the division is completed before the point of order is dealt with. Points of order related to a vote are typically raised immediately
after the announcement of the result of the vote.
The Speaker has the duty to preserve order
and decorum and to decide any matter of procedure that may arise.
The Chair is bound to call the attention of the House to an irregularity in
debate or procedure immediately, without waiting for the intervention of a
Member. In addition, the Speaker decides questions of order once they have
arisen and not in anticipation. Though raised on a point of order, hypothetical
queries on procedure cannot be addressed to the Speaker nor may constitutional
questions or questions of law.
When a point of order is raised, the
Speaker attempts to rule on the matter immediately. However, if necessary, the
Speaker may take the matter under advisement and come back to the House later
with a formal ruling.
In doubtful cases, the Speaker may also allow discussion on the point of order
before coming to a decision but the comments must be strictly relevant to the
When a decision on a question of order is reached, the Speaker supports it with
quotations from the Standing Orders or other authorities, or simply by citing
the number of the applicable Standing Order.
Once the decision is rendered, the matter is no longer open to debate or
discussion and the ruling may not be appealed to the House. A Member may not
rise on a point of order to discuss a matter which the Speaker has already
ruled was not a question of privilege
or to raise a matter as a question of privilege after the Speaker has ruled
that it was not a point of order.
See, for example, Debates, October 20, 2006, p. 4062.
Redlich, J., The Procedure of the House of Commons: A Study of its History
and Present Form, Vol. II, translated by A.E. Steinthal, New York: AMS Press, 1969 (reprint of 1908 ed.), p. 146.
See Speaker Marcil’s ruling, Journals, February 20, 1911,
Standing Order 10.
See, for example, Debates, November 17, 1994, p. 7951;
October 23, 1997, p. 1031; February 16, 1998, p. 3947;
March 16, 1999, p. 12913; November 5, 2003,
See, for example, Debates, April 27, 1989, p. 1003;
June 4, 1992, p. 11372; March 19, 2002, p. 9836.
See, for example, Debates, March 23, 1999, p. 13372; June 3,
2002, p. 12020.
Standing Order 19. In the early years after Confederation, the rule was not
specific about who called Members to order and, as a result, Members called
each other to order (see, for example, Debates, March 23, 1868,
pp. 387‑8; March 7, 1878, p. 808), but the practice
eventually evolved to the less direct method of Members raising points of order
for decision by the Chair. It was not until 1925 that a special committee
recognized that “This rule seems to state that a member may be called to order
by another member …” (Journals, May 29, 1925, p. 353). The
committee recommended clarification of the rule. The rule was eventually
changed in 1927 to its present form (Journals, March 22, 1927,
Standing Order 19.
The rule read as follows: “A Member called to Order shall sit down, but
may afterwards explain. The House, if appealed to, shall decide on the case,
but without debate. If there be no appeal, the decision of the Chair shall be
final” (Rules, Orders and Forms of Proceeding of the House of Commons of
Canada, 1868, Rule No. 12).
Debates, July 9, 1906, cols. 7465‑7.
See, for example, Debates, February 11, 1982, pp. 14899‑904;
February 12, 1982, pp. 14969‑70; March 2, 1982,
pp. 15532‑9; February 14, 1983, p. 22816;
October 27, 1983, pp. 28361‑77. In one instance, a Member
was named and ejected from the House over the issue (Debates,
October 31, 1983, pp. 28591‑4).
See, for example, Debates, December 8, 1995, p. 17446;
March 16, 1999, p. 12913.
For further information on points of order during the Adjournment Proceedings,
see Chapter 11, “Questions”.
Standing Order 47.
See, for example, Debates, January 14, 1971, p. 2401.
See Items 3, 4 and 5 of the Second Report of the Standing Committee on
Procedure and Organization, presented to the House on March 14, 1975 (Journals,
p. 373), and concurred in on March 24, 1975 (Journals,
p. 399). See also Speaker Jerome’s ruling (Journals,
April 14, 1975, pp. 439‑41).
See, for example, Debates, December 7, 1977, pp. 1649‑52;
December 7, 1979, pp. 2134‑5.
See, for example, Debates, April 19, 1983, pp. 24624‑6.
Journals, February 6, 1986, p. 1648; February 13, 1986,
See, for example, Debates, April 4, 1989, p. 32; June 19,
1992, pp. 12437, 12448‑9; February 9, 1993, p. 15637.
Standing Order 47.
See, for example, Debates, March 16, 1999, p. 12913;
April 30, 1999, p. 14552; May 3, 1999, p. 14628;
May 4, 1999, p. 14680; December 12, 2006, p. 5964.
See, for example, Debates, December 4, 1992, p. 14633;
June 21, 1994, p. 5698.
See, for example, Debates, February 14, 1969, p. 5560;
March 9, 1993, p. 16747. This prohibition does not apply to a
Minister rising on a point of order to propose a motion pursuant to Standing
Order 53.1. See, for example, Debates, June 8, 2007, p. 10373. For
further information on extending a sitting, see Chapter 9, “Sittings of
the House”. For further information on the moving of dilatory motions, see
Chapter 12, “The Process of Debate”.
See, for example, Debates, June 15, 1983, pp. 26394‑5.
See, for example, Debates, May 5, 1982, p. 17067.
See, for example, Debates, September 24, 1998, p. 8350.
See, for example, Debates, May 4, 1999, p. 14689; April 6,
2005, p. 4753.
See, for example, Debates, May 3, 1999, p. 14603; November 23,
2005, p. 10048.
See, for example, Debates, March 24, 1999, p. 13449;
April 24, 2002, p. 10774.
See, for example, Debates, May 3, 1999, p. 14608; November 3,
2004, p. 1182.
See, for example, Debates, April 30, 1999, p. 14550; May 31,
2005, pp. 6430-1.
Debates, September 11, 1985, p. 6498.
See, for example, Debates, June 19, 1992, pp. 12472‑3;
March 5, 1999, p. 12508; April 23, 1999, p. 14287;
June 11, 2007, p. 10439.
See, for example, Debates, October 25, 1989, p. 5096;
June 19, 1995, p. 14150; March 13, 1996, p. 666; June
22, 2005, p. 7646.
See, for example, Debates, November 26, 1996, p. 6770.
See, for example, Debates, February 19, 1929, pp. 266‑7;
December 7, 1945, pp. 3133‑4; April 4, 1946, pp. 572‑3;
April 12, 1962, p. 2909. Speakers have occasionally relaxed the
application of this rule. See, for example, Debates, October 18, 2001,
p. 6312; October 4, 2006, p. 3664.
Beauchesne, 4th ed., p. 53.
Points of order have sometimes been resolved prior to the announcement of the
result of the vote. See, for example, Debates, June 20, 1995,
pp. 14259‑60; October 4, 2006, p. 3664. Members who
were unable to be in the Chamber for a vote sometimes take the opportunity to
rise on points of order after the vote to explain how they would have voted had
they been present. See, for example, Debates, October 29, 1991,
p. 4176; February 23, 1994, p. 1729; November 4, 1997,
p. 1557. For further information, see Chapter 12, “The Process of
Standing Order 10.
See, for example, Journals, July 8, 1969, pp. 1319‑20;
April 12, 2005, p. 4953.
See, for example, Debates, October 4, 1995, pp. 15219‑21;
October 23, 1995, pp. 15671-2; September 20, 2006, p. 3028; October
18, 2006, pp. 3933-4.
Standing Order 19.
Standing Order 10. See, for example, Debates, February 10, 1998,
pp. 3647-8; February 12, 1998, pp. 3765‑6;
May 27, 1998, pp. 7276‑7, 7283; October 24, 2002, pp. 828‑9.
Standing Order 10. While it has never been the practice to debate Speakers’
rulings on matters of order, it was possible until 1965 for any Member who
disagreed with a Speaker’s decision to appeal it immediately to the House. For
further information, see Chapter 7, “The Speaker and Other Presiding
Officers of the House”.
See, for example, Debates, May 7, 1998, pp. 6674‑6.
Speakers have sometimes allowed points of order from Members seeking
clarification of rulings on questions of privilege. See, for example, Debates,
May 11, 2005, p. 5934.
See, for example, Debates, October 3, 1995, p. 15186.
A number of rules and traditions are
enforced by the Speaker in order to ensure that debate proceeds in a civil and
orderly manner. A Member must be in his or her place to take part in any
proceedings in the House and must address his or her remarks to the Chair.
In order to prevent unnecessary interruptions when a Member is speaking, no
other Member is to cross between the Chair and the Member who is addressing the
The only interruption permitted is for a Member to raise a point of order.
As nothing should come between the Speaker
and the symbol of his or her authority (the Mace), no Member is to pass between
the Chair and the Table, or between the Chair and the Mace when the Mace is
being taken off the Table by the Sergeant‑at‑Arms. A Member must sit
down when the Chair Occupant rises.
When Members cross the floor of the House, or otherwise leave their places,
they should bow to the Speaker. When the House adjourns, Members are expected
to stay in their seats until the Speaker has left the Chair, although in
practice most Members merely pause, whether standing or sitting, during the procession
out of the Chamber.
In the Chamber, Members may refresh
themselves with glasses of water during debate, but the consumption of any
other beverage or food is not allowed.
Smoking has never been permitted in the Chamber. The use of cellular phones or
cameras of any kind is not permitted in the Chamber. Since 1994,
Members have been permitted to use laptop computers in the Chamber provided
that their use does not cause disorder or interfere with the Member who has the
The Speaker usually turns a blind eye to
the many incidental interruptions, such as applause, shouts of approval
or disapproval, or heckling
that sometimes punctuates speeches, as long as disorder does not arise.
Members have been called to order for whistling and singing during another
Excessive interruptions are swiftly curtailed, particularly when the Member
speaking requests the assistance of the Chair.
Speakers have consistently attempted to discourage loud private conversations
in the Chamber and have urged those wishing to carry on such exchanges to do so
outside the Chamber.
The House may elect to conduct its
proceedings in camera. It may also order the withdrawal of “strangers”
from the galleries of the House.
During the taking of a vote, no Member is
permitted to enter, leave or walk across the Chamber or to make any noise or
disturbance from the time the Speaker begins to put the question until the
results of the vote are announced.
Members must be in their seats to vote and must remain seated until the result
of the vote is announced.
Ordinarily, points of order and questions of privilege are postponed until
after this announcement.
Members who enter the Chamber while the question is being put, or after it has
been put, cannot have their votes counted.
As is the rule in the House during a recorded division, no Member may enter a
Committee of the Whole while a division is in progress.
On one occasion, the Speaker interrupted
the calling of a vote to request that a leader of an opposition party remove a
prop because of the disorder it was creating in the Chamber. The Speaker has
also asked Members standing in the middle aisle to take their seats or to leave
the Chamber in order that the House might proceed with the taking of a vote.
Standing Order 17.
Standing Order 16(2). The Speaker can reprimand Members who have distracted the
Member speaking by passing between him or her and the Chair. See, for example, Debates,
October 16, 1970, p. 219; January 25, 1984, p. 738;
April 30, 1985, pp. 4269, 4273; August 26, 1987,
p. 8431; September 27, 1991, p. 2825; May 17, 2006, p. 1495.
Standing Order 16(2).
Standing Order 16(3). See, for example, Debates, October 29, 1997,
See, for example, Debates, February 24, 1993, p. 16404.
Standing Order 16(4).
See, for example, Debates, October 5, 1990, p. 13892;
September 30, 1997, p. 320; November 3, 2005, p. 9509;
June 4, 2008, pp. 6570‑1.
See, for example, Debates, February 29, 2000, p. 4151; January
31, 2002, p. 8532; September 28, 2005, p. 8151;
October 31, 2007, p. 624.
In the past, it was the custom for Members to pound their desks to signify
approval, but after the House proceedings began to be televised in 1977 and the
public voiced its displeasure with this custom, Members took to applauding
On occasion, the Speaker has asked Members not to heckle (see, for example, Debates,
March 7, 1994, p. 1887; April 5, 1995, p. 11552;
May 17, 2000, pp. 6965-6), while in other instances, the Speaker
has indicated that heckling is part of debate (see, for example, Debates,
April 1, 1992, p. 9193).
Speaker Parent admonished Members that their applause for their colleagues
prevented others from hearing Members’ statements (Debates,
February 19, 1998, p. 4156). Speaker Milliken consistently emphasized
the need for Members to be able to hear what was being said in the Chamber.
See, for example, Debates, October 5, 2006, p. 3719.
Debates, October 10, 1990, pp. 14010‑1;
September 30, 1994, p. 6373. On February 26, 1998, Suzanne
Tremblay (Rimouski–Mitis) was prevented from speaking by the singing of the national
anthem (Debates, p. 4503). The House Leader of the Bloc Québécois,
Michel Gauthier, subsequently raised a point of order about the disorder (Debates,
pp. 4509‑12). Speaker Parent ruled on March 16, 1998 (Debates,
pp. 4902‑3), that the event had been out of order: “Our law
guarantees the right of all duly elected members to speak: our practice
guarantees their right to be heard. It is the duty of the Speaker to guarantee
that those rights are respected by guaranteeing that the House’s rules and practices
See, for example, Debates, April 1, 1992, p. 9193;
March 20, 1996, p. 986; October 5, 2006, pp. 3719-20.
See, for example, Debates, February 9, 1994, p. 1147;
June 10, 1994, p. 5169; November 28, 1994, pp. 8384‑5;
February 9, 1995, p. 9446; June 16, 2006, p. 2496.
For further information, see Chapter 6, “The Physical and Administrative
Standing Order 16(1). See, for example, Debates, June 22, 1988,
pp. 16731‑2; April 9, 1990, p. 10390;
November 27, 1991, p. 5458; October 28, 1997, p. 1258;
June 9, 1998, p. 7884; December 7, 2006, p. 5813. For further
information on the taking of divisions, see Chapter 12, “The Process of
See, for example, Journals, April 18, 1956, p. 416; Debates,
February 16, 1976, p. 10986. Members are not required to be at their
allocated desks during a division taken in a Committee of the Whole.
Speakers have, from time to time, made exceptions to this practice. See, for
example, Debates, October 4, 2006, p. 3664.
See, for example, Debates, February 14, 1983, pp. 22822‑3;
June 9, 1986, p. 14140; October 28, 2003, p. 8865. In doubtful cases, the Member is asked if she or he has heard the question, and the Chair
accepts the word of the Member. See, for example, Debates,
April 28, 1988, pp. 14942‑3; June 9, 1998,
p. 7890. Occasional attempts to insist that Members be in the Chamber at
some earlier point (e.g., before the Whips have taken their places) are
summarily dismissed by the Chair. See, for example, Debates, June 5,
2003, p. 6930.
For further information, see Chapter 19, “Committees of the Whole House”.
Debates, June 22, 1995, p. 14466. Just prior to the taking of the
vote on a government bill, Speaker Parent had asked Members to refrain from
using props―in this instance, buttons decrying Members’ pension benefits
(Debates, p. 14465).
Debates, March 1, 1999, pp. 12212‑3.
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.