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House of Commons Procedure and Practice

Second Edition, 2009

 
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13. Rules of Order and Decorum

Photo of high relief entitled 'Education' from the British North America Act series of the Heritage Collection in the Chamber of the House of  Commons.

Recognition to Speak

 

*    Usual Order of Speaking

Motion that a Member Be Now Heard

Recognition to Speak when Order Next Called

Retention of Right to Speak After a Royal Assent Ceremony

Recognition to Speak Before and After Divisions

*    Speaking Once to a Motion

*    The Right of Reply

*    Interventions

 

Manner of Speaking

 

*    Place of Speaking

*    Remarks Addressed to the Chair

*    Proper Attire

*    Language of Debate

*    Speeches

*    Use of Lectern

*    Citation of Documents

*    Tabling of Documents and Speeches

*    Displays, Exhibits and Props

*    Maiden Speech

 

Rules 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

*    Unparliamentary Language

*    Repetition and Relevance in Debate

Historical Perspective

Repetition

The Rule of Relevance

*     Bills

Second Reading

Committee Stage

Report Stage

Third Reading

*    Debates on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne and the Budget

*    The Sub judice Convention

Criminal and Civil Cases

Courts of Record and Commissions of Inquiry

Role of the Speaker

*    Personal Explanations

 

Points of Order

 

*    Raising a Point of Order

*    Ruling on a Point of Order

 

Rules of Decorum

 

*    Decorum During the Taking of a Vote

 

Powers of the Chair to Enforce Order and Decorum

 

*    Naming

Historical Perspective

The 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 parliamentary system.

Speaker Peter Milliken

(Debates, October 1, 2003, p. 8041)

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.[1]

Freedom of speech is one of the most important privileges enjoyed by Members of Parliament.[2] 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 respected.[3] 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.



[1] Franks, C.E.S., The Parliament of Canada, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987, pp. 124‑5.

[2] 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”.

[3] Standing Orders 10 and 11. For further information, see Chapter 7, “The Speaker and Other Presiding Officers of the House”.

Move Up

 

With few exceptions, a Member may speak to any motion that has been proposed to the House and which is open to debate.[4] 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.

*   Usual Order of Speaking

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.[5] 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.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9] While the Speaker has complete discretion in recognizing Members,[10] the Chair may follow such informal arrangements as may be made[11] or the Chair may be bound by an Order of the House setting down a specific speaking order.[12]

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.[13] 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.[14]

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,[15] the right of reply,[16] 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.[17] 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.[18]

During the period for questions and comments following most speeches,[19] 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.[20] 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.[21] 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,[22] propose amendments,[23] or move motions to extend the hours of sitting.[24]

Motion that a Member Be Now Heard

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 immediately.

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.[25] 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.[26] 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.[27] If it is defeated, the Member originally recognized retains the right to speak.[28] 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.[29] 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 moved:

*      if no debatable motion is before the House;[30]

*      if no one has yet been given the floor;[31]

*      if the Member named in the motion did not originally rise to be recognized;[32]

*      to give the floor to a Member whose speech would close the debate;[33]

*      during the period for questions and comments following a speech;[34] or

*      if the House has adopted an Order specifying the speaking order to be followed during debate.[35]

Recognition to Speak when Order Next Called

A Member whose speech is interrupted pursuant either to a Standing or Special Order,[36] 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.[37] 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.[38] 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.[39]

Retention of Right to Speak After a Royal Assent Ceremony

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.[40] No Member will be recognized to speak on a point of order or a question of privilege.[41] 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 her speech.[42]

Recognition to Speak Before and After Divisions

Once the Speaker has put a question to the House, there may be no further debate, points of order or questions of privilege.[43] 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);[44] 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;[45] or to inform the Chair how they wish to have their votes recorded for subsequent divisions to which the results are to be applied.[46] On occasion, Members have risen on points of order after recorded divisions to seek unanimous consent to change their votes.[47] However, no Member should raise a point of order to comment on how another Member voted.[48]

*   Speaking Once to a Motion

In order to expedite the transaction of House business, the Standing Orders provide that Members may speak only once during debate on any motion.[49] If a Member inadvertently rises to speak a second time, the Speaker will interrupt and recognize another to speak.[50]

Since motions, amendments and subamendments are separate questions, a Member may speak once to each.[51] 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.[52] 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.[53] 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.[54]

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.[55] 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.[56] The seconder may be recognized to speak to the motion later in the debate.[57]

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.[58] 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.[59] 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.[60] 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.[61]

The House will occasionally grant a Member unanimous consent to speak a second time to a motion.[62] 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,[63] 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.[64] 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.[65] 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.[66] This is known as the “right of reply”.

*   The Right of Reply

Any Member who has moved a substantive motion may speak a second time to conclude the debate.[67] 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.[68] 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.[69]

If a Member moves a motion on behalf of another Member, a later speech by either will close the debate.[70] 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.[71]

Although Ministers may exercise the right of reply,[72] 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.[73] 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 minutes.[74]

*   Interventions

When a Member is addressing the House, no other Member may interrupt except on an unanticipated question of privilege or point of order.[75] Prior to 1982 and the advent of the questions and comments period following most speeches,[76] a Member wishing to ask a question during debate had first to obtain the consent of the Member who was speaking.[77] 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.[78]

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[4] 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”.

[5] 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. 250).

[6] 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’”.

[7] 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.

[8] 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”.

[9] 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).

[10] 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.

[11] See, for example, Debates, September 8, 1992, p. 12723; May 3, 2007, pp. 9024-5.

[12] 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.

[13] See, for example, Debates, March 19, 1992, pp. 8479‑80, 8490‑1; June 19, 2007, p. 10858.

[14] 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”.

[15] For a definition of a recognized party for procedural purposes, see Chapter 1, “Parliamentary Institutions”.

[16] Standing Order 44(2). The right of reply is discussed in detail later in this chapter.

[17] 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.

[18] For further information, see Chapter 18, “Financial Procedures”.

[19] 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).

[20] See, for example, Debates, June 9, 1998, p. 7842; November 5, 1998, p. 9925; February 2, 2005, p. 2992; March 8, 2005, p. 4163.

[21] See, for example, Debates, October 28, 1985, p. 8075; March 3, 1986, p. 11126; October 28, 2003, p. 8847.

[22] See, for example, Debates, March 14, 1985, p. 3029. For further information on dilatory motions, see Chapter 12, “The Process of Debate”.

[23] See, for example, Debates, June 9, 1986, p. 14128; February 11, 1999, p. 11747.

[24] See, for example, Debates, February 17, 1987, p. 3541; March 25, 1993, pp. 17560-1.

[25] 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).

[26] 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).

[27] See, for example, Debates, March 19, 1997, pp. 9227‑9; May 13, 2005, pp. 5959-60.

[28] See, for example, Debates, November 20, 1997, pp. 6503‑5; April 18, 2002, p. 10546.

[29] See, for example, Debates, October 28, 1987, p. 10497.

[30] 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, pp. 722‑3).

[31] See, for example, Debates, November 7, 1986, p. 1191.

[32] See, for example, Debates, September 24, 1990, pp. 13244‑5; October 29, 1999, p. 894.

[33] See, for example, Debates, December 5, 1963, p. 5471.

[34] See, for example, Debates, October 30, 1991, p. 4231.

[35] 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).

[36] 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.

[37] 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.

[38] See, for example, Debates, December 18, 1990, p. 16906.

[39] 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.

[40] 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.

[41] Debates, December 17, 1990, pp. 16829‑30.

[42] See, for example, Debates, March 11, 1999, pp. 12775‑6; November 3, 2005, p. 9493; May 11, 2006, p. 1280.

[43] See, for example, Debates, March 20, 1990, pp. 9557‑8.

[44] See, for example, Debates, March 19, 1992, p. 8522; February 24, 1993, p. 16425; March 25, 2003, p. 4684; October 24, 2007, p. 346.

[45] See, for example, Debates, June 21, 1994, p. 5665; November 1, 1994, p. 7539; November 30, 2004, p. 2114.

[46] See, for example, Debates, February 21, 2007, p. 7154; March 27, 2007, p. 8005.

[47] See, for example, Debates, December 9, 1997, p. 3011; November 27, 2001, p. 7600.

[48] See Debates, May 4, 1993, p. 18921.

[49] 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.

[50] 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 101(1)).

[51] Journals, March 14, 1928, pp. 154‑5. See, for example, Debates, September 27, 2005, p. 8119; October 21, 2005, pp. 8878, 8880.

[52] 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”.

[53] See, for example, Journals, May 30, 1960, pp. 514‑5.

[54] Beauchesne, 6th ed., p. 138.

[55] 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.

[56] 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 reply.

[57] 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”.

[58] See, for example, Debates, December 11, 1990, p. 16563; May 11, 1998, p. 6814.

[59] Bourinot, 4th ed., pp. 345‑6.

[60] Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 346.

[61] Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 346.

[62] 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.

[63] Standing Order 43(1).

[64] Standing Order 44(1).

[65] 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.

[66] Standing Order 44(2).

[67] 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”.

[68] 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).

[69] 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.

[70] Journals, February 7, 1961, p. 226.

[71] 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).

[72] 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.

[73] 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”.

[74] Standing Order 97(2). See, for example, Debates, November 2, 1998, pp. 9676‑7.

[75] Standing Orders 16(2) and 48.

[76] Standing Order 43(1).

[77] Beauchesne, 4th ed., pp. 113‑4.

[78] See, for example, Debates, November 29, 2006, p. 5517; November 21, 2007, p. 1149.

Move Up

*   Place of Speaking

A Member must be in his or her designated place and must stand in order to be recognized and to speak.[79] 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.[80] 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.[81] When the Chair Occupant rises, a Member must sit down.[82] 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.[83]

*   Remarks Addressed to the Chair

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,[84] 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.[85] In a Committee of the Whole, Members must direct their comments to the Chair.[86]

*   Proper Attire

While the Standing Orders prescribe no dress code for Members participating in debate,[87] Speakers have ruled that all Members desiring to be recognized at any point during the proceedings of the House must be wearing contemporary business attire.[88] 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.[89] The Chair has even stated that wearing a kilt is permissible on certain occasions (for example, Robert Burns Day).[90] Members of the House who are in the armed forces have been permitted to wear their uniforms in the House.[91] 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.[92]

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.[93]

*   Language of Debate

The Constitution Act, 1867 guarantees that a Member may address the House in either English or French.[94] Given the bilingual nature of the House and the existence of simultaneous interpretation,[95] 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[96] and a Member will sometimes provide the Debates editor with a translation of his or her remarks.[97] 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.[98] Members have also used sign language to make statements and to ask questions during Question Period.[99]

*   Speeches

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.[100] 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.[101]

Although the tradition of not reading speeches existed at Confederation, in 1886 the House adopted the following resolution:

… 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.[102]

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.[103] 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.[104]

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.[105]

*   Use of Lectern

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.[106]

*   Citation of Documents

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 House,[107] do not refer to or comment on or deny anything said by a Member,[108] or use language which would be out of order if spoken by a Member.[109]

A speech should not consist of a single long quotation or a series of quotations joined together with a few original sentences.[110] 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.[111] They may quote from private correspondence as long as they identify the sender by name or take full responsibility for its contents.[112] Finally, Members may not quote from the proceedings of a committee before it has reported to the House.[113]

*   Tabling of Documents and Speeches

Any document quoted by a Minister in debate or in response to a question during Question Period must be tabled upon request.[114] 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 interest.[115] 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.[116]

A public document referred to but not quoted by a Minister need not be tabled.[117] If a Minister quotes a private letter in debate, the letter becomes a public document and must be tabled on request.[118] However, a Minister is not obliged to table personal or briefing notes referred to during debate or Question Period.[119] 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 consent.[120] All documents tabled in the House by a Minister are required to be in both official languages.[121]

There has been a long‑standing practice in the House that private Members may not table documents, official or otherwise.[122] 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”.[123] 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.[124] These documents (often copies of correspondence or advertisements) have typically been tabled in only one language.[125] Private Members sometimes place material for the information of all Members on the Table, although this is not considered an official tabling.[126]

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.[127] 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 speech.[128] 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.[129]

*   Displays, Exhibits and Props

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.[130] 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.[131] Exhibits have also been ruled inadmissible.[132] 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.[133] 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 speech.[134] While political buttons and lapel pins have not been considered exhibits as long as they do not cause disorder,[135] the Speaker has interrupted a division to request that certain Members remove “props” from their lapels.[136]

*   Maiden Speech

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.[137] The Member is permitted to read his or her speech[138] and, by courtesy, is not interrupted.[139] Additional time beyond that allotted by the rules is sometimes granted by the Chair to permit a Member to complete his or her speech.[140] 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.[141]

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[79] 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.

[80] Standing Order 1.1.

[81] 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.

[82] See, for example, Debates, February 24, 1993, p. 16404; June 16, 2005, p. 7357.

[83] Standing Order 17.

[84] Franks, p. 124.

[85] See, for example, Debates, April 18, 1996, pp. 1628‑9; March 19, 1998, p. 5115; February 7, 2007, p. 6540.

[86] See, for example, Debates, April 10, 2006, p. 306.

[87] 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, p. 563).

[88] 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.

[89] 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.

[90] Debates, January 25, 1985, pp. 1685‑6.

[91] Debates, February 4, 1943, p. 162.

[92] Journals, June 6, 2005, p. 834.

[93] 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).

[94] 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.

[95] 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.

[96] 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).

[97] 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, pp. 5490‑1.

[98] Debates, December 8, 1964, p. 10926.

[99] See, for example, Debates, May 13, 1998, pp. 6918‑9; May 6, 1999, p. 14381; May 30, 2001, p. 4405.

[100] The most notable exception to this practice is when the Minister of Finance is presenting a Budget.

[101] 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, pp. 3567‑8.

[102] Journals, April 19, 1886, pp. 167‑8.

[103] 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.

[104] Journals, January 31, 1956, pp. 92‑102, in particular p. 97.

[105] 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.

[106] 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).

[107] Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 336. See Journals, June 21, 1960, p. 675.

[108] Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 336. See, for example, Debates, October 22, 2002, p. 719.

[109] Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 336. See, for example, Debates, February 25, 1998, p. 4407; April 22, 1999, p. 14202; November 8, 2006, p. 4895.

[110] See, for example, Debates, July 23, 1963, p. 2549; October 22, 2002, p. 772.

[111] See, for example, Debates, May 31, 1928, p. 3604.

[112] 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 anonymous letter.

[113] See, for example, Debates, April 14, 1943, p. 2179; September 29, 1994, p. 6314; December 4, 2001, p. 7841.

[114] 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 Daily Program”.

[115] Beauchesne, 4th ed., p. 134. See also Debates, November 2, 1983, pp. 28627‑31; October 17, 1995, p. 15488; June 8, 2006, p. 2154.

[116] Journals, March 7, 1941, pp. 171‑2.

[117] 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.

[118] Journals, February 22, 1972, p. 15.

[119] See, for example, Debates, October 13, 1987, pp. 9898‑9; March 12, 2001, p. 1526.

[120] 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.

[121] 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.

[122] 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.

[123] Debates, December 3, 1974, p. 1882.

[124] 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, p. 107).

[125] 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.

[126] 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).

[127] 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.

[128] 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.

[129] 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).

[130] See, for example, Debates, March 30, 2000, p. 5443.

[131] 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).

[132] 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).

[133] See Debates, May 12, 1964, p. 3165; June 12, 1964, p. 4237; June 16, 1964, pp. 4352‑3; August 17, 1964, p. 6926.

[134] 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).

[135] 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).

[136] Debates, June 22, 1995, pp. 14465‑6. See also Debates, September 18, 1995, p. 14508; October 2, 1995, pp. 15108‑9.

[137] Beauchesne, A., Rules and Forms of the House of Commons of Canada, 3rd ed., Toronto: Canada Law Book Company, Limited, 1943, pp. 91‑2.

[138] See the section in this chapter entitled “Reading of Speeches”.

[139] 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).

[140] See, for example, Debates, February 25, 1994, p. 1882; April 14, 1994, p. 3027.

[141] See, for example, Debates, September 25, 1997, pp. 69‑71; September 26, 1997, pp. 164‑6; April 6, 2006, p. 66.

Move Up

*   References to Members

During debate, Members do not refer to one another by their names[142] but rather by title, position or constituency name in order to guard against the tendency to personalize debate.[143] A Minister is referred to by the portfolio he or she holds.[144] 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.[145] 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”.[146]

Allusions to the presence or absence of a Member or Minister in the Chamber are unacceptable.[147] 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”.[148]

Remarks directed specifically at another Member which question that Member’s integrity, honesty or character are not in order.[149] A Member will be requested to withdraw offensive remarks, allegations, or accusations of impropriety directed towards another Member.[150] The Speaker has no authority to rule on statements made outside the House by one Member against another.[151]

*   Reflections on the House and the Senate

Disrespectful reflections on Parliament as a whole, or on the House and the Senate individually are not permitted.[152] 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”.[153] References to Senate debates and proceedings are discouraged[154] and it is out of order to question a Senator’s integrity, honesty or character.[155] 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”.[156]

*   Reflections on the Chair

Reflections must not be cast in debate on the conduct of the Speaker or other Presiding Officers.[157] 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.[158] 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.[159] Reflections on the character or actions of the Speaker or other Presiding Officers have been ruled to be breaches of privilege.[160]

*   References to the Sovereign, Royal Family, Governor General and Members of the Judiciary

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).[161] In the same way, any reference to these persons which appears intended to influence the work of the House is also prohibited.[162]

Attacks against and censures of judges and courts by Members in debate have always been considered unparliamentary and, consequently, treated as breaches of order.[163] 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”.[164] 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.[165]

*   Reference by Name to Members of the Public

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.[166] 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.[167]

*   Reference to Previous Debates and Proceedings

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.[168] 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;[169] the rule does not apply to speeches on different stages of a bill.[170] Direct reference is permitted, however, when a Member wishes to complain of something said or to clear up a misrepresentation or make a personal explanation.[171]

Members may not speak against or reflect upon any decision of the House.[172] 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.[173] The Chair has been quick to call attention to reflections on votes.[174] 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 or order.[175]

*   Unparliamentary Language

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.[176] A direct charge or accusation against a Member may be made only by way of a substantive motion for which notice is required.[177]

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,[178] 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.[179] Normally, the matter is dealt with at the conclusion of Question Period.[180] 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 occurred.[181]

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.[182] 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.[183]

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.[184] 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.[185] 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.[186]

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.[187] 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[188] 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.[189]

*   Repetition and Relevance in Debate

The rules of relevance and repetition[190] 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.[191] 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.[192] 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.[193]

Historical Perspective

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”.[194] 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”.[195] 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”.[196] In addition to this rule, the House soon thereafter adopted another prohibiting repetition.[197] 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.[198]

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”.[199] 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.[200] In moving the adoption of this rule, Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier observed that it was “the English rule copied word for word”.[201] 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 consideration”.[202]

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.[203]

Repetition

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[204] 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.[205] 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.[206]

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;[207] the asking of a question during Question Period which was similar to another already asked that day;[208] and the repeating of questions of privilege on the same subject matter.[209]

The Rule of Relevance

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 parliamentary practice:

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 consideration.[210]

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.[211] 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.[212] In doing so, Speakers tend to be mindful of the need for some leniency.[213] 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.[214]

The rule of relevance applies not only to debate on a main motion but also to any proposed amendments to it.[215] 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.[216] 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.[217] 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 amendment.

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.[218] However, care must be taken to avoid repetition.

*  Bills

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”.[219] 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.

Second Reading

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.[220] 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”.[221] 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.[222]

Committee Stage

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.[223] Chairs have frequently cited this rule and called upon Members to observe it.[224] 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.[225] 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,[226] which is now limited to the contents of the bill.[227] In the event that an amendment is proposed to Clause 1, discussion is confined to the amendment until it has been disposed of.[228]

Report Stage

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”.[229] 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.[230] 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”.[231]

Third Reading

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.[232] If an amendment is moved, debate must be relevant to that amendment until the House disposes of it.[233]

*  Debates on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne and the Budget

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”.[234] 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.[235]

*   The Sub judice Convention

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”.[236] 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”.[237]

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.[238] Secondly, the convention also exists, as Speaker Fraser noted, “to maintain a separation and mutual respect between legislative and judicial branches of government”.[239] 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.[240]

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[241] 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.[242] 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.

Criminal and Civil Cases

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 involved”.[243]

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.[244] It has been established that the convention would cease to apply, as far as criminal cases are concerned, when judgement has been rendered.[245] The Speaker has confirmed that a matter becomes sub judice again if an appeal is entered following a judgement.[246]

The precedents are not as consistent where civil cases are concerned. The convention has been applied on some occasions[247] and not on others.[248] 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.[249] 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.[250]

Courts of Record and Commissions of Inquiry

From the precedents, it is clear that the application of the convention is limited to tribunals designated by statute as courts of record.[251] 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”.[252] 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.[253]

Role of the Speaker

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.[254] 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.[255] 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.[256]

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.[257] The Speaker has interrupted only if he or she has felt the sub judice convention was being breached.[258]

*   Personal Explanations

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 this”.[259] 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 make.[260] When granted, they have been used by Members notably to announce a resignation,[261] or to explain changes in party affiliation, matters affecting them which have occurred outside the Chamber or misinterpreted statements.[262]

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[142] There appears, however, to be no procedural impediment to Members referring to themselves by name. See, for example, Debates, October 23, 2006, pp. 4131-2.

[143] 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.

[144] Beauchesne, 4th ed., p. 126. See, for example, Debates, October 6, 1997, p. 530; September 16, 2003, pp. 7446-7.

[145] Beauchesne, 4th ed., p. 126.

[146] 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.

[147] 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.

[148] 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, p. 3308.

[149] Standing Order 18. See, for example, Debates, September 29, 2003, p. 7942; May 4, 2006, p. 958.

[150] 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.

[151] See Debates, February 11, 1993, pp. 15792‑3; January 29, 2002, pp. 8444‑5.

[152] 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.

[153] See, for example, Debates, January 21, 1994, p. 170; June 8, 1994, pp. 5015‑7; May 16, 2000, p. 6886.

[154] 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.

[155] See, for example, Debates, March 12, 1993, p. 16913; June 23, 2005, p. 7696; May 16, 2007, p. 9563.

[156] 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.

[157] Beauchesne, 6th ed., p. 49.

[158] See, for example, Debates, January 17, 1991, pp. 17294‑5, 17304‑5; May 25, 1993, p. 19709; May 17, 2006, p. 1544.

[159] 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, pp. 21‑5.

[160] 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.

[161] 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, p. 1870.

[162] 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).

[163] 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).

[164] Debates, April 1, 1998, pp. 5653‑4. See also Debates, April 2, 1998, p. 5743.

[165] See, for example, Debates, December 1, 1986, p. 1636; June 4, 1998, p. 7575; October 18, 1999, p. 256.

[166] 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).

[167] See, for example, Debates, May 26, 1987, pp. 6375‑6; November 28, 1991, pp. 5509‑10; April 18, 2005, pp. 5213-4.

[168] Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 357. It is also irregular to refer to discussions held in a Committee of the Whole.

[169] See, for example, Debates, December 4, 1984, p. 896. In practice, this rule is often disregarded by the Chair.

[170] Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 358.

[171] Beauchesne, 6th ed., p. 141.

[172] Standing Order 18.

[173] May, 22nd ed., p. 380.

[174] 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, p. 7439.

[175] Standing Order 18. For further information, see Chapter 12, “The Process of Debate”.

[176] 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.

[177] See Speaker Michener's ruling, Journals, June 19, 1959, pp. 581‑6 and Speaker Fraser’s ruling, Debates, December 11, 1991, pp. 6141‑2.

[178] Standing Order 47.

[179] 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.

[180] See, for example, Debates, October 22, 1997, pp. 971‑2; April 22, 1999, pp. 14225, 14229; April 6, 2005, pp. 4747, 4750.

[181] 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.

[182] 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.

[183] 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).

[184] 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).

[185] 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 existing powers.

[186] 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.

[187] 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.

[188] 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.

[189] 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”.

[190] Standing Order 11(2).

[191] 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.

[192] 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.

[193] 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”.

[194] Snow, V.F., Parliament in Elizabethan England: John Hooker’s Order and Usage, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1977, p. 169.

[195] Hatsell, Vol. II, p. 232.

[196] Hatsell, Vol. II, p. 230.

[197] 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.

[198] 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, pp. 217-8).

[199] Rules, Orders and Forms of Proceedings of the House of Commons of Canada, 1876, Rule No. 13.

[200] Rules of the House of Commons of Canada, 1910, Rule No. 19.

[201] Debates, April 29, 1910, col. 8377.

[202] Rules of the House of Commons of Canada, 1910, Rule No. 13(5).

[203] Debates, March 18, 1927, p. 1351.

[204] 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).

[205] 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, p. 5237).

[206] See Debates, May 24, 1955, p. 4065.

[207] See, for example, Debates, April 19, 1922, p. 944.

[208] 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).

[209] See, for example, Debates, December 9, 1998, pp. 11120-1.

[210] Bourinot, 1st ed., p. 349.

[211] 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.

[212] 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.

[213] See, for example, Debates, February 8, 1993, pp. 15520, 15523; November 2, 1999, p. 971; October 16, 2006, p. 3830.

[214] 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, p. 1553).

[215] 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”.

[216] See, for example, Debates, June 2, 1914, p. 4647.

[217] 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”.

[218] For further information on the previous question, see Chapter 12, “The Process of Debate”, and Chapter 14, “The Curtailment of Debate”.

[219] 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.

[220] See, for example, Debates, April 2, 1913, col. 7014; March 25, 1920, pp. 734, 750‑1; May 26, 1978, p. 5795.

[221] Debates, February 16, 1979, p. 3321. See also Debates, October 28, 1991, p. 4085.

[222] 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, pp. 76‑7).

[223] Standing Order 101(2). For further information, see Chapter 19, “Committees of the Whole House”.

[224] 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.

[225] 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).

[226] Debates, May 11, 1960, pp. 3783‑4, 3788‑9.

[227] Debates, March 23, 1965, p. 12693.

[228] Debates, August 2, 1960, p. 7418; November 30, 1978, pp. 1657, 1665.

[229] Beauchesne, 6th ed., p. 211.

[230] Standing Orders 76(5) and 76.1(5).

[231] Standing Orders 76(6) and 76.1(6).

[232] Beauchesne, 6th ed., p. 214; May, 23rd ed., p. 628.

[233] 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).

[234] Beauchesne, 6th ed., p. 82.

[235] See Debates, March 10, 1992, pp. 7949‑50.

[236] 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.

[237] 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, pp. 7280-1).

[238] Laundy, P., “The Sub Judice Convention in the Canadian House of Commons”, The Parliamentarian, Vol. 57, No. 3, July 1976, pp. 211‑4.

[239] Debates, March 8, 1990, p. 9007.

[240] Debates, March 22, 1983, pp. 24027‑8.

[241] See, for example, Debates, December 6, 1990, p. 16411; February 3, 1993, p. 15368; March 16, 1999, p. 12911.

[242] Debates, October 4, 1971, pp. 8395‑6; March 31, 1981, pp. 8793‑4; October 21, 1999, pp. 467-8.

[243] Journals, April 29, 1977, p. 728.

[244] 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.

[245] See Speaker Lemieux’s ruling, Debates, February 10, 1928, p. 366.

[246] 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).

[247] See, for example, Debates, June 7, 1938, p. 3625.

[248] See, for example, Debates, May 22, 1973, pp. 3990‑1; July 9, 1973, pp. 5402‑3.

[249] 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. 5334-5).

[250] See, for example, Debates, April 6, 1995, pp. 11618‑9; March 16, 1999, p. 12911; May 13, 2004, pp. 3136-7, 3162.

[251] 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).

[252] Black, H.C., Black’s Law Dictionary, 8th ed., edited by B.A. Garner, St. Paul, Minnesota: Thomson West, 2004, p. 380.

[253] 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.

[254] 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).

[255] Journals, April 29, 1977, p. 728.

[256] See Speaker Bosley’s ruling, Debates, January 27, 1986, p. 10194.

[257] 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.

[258] 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.

[259] Debates, November 21, 1990, p. 15526.

[260] 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).

[261] 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.

[262] 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.

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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.[263] They are able to do so at virtually any time in the proceedings, provided that the point of order is raised and concisely argued[264] as soon as the irregularity occurs.[265] 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 issue.[266]

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.[267] 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.[268] The Speaker has, on occasion, refused to hear a point of order during the consideration of a question of privilege.[269] 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.

*   Raising a Point of Order

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.[270] 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.[271] This rule was carried over at Confederation from the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada.[272] 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.[273] 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.[274] 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.[275]

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.[276]

Points of order arising out of Question Period or the time set aside for Statements by Members are usually delayed until after Question Period.[277] 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.[278] 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.[279] 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.[280] The condition was also applied, in 1982, to the time for Statements by Members.[281] The practice was finally codified in the Standing Orders in 1986.[282] 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 Question Period.[283]

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),[284] 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.[285] A Member may not rise on a point of order to move the adjournment of the House,[286] the adjournment of debate, or the extension of the sitting[287] or to proceed to the Orders of the Day.[288] In addition, Members may not rise on a point of order during a quorum count.[289] Despite the rule that Members may not rise on a point of order to move a substantive motion,[290] Members frequently rise on points of order to seek the unanimous consent of the House to move such a motion.[291] 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[292] or of a notice of motion for the production of papers.[293] Members have also risen on points of order to seek unanimous consent to extend the time for questions and comments following a speech[294] or to proceed to Private Members’ Business before the designated hour.[295]

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.[296] A Minister may also rise on a point of order at any time during the proceedings to give oral notice of a time allocation[297] or closure[298] 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.[299] 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.[300] 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.[301] Points of order related to a vote are typically raised immediately after the announcement of the result of the vote.[302]

*   Ruling on a Point of Order

The Speaker has the duty to preserve order and decorum and to decide any matter of procedure that may arise.[303] 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.[304]

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.[305] 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 point raised.[306] 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.[307] 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.[308] 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[309] or to raise a matter as a question of privilege after the Speaker has ruled that it was not a point of order.[310]



[263] See, for example, Debates, October 20, 2006, p. 4062.

[264] 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.

[265] See Speaker Marcil’s ruling, Journals, February 20, 1911, p. 190.

[266] Standing Order 10.

[267] 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, pp. 9194-5.

[268] See, for example, Debates, April 27, 1989, p. 1003; June 4, 1992, p. 11372; March 19, 2002, p. 9836.

[269] See, for example, Debates, March 23, 1999, p. 13372; June 3, 2002, p. 12020.

[270] 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, pp. 326-7).

[271] Standing Order 19.

[272] 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).

[273] Debates, July 9, 1906, cols. 7465‑7.

[274] 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).

[275] See, for example, Debates, December 8, 1995, p. 17446; March 16, 1999, p. 12913.

[276] For further information on points of order during the Adjournment Proceedings, see Chapter 11, “Questions”.

[277] Standing Order 47.

[278] See, for example, Debates, January 14, 1971, p. 2401.

[279] 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).

[280] See, for example, Debates, December 7, 1977, pp. 1649‑52; December 7, 1979, pp. 2134‑5.

[281] See, for example, Debates, April 19, 1983, pp. 24624‑6.

[282] Journals, February 6, 1986, p. 1648; February 13, 1986, p. 1710.

[283] See, for example, Debates, April 4, 1989, p. 32; June 19, 1992, pp. 12437, 12448‑9; February 9, 1993, p. 15637.

[284] Standing Order 47.

[285] 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.

[286] See, for example, Debates, December 4, 1992, p. 14633; June 21, 1994, p. 5698.

[287] 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”.

[288] See, for example, Debates, June 15, 1983, pp. 26394‑5.

[289] See, for example, Debates, May 5, 1982, p. 17067.

[290] See, for example, Debates, September 24, 1998, p. 8350.

[291] See, for example, Debates, May 4, 1999, p. 14689; April 6, 2005, p. 4753.

[292] See, for example, Debates, May 3, 1999, p. 14603; November 23, 2005, p. 10048.

[293] See, for example, Debates, March 24, 1999, p. 13449; April 24, 2002, p. 10774.

[294] See, for example, Debates, May 3, 1999, p. 14608; November 3, 2004, p. 1182.

[295] See, for example, Debates, April 30, 1999, p. 14550; May 31, 2005, pp. 6430-1.

[296] Debates, September 11, 1985, p. 6498.

[297] 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.

[298] See, for example, Debates, October 25, 1989, p. 5096; June 19, 1995, p. 14150; March 13, 1996, p. 666; June 22, 2005, p. 7646.

[299] See, for example, Debates, November 26, 1996, p. 6770.

[300] 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.

[301] Beauchesne, 4th ed., p. 53.

[302] 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 Debate”.

[303] Standing Order 10.

[304] See, for example, Journals, July 8, 1969, pp. 1319‑20; April 12, 2005, p. 4953.

[305] 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.

[306] Standing Order 19.

[307] 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.

[308] 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”.

[309] 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.

[310] See, for example, Debates, October 3, 1995, p. 15186.

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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.[311] 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 Chair.[312] The only interruption permitted is for a Member to raise a point of order.[313]

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.[314] A Member must sit down when the Chair Occupant rises.[315] 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.[316]

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.[317] Smoking has never been permitted in the Chamber. The use of cellular phones or cameras of any kind is not permitted in the Chamber.[318] 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 floor.

The Speaker usually turns a blind eye to the many incidental interruptions, such as applause,[319] shouts of approval or disapproval, or heckling[320] that sometimes punctuates speeches, as long as disorder does not arise.[321] Members have been called to order for whistling and singing during another Member’s speech.[322] Excessive interruptions are swiftly curtailed, particularly when the Member speaking requests the assistance of the Chair.[323] 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.[324]

The House may elect to conduct its proceedings in camera. It may also order the withdrawal of “strangers” from the galleries of the House.[325]

*   Decorum During the Taking of a Vote

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.[326] Members must be in their seats to vote and must remain seated until the result of the vote is announced.[327] Ordinarily, points of order and questions of privilege are postponed until after this announcement.[328] Members who enter the Chamber while the question is being put, or after it has been put, cannot have their votes counted.[329] 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.[330]

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.[331] 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.[332]



[311] Standing Order 17.

[312] 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.

[313] Standing Order 16(2).

[314] Standing Order 16(3). See, for example, Debates, October 29, 1997, p. 1309.

[315] See, for example, Debates, February 24, 1993, p. 16404.

[316] Standing Order 16(4).

[317] 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.

[318] See, for example, Debates, February 29, 2000, p. 4151; January 31, 2002, p. 8532; September 28, 2005, p. 8151; October 31, 2007, p. 624.

[319] 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 instead.

[320] 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).

[321] 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.

[322] 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 are respected.”

[323] See, for example, Debates, April 1, 1992, p. 9193; March 20, 1996, p. 986; October 5, 2006, pp. 3719-20.

[324] 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.

[325] For further information, see Chapter 6, “The Physical and Administrative Setting”.

[326] 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 Debate”.

[327] 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.

[328] Speakers have, from time to time, made exceptions to this practice. See, for example, Debates, October 4, 2006, p. 3664.

[329] 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.

[330] For further information, see Chapter 19, “Committees of the Whole House”.

[331] 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).

[332] Debates, March 1, 1999, pp. 12212‑3.

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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.[333] 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.[334]

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,[335] books,[336] and other missiles, including firecrackers in one case,[337] combined with the noises Members made imitating cats,[338] making music[339] and generally being loud, made for a very riotous assembly.[340] 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.[341] Subsequent occasions of turbulence were infrequent and usually occurred in connection with the imposition of closure.[342] It was not until 1956, during the Pipeline Debate, that the Speaker again had great difficulty preserving order.[343] 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.[344] During the 1990s, both Speakers Fraser and Parent were obliged to deal with a number of incidents of disruptive behaviour.[345]

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”.[346]

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,[347] 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.[348] 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,[349] or refuse to recognize the Member until the offending remarks are retracted and the Member apologizes.[350] As a last resort, the Chair may “name” a Member, the most severe disciplinary power at the Speaker’s disposal.

*   Naming

“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 sitting day.[351] 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.

Historical Perspective

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.[352] Although there were instances of naming before Confederation,[353] 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”.[354] After the Member was named, he apologized to the House, which found his explanation satisfactory. No motion to suspend him was proposed.[355] 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.[356]

When the naming sanction was codified in the 1927 Standing Orders,[357] it referred simply to the Speaker's power to name a Member who engaged in persistent irrelevance or repetition;[358] 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.[359] 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.[360] 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.[361]

Beginning in 1978, after television had been introduced in the Chamber, the frequency of naming increased dramatically.[362] 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.[363]

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”.[364] 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”.[365] 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.[366] 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.[367] 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.[368] The rule changes left untouched the Standing Order that had existed since 1927[369] but added a new Standing Order granting the Speaker the authority to order the withdrawal of a Member for the remainder of the sitting.[370] 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 October 1985,[371] it remains a practice which can still be referred to by the Speaker or invoked by the House.

The Process of Naming

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.[372] 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 withdraw.[373]

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.[374] The Speaker will deal with the matter as though it had occurred in the House.[375]

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[333] Standing Order 10.

[334] Standing Order 11(2). For further information, see the section in this chapter entitled “Repetition and Relevance in Debate”.

[335] See, for example, Debates, May 9, 1883, p. 1086.

[336] See, for example, Debates, April 25, 1892, col. 1636.

[337] Debates, May 13, 1882, p. 1520.

[338] See, for example, Debates, April 27, 1885, p. 1405.

[339] See, for example, Debates, April 17, 1878, pp. 2063‑4.

[340] 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.

[341] Debates, March 15, 1913, cols. 6015‑22.

[342] See, for example, Debates, September 12, 1917, pp. 5768‑71.

[343] Debates, May 24, 1956, pp. 4292‑313.

[344] 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, p. 7678).

[345] 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).

[346] Thirty-Seventh Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House on March 1, 2007 (Journals, p. 1092).

[347] 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.

[348] 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.

[349] 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.

[350] 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.

[351] Standing Order 11(1)(a).

[352] 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 pp. 237‑8.

[353] 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.

[354] Debates, March 15, 1913, col. 6019.

[355] Debates, March 15, 1913, cols. 6016‑22.

[356] 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).

[357] Journals, March 22, 1927, pp. 326‑7.

[358] Standing Orders of the House of Commons, 1927, Standing Order 40(2).

[359] 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., p. 92).

[360] Debates, March 24, 1942, pp. 1603‑7. The Minister apparently followed the procedure set out in Beauchesne (2nd ed., p. 92).

[361] 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).

[362] 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).

[363] 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).

[364] 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, p. 839).

[365] 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, p. 839).

[366] Journals, February 6, 1986, pp. 1645‑6.

[367] Debates, February 11, 1986, p. 10668.

[368] Journals, February 13, 1986, p. 1710. These changes were made permanent on June 3, 1987 (Journals, p. 1016).

[369] Standing Order 11(2).

[370] 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).

[371] Journals, October 11, 1985, p. 1094.

[372] Beauchesne, 4th ed., pp. 44‑5.

[373] 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).

[374] Standing Order 11(2).

[375] 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.

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