The House delegates certain powers to the
committees it creates in order that they can carry out their duties and fulfill
their mandates. Committees have no powers other than those delegated to them in
this way, and cannot assume other powers on their own initiative.
The exercise of their powers is subject to
three fundamental rules. First, they can be exercised only on the territory and
within the areas of jurisdiction in which the Parliament of Canada is entitled
Second, committees can invoke these powers only within and for the purposes of
the mandate that the House (and the Senate, in the case of joint committees)
has entrusted to them.
Finally, barring specific instructions from the House, committees are free to
decide whether they will exercise the powers granted to them.
The Standing Orders set out the powers held
by standing committees. Each is given the power to examine and enquire into all such
matters as the House may refer to it, to report from time to time and to print
a brief appendix to any report, after the signature of the Chair, containing
such opinions or recommendations, dissenting from the report or supplementary
to it, as may be proposed by committee members. Except when the House orders
otherwise, committees are also authorized to send for persons, papers and
records, to meet either when the House is sitting or when it stands adjourned,
to meet jointly with other standing committees, to print from day to day such papers
and evidence as may be ordered by them, and to delegate powers to subcommittees
(except the power to report directly to the House).
The House gives its standing committees a
general power to examine all matters that it may refer to them or that may fall
within their mandate and thus stand permanently referred to them. In the absence of specific instructions from the House, it is up to
each committee to define the exact nature and scope of the studies it will
undertake or that have been entrusted to it. In concrete terms, standing
committees exercise this power when they adopt a motion to conduct a particular
study and when they meet for this purpose.
Standing committees often need the
collaboration, expertise and knowledge of a variety of individuals to assist
them in their studies and investigations. Usually these persons appear
willingly before committees when invited to do so. But situations may arise
where an individual does not agree to appear and give evidence. If the
committee considers that this evidence is essential to its study, it has the
power to summon such a person to appear.
A committee exercises this power by
adopting a motion to summon one or more individuals to appear before it at a
set date, time and location. The summons, signed by the Chair of the committee, is served on
each of the individuals by a bailiff. It states the name of the committee
concerned, the matter for which the appearance is required, the authority under
which it is ordered, and the date and location of the appearance. It also orders
the witness to be available from the time of the appearance until duly released
by the committee.
The Standing Orders place no explicit
limitation on this power. In theory, it applies to any person on Canadian soil. In the unusual case of a person in prison, a committee has presented
a report to the House in which it recommended that the Speaker issue a warrant
ordering the persons and institutions responsible for the inmate’s detention to
bring him before the committee at a set date and time. Once the report had been
concurred in by the House, the Speaker issued the warrant.
In practice, certain limitations are
recognized on the power to order individuals to appear. Because committee
powers do not extend outside Canadian territory, a committee cannot summon a
person who is in another country. The
Sovereign (whether in Canada or abroad), the Governor General and the
provincial lieutenant-governors are also exempt from such a summons.
This applies, as well, to parliamentarians
belonging to other Canadian legislatures, because each of these assemblies,
like the House of Commons, has the parliamentary privilege of controlling the
attendance of its members and any matters affecting them. The same logic
explains why a standing committee cannot order a Member of the House of Commons
or a Senator to appear. At issue in all these examples is the power to order
someone to appear; nothing prevents such individuals from appearing voluntarily
before a committee following a simple invitation, apart from the obligation
incumbent upon some of them to obtain leave from the House to which they
There is no specific rule governing
voluntary appearances by Members of the House of Commons before parliamentary
committees. They may appear before a committee if they wish and have been
invited. If a Member of the House refuses an invitation to appear before a standing
committee and the committee decides that such an appearance is necessary, it
may so report to the House, and it will be up to the House to decide what measures should be
If a standing committee wants to request
formally that a Senator appear before it, it must obtain the leave of the House
of Commons. If the House agrees with the committee, it sends the Senate a
message requesting that the Senator appear before the committee. Under the Rules of the Senate, however, even if the Upper House acquiesces
to the request of a Commons’ committee to have a Senator appear before it, that
Senator need not do so unless he or she thinks fit. At
all times, the Rules of the Senate allow Senators to appear of their own free
will before committees of the House of Commons without any formal request being
sent by the House.
Although they can send for certain persons,
standing committees do not have the power to punish a failure to comply with
their orders in this regard. Only the House of Commons has the disciplinary
powers needed to deal with this type of offence. If a
witness refuses to appear, or does not appear, as ordered, the committee’s recourse
is to report the matter to the House. Once
seized with the matter, the House takes the measures that it considers
The Standing Orders state that standing
committees have the power to order the production of papers and records,
another privilege rooted in the Constitution that is delegated by the House. In
carrying out their responsibility to conduct studies and inquiries, standing
committees often have to rely on a wide array of papers to aid them in their
work. Such papers, understood to mean written material or items which serve as
evidence, information or testimony, may include reports, briefs, notes,
statistics, agreements, surveys, calendars, agendas, booklets, photographs,
audio recordings and audio-visual documents.
Committees usually obtain such papers
simply by requesting them from their authors or owners. If a request is denied,
however, and the standing committee believes that specific papers are essential
to its work, it can use its power to order the production of papers by passing
a motion to that effect. The motion usually orders the person to whom it is
directed to provide the committee with the papers in question by a particular
date or deadline.
The Standing Orders do not delimit the power
to order the production of papers and records. The result is a broad, absolute
power that on the surface appears to be without restriction. There is no limit on the types of papers likely to be requested;
the only prerequisite is that the papers exist—in
hard copy or electronic format—and that they are located in Canada. They can be papers originating from or in the possession of governments, or papers the
authors or owners of which are from the private sector or civil society
(individuals, associations, organizations, et cetera).
In practice, standing committees may
encounter situations where the authors of or officials responsible for papers
refuse to provide them or are willing to provide them only after certain parts
have been removed. Public servants and Ministers may sometimes invoke their
obligations under certain legislation to justify their position. Companies may be reluctant to release papers which could jeopardize
their industrial security or infringe upon their legal obligations, particularly with regard
to the protection of personal information. Others have cited solicitor-client
privilege in refusing to allow access to legal papers or notices.
These types of situations have absolutely
no bearing on the power of committees to order the production of papers and
records. No statute or practice diminishes the fullness of that power rooted in
House privileges unless there is an explicit legal provision to that effect, or unless the House adopts a specific resolution limiting the
power. The House has never set a limit on its power to order the production of
papers and records. However, it may not be appropriate to insist on the production
of papers and records in all cases.
In cases where the author of or the
authority responsible for a record refuses to comply with an order issued by a
committee to produce documents, the committee essentially has three options. The first is to accept the reasons and conditions put forward to
justify the refusal; the committee members then concede that they will not have
access to the record or accept the record with passages deleted. The second is
to seek an acceptable compromise with the author or the authority responsible
for access to the record. Normally, this entails putting measures in place to ensure that the
record is kept confidential while it is being consulted: in camera
review, limited and numbered copies, arrangements for disposing of or
destroying the copies after the committee meeting, et cetera. The third option is to reject the reasons given for denying access
to the record and uphold the order to produce the entire record.
Since committees do not have the
disciplinary power to sanction failure to comply with their order to produce
records, they can choose to report the situation to the House and request that
appropriate measures be taken. Among the options available to the House is to
endorse, with or without amendment, the committee’s order to produce records,
thus making it a House order. In the past, the House has sometimes found persons failing to
comply with an order to produce records guilty of contempt of Parliament. On
occasion, it has even exercised its disciplinary powers.
The Standing Orders give standing
committees the power to meet when the House is sitting and when the House is
adjourned. This allows committees to meet as they see fit during a session of
However, two provisions in the Standing
Orders set limits on that freedom. First, a standing committee cannot sit at
the same time as a legislative committee on a bill emanating from a department
or agency whose activities the standing committee is responsible for
overseeing. Second, when the bells are sounded to call in the Members to a
recorded division in the House, a standing committee must suspend its meeting
unless there is unanimous consent of the members of the committee to continue
In practical terms, committees meeting within
the Parliamentary Precinct are limited by the availability of meeting rooms.
Committees are given access to meeting rooms by order of priority based on
criteria prescribed in the Standing Orders for periods when the House stands
adjourned and when the House is sitting.
When committees are travelling in Canada, their power to meet is limited to the
places and dates delineated in the special travel authorization granted by the
Standing committees have the power to meet
jointly with other standing committees. The Standing Orders do not limit the
number of standing committees that can meet together, but joint meetings
usually involve only two parliamentary committees.
This power allows a standing committee to
meet with another standing committee, and, by extension, a subcommittee,
provided the subcommittee has been given this power by the committee under
which it operates. It is also possible for two subcommittees in this situation to
meet jointly. The ability to meet jointly does not extend to meetings with
legislative or special committees or with parliamentary committees of other
Joint meetings are voluntary and normally
deal with matters of interest to the committees involved. The committees should
agree on the subject and the terms in advance of the meeting. All House
committees are equal; none can compel another to participate in a joint
Joint meetings usually take place following
formal or informal discussions between the committees, and sometimes come about
as a result of discussions or correspondence between committee Chairs, often at
the direction of the respective committees. On
other occasions, a committee officially adopts a motion inviting another
committee to a joint meeting for a specific purpose, or both committees adopt a
motion to that effect. Each committee is convened separately by its Chair.
In joint meetings, each committee sits and
exercises its powers separately from the other committee. The power given to
standing committees is the power to meet jointly, not to form a new committee
or a new joint entity. Consequently, if decisions are made, they are made by
each committee and its members under its own rules. Each committee produces its
own minutes of proceedings as if the meeting were a regular meeting. If a
report is adopted during a joint meeting, each committee may present to the
House a separate report, even though the two reports will be identical.
The Standing Orders authorize standing
committees to publish from day to day such papers and evidence as they may order
be printed. It has become the practice to publish the Minutes of
Proceedings, the Evidence and reports that committees present to the
House from time to time. The publications provide a permanent record of
evidence, decisions and conclusions of studies. Minutes of Proceedings
are the official record of committee work and are produced and signed by the
clerk of the committee. They are the equivalent of the Journals of the
House. Evidence is the edited and revised transcript of what is said
before a committee by the members and by witnesses.
Reports to the House, meanwhile, may be short documents under one page in
length or far more substantial and separately bound works. All committee
publications are published in both official languages.
The Standing Order concerning the power to
print reflects the earlier practice of making all these papers available in
hard copy. In the past, committees produced a document called Minutes of
Proceedings and Evidence that contained the material now provided in two
publications: Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence. Reports to the
House that were considered too short to merit separate publication used to be
included in Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence. In 1994, the House began
posting its publications on the Internet. Since September 1998, Minutes of
Proceedings and Evidence have been available in electronic form
only; they are no longer printed. As with reports, they are now available in
electronic format on the Parliament of Canada Web site.
Committees still have the option, however, of adopting a motion to print key
reports which they present to the House.
The power to print has gradually changed
and is now, by and large, a power to publish. It has been ruled that the power
of a committee to have papers printed also includes the power not to publish.
In order to carry out their roles
effectively, committees must be able to convey their findings to the House. The
Standing Orders provide standing committees with the power to report to the
House from time to time, which is generally interpreted as being as often as they wish. A
standing committee exercises that prerogative when its members agree on the
subject and wording of a report and it directs the Chair to report to the
House, which the Chair then does.
Like all other powers of standing
committees, the power to report is limited to issues that fall within their
mandate or that have been specifically assigned to them by the House. Every
report must identify the authority under which it is presented. In the past,
when a committee has gone beyond its order of reference or addressed issues not
included in the order, the Speaker of the House has ruled the report or a
specific part of the report to be out of order.
There are three broad categories of reports
likely to be presented by standing committees: administrative or procedural
reports, reports based on an order of reference from the House and substantive
reports. Depending on rules and practices, the form, the content and the timeframe
for the presentation of reports can vary considerably from category to
Administrative and procedural reports are essentially reports in which standing committees ask the House
for special permission or additional powers, or those that deal with a matter
of privilege or procedure arising from committee proceedings. Most of the time, the decision to report in these cases is made
voluntarily and the committee reports at the time it deems fit, unless a deadline
has been set by the House.
Reports that are based on an order of
reference from the House generally follow a set
form depending on the type of study. Most reports in this category are very
succinct. For example, reports on estimates simply state whether the committee
adopted, reduced or negatived the votes.
Such reports must, however, be presented within the period prescribed by the
Standing Orders, failing which the estimates are deemed to have been reported. When standing committees study an appointment or proposed
appointment, their reports on the matter usually indicate that they considered
the appointment and briefly state their opinion on the candidate’s
qualifications and abilities. The Standing Orders do not set a deadline for presenting such
reports, but they do prescribe a timeframe for committee consideration of
appointments or proposed appointments. Reports on the study of bills can be
very short or extremely lengthy. If the committee did not amend the bill in the
course of its study, the report simply states that the committee studied the
proposed legislation and is reporting it without amendment. However, if the
committee adopted amendments to the bill, the report provides details of each
amendment. The Standing Orders require committees to report any amendment to a
public bill. Committees are required to present a report on every private bill
referred to them. There is no requirement for standing committees to report on a
private Member’s bill referred to them, but the Standing Orders provide that if
no report is presented within a certain period, the bill is deemed to have been
reported without amendment.
Substantive reports are usually produced when a committee decides to undertake, on its
own initiative, a study on an issue within its mandate.
From time to time, substantive reports are also produced by committees that
wish to make further recommendations to the House on orders of reference
(bills, estimates, appointments) in addition to presenting their usual reports. Normally, exercising the power to report in the case of substantive
reports is voluntary and done within the timeframe chosen by the committee. The
content of substantive reports is determined entirely by the committee.
Substantive reports can also be very short, presenting nothing more, for
example, than resolutions adopted by the committee,
but are often long in cases where the committee has conducted a comprehensive
study on a particular subject. A study may give rise to one or more reports,
and interim reports may be presented prior to a final report.
A committee report reflects the opinion of
the committee and not that of the individual members. Members of the committee
who disagree with the decision of the majority may not present a separate
report. There is no provision in the Standing Orders or the practices of the
House for presenting minority reports.
Where one or several members of a standing
committee are not in agreement with the committee’s report or wish to make
supplementary comments, the committee is authorized under the Standing Orders to append such opinions to the report, following the signature of
the committee Chair. Committee members may exercise this power by adopting a motion to
this effect. The wording of the Standing Orders does not limit the type of
report to which such opinions may be appended. As a rule, however, committees
authorize such appendices for substantive reports.
Dissenting or supplementary opinions may be
presented by any member of a committee, but committees have in some cases restricted this practice to
specific Members or political parties. Although committees have the power to append these opinions to
their reports, they are not obliged to do so.
In agreeing to append a dissenting or
supplementary opinion, the committee will often specify the maximum length of
the text (number of pages, font type and size, line spacing), the deadline for submission to the committee clerk (date and time)
and the format in which it is to be submitted (in one or both official
languages, electronic format).
Committees are not responsible for the
content of these opinions. They are not, strictly speaking, part of the report.
The authors of these opinions alone are responsible for their content. However,
the Speaker has pointed out that, although the committees may have given them
carte blanche, the authors must strictly adhere to parliamentary practice, in both
the wording and format of supplementary or dissenting opinions.
The Standing Orders specifically authorize
standing committees to delegate to subcommittees all or part of their powers, except
for the power to report to the House. There is no limit to the number of subcommittees that can be
established by a committee. This power is exercised when a committee adopts a
motion to create a subcommittee, giving it a mandate, direction and powers.
Since a joint committee exists only by
order of both Houses, the powers provided to it by the House of Commons can be
exercised by the committee only if it is similarly empowered by the Senate.
There are, however, some differences in the
powers conferred by the House on standing joint committees, which are the same
as those of its standing committees, and those conferred by the Senate. The Rules of the Senate prohibit
committees from sitting during a sitting of the Senate and when the Upper House
is adjourned for more than a week. Moreover, unlike the House, the Senate does not give its committees
the power to hold joint meetings with other standing committees.
Various other powers are, however,
conferred by both the Senate and the House of Commons and may be fully
exercised by standing joint committees: the power to examine and enquire, the power to send for persons, papers and records, the power to
print papers and evidence, the power to report
and the power to establish subcommittees.
Although the Rules of the Senate do not specifically provide for this, the
Upper House does, in practice, allow its committees to append to their reports
“comments” from some members.
A legislative committee is empowered to
examine and enquire into a bill referred to it and to report the same with or without amendments.
It is not empowered to present a substantive report concerning the bill, although it may present administrative or procedural reports. A legislative committee may also be created to prepare and bring in
In examining a bill, a legislative
committee may send for officials of government departments, agencies and Crown
corporations and other persons whom the committee deems competent in technical
matters. It may also send for papers and records, sit while the House is
sitting, sit while the House stands adjourned, and print papers and evidence. A legislative committee may also delegate to a subcommittee on
agenda and procedure the power to schedule meetings of the committee and to
send for witnesses, papers and records, subject to approval by the full
committee. A legislative committee does not have the power to sit jointly with
other parliamentary committees or to append dissenting or supplementary opinions or
recommendations to its reports.
Special committees possess only those
powers that are provided to them by the House in the order of reference that
establishes them or by subsequent motion. Depending on whether its mandate concerns
a particular subject matter or consideration of a bill, a special committee may
be given the powers of a standing or legislative committee.
Special joint committees possess only those
powers that are provided to them by both Houses in the order of reference
establishing them. As a general rule, special joint committees receive the powers
of standing committees of the House, but may sometimes receive more limited powers.
Subcommittees possess only those powers
that are conferred on them by the main committees to which they report or by
the House, if they are created directly by the House and it has stipulated
their powers. For a subcommittee created by a committee or one created by the
House for which the House has not identified powers, it is up to the main
committee to specify the power(s) it wishes to delegate to the subcommittee. In
all cases, the powers conferred on a subcommittee may not exceed those of the
main committee that created it nor include powers that the main committee does
not possess. Powers may be delegated at one time or at various times. Similarly,
a committee may, if necessary, withdraw powers previously conferred on a
The powers that a committee may delegate to
subcommittees may be limited by the Standing Orders or by orders of the House.
Standing committees may not delegate their power to report to the House.
Special committees that have the power to create subcommittees may delegate all
their powers, unless the order of reference establishing them includes a
restriction in this regard.
A legislative committee may only delegate to a subcommittee on agenda and
procedure its power to schedule meetings, and to send for witnesses, papers and
records, subject to approval by the full committee. It may not, for
instance, delegate its power to study and examine the bill under consideration,
or to report on it. Standing joint committees may delegate all their powers to
subcommittees except the power to report to the House of Commons and the
Special joint committees empowered to create subcommittees may delegate all
their powers to them, unless the order of reference establishing them contains
restrictions in this regard. For the most part, they may not delegate their
power to report to both Houses.
If a standing, legislative or special
committee requires additional powers, they may be conferred on the committee by
an order of the House—by far the most common approach—or by concurrence
in a committee report requesting the conferring of those powers.
Standing joint and special joint committees may obtain additional powers in the
same way, except that authorization must come from both the House and the
When a subcommittee requires additional
powers, it may request them through a report to the main committee.
If the powers requested exceed what the main committee may delegate, the main
committee may request them through a report to the House or the House may adopt
a motion to grant them directly.
In referring to the power to summon persons, papers and records, Bourinot
states that the House of Commons and the Senate have such power and may use it
“within the limits of their jurisdiction”. See 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. 70.
In 2008, Speaker Milliken observed that “the House has taken great care to
define and differentiate the responsibilities of its committees … Inherent in
the power the House grants to its committees is the basic principle that each
committee will respect its mandate” (Debates, March 14, 2008,
Standing Order 108(1)(a) and (b). Formerly the Standing Orders
contained no provisions on the powers of standing committees. Powers were
granted in the motion establishing each committee (see, for example, Journals,
November 7, 1867, p. 5; April 6, 1868, p. 184;
January 12, 1905, p. 9) or, after a list of standing committees
was added to the Standing Orders, by a separate motion. Among the powers
usually granted were the power to examine any matter that the House might refer
to them, the power to report from time to time, and the power to send for
persons, papers and records. See, for example, Journals, November 28, 1910,
p. 28. In 1965, the Standing Orders were amended to give powers to the
standing committees on a permanent basis. In addition to the powers listed
above, the power to print from day to day such papers and evidence as the
committees might order was included at that time (Journals, June 11, 1965,
p. 228). Subsequently the list was extended to include the power to sit
while the House is sitting or stands adjourned, to delegate to subcommittees
any of their powers except that of reporting directly to the House (Journals,
December 20, 1968, pp. 562‑79, in particular p. 575),
to sit jointly with other standing committees of the House and to append
dissenting or supplementary opinions or recommendations to their reports (Journals,
March 26, 1991, pp. 2801‑27, in particular pp. 2819‑20;
April 11, 1991, p. 2904; May 23, 1991, pp. 61‑2).
Regarding the power of standing committees to review all matters relating to
their general mandate as set out in the Standing Orders, see also Standing
This may be a separate motion dealing specifically with the study or, for
example, a motion to adopt the schedule of future committee business in which
the study in question appears. See, for example, the Standing Committee on
Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with
Disabilities, Minutes of Proceedings, May 11, 2006, Meeting
This power, delegated to standing committees by the House, is part of the
privileges, rights and immunities which the House of Commons inherited when it
was created. They were considered essential to its functions as a legislative
body, so that it could investigate, debate and legislate, and are constitutional
in origin. For further information, see “Procedural Framework for Committee
Activities” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Proceedings”,
and Chapter 3, “Privileges and Immunities”.
This is normally determined by the committee itself, but may be left to the
discretion of the committee Chair and clerk. See, for example, Standing
Committee on Public Accounts, Minutes of Proceedings,
June 13, 2002, Meeting No. 61. Summons may occasionally order a witness
to appear no later than a certain date. Prior to the amendment of the Standing
Orders in 1994, a certificate had to be filed with the Chair attesting that the
evidence of a potential witness was material and important before a summons
could be served. Since then, the certificate has no longer been required
(Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings
and Evidence, June 9, 1994, Issue 16, pp. 3, 7‑8,
in particular p. 8; Journals, June 8, 1994, p. 545;
June 10, 1994, p. 563).
With respect to the appearance of officials or public servants from other
levels of government, see the decision of the Supreme Court of Prince Edward
Island (AG Canada v. MacPhee et ors., 2003 PESCTD 06). In this decision,
Mr. Justice Wayne D. Cheverie found no reason why two officials of the
federal Canadian Food Inspection Agency should be exempt from an Order to
appear before the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Forests and Environment of
Prince Edward Island’s Legislative Assembly. The Legislative Assembly had
mandated its Committee to study and investigate the potato wart crisis. As part
of its study, the Committee wished to hear from representatives of the Agency.
It is possible that the power of a standing committee could apply to a Canadian
non‑resident temporarily in Canada. See May on the subject of
foreign or Commonwealth nationals temporarily resident in the United Kingdom
(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. 764). See also Lee, D., The Power
of Parliamentary Houses to Send for Persons, Papers & Records: A Sourcebook
on the Law and Precedent of Parliamentary Subpoena Powers for Canadian and other
Houses, Toronto: University of Toronto Press Incorporated, 1999,
p. 171. In this sourcebook, Mr. Lee cites a case from the Senate of
Canada. In 1904, the Upper House considered a motion to summon a citizen of the
United States before the Bar of the Senate for refusing to answer questions
before a Senate committee. The motion expressly mentioned the fact that the
witness was then in Ottawa. The Speaker of the Senate ruled the motion in
order, but it was amended so that the witness was not, in the end, summoned to
appear. On occasion, witnesses who are not Canadian citizens, or who do not
live in Canada, have appeared voluntarily before a standing committee. See, for
example, the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status
of Persons with Disabilities, Minutes of Proceedings, March 1, 2000,
Meeting No. 16.
See the First Report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information,
Privacy and Ethics, presented to the House and concurred in on
November 27, 2007 (Journals, p. 219). In this instance,
the Committee recommended that the Speaker issue any necessary warrants for the
appearance of businessman Karlheinz Schreiber, who was at that time in the
custody of Ontario’s Correctional Services at the Toronto West Detention Centre.
The day before his appearance, he was transferred to the Ottawa-Carleton
Detention Centre. He appeared before the Committee on
November 29, 2007 (Minutes of Proceedings, Meeting
No. 5). Mr. Schreiber appeared before the Committee again on
December 4 (Minutes of Proceedings, Meeting No. 6). While at
this meeting, he heard that he had been granted bail. Subsequently, he appeared
before the Committee on a number of occasions. The warrant issued by the
Speaker for his initial appearance on November 29 called on the
authorities to ensure that the witness would be available to appear before the
Committee until such time as his presence was no longer required. It provided
for Mr. Schreiber’s re-admission to the detention centre immediately after
his appearance. See also May, 23rd ed., p. 759; Lee,
p. 57; Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 72.
See May, 23rd ed., p. 764.
See Lee, pp. 1‑2. The author explains that the person of the Sovereign
is inviolate and that the Sovereign therefore cannot be compelled to attend any
court or tribunal in the Realm, including the “High Court of Parliament”.
For an example of the voluntary appearance by parliamentarians belonging to a
provincial legislature, see Subcommittee on Fiscal Imbalance of the Standing
Committee on Finance, Minutes of Proceedings, March 21, 2005,
Meeting No. 7.
For an example of a standing committee reporting the non-appearance of a
Member, see the Sixth Report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and
Immigration, presented to the House on March 10, 2008 (Journals,
p. 550). The House did not act on the report. Also, in August 2008, the
Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security adopted a resolution
to the effect that Maxime Bernier (Beauce) had refused to testify before the
Committee. The resolution recommended that the House order the Member to appear
before the Committee at a date and time to be set by the Committee. Parliament
was dissolved and this resolution could not be presented to the House in the form
of a report (Minutes of Proceedings, August 25, 2008, Meeting
This can be done by the concurrence of the House in a committee report making
such a request, or by special order of the House.
See, for example, Journals, May 9, 1996, pp. 341‑2;
Fifth Report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates,
presented to the House on October 31, 2006 (Journals,
pp. 601‑2). In this case, the House did not act on the report and no
message was sent to the Senate. For an example where a message was sent to the
Senate and the Senate agreed to the request by the House, see Journals,
April 9, 1877, pp. 234, 237.
On the other hand, if the request involves a Senate officer, and the Upper
House grants leave, the officer must appear before the Commons committee. See Senate
Senate Rule 124(4); this rule has been in force since 1979 (Journals of the
Senate, November 22, 1979, p. 178; December 4, 1979,
p. 216). For an example of a voluntary appearance by a Senator without any
message between the two Houses, see Standing Committee on Government Operations
and Estimates, Minutes of Proceedings, February 28, 2008,
Meeting No. 15.
The disciplinary powers of the House include the power to reprimand a person
who is not a Member. They also include the power to suspend or expel Members
from the House. For further information, see Chapter 3, “Privileges and
Immunities”. For a critical discussion of these powers, see Robert, C. and
Armitage, B., “Perjury, Contempt and Privilege: The Coercive Powers of
Parliamentary Committees”, Canadian Parliamentary Review, Vol. 30,
No. 4, Winter 2007, pp. 29‑36.
See, for example, Journals, April 26, 1878, pp. 218‑20;
August 27, 1891, p. 454; September 24, 1891,
p. 531; June 7, 1894, p. 242.
In 1891, the Public Accounts Committee reported that André Senécal, the
government’s Superintendent of Printing, had disobeyed an order to appear
before it. The House adopted a motion ordering him to appear at the Bar of the
House. When Mr. Senécal failed to do so, the House ordered that he be
taken into the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms. The Sergeant‑at‑Arms
was however unable to find him. No other action was taken (Journals,
August 27, 1891, p. 454; September 1, 1891, p. 467).
In 1894, two witnesses, Mr. Provost and Mr. Larose, did not appear
before the Committee on Privileges and Elections as ordered. The Committee
reported this and the House adopted a motion ordering them to appear at the Bar
of the House. In response to their refusal to obey this order, the House
ordered that they be taken into the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms and brought
before the Bar. This was done and the witnesses were subsequently released (Journals,
June 7, 1894, p. 242; June 11, 1894, p. 289;
June 13, 1894, pp. 299‑301).
In 2005, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts ordered that a witness
provide a copy of the answering machine tape that he referred to during his
testimony. See Minutes of Proceedings, May 2, 2005, Meeting No. 32.
See, for example, Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing
Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, Minutes of Proceedings,
March 20, 2007, Meeting No. 11. In 2003, during its study of Bill C-25, Public Service Labour Relations Act, the Standing Committee on
Government Operations and Estimates asked the Privy Council Office for copies
of certain papers related to the bill. The Committee did not set a specific
deadline for delivery of the papers, but decided to suspend its
clause-by-clause consideration of the bill until it received them. See Minutes
of Proceedings, April 8, 2003, Meeting No. 29; April 9, 2003, Meeting No.
See comments by the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections (Journals,
May 29, 1991, p. 95).
There have been occasions when committees asked organizations to provide, in
list or table form, information they were likely to hold. See, for example,
Standing Joint Committee on Official Languages, Minutes of Proceedings and
Evidence, January 21, 1987, Issue No. 3, pp. 3-4; Standing Committee
on Public Accounts, Minutes of Proceedings, February 19, 2004, Meeting
No. 4. For further information on the compilation of information held by a
person or organization, see Lee, p. 46.
On the subject of papers from private bodies or individuals, May notes that
there is no restriction on the power of committees in that regard provided such
papers are relevant to the committee’s work as defined by its order of
reference. See May, 23rd ed., p. 757.
For example, federally, the Access to Information Act (R.S. 1985, c.
A-1, ss. 13-26) and the Privacy Act (R.S. 1985, c. P-21, ss. 18-28) both
contain provisions exempting certain types of records which the government can
or must refuse to disclose. In the access to information system, records
obtained in confidence from other governments; records which could be injurious
to the defence of Canada or any state allied with Canada; records pertaining to
industrial secrets; financial, trade and technical information belonging to the
government; confidential Cabinet and Privy Council documents are all examples
of records the disclosure of which to requestors may or must be denied. In
1973, the government communicated to the House of Commons (Journals,
March 15, 1973, p. 187) its vision of the general principles applicable to
papers likely to be tabled in the House in response to notices of motion for
the production of papers. They were not formally approved by the House, but
those principles have been observed ever since. For further information about
the principles and exemptions, see Chapter 10, “The Daily Program”.
See, for example, Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Minutes of
Proceedings, March 11, 2004, Meeting No. 9.
For an example, see footnote No. 166 in this chapter.
See, for example, Standing Committee on Miscellaneous Estimates, Minutes of Proceedings
and Evidence, April 5, 1984, Issue No. 6, pp. 30-3; May 3, 1984, Issue No.
13, p. 6.
See Lee, p. 185.
In 1991, the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections pointed out, “The
House of Commons recognizes that it should not require the production of
documents in all cases; considerations of public policy, including national
security, foreign relations, and so forth, enter into the decision as to when
it is appropriate to order the production of such documents” (Journals,
May 29, 1991, p. 95). The House of Commons took note of the Committee’s report
and referred it to the Standing Committee on House Management for further study
(Journals, June 18, 1991, pp. 216‑7).
A committee can at any time use its power to call witnesses to have the individuals
concerned appear before the committee to provide an explanation. See, for
example, Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee
on Foreign Affairs and International Development, Minutes of Proceedings,
March 20, 2007, Meeting No. 11; March 29, 2007, Meeting No. 13.
In its attempt to obtain the financial statements of Canada’s five major meat
packers in the course of its study on beef pricing, the Standing Committee on
Agriculture and Agri‑Food adopted a motion stating that the financial
statements would not be copied for the Committee members, but would be provided
to the Office of the Law Clerk and the analyst assigned to the committee by the
Library of Parliament. The analyst would review the information and prepare a
report to the Committee drafted in such a fashion as to protect specific
sensitive business information that could disclose the identity of any person
or corporation. The motion also provided for a mechanism for the retention and
eventual destruction of the records (Minutes of Proceedings, April 21,
2004, Meeting No. 15). After presenting two reports in the House on the matter
(Third Report presented to the House and concurred in on May 6, 2004 (Journals,
p. 388); Fourth Report presented to the House on May 13, 2004 (Journals,
p. 416)), the Committee reiterated its requests to the meat packers
concerned in the new session of Parliament following the dissolution of
Parliament which had occurred in the meantime. It then obtained the records
requested (Minutes of Proceedings, October 14, 2004, Meeting No. 2).
Following the refusal of the Solicitor General to provide two reports to the
Standing Committee on Justice and the Solicitor General, on the grounds of
privacy, the Committee reported the matter to the House. Subsequently, a
question of privilege was raised by Derek Lee (Scarborough–Rouge River) concerning the Minister’s refusal to provide the reports sought by the Committee. No
ruling was delivered as to whether the matter constituted a prima facie breach
of privilege, but the issue was referred to the Standing Committee on
Privileges and Elections. Parliament was prorogued before the Committee had
completed its deliberations, but the reference was revived in the next session
allowing the Committee to conclude its work. The Committee presented a report
which concluded that the Standing Committee on Justice and the Solicitor
General had been within its rights to insist on the production of the two
reports and recommended that the House order the Solicitor General to comply
with the order for production. The House subsequently adopted a motion to that
effect, with the proviso that the reports be presented at an in camera
meeting of the Standing Committee on Justice and the Solicitor General. See
Standing Committee on Justice and the Solicitor General, Minutes of
Proceedings and Evidence, May 29, 1990, Issue No. 39,
p. 3; December 4, 1990, Issue No. 56, p. 3;
December 18, 1990, Issue No. 57, pp. 4‑6; Journals,
December 19, 1990, p. 2508; February 28, 1991,
p. 2638, Debates, pp. 17745‑6; Journals,
May 17, 1991, p. 42; May 29, 1991, pp. 92‑9;
June 18, 1991, pp. 216‑7; Standing Committee on Justice
and the Solicitor General, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence,
June 19, 1991, Issue No. 4, pp. 5‑6.
Beauchesne states, “A committee cannot require an officer of a
department of the Government to produce any paper which, according to the rules
and practice of the House, it is not usual for the House itself to insist upon
being laid before it” (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. 236).
One way for a committee to determine whether the House would support it is
through a report recommending that the order to produce be upheld. See, for
example, the Third Report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and
Agri-Food, presented to the House and concurred in on May 6, 2004 (Journals,
In 1891, a witness was summoned to the Bar of the House for refusing to produce
documents requested by the Committee on Privileges and Elections. He was
questioned and ordered to produce the documents requested (Journals,
June 5, 1891, p. 205; June 16, 1891, pp. 211-2). In 2003, three private companies
were found guilty of contempt of Parliament for failing to comply with an Order
to produce papers from the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food
(Third Report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, presented
to the House and concurred in on May 6, 2004 (Journals, p. 388)).
For example, committees occasionally meet while the House is in summer recess.
See, for example, Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern
Development, Minutes of Proceedings, July 26, 2007, Meeting No. 61.
Standing Order 115(1), which must be complied with even if a committee meets in
a place other than a committee room within the Parliamentary Precinct.
Standing Order 115(5).
Standing Order 115(2), (3) and (4). For further information, see “Times of
Meetings and Room Allocation” under the section in this chapter entitled
See, for example, the joint meeting of the Standing Committee on Foreign
Affairs and International Trade (Minutes of Proceedings, November 22,
2004, Meeting No. 10) with the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food
(Minutes of Proceedings, November 22, 2004, Meeting No. 11).
See, for example, the joint meeting between the Standing Committee on Foreign
Affairs and International Trade (Minutes of Proceedings, April 1, 2003,
Meeting No. 27) and its Subcommittee on Human Rights and International
Development (Minutes of Proceedings, April 1, 2003, Meeting
For example, during the First Session of the Thirty‑Seventh Parliament,
the Subcommittee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities (Minutes of
Proceedings, May 30, 2001, Meeting No. 6; June 5, 2001, Meeting
No. 8; March 19, 2002, Meeting No. 18) and the Subcommittee on Children and
Youth at Risk (Minutes of Proceedings, May 30, 2001, Meeting No. 6; June 5, 2001,
Meeting No. 7; March 19, 2002, Meeting No. 20), both operating under the
Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons
with Disabilities, held three joint meetings.
This has happened, however. See, for example, the joint meeting of the Standing
Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade (Minutes of Proceedings,
May 8, 2001, Meeting No. 18) and the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and
International Trade. However, the House Committee’s Minutes of Proceedings
referred to the meeting as “informal”.
This is true unless the House orders otherwise or a standing committee directs
one of its subcommittees to sit jointly with another committee. In 2001, for
example, the House adopted an opposition motion ordering the Standing Committee
on Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Standing Committee on
National Defence and Veterans Affairs “to sit frequently, including joint
meetings with ministers and officials of the government and the military” (Journals,
October 15, 2001, pp. 708-9). The motion was passed in the wake of the
September 11, 2001 attacks.
See, for example, the direction given to the Chair of the Standing Committee on
the Status of Women (Minutes of Proceedings, October 26, 2005, Meeting
No. 43) for a joint meeting with the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs
and Northern Development.
See, for example, Standing Committee on National Defence, Minutes of
Proceedings, May 29, 2007, Meeting No. 55; Standing Committee on
Foreign Affairs and International Development, Minutes of Proceedings,
May 29, 2007, Meeting No. 58.
See, for example, Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International
Trade, Minutes of Proceedings, November 15, 2004, Meeting No. 8, and November
22, 2004, Meeting No. 10; Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food,
Minutes of Proceedings, November 16, 2004, Meeting No. 8, and
November 22, 2004, Meeting No. 11.
In one extraordinary case, two subcommittees of the Standing Committee on Human
Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities met jointly
and concurred in a common draft report which they presented to the main
committee. Both subcommittees were acting with the consent of the main
committee. See the Fourth Report of the Standing Committee, presented to the
House on June 12, 2001 (Journals, pp. 533-4).
Standing Order 108(1)(a).
Committees can also append to their Evidence papers which they feel are
especially important: a brief to the committee, a preliminary statement from a
witness who could not be heard in full, letters or briefing material, and so
on. See, for example, Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public
Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Minutes of Proceedings, March 22,
2005, Meeting No. 25. For further information, see also “Reporting of
Activities and Deliberations” under the section in this chapter entitled
See the Parliament of Canada Web site at www.parl.gc.ca.
See, for example, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, Minutes of
Proceedings, February 26, 2008, Meeting No. 17.
See, for example, Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Minutes of
Proceedings, May 27, 1999, Meeting No. 146. In that instance, the Committee agreed, while studying a bill amending the provisions of the Criminal
Code dealing with flight, to prohibit publication of the testimony given by
two witnesses whose case was before the courts.
Standing Order 108(1)(a).
See, for example, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, Minutes of
Proceedings, February 26, 2008, Meeting No. 17; Journals,
February 28, 2008, p. 484.
See, for example, Debates, June 13, 1984, p. 4624; Journals,
December 13, 1984, p. 188; December 14, 1984, p. 192, Debates, pp. 1242-3;
Debates, February 28, 1985, pp. 2602-3; Journals, May
15, 2008, p. 827, Debates, pp. 5924-5. See also Speaker Milliken’s observations
on the matter on March 14, 2008 (Debates, pp. 4181-3) and June 20, 2008
(Debates, pp. 7209-10).
See, for example, the Third Report of the Standing Committee on Public
Accounts, presented to the House on February 12, 2008 (Journals, p.
423), and the Third Report of the Standing Committee on Environment and
Sustainable Development, presented to the House on April 14, 2008 (Journals,
For example, a standing committee that would like to have more than 60 sitting
days to study a private Member’s bill must present a report to that effect to
the House within the 60 days, failing which the bill is deemed under the
Standing Orders to have been reported without amendment. See Standing Order
See, for example, the Second Report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal
Affairs and Northern Development, presented to the House on December 3, 2007 (Journals,
Standing Order 81(4) and (5). For further information on this subject, see
“Estimates” under the section in this chapter entitled “Studies Conducted by
Standing Orders 110 to 111.1. See, for example, the Third Report of the
Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, presented to the House on February 1,
2008 (Journals, p. 371).
Standing Order 75(2).
Standing Order 141(5).
Standing Order 97.1(1).
Substantive reports can also be produced when the House decides to have a
committee study a specific subject through a special order of reference, but
that is less common. See, for example, Journals, November 2, 2004, pp.
182-3, and the Thirteenth Report of the Standing Committee on Finance,
presented to the House on June 9, 2005 (Journals, pp. 857-8).
See, for example, the Third Report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources
Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, presented to the House
on May 31, 2001 (Journals, p. 458). The report was titled
“Beyond Bill C-2: A Review of Other Proposals to Reform Employment Insurance”.
The report followed an initial report from the Committee on Bill C-2, An Act
to amend the Employment Insurance Act and the Employment Insurance (Fishing)
Regulations that had been presented to the House on March 23, 2001
(Journals, p. 217).
See, for example, the First Report of the Standing Committee on Finance,
presented to the House on November 29, 2007 (Journals, pp. 234-5) and
concurred in on February 5, 2008 (Journals, pp. 389-90).
Speaker Parent pointed out in a 1994 ruling: “Regardless of how the media
or Members themselves may label such dissent, the House has never recognized or
permitted the tabling of minority reports. Speaker Lamoureux twice condemned
the idea of minority reports, explaining to the House that what is presented to
the House from a committee is a report from the committee, not a report from
the majority” (Debates, November 24, 1994, p. 8252).
Standing Order 108(1)(a). Prior to the addition of this provision to the
Standing Orders in 1991, only the committee report could be presented to the
House, and there was no provision for appending the opinions of those members
who differed from the majority (Journals, April 11, 1991,
pp. 2905‑32, in particular p. 2924). On occasion, the House did
give consent for dissenting opinions to be presented (see, for example, Journals,
June 16, 1993, p. 3318, Debates, p. 20921). Although
the current wording of the Standing Order restricts its application to standing
committees, Speaker Parent has ruled that, unless the House explicitly directs
otherwise, the practice of allowing it to apply to special committees as well
will be permitted to continue (Debates, November 24, 1994,
On November 16, 1994, Michel Gauthier (Roberval) raised a point of
order on the receivability of the report of the Special Joint Committee
Reviewing Canada’s Foreign Policy. The dissenting opinions to the report had
been printed in a separate volume, and therefore did not immediately follow the
Chair’s signature. The Member argued that, in the absence of a decision by the
Committee, there was no authority to print the report in that format. Speaker Parent
ruled that the report’s format did not contravene the spirit of the Standing
Order, but expressed the view that committees should, in future, “ensure by
means of explicit and carefully worded motions in keeping with the terms of
Standing Order 108(1)(a) that their members are perfectly clear as to
the format in which these reports will be presented to the House” (Debates,
November 16, 1994, pp. 7859‑62;
November 24, 1994, pp. 8252‑3).
Dissenting or supplementary opinions have been presented by government Members
and opposition Members alike. See, for example, the Fifth Report of the
Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, presented to
the House on April 2, 2008 (Journals, p. 630). Dissenting opinions
have also been presented by committee Chairs and parliamentary secretaries.
See, for example, the Seventh Report of the Standing Committee on Public
Accounts, presented to the House on April 2, 1998 (Journals, p. 664),
and the First Report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans,
presented to the House on March 23, 1998 (Journals, p. 608).
See, for example, the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, Minutes of
Proceedings, November 24, 2005, Meeting No. 50. When a committee concurs
in a report, the Chair may ask if any members wish to present a dissenting or
supplementary opinion. On occasion, the Members or parties that expressed an
interest are authorized to submit such opinions. In 2003, a Member raised a question of privilege in the House because the committee of which he was a
member had not allowed his supplementary opinion to be appended to a report.
The Chair ruled that this was not a prima facie question of privilege,
mentioning that committees are the masters of their own proceedings (Debates,
June 5, 2003, pp. 6906-7).
Committees have negatived motions to append dissenting opinions. See, for
example, Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Minutes of
Proceedings, November 25, 1997, Meeting No. 7.
Such opinions are traditionally much shorter than the reports to which they are
appended. There have, however, been cases where the opinions were longer than
the reports themselves. See, for example, the Fourth Report of the Standing
Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, presented to the House on June 22,
2006 (Journals, p. 345) and concurred in on June 6, 2007 (Journals,
See, for example, Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and
the Status of Persons with Disabilities, Minutes of Proceedings, March
13, 2008, Meeting No. 19.
Debates, April 16, 2002, pp. 10462-3.
Standing Order 108(1)(a).
See, for example, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International
Development, Minutes of Proceedings, November 13, 2007, Meeting No. 1.
Standing Order 108(1)(a). No distinction is made between standing
committees of the House and standing joint committees.
Senate Rule 95(2) and (4). In their first report to both Houses, the two
standing joint committees usually work around this by recommending that these
committees may sit when the Senate is sitting and adjourned. This permission is
granted when the Senate concurs in the report. See, for example, the First
Report of the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament, presented
to the Senate on December 4, 2007 (Journals of the Senate, p. 215) and
concurred in on December 6, 2007 (Journals of the Senate, p. 243).
Unlike the standing committees of the House of Commons, the majority of Senate
committees may not undertake a study of any kind without being specifically
mandated by the Senate to do so. In the case of standing joint committees, this
authorization to examine and enquire is given when the Senate approves the
first report of these committees, which usually pertains to their mandate. The
Senate occasionally adopts orders of reference concerning standing joint
committees to give them additional mandates, for instance, to examine estimates
set out in the votes. See, for example, Journals of the Senate, February
28, 2008, p. 607. Such orders are usually communicated by a message to the
House of Commons. See, for example, Journals, February 28, 2008, pp.
Senate Rule 90.
Senate Rule 96(4). Logically, these subcommittees may only receive powers that
are duly held by standing joint committees.
See the decision of the Speaker of the Senate, Journals of the Senate,
December 11, 2002, pp. 412-3; see, for example, the Second Report of the
Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, presented to the
Senate on June 21, 2006 (Journals of the Senate, p. 255).
Usually, only one bill is referred to a given legislative committee. On four
occasions, either two related bills were referred to a single legislative
committee at once, or a second related bill was referred to a legislative
committee already in existence (Journals, September 23, 1985,
p. 1015; May 26, 1986, p. 2208;
November 25, 1987, p. 1882; May 17, 1990,
See Speaker Lamoureux’s ruling regarding the reporting of bills, Journals,
December 20, 1973, pp. 774‑5.
A legislative committee has reported to the House seeking permission to travel;
however, the House did not take action on the report (Journals, February
3, 1988, p. 2130).
Standing Order 68(4) and (5).
Since an amendment to the Standing Orders in 1991, legislative committees are
restricted to calling only technical witnesses (Journals,
April 11, 1991, pp. 2904‑32, in particular p. 2927).
The Standing Orders do not define, however, what constitutes a technical
witness. The debates in the House at the time the Standing Orders were amended
provide some insight into the rationale for this amendment. At that time, the
Government House Leader stated, “When legislation passes at second reading in
this House, it has received approval in principle—the principle is approved.
The role of the [Legislative] Committee is not to debate again whether the
legislation is appropriate in principle, by touring the country and hearing
from groups about the principle, but rather to look at all the details” (Debates,
April 8, 1991, pp. 19137‑8). The Parliamentary Secretary
to the Government Leader also stated, in reference to legislative committees:
“Legislative committees will be legislative committees. They will not try to
act as standing committees. They will not try to be something they were not
designed to be. They will look at technical witnesses and they will meet with
them. Technical witnesses may include members of a department, people who work
for a department, lawyers who are familiar with the subject area, or interest
groups that have a technical response to a bill” (Debates, April 9,
1991, p. 19195). In 2005, the Chair of a legislative committee made a decision
on a point of order raised regarding the witnesses the committee may invite to
appear. Referring to decisions by the Speaker of the House that confirmed his
reluctance to interfere with the proceedings of a legislative committee (see,
for example, Debates, March 16, 1993, pp. 17072-3), the Chair
ruled that the committee may decide who qualifies as a technical witness able
to provide assistance in the consideration of a bill (Legislative Committee on
Bill C-38, Evidence, May 30, 2005, Meeting No. 7, p. 1).
Standing Order 113(5).
Standing Order 113(6). Legislative committees were not empowered to create
subcommittees when the Standing Orders concerning them were first adopted. The
power to create a subcommittee on agenda and procedure was added to the
Standing Orders in 1986 (Journals, February 6, 1986,
pp. 1644‑66, in particular p. 1659;
February 13, 1986, p. 1710).
See, for example, Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern
Development, Minutes of Proceedings, May 8, 2006, Meeting No. 3.
See, for example, Journals, November 28, 2002, p. 236.
See, for example, Journals, April 8, 2008, pp. 665-7.
See, for example, Journals, October 10, 1990, p. 2094.
Special committees mandated to examine bills do not always have the same powers
as legislative committees. For example, during the Second Session of the
Thirty-Seventh Parliament, the Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of
Drugs received all the powers conferred on standing committees (Journals,
October 7, 2003, pp. 1104-5) in preparation for its consideration of a
government bill (Journals, October 21, 2003, pp. 1140-1). This allowed
the Committee to present a substantive report before it presented its report on
the bill itself. See the Committee’s First and Second Reports, presented to the
House on November 6, 2003 (Journals, p. 1248).
See, for example, Journals, November 22, 1991, p. 717.
See, for example, Journals, October 1, 1997, pp. 59-61.
Standing Order 108(1)(a). For an example of partial delegation of
powers, see Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International
Development, Minutes of Proceedings, November 13, 2007, Meeting No. 1.
For an example of full delegation (excluding the power to report directly to
the House), see Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Minutes of
Proceedings, June 6, 2006, Meeting No. 7. The House has on occasion given a
subcommittee the power to report directly. See, for example, Journals,
April 19, 1993, p. 2796.
When special committees have the same powers as standing committees, they may
not delegate to their subcommittees their power to report directly to the
Standing Order 113(6).
Standing Order 108(1) and Senate Rule 96(4).
See, for example, Journals, November 18, 1997, pp. 224-6; Journals of
the Senate, October 28, 1997, pp. 123-5.
Such orders are often adopted by unanimous consent of the House following
negotiation among the parties. For standing committees, see, for example, Journals,
March 5, 2008, pp. 513-4. For legislative committees, see, for example, Journals,
February 10, 1988, p. 2166. For special committees, see, for example,
Journals, April 6, 1990, p. 1511; November 19, 2002, p.
For standing committees, see, for example, Journals, April 24, 1985, p. 506;
May 10, 1985, p. 602. For special committees, see, for example, Journals,
February 27, 2003, p. 482.
See, for example, Journals, February 25, 1994, p. 206; March 7, 1994, p.
214. Approval may only be required by one House if the other House has already
conferred the powers in question. See, for example, Journals of the Senate,
February 11, 1992, p. 507, where the Senate authorized television and radio
broadcasting of the proceedings of the Special Joint Committee on Conflicts of
Interest. The House of Commons, through Standing Order 119.1, had already
approved this television and radio broadcasting.
See, for example, Subcommittee on Public Safety and National Security of the
Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency
Preparedness, Minutes of Proceedings, February 22, 2005, Meeting No. 6;
Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency
Preparedness, Minutes of Proceedings, February 24, 2005,
Meeting No. 23.
See, for example, Journals, April 24, 1985, p. 506; May
10, 1985, p. 602; December 5, 1995, p. 2208; June 12,
2003, p. 915.