Tagged: law

Better know a Canadian functionary: the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel

One of the tricky things about Parliament is that it spends all its time making and changing laws, but there are plenty of people involved in that process have zero legal training. For this reason, on the staff of both the House of Commons and the Senate, there is an official known as the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, who reports to the Clerk of their respective chambers. As the name suggests, they have a dual duty: as Law Clerk, they are in charge of making sure that new bills don’t make a pig’s breakfast of the existing law; and as Parliamentary Counsel, its his job to intervene in any court case involving an MP or Senator to make sure the privileges and immunities afforded to a member of the House or Senate aren’t violated.

The position of Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel to the House of Commons was established in 1867. Between 1922 and 1951, the title of Parliamentary Counsel was abolished and the position of Law Clerk of the House of Commons was held jointly by two people. The Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel was abolished again in 1991, with the workload split between a Legal Services Office reporting to the Clerk of the House and a Legislative Counsel Office reporting to the Deputy Clerk of the House. That decision was reversed in 1999 and things were put back the way they were before.

The Law Clerks and Parliamentary Counsels to the House of Commons of Canada have been:

Gustavus William Wicksteed, 1867-87.
William Wilson, 1887-89.
Frederick Augustus McCord, 1889-1908.
Arthur Henry O’Brien, 1908-13.
Francis Hernaman Gisborne, 1913-22.

(two Law Clerks appointed)

Joseph K. Foran, 1922-24.
Arthur Gordon Troop, 1922-36.
Paul Maurice Ollivier, 1924-51.
Arthur Angus Fraser, 1937-51.

(Return to a single Law Clerk)

Paul Maurice Ollivier (continued), 1951-71.
J.P. Joseph Maingot, 1971-82.
Marcel R. Pelletier, 1983-90.

(Position abolished 1991-1999)

Robert R. Walsh, 1999-2013.
Richard Fujarczuk, 2013-14.
Richard Denis (acting), 2014-15.
Philippe Dufresne, 2015-now.

Unlike the House, the position of Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel to the Senate has remained unmodified since Confederation.

The Law Clerks and Parliamentary Counsels to the Senate of Canada have been:

Edward Louis Montizambert, 1867-82.
J.G. Aylwin Creighton, 1882-1930.
William F. O’Connor, 1935-42.
John Forbes MacNeill, 1942-55.
Edward Russell Hopkins, 1956-76.
Raymond L. du Plessis, 1976-96.
Mark Audcent, 1996-2014.
Michel Patrice, 2014-now.