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.
In 1936, the Department of Public Works hired on a full-time Dominion Sculptor to finish the enormous task of covering nearly every surface of the Parliament buildings with intricate designs of cultural, historical or scientific relevance to Canada. Work stopped during World War II, but restarted in 1947 and continues to this day.
In 1993, the name of the position was officially changed to Federal Government Sculptor, but the old title of Dominion Sculptor is still in widespread use, even in official federal communications. At various times, the post has had a number of other names in governmental publications, including “Dominion Stone Carver” and “Parliamentary Sculptor”.
The Dominion Sculptors of Canada have been:
Cléophas Soucy, 1936-49.
William Frederick Karel Oosterhoff, 1949-62.
Rose Eleanor Milne CM, 1962-93.
Maurice Joanisse, 1993-2006.
Phil R. White, 2006-now.
In 1916 the Parliament of Canada burned down. When they rebuilt it they added the Peace Tower (officially the Tower of Victory and Peace), a giant clock tower dedicated to Canada’s war dead. Its exterior was done by 1922, but the interior took more time, and was inaugurated on the 60th anniversary of Confederation on 1 July 1927. The new tower was equipped with a carillon, which is an array of bells (53 of them in the Peace Tower) connected to a sort of keyboard-like thing to play them with. Parliament then hired a person to play concerts on the bells, a position named the Dominion Carillonneur.
The Dominion Carillonneur is the sole position in the Canadian government which still contains the name “Dominion”, and has no other name. (The one other office with “Dominion”, the Dominion Hydrographer, is often referred to by its alternate title, the Director of the Canadian Hydrographic Service.)
The Dominion Carillonneurs have been:
Frank Percival Price (1901-85), 1927-39. Born in Toronto, Price studied music in Austria, Switzerland and Belgium, then became the first professional carillonneur outside Europe in 1921 when he was hired to play the bells of the massive neo-gothic Metropolitan Wesleyan Methodist Church (now the Metropolitan United Church) in the Garden District of Toronto. Being the only professional carillonneur in the country, and indeed in the New World, he was a natural candidate as the inaugural Dominion Carillonneur. In the time he served, he composed a number of works for carillon and some without, the most notable being his Saint Lawrence Symphony of 1934. He quit as Dominion Carillonneur in 1939 and spent the next 33 years as a professor of music at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
Robert Donnell (1910-86), 1939-75. Born in Toronto, Donnell studied music at the Toronto Conservatory of Music, and learned the carillon in Guelph, at the University of Toronto, as an assistant to Percival Price in the Peace Tower, and in Belgium. Donnell succeeded Price as Dominion Carillonneur in 1939 and stayed until 1975, when he went on to play the Rainbow Tower Carillon in Niagara Falls. Donnell also composed the music to “This Canada of Ours”, a patriotic song with moderate popularity in the mid-20th century.
Émilien Allard (1915-77), 1975-77. Allard was born in Montreal and grew up in Grand-Mère, QC, where he learned his first instrument, the clarinet. He studied music at Université Laval and the Conservatoire National de Musique in Montreal, served in the air force in WWII (where he played clarinet in the RCAF Band) and then studied the carillon in Belgium, with additional musical training at the Conservatoire de Paris. He served as the carillonneur of St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal from 1955 to 1975, leaving to take the post of Dominion Carillonneur, which he held until he died two years later.
Gordon Frederick Slater (1950-now), 1977-2008. Born in Toronto, Slater studied piano and double bassoon at U of T and the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto. He learned the carillon from his father, James B. Slater, the carillonneur of the Metropolitan United Church in Toronto. Gordon Slater apprenticed to a number of carillonneurs, including Robert Donnell in the Peace Tower, and spent much of the 1970s building and repairing pipe organs at a factory in Toronto.
Dr. Andrea McCrady MD (1953-now), 2008-now. Dr. McCrady was born in Pittsburgh and travelled to Holland, Belgium and France to learn the carillon while studying at Trinity College in Hartford, CT. She then earned a medical degree from McGill (where she played the bells of St. Joseph’s Oratory part-time) and completed her medical residency in Toronto (where she played at the CNE) before setting up a family practice in Spokane, WA, for 18 years. She retired from medicine in 2006 and earned a BA in music from the University of Denver and was soon after hired as Dominion Carillonneur. Dr. McCrady also sings in the National Arts Centre Festival Chorus.
If you’ve been paying attention to the news in Canada, you’d know that not too long ago, the federal NDP was told off for misallocating some funds by the “Board of Internal Economy”. Who are they? They sound scary! But they aren’t.
The Board of Internal Economy was created by Act of Parliament in 1868, and it governs the administrative regulation and fiduciary governance of the House of Commons. Unlike every other committee of Parliament, the Board continues to sit when Parliament is prorogued or dissolved.
The Speaker of the House of Commons is the chair of the Board, and the Clerk of the House is its secretary. Its membership is laid out by the Parliament of Canada Act.
There must be two Privy Councillors, which are usually the Chief Government Whip and the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. The Leader of the Opposition is entitled to sit on the Board, but that seat is usually delegated to the Opposition House Leader. There is then one member given to each “recognized” opposition party (meaning parties with more than 12 members), which usually goes to the party whip. (If there was only one opposition party, it would get two members.) The government caucus then receives one member fewer than the total number of opposition members. Since there are currently two opposition parties, there is one sitting government caucus representative, who is currently Conservative MP Rob Merrifield, who represents Yellowhead, Alberta.
The Library of Parliament was founded by Act of Parliament in 1871 as an amalgamation of the provincial colonial libraries. It was reorganized in 1885 to have two co-Librarians of Parliament: the Parliamentary Librarian, who was in charge of parliamentary archives and legal and civil research facilities, and was always English; and the General Librarian, who was in charge of the Library’s non-governmental and historical collections, and was always French. The post of General Librarian was abolished in 1955, after the National Library of Canada was founded in 1953. Its duties were transferred to the National Librarian, who held them until the merger of the National Library with the National Archives in 2004.
The Parliamentary Librarians of Canada have been:
Alpheus Todd, 1871-84. Todd was grandfathered into the job, serving as Provincial Librarian of Canada since 1854.
Sir Martin Joseph Griffin GCMG, 1885-1920. Griffin, a trained lawyer, was editor of the Halifax Express (1868-74), the Halifax Herald (1874-78) and the Toronto Mail (1881-1885).
Hon. Martin Burrell PC, 1920-38. Burrell was the Conservative MP for Yale, BC, from 1908 to 1920 and served as Agriculture minister under Sir Robert Borden. He was badly injured in the Fire of Parliament of 1917.
Félix Desrochers, 1938-44. Desrochers, the General Librarian, filled the role on an interim basis for most of the Second World War.
Francis Aubrey Hardy, 1944-59. Hardy, a graduate of Dalhousie, was a lifelong employee of the Library, hired after serving in the Cyclist Corps in World War I.
Erik John Spicer, 1960-94. Spicer, the first Librarian with a degree in library sciences, was deputy chief of the Ottawa Public Library at the time of his hiring.
Richard Paré, 1994-2005. The first French Parliamentary Librarian, Paré had been head of Quebec’s documentation service before being appointed Associate Librarian in 1980.
William Robert Young, 2005-11. At the time of his appointment, Young had been an analyst at the Library for 18 years.
Sonia L’Heureux, 2012-now. L’Heureux is a career civil servant, working in a number of departments culminating with four years as the head of the Library’s Research and Information Services branch.
The General Librarians of Canada were:
Sir Alfred Duclos DeCelles GCMG, 1885-1920. A lawyer and journalist, DeCelles also wrote a history of the United States and biographies of Papineau, LaFontaine and Laurier. His son, Alfred DeCelles, was a linguist who studied the relationship between French spoken in Quebec and French spoken in the Channel Islands.
Joseph de la Broquerie Taché, 1920-32. A notary and editor, Taché was the publisher of the Courrier de Saint-Hyacinthe from 1902 to 1914, and the King’s Printer for Canada from 1914 to 1920. His son, Louis-Joseph-Alexandre-Hyacinthe Taché, was the MNA for Hull and Speaker of the National Assembly from 1945 to 1955.
Félix Desrochers, 1933-56. Desrochers, an assistant librarian at the Civic Library of Montreal, spent 25 years as a political organizer for the Conservative Party, and got the General Librarian job by lobbying R.B. Bennett. He served as acting Parliamentary Librarian from 1938 to 1944.
The National Librarians of Canada were:
William Kaye Lamb OC, 1953–1968. Lamb held the job concurrently with that of the Dominion Archivist, in which he had served since 1948.
Jean-Guy Sylvestre OC, 1968–1983. Guy Sylvestre was a well-known poet, intellectual and literary critic and worked as a translator for the Senate and the Wartime Information board during World War II, then served as private secretary to Louis Saint-Laurent. He oversaw the Library’s move to its Modernist headquarters next to the Supreme Court forecourt in Wellington Street, Ottawa, and an influx in Canadiana acquired by the Library.
Marianne Florence Scott, 1984–1999. A graduate in library sciences from McGill University, Scott was Director of Libraries at McGill before joining the National Library. She was also founding president of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries in 1963 and President of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (1978-79) and the Canadian Library Association (1981-82).
Roch Carrier OC, 1999–2004. A famous playwright and short-story writer, the first line of Carrier’s “The Hockey Sweater” (“The winters of my childhood were long, long seasons. We lived in three places – the school, the church and the hockey rink – but our real life was on the hockey rink”) was on the back of the five-dollar bill from 2002 to 2013. His 1992 collection of short stories, Prayers of a Very Wise Child, won the 1992 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. Carrier was also head of the Canada Council for the Arts from 1994 to 1997 and has two elementary schools named after him in Ontario.
Hurray! My 50th post!
The Clerk of the Senate has a job much like that of the Clerk of the House: he’s head of administration and an expert on procedure. But the Clerk of the Senate receives a second, more important title: that of the Clerk of the Parliaments. The Clerk of the Parliaments is the custodian of all acts of Parliament and is responsible for the final, definitive wording of every act to receive Royal Assent.
The Clerks of the Senate and Parliaments of Canada have been:
John Fennings Taylor, the Elder, 1867-71. Taylor had been holding various offices in Upper Canada since 1822, culminating with an appointment as Clerk of Canada East in 1865. His nephew, John Fennings Taylor the Younger, wrote several books and served under Taylor the Elder and LeMoine as assistant clerk.
Robert LeMoine, 1871-83. LeMoine had been an assistant clerk under Taylor the Elder.
Edouard-Joseph Langevin, 1883-1900. Langevin was the brother of Sir Hector-Louis Langevin, one of the Fathers of Confederation.
Samuel-Edmour St.-Onge Chapleau, 1900-17. Chapleau went to America during the US Civil War and earned the rank of Major, fighting under Gen. Sherman at the Battle of Jonesboro. He later filed a number of patents, including ones for a self-locking lock in 1894 and a refrigerator in 1903.
Austen Ernest Blount, CMG, 1917-38. Blount served as private secretary to Sir Charles Tupper from 1896 to 1901 and to Sir Robert Borden from 1901 to 1917.
Leslie Clare Moyer, DSO, 1938-55. Moyer was private secretary to W.L. Mackenzie King from 1922 to 1927.
John Forbes MacNeill, 1955-68. MacNeill had previously been law clerk and parliamentary counsel to the Senate.
Robert Fortier, 1968-81. Fortier served as secretary to the Department of Public Works and as private secretary to the chair of the United Nations Economic and Social Council.
Charles A. Lussier, 1981-89. Lussier had also been Delegate-General of Quebec in Paris, Public Service Commissioner and Director of the Canada Council for the Arts.
Gordon L. Barnhart, 1989-94. Barnhart was made Clerk of the Legislature of Saskatchewan at the age of 23. He later served as Lieutenant-Governor of Saskatchewan from 2006 to 2012.
Paul C. Bélisle, 1994-2009. Bélisle spent his entire professional career with the Senate, beginning as a page while in college.
Gary William O’Brien, 2009-2015. O’Brien was Deputy Clerk from 1999 to 2006.
Charles Robert (acting), 2015-now.
If you’ve ever seen footage of a session of the House of Commons, you’ll have noticed a table in the middle of the room with people writing things down. Those are the clerks, and at the head of the table is the Clerk of the House of Commons, who wears a black frock coat and a wing collar with barristers’ tabs like the Speaker’s. The Clerk is the head expert on procedure for the House of Commons, and is responsible for recording everything that happens during the session. (If you watch a vote in the House, you’ll hear somebody calling out each MP’s name as they stand up. That’s the Clerk doing that.) The Clerk is also in charge of the House’s administration, and in the event of a vacancy the Clerk becomes the acting Sergeant-at-Arms for the House.
The Clerks of the House of Commons have been:
1867-72: William Burns Lindsay, Jr. Lindsay had been the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly of the United Province of Canada since 1862, succeeding his father, William Burns Lindsay Sr., Clerk of the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada, and then Clerk of the Legislative Assembly of the United Province of Canada, continuously from 1834 to 1862. He had succeeded his father, William Lindsay Jr., who was Clerk of the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada from 1809 to 1834.
1873-80: Alfred P. Patrick. He was previously Assistant Clerk under Lindsay.
1880-1902: Sir John George Bourinot, the Younger, KCMG. Burinot the Elder, his father, was one of Canada’s first senators. Bourinot the Younger was a founding member of the Royal Society of Canada, and wrote a textbook of parliamentary procedure in Canada, Bourinot’s Rules of Order.
1902-18: Thomas Barnard Flint. Flint was the MP for Yarmouth, NS, from 1878 to 1902.
1918-24: William Barton Northrup. Northrup was MP for Hastings East, ON, from 1892 to 1896 and from 1900 to 1917.
1924-49: Arthur Beauchesne, CMG. Beauchesne had been Deputy Clerk since 1916. He also wrote Beauchesne’s Parliamentary Rules and Forms, which eventually supplanted Bourinot’s Rules of Order as the standard for parliamentary procedure in Canada.
1949-67: Léon-Joseph Raymond. Raymond was the MP for Wright County, QC, from 1945 to 1949.
1967-79: Alistair Fraser, Jr. Alistair Sr. was an aide-de-camp to Gen. Currie at Vimy Ridge, vice-president of traffic for Canadian National Railways, and Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia. Alistair Jr. was executive assistant to Jack Pickersgill, the Minister of Transport, before being appointed Clerk.
1980-87: Dr. Charles Beverley “Bev” Koester, OC. Koester served in the Navy in WWII and was a veteran of the liberation of Oslo and Copenhagen in 1945. He clerked for the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan and served to short spells as senior clerk of the British House of Commons in 1967 and 1969 before becoming a Clerk Assistant of the house of Commons in 1975.
1987-2000: Robert Marleau. Marleau co-wrote The House of Commons Procedure and Practice with his senior advisor, Camille Montpetit, in an effort to update Beauchesne’s Rules. He later served as Information Commissioner from 2006 to 2009.
2000-05: William C. Corbett. Corbett was a Clerk Assistant of the House from 1997 to 1999.
2005-present: Audrey Elizabeth O’Brien. O’Brien, the first woman Clerk, had been Deputy Clerk under Corbett, and was interim Sergeant-at-Arms in 2005 after the death of Maj.-Gen. C.G. Cloutier.