Tagged: senate

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.


Opinions of an oblivious egghead, part 1: Senate reform

I lately decided to start preserving my opinions on the Internet, so that they shall exist long after my chronic unemployment and barely-contained mental problems leave shouting them into the padded walls of my cell.

In our first installment we’ll take a look at reform of the Canadian senate. I did this in the form of an amateur draft of a constitutional amendment. I don’t know how many other people share my ideas, but that’s not what I’m going for here.

My ideas come from a few basic premises:

A) There is no way any province would agree to changes unless they felt they were getting a net gain in powers, or enough of the other provinces are put at a disadvantage, or both;

B) Any amendment should be left open enough so that Parliament can fiddle around without having to open the Constitution again;

C) The Senate of Canada should use the secret strengths of its two forebears: the ability of the House of Lords to fold eggheads and know-it-alls into the legislative process; and the US Senate (in its original incarnation) as a place for mouthpieces of the state legislatures to put in their two cents within the federal framework.

So here it goes:


1. The senate divisions of Quebec as specified in section 22 of the  Constitution Act of 1867 shall be abolished and section 23(6) of the Constitution Act of 1867 shall be repealed.

2. Section 22 of the Constitution Act of 1867 shall be amended to the following:

                (1) Every province shall be entitled to be represented by four senators.

                (2) In relation to the Constitution of the Senate Canada shall be deemed to consist of Five Divisions:

       1. British Columbia and Alberta;

       2. Saskatchewan and Manitoba;

       3. Ontario and Quebec;

       4. New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island;

       5. Nova Scotia and Newfoundland & Labrador.

       (3) Each territory shall be entitled to be represented by one senator.


3. Two of each province’s senators shall be selected by the Governor-General on the advice of the Government, unless directed otherwise by act of Parliament.

4. Two of each province’s senators shall be selected by the Lieutenant-Governor of that province as directed by an act of its assembly.

5. Until such time as an act can be passed by the assembly of any province for the method of selection of its senators the method shall default to a simple majority of the assembly.

6. Each territory’s senator shall be selected by the Governor-General on the advice of the Government, unless directed otherwise by act of Parliament.

7. In addition to those senators representing provinces the Governor-General on the advice of the Government, unless directed otherwise by act of Parliament, and the approval of a simple majority of the assemblies of any two provinces, may appoint no more than twenty members to the Senate. These senators shall be exempted from sections 23(3) to 23(5) of  the Constitution Act of 1867, and their terms limited to ten years; but may be reappointed without limit within the limitations established under sections 29 through 31 of  the Constitution Act of 1867.

8. The powers of the Government to appoint senators in certain cases as established in section 26 of the Constitution Act of 1867 shall not be affected by this act, excepting that the number of senators appointed shall be five or ten, representing equally the five divisions of Canada.



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