Summary of My Panel at the Constitution at 150 Conference

As far as I could tell, the whole in the ground in the foreground of this photo is the site of the old legislature that the Orangemen burned down in 1849.

An example of the wonderful architecture in Montreal. This cathedral reminds me of that in Florence.

I thank Professor Matthew Harrington for having invited me to present at this Constitution at 150 Conference, and for having organized such an interesting series of talks from 16 to 18 May. In this entry, I provide an account of the first panel of the conference, in which I presented on Canada’s Legal-Constitutional Continuity, 1791-1867, and in which Professor Ryan Alford of Lakehead University presented on the true meaning Responsible Government in the preamble of the British North America Act, 1867.

You can download a copy of my PowerPoint presentation here: Canada’s Legal-Constitutional Continuity, 1791-1867. I have also written a manuscript on this topic and will try to find it a publisher.

My Presentation

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“Thou Dost in Us Command”: Senate Considers Restoring Original Lyrics of O Canada

The upcoming issue of The Dorchester Review will include my article “O Canada and the Two Solitudes,” in which I review the history of the parliamentary debates on altering the lyrics to the English anthem, from 2002 to early 2017.

So I must write about this latest development here on Parliamentum because the issue will soon go to press and should be mailed out in a few weeks.

On 18 May 2017, Senator Donald Neil Plett moved an amendment at Third Reading to Bill C-210, An Act to Amend the National Anthem Act (Gender) which would still conform to the principle of the bill of removing any lyrics from the English O Canada that refer to the male sex. Instead of replacing “True patriot love in all thy sons command” with “True patriot love in all of us command,” Senator Plett’s amendment would restore Robert Stanley Weir’s original lyrics from 1908: “True patriot love thou dost in us command.” Those original lyrics also “gender-neutral” since they use the second person singular subject pronoun “thou” (equivalent to “you”).

Hon. Donald Neil Plett: Therefore, honourable senators, I move:

That Bill C-210 be not now read a third time, but that it be amended in the schedule, on page 2, by replacing the words “in all of” with the words “thou dost in”.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: It is moved by Senator Plett, seconded by Senator Wells that Bill C-210 be not now read a third time but that it be amended in the schedule, on page 2, by replacing the words “in all of” with the words “thou dost in.”

Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion in amendment?

Hon. Elaine McCoy: I would like to study this amendment at greater length, in the event that there may be a point of order. In any event, I would like to take the adjournment today.

(On motion of Senator McCoy, debate adjourned.)

The Rules of the Senate allow for amendments at Third Reading. So it is unclear what Senator McCoy’s point of order would be, especially given that Plett’s amendment conforms to and complements the principle of the bill that the Senate accepted at Second Reading.

If the Senate approves this amendment, then the bill would be sent back to the House of Commons for consideration. At this rate, Parliament will not enact any alterations to the lyrics of O Canada for 1 July 2017. 

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My Piece on “Dissolution by Efflux of Time” Is Published in the Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law

I’m very pleased to announce that my article “When the Bell Tolls for Parliament: Dissolution by Efflux of Time” has come out in the latest issue of the Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law.

Incidentally, the germ of this manuscript started out as an answer to a question that one of my readers asked me last year on something pertaining to fixed-date election laws, so I’m also grateful for the contributions that you make here on Parliamentum.

Also, by a curious coincidence, an article by Professor Ryan Alford of Lakehead University appears in this same issue — and he and I will be co-presenters on the first panel for the Constitution at 150 Conference, which will start next Tuesday in Montreal. (He also cited the article that Nick MacDonald and I wrote for the JPPL in 2012, which adds another wonderful layer of coincidence to it all!)

I encourage you to subscribe to the Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law or check it out in your university library.

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Senator Meredith Must Trigger Section 30 in Order to Resign

Senator Meredith has announced his intent to resign his place in the Senate rather than go down in history as the first Senator to be expelled, rather than disqualified, from the upper chamber — rather like how Richard Nixon resigned the presidency before being impeached and removed from office. The political scientist in me was hoping that the Senate would expel Meredith because it would be “interesting.”

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The Senate Acknowledges That It Could Expel Meredith

Will the Senate Now Exercise Its Authority?

The Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflicts of Interest for Senators issued its report on the investigation into Senator Meredith on 2 May 2017.[1] Essentially, the report argues that the Senate possesses the collective parliamentary privilege to expel its members, and it recommends that the Senate should expel Senator Meredith. The report having been adopted, the Senate as a whole will soon vote on whether to follow through on the recommendation and expel Meredith.

The Senate also released a legal opinion by Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel Michel Patrice, dated 27 March 2017, which corroborates — virtually identically — the argument that I outlined in “Collective Parliamentary Privilege Includes the Expulsion of Members of Parliament,” from 14 March 2017.

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Posted in Parliamentary Privilege | 2 Comments