My partner in parliamentarism Nick MacDonald has taught me much on parliamentary privilege, and I’m sure that in time, he will become one of the foremost experts on the subject in Canada and the Commonwealth! In his forthcoming article “Parliamentarians and National Security in Canada” (Canadian Parliamentary Review, Fall 2011), he thoroughly documents how the Westminster parliaments of the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand deal with the relationship between Members of Parliament (i.e, those outside of the cabinet) and issues of national security, in contrast to the American method. Ultimately, this relationship strikes at the heart of parliamentary sovereignty and parliamentary privilege in the Westminster system.
In the course of his research, he stumbled upon a publication available on the website of the Australian House of Representatives called “Patterns of change – parliamentary privilege” (2007) by Mr. Bernard Wright. It compares Australia’s system to those of other countries, but mistakenly concludes that in Canada, parliamentary privilege is now subject to the Charter, so Nick informed the Australian House of Representatives of this error. In fact, as he informed them, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in the Vaid case that “parliamentary privilege enjoys the same weight and status as the Charter itself.”
The Australian House of Representatives would be wise to revise that report upon his advice. I encourage all of you to read his article upon the release of the fall issue of the Canadian Parliamentary Review!
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