Senator Raoul Dandurand: Champion of an Independent Senate

Senator Raoul Dandurand: Champion of an Independent Senate

As the number of independent, non-partisan senators has grown, Canadian parliamentary observers have been increasingly mentioning the name Raoul Dandurand in conversations. The author of this article suggests the legacy of Senator Dandurand, who long ago advocated for an independent Senate that was more of a dispassionate reviewing body than a replica of the partisan House of Commons, is particularly relevant to the Senate’s contemporary discussions and debates on its procedures and practices.

After Mackenzie King’s Liberals formed government following the 1921 election, the new Government Leader in the Senate was wary of changing his seat in the chamber. To Raoul Dandurand, the electoral reconfiguration of the House of Commons and the formation of a new government had little bearing on the work of the Senate. “I disliked the idea of crossing the floor,” he said in his first speech as Government Leader. “What did that action purport? Its meaning was there were in this Chamber victors and vanquished.”1 This made little sense for a legislative chamber that he understood to be more of a dispassionate reviewing body than a replication of the partisan politics of the House of Commons.