Twin brothers Archibald Donald Lang and Hector Daniel Lang, known as Archie and Dan, were well-known fixtures of Yukon territorial politics for decades. And, when Dan made the switch to federal politics upon his appointment to the Senate in 2009, he was not the first member of his family to serve in the Upper Chamber. In fact, he wasn’t even the first member of his family who bore the name Daniel Lang to serve as a senator. The twins, their grandfather, their great uncle, and their first cousin once removed, were part of a family with a long history of public service. As Dan notes, “Public affairs was always the first topic discussed at the dinner table.”Continue reading “Parliamentary Relatives: The Langs of Yukon, Alberta and Ontario”
Many Canadians have never seen their federal, provincial or territorial parliaments in person. As a result, when asked to picture what goes on in these buildings, the image that may come to mind is most likely what they may have seen on television or the Internet: a fiery Question Period exchange, a recorded vote on contentious legislation, or perhaps scenes from a budget address or Speech from the Throne.Continue reading “A Focus on Parliamentary Administration”
Will Stos is Editor of the Canadian Parliamentary Review.
On October 1, 2019, a general election in the Northwest Territories ushered in a profound change to the make-up of its Legislative Assembly. Prior to the election, just two of the territory’s 18 MLAs were women. After a determined campaign to encourage more women to become involved in territorial politics, nine women were elected along with 10 men in the newly reconfigured 19-member assembly. NWT had gone from having the lowest proportion of women parliamentarians in an assembly to the highest and virtually achieving gender parity. A 2021 by-election has brought women MLAs to a majority position in the assembly. In this article, the author recounts the events leading up to this historic moment.
The Northwest Territories has been called a trailblazer in terms of diversity and representation. Since responsible government returned in 1983, a majority of its MLAs and premiers have been Indigenous. Nellie Cournoyea became the Canada’s first Indigenous woman premier and only the second woman premier in the country in 1991.
One Building, Shared Jurisdiction: Prince Edward Island’s Province House
Will Stos is the Editor of the Canadian Parliamentary Review.
New Saskatchewan Speaker
On November 30, 2020, Randy Weekes was elected Speaker of the Saskatchewan Legislature. The Saskatchewan Party MLA defeated five other challengers, including incumbent Speaker Mark Docherty, Greg Ottenbreit, Hugh Nerlien, Nadine Wilson and Lisa Lambert.
COVID-19 protocols meant the election had a very different look and feel than previous elections. Legislative officers sanitized the wooden ballot box after each round of voting and when Speaker Weekes addressed his colleagues after his victory he faced a rearranged Chamber. Only about half of the Assembly’s MLAs were present and they sat in spaced out desks behind plexiglass shields.
Did anyone have worldwide pandemic on their 2020 Bingo card? Yet here we are, months into an event that has profoundly affected our personal and professional lives.
Many non-essential workers were sent home to help limit the spread of COVID-19 – some were laid off completely while others transitioned into working from home. Schools were shut down and many students experienced what has probably been the longest March Break ever. And our institutions, including our parliaments, adapted to a world where public health requirements for physical distancing changed everything from seating arrangements in chambers to videoconferencing proceedings to opposition members being sworn in to cabinet committees.
The Canadian Study of Parliament Group’s annual conference explored the important, intricate and evolving relationship between Parliament and the Courts. Increasingly, Courts turn to the parliamentary record to inform
their decisions, while parliamentarians cite judicial pronouncements as the reason for action or inaction. Four panels were organized to examine when and how Parliament seeks to inform the Courts, how the Courts understand
Parliament, the role each institution plays within Canada’s constitutional architecture, and the many facets of this relationship – from reference powers to the notwithstanding clause.
In their legislative role, parliamentarians propose and amend laws, and review regulations. This seminar discussed the practical realities of law-making within the parliamentary context and provided an overview of shifts in Parliament’s legislative practices as a result of developments that have seen, among other things, an increase in Senate-initiated legislation and amendments, and the increased consideration of messages in the House of Commons. Whether parliamentarians are experienced
lawyers or persons with no legal background, they all participate in the legislative process; this seminar aimed to analyze how they go about that task and what it means for our democracy.
Indigenous persons have served as representatives in Canada’s federal and provincial parliaments for almost as long as the country has been in existence. However, the legacy of colonialism combined with franchise restrictions imposed on Status Indians (and women), has contributed to severely limiting the numbers of individuals who have served as parliamentarians. Following the 2015 federal election, national news media lauded results which indicated that a record number of Indigenous candidates (54) resulted in a record 10 persons of Indigenous heritage becoming MPs. Yet, this still represented only three per cent of the House of Commons seats – a little more than half of their census representation. Moreover, there is no guarantee that these gains will be sustained from one parliament to the next. Representation in the Senate and amongst the provinces varies widely (see our Infographic on pages 32-33).
In this issue, we focus on Indigenous Parliamentarians and Indigenous representation within parliaments. Inside you’ll find profiles of some Indigenous parliamentarians, including the McLeod brothers of the Northwest Territories (inside cover) and Yukon’s Sam Johnston (page 64), articles by or roundtable discussions featuring Indigenous parliamentarians, a feature on efforts to expand Indigenous art within a Parliament, and an expansive review of how Indigenous political cultural traditions can coexist and inform the Westminster parliamentary system. A single edition cannot hope to capture the diversity of Indigenous experiences or scratch but the surface of important topics or issues. Rather, we hope to use this theme issue as a springboard for additional coverage. Other articles and features which were planned for this issue, but unfortunately not ready in time for publication, will be part of this ongoing presence. We encourage suggestions for future articles or submissions.
A selection of recent publications relating to parliamentary studies prepared with the assistance of the Library of Parliament (December 2018-March 2019)
Bell, Lauren C. “Obstruction in parliaments: a cross-national perspective.” The Journal of Legislative Studies 24 (4), December 2018: 499-525.