June 7, 1956 (22nd Parliament, 3rd Session)


Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)


Mr. Speaker:

It is a matter of privilege. Whether it is privilege or not, it is my responsibility to decide.
That was a decision, sir, you had made the night before, leaving only the question of finding an opportunity when you could speak regarding these statements which made references derogatory to yourself. So it goes down the page and there is no opportunity given. The bells ring, the decision is final, irrevocable, unarguable. There cannot be any debate. Mr. Speaker says:
The bells are ringing and the members are being called in.
The Leader of the Opposition says, "Mrt Speaker", and he is met by suggestions that he be quiet, and other interruptions. Finally the appeal that you suggested is submitted to the house. Sir, time and the calm retrospect of several days cannot erase from the hearts of those the feeling that this indeed was something beyond expectation. It never occurred before. It has no precedent in British history since 1640. It is one of those things that must be retraced, otherwise the pathways of expediency on June 1 will in the future become the highways along which those who desire to circumvent parliament will be able to do so. That is the great danger of dangerous precedent. Your Honour knows that is one of the great dangers of bad decisions in courts of law. This, however, is more than a decision affecting the rights of individuals. The decision you made on June 1, sir, is one that in the years ahead will constitute an opportunity for evil men to prevent parliament from protecting its right of free speech. It will make members in this house, on whichever side they sit, tenants at the will of the government of the day.
I am going to conclude, sir. There is always an anticlimax when events such as those of yesterday take place. I say again, if what took place on June 1 is to stand, the rights of free men in parliament will be at the whim of the Speaker and our Canadian system will become, and indeed the occupant of the Chair will become, the pliant creature of a dominant majority. Majorities are no better than minorities. But, sir, minorities have it not in their power ta

House of Commons
alter the rules to meet the demands of expediency for them. Majorities dare not be permitted to have written into the Journals of the House of Commons a precedent that, for all time to come, will stand as an accusing finger to the practice of the democratic and parliamentary way of life.
Members have a right to know that the rules of the house will be observed and not be dependent upon the caprice of the majority. They have the right to know that the rules will not be reversed by the demands of expediency. They have a right to ask that the decisions of today shall not be reversed tomorrow by the presiding officer, whatever the consequences may be to the majority in this house. We have the right to demand that in the future frustrated ministers will think of the consequences to Mr. Speaker if at any time by overt demand or subtle compulsion they place him in a position where he must depart from what, on the basis of his wide experience, he had determined was the right course to follow. Sir, if the rules under which parliament operates, if the decisions of today in a deliberative, orderly assembly, are to be reversed tomorrow by the presiding officer who made an earlier decision, then we shall have chaos. If the accumulated usages and precedents of the past can be set aside when they are detrimental to the government of the day, then parliament will be placed where respect and dignity will be supplanted by disrespect and disorder.
It may be that we will have to consider a reform in the manner of the choice of Mr. Speaker in order to give him that detachment which British precedent and British ancient usages have assured for the Speaker. It will be difficult under our system to bring about anything of a similar nature to a permanent appointment such as is made in Great Britain because of the fact that there must be recognition in our country of the dual contribution of those of French and British origin. But certainly we dare not let the situation go unchallenged whereby a Speaker at any time can be permitted to be placed in a position where power and authority, whether directly or indirectly applied, can bring about such an event as happened here the other day. There is no other way in which this matter can be brought before the house except through the motion that was moved by the Leader of the Opposition. Is the Prime Minister not in a position now to give that leadership which will remove those pages, as it were, from the records of parliament? Charles I tore out two pages of the Journals. Let us not in 1956 have written into these Journals the denial of the usages of the past and the return to supreme authoritarianism

of a majority uncontrolled. This motion is designed to assure that in the future parliament will never again find itself trammelled by the desires of a powerful cabinet, thereby placing Mr. Speaker in a position undeniably difficult and destructive of that authority and prestige which, however much it had been built up, has been seriously diminished as the result of what took place.
I speak from the heart when I say this. What happened on June 1, Mr. Speaker, caused a resentment, a feeling of frustration in the hearts of hon. members, to see the usages of 300 years thrown out of the way for a pipe line. To me, parliament and the maintenance of its supremacy, its authority, its dignity, are above the fortunes of a pipe line.

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