Evidence of meeting #27 for Canadian Heritage in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was protocol.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Nicole Bourget  Assistant Deputy Minister, Sport, Major Events and Regions, Department of Canadian Heritage
  • Joel Girouard  Acting Director, State Ceremonial and Protocol Directorate, Department of Canadian Heritage
  • Denis Racine  Executive Director, Major Events and Celebrations, Department of Canadian Heritage
  • Audrey O'Brien  Clerk of the House of Commons, House of Commons
  • Elizabeth Rody  Chief of Protocol and Director of Events, IIA, Parliament of Canada
  • Eric Janse  Clerk Assistant and Director General, International and Interparliamentary Affairs, Parliament of Canada

11:40 a.m.

Acting Director, State Ceremonial and Protocol Directorate, Department of Canadian Heritage

Joel Girouard

Actually, you said parliamentarians. No, there have not been. The only two who have not been Governor General, Prime Minister, or a sitting member of the ministry were Thomas D'Arcy McGee in 1868 and Jack Layton in 2011.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Terence Young Oakville, ON

That's very interesting.

I wanted to know if there was a budget. If someone has had a state funeral and for some reason their grave falls into disrepair, do you have any kind of budget to maintain those if you were called upon to do so?

11:40 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Sport, Major Events and Regions, Department of Canadian Heritage

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Terence Young Oakville, ON

There is no role after the fact.

11:40 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Sport, Major Events and Regions, Department of Canadian Heritage

Nicole Bourget

No. That would be up to the family. It varies where people are buried. Some have family plots. For others it depends upon the site they choose and that falls to the family afterwards. We are not responsible for the upkeep post-funeral.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you, Mr. Young.

Next we'll move to Mr. Cash.

Now we are in our five-minute rounds.

May 1st, 2012 / 11:40 a.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you for being here. This is a really interesting conversation we're having about important events and the symbolism that we present to Canadians as an expression of who we are as a country. I do really appreciate this. I think it's important here in this committee to acknowledge the professionalism of the department as it pertains to these and so many other things.

All Canadians saw an extremely elegant and professional state funeral for the late Jack Layton. It was organized in a very short period of time. I was there at Nathan Phillips Square for some of the proceedings that occurred just prior to the state funeral. I could see that on the ground these things require professionalism, a deep understanding of the traditions, and an awareness that things happen and that you need to be able to respond to those things.

You've been pretty clear about your take on whether this can be codified in a specific way. In fact, I understand that your sense is that at least as it pertains to your department, the framework is there. What's important here—and correct me if I'm wrong—is that the framework is strong and that it's built on a foundation of precedents. Maybe you can walk me through, from your department's perspective, because you're one of many departments that have protocol frameworks, and then there are, of course, the other levels of government that have protocol, and then there are various other civil society organizations that have protocol.

So if we were to attempt some kind of manual of protocol, how would we proceed with such an attempt?

11:40 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Sport, Major Events and Regions, Department of Canadian Heritage

Nicole Bourget

When you say manual, would that include all departments and apply to what's happening at the provincial and local levels?

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Well, if you just look at—

11:40 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Sport, Major Events and Regions, Department of Canadian Heritage

Nicole Bourget

I'm trying to establish some parameters.

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

The study here is a protocol framework. It's a study on national protocol procedures, so that's pretty vague. It's pretty big.

11:40 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Sport, Major Events and Regions, Department of Canadian Heritage

Nicole Bourget

It is.

How would we proceed? As I say, we have the framework. We have the templates. It would be labour-intensive to put all this information together and try to distill what is useful for public consumption. We would need to give some thought to presentation and packaging, in the sense that if you're seeking something that is relevant for citizens as a guide, the optic for that is different from what it is for the professional who has to do the job.

We would need to determine the audience, the scope, the format, how we would make it accessible, and some really clear objectives of what we're trying to achieve with this. Those impact the audience. As I say, something that is for citizens to understand, or to know how to do a local event, is very different from something for a professional putting on a state funeral.

My staff would probably say that they work 18 hours a day or around the clock when there is a state funeral. Trying to collate anything would probably kill them off in very quick order. But in trying to bring this all together, I think we would want to make sure it was relevant and that it not only clearly stated what the precedence and traditions were but that it was also flexible.

To answer cold—I would like to think this through—in my view, these are the kinds of questions we would need to think through before considering.

Denis?

11:45 a.m.

Executive Director, Major Events and Celebrations, Department of Canadian Heritage

Denis Racine

I was just going to say that the definition of national protocol is quite a challenge. What do we consider to be national? Aboriginal traditions, for example, that we have to take into account at some events would need to be factored in. We have some provincial traditions as well that are very important in some regions of the country. They, too, would have to be treated at the same level as this national protocol exercise that we do.

It's fairly complex. At the federal level we have to play with quite a number of players. There's the military protocol. There's the state protocol. We have to work with both of them. Again, I think we'd need to think it through and see what could be included in such an exercise. Again, it would be fairly complex.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you, Mr. Cash.

Mr. Calandra.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

I know it's a tough discussion, but I want to go back to how you stop Canadian traditions from being watered down. Specifically, and I don't want to get too much into it, but in my riding, a police officer was killed in action and a U.S.-type of service was followed because they could not get information on protocol. The flag was folded in a U.S. fashion. All the procedures for that were done following a U.S. service. They could not get the materials they needed. York Region is very large. It has one million people. The police force is very large. York Region is very close to Toronto. To hear that they were unable to get what they needed in time to do this service and had to follow another country's traditions, I find to be very disturbing. How do we stop that from happening?