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

12:15 p.m.

Chief of Protocol and Director of Events, IIA, Parliament of Canada

Elizabeth Rody

This was a joint effort. Of course this was a desire of the government to have this ceremony, so different groups came together—National Defence, the Privy Council, the working group of parliamentary protocol, Foreign Affairs—and they kind of divided up the work, if you want.

This was led by a general of the Canadian Forces who developed the scenarios. Our part here on the Hill was to offer the services and the logistics, to coordinate security and the attendance of members of Parliament and senators.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

How much time do I have left?

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

One minute.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

The last question I have, then, is that outside of the buildings of Parliament, we have the statues and we have gazebos. For events that are held out there, or the statues themselves, who coordinates whose statue gets put out there? How does that fall in terms of protocol?

12:15 p.m.

Chief of Protocol and Director of Events, IIA, Parliament of Canada

Elizabeth Rody

I'm not 100% certain, but I believe that's Canadian Heritage. The statues are managed by the National Capital Commission. I think there's a joint effort there.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

So if someone was looking to do something like that, they would call the Department of Canadian Heritage and find out the protocol for establishing that.

12:15 p.m.

Chief of Protocol and Director of Events, IIA, Parliament of Canada

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Great. Thank you.

That's all I have.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you, Mr. Armstrong.

Mr. Dubé.

May 1st, 2012 / 12:15 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé Chambly—Borduas, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'd like to thank the witnesses for being here. I know that you are very busy people. So, it is greatly appreciated.

You mentioned something very interesting. Actually, we've already heard some witnesses before you, people from Canadian Heritage who arrange protocol events. You spoke about flexibility, but everyone here today knows very well that Parliament is a place where traditions are deeply entrenched, for instance, in how we do things in the House, during votes, and so on. This also applies when we have guests from the provinces or from other countries.

You spoke about the importance of having some flexibility. Given that tradition is very important on Parliament Hill, how do you reconcile these two realities to ensure that you are both flexible and uphold traditions?

12:20 p.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons, House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

If I may stray a little bit, Mr. Chair, I'd like to use Mr. Layton's funeral as an example.

At 10:30 a.m. on the day his death was announced, I was in the office of the Sergeant-at-Arms. Elizabeth was there too, as was a key person from the Prime Minister's Office. We knew that there would be a situation to manage. We didn't know at that point if the Prime Minister would offer a state funeral, as he did, but we know that management would be provided, and we wanted to make sure that we made contact with the key people right away. There was someone from the Prime Minister's Office, since it was the Prime Minister's decision to grant that honour to Mr. Layton, and we wanted to know immediately what it was. We also guessed, naturally, given Mr. Layton's personality, that the party and the family would play a major role in the event.

Right off the bat, we all agreed that, naturally, we would respect the protocol for state funerals, in accordance with Canadian Heritage protocol, while respecting the wishes of the family as much as possible, which was essential. It was important that it all be worthy of the great Canadian that Mr. Layton was, whose life we wanted to honour and celebrate.

Everyone was instantly in agreement that the last thing we wanted was to have each side claim responsibility for the right to make decisions. I'm very proud to speak to you about this cooperation, which even involved the security services of the Senate and the House of Commons. The Senate security services helped the Sergeant-at-Arms and the House security service when necessary to provide enough hours so that people who wanted to could pay their respects to Mr. Layton. We also called on the pages who had worked with Mr. Layton the previous year so that they could direct people to the book of condolences. The day the coffin had to return to Toronto, Andrea McCrady, the carillonneur, prepared a special program in consultation with the family so that the music had a special meaning for the family and for Ms. Chow.

I think that's an example of something we can be very proud of. Of course, we had no notice and had to face fairly special challenges, since things happened at several levels all at once. I think this is a very good example of how things work.

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé Chambly—Borduas, QC

I appreciate your answer. You spoke briefly about cooperating with various groups or services, including those that provide security on the Hill. There are certainly others as well. You also spoke about cooperating with Canadian Heritage for state funerals. I assume that when military celebrations are involved, National Defence plays a role.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think I understand that there is good cooperation and there are good agreements, and that there is very little confusion about the division of responsibilities. The way the work is shared among these entities seems to be well-managed, if I can say it like that.

12:25 p.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons, House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

Yes, I think that it goes very well, overall. I must say—and this is more of a personal comment—that in the case of Mr. plus Layton's funeral, everyone cared deeply about having it all go well, that it would be a consolation to the family and that it would be an inspiration for Canadians.

To be very frank, in the case of the ceremony for Libya, for example, which was an executive decision, we tried to be very discrete but also quite present to make sure that the executive, in a burst of enthusiasm, didn't hinder the role and independence of the legislative authority, if I may say so.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you, Mr. Dubé.

Mr. Simms.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Thank you.

It's good to see you again. It's not that we don't get to see you every day, but nonetheless, it's always nice to ask you questions.

I've seen and experienced the protocol for a visiting head of state with the flags. Is there a set way of doing that? We see the flags in the hallways, but what is there beyond that?

I was here when George Bush Jr. came, and we could barely move anywhere. It's a little different, obviously, when the leader of Lithuania shows up, but nonetheless, is there a set program per se for security especially?