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

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Thank you very much.

11:25 a.m.

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

I would like to add one thing, if I may. If events were the same, always unfolding the same way, we could compare one to another, learn lessons and make changes. As Nicole has said, each event is unique; it is difficult to compare and to know what should have been changed. We do identify good practices at times, things that affect people greatly and that have been well received by Canadians. We keep those practices up our sleeves and try to repeat them when the occasion arises. The unique character of events and royal tours means that it is sometimes difficult to make comparisons.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you, Mr. Nantel.

Mr. Simms.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

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

Thank you, Chair. Thank you to our witnesses.

It says on the website:

There is no official manual of protocol or ceremonial published by the government of Canada. Protocol, by definition, has to be flexible and adapt to the various players on the political or social stage....

Agreed, but it says:

...an official manual would quickly become the “Protocol Bible” and inflexibility would follow.

You will find that with protocol, in essence it's all over the place. For some reason, I guess when I go to events, I find that people have protocol questions. They always refer to the Government of Canada protocol. I always say there really is no one set protocol for a particular department. Legions have theirs. Defence has theirs. Even the cadets have theirs. Then we have this one.

Is that really the case? Do you think it would be inflexible if we had one manual to say, here is a guideline by which to display...one that encompasses dealing with flags or symbols and ceremony?

11:25 a.m.

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

Nicole Bourget

My simple answer is yes. Why? Because there are....

There are books published on protocol, by the way. There are some that provide their works, their studies.

It would become set in people's expectations. They would say, “Okay, this is the A, B, C, D list I have to accomplish in order for this event to be successful.” We're saying that's not always the case. You can have element A and Z, and blend it with that, and you can make your event with that. It's not a one recipe, one-size-fits-all. You can't say, “Okay, a state funeral will look like this.” That would be inflexible. You can't say, “A royal visit—you can't adapt to that. You have to follow this to the rule.” Then we're creating a set of expectations that I think strips away that flexibility that we're talking about that allows people, governments, and persons affected by state funerals to really design and have a say in how it's done.

Of course, you mentioned that National Defence cadets have protocol, because it's part of their doctrine. These are historical institutions that have very long-standing traditions. We would never impose on that. They have manuals about how to conduct a parade—honours, colours, regiments. It's a body of knowledge unto its own and it is important because that's part of our history as well.

If you're asking me if we could have a manual, there have been attempts in the past where we have collated information. But we find very quickly that it's no longer.... It's a useful baseline and guide, but you cannot prescribe any events because they move from the local. People will say they are local, provincial, national, international events, and there are various rules that apply in each of those circumstances. The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, for example, has a protocol section because they are dealing with heads of state who come to visit Canada, and they have to adapt to that circumstance.

In our case, what we have and what we can put out publicly, we put on our website. As I said, we do have these administrative templates, but I think it would be kind of.... We don't want to be prescriptive. We want people to follow and to be inspired by what they do, and to make sure that people who are creating events.... We get a lot of calls, as I say. We share. There's an informal network of chiefs of protocol across the country. We share best practices. We discuss. But as I say, it's a constant evolution.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

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

I say that because I recall an incident where a small town—a municipality—had wanted to do something to celebrate the last 20 years of missions of the Canadian Forces. That includes Bosnia-Herzegovina, Afghanistan, Libya, and so on and so forth. They were calling me to find out military protocol. They went through Canadian Heritage and that sort of thing. I said they are not inflexible about this. You can call the Legion or call whoever it is. Going through this exercise, I never got the impression that any of it was prescriptive, because it was worded as such. It was all siloed off into different things. Does the Canada flag go before the provincial flag?

For instance, in Newfoundland we always sing the Ode to Newfoundland. It's always together with O Canada, and sometimes God Save the Queen. Is it okay to do that in an official ceremony, to include the Ode to Newfoundland? It's what we would call an anthem, but it's not officially a national anthem, per se, God forbid. We just do it by practice.

11:30 a.m.

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

Nicole Bourget

He's itching to answer. He's pushed my arm, so I'm going to let him answer.

11:30 a.m.

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

Joel Girouard

The short answer to that is it's absolutely okay.

You raised flag protocol, and in terms of half-masting there is a set of federal guidelines that will apply to federal buildings, federal land. Provinces each have their own, and territories as well. Each province and territory will treat their provincial and territorial flag differently from the other provinces or territories, so they need their own set of guidelines. If you look at them across the country, they all fall in line together, and if you put them together they make sense.

One of the examples I can give you is on the half-masting policy. Both the federal government and provincial and territorial governments have, in some way, built in flexibility to their half-masting policies so that they can mirror the other and still be respectful of what's happening in one province, in one territory, while not necessarily changing the whole policy to do it. If there's an issue on half-masting in one area, we'll speak to the chief of protocol in that province or territory. There's a back and forth on things like that.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

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

Yes, I think the flag policy was always....

In my final 12 seconds, I'd just like to say I would like to see, as a suggestion, a collated manual, per se, saying up front that it is a guideline that encompasses Defence, the Legion and other things. It would be a one-stop-shop sort of thing for protocol, in my humble suggestion.

11:30 a.m.

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

Nicole Bourget

If I may, I know that we have been talking over the last years about linking up on websites, because technology is where it's happening. So we're putting as much information as we can there. When we have a royal visit, if you go there you have all the background, it explains processes and that. We have stand-alone websites.

We are in talks—and I don't know if we've finished it—with DND to hook up through the URL and say, go see DND if it's something pertaining to military honours, because I'm sure DND would probably have volumes with their different ceremonials.

I do think that through the web we have a wonderful opportunity to keep adapting content and providing that type of information.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you, Mr. Simms.

Mr. Young.

May 1st, 2012 / 11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Terence Young Oakville, ON

Thank you, and welcome to everyone.

I do have a few questions.

I'm planning a ceremony to present medals to deserving persons in my riding, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal for service. I'm wondering what the protocol is with regard to the playing of the Commonwealth anthem and O Canada, the order they should be played in.

Does anyone know off the top of their head?

11:35 a.m.

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

Joel Girouard

Off the top of my head, I believe you'd play the national anthem first. But depending on the ceremony, people play the national anthem at the beginning and at the end, or only at the beginning, or only at the end. It can vary with the format of your ceremony.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Terence Young Oakville, ON

With regard to the flag, I would like to have the flag of Ontario there, and also the Union Jack. What is the positioning of flags? How important is that?

11:35 a.m.

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

Joel Girouard

It depends on how they're displayed, on whether they're hanging on a wall or they're on masts outside. That is all detailed on our website, in terms of the layout. The national flag of Canada always has precedence.