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

May 1st, 2012 / 11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Welcome to our witnesses today. This is the first day of our study on the review of national protocol procedures.

For the first hour we have witnesses from the Department of Canadian Heritage. For the second hour we will have witnesses from the House of Commons and the Parliament of Canada.

With us today from the Department of Canadian Heritage are Nicole Bourget, Denis Racine, and Joel Girouard. Welcome to all of you.

Nicole, I understand you're going to begin. We usually have 10 minutes for your opening comments, and then we have questions and answers from our committee members. The floor is yours.

11:05 a.m.

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

Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.

First let me thank the committee for inviting us here today to discuss issues of national protocol.

As Mr. Moore mentioned, my name is Nicole Bourget and I am the Assistant Deputy Minister of Sport, Major Events and Regions at the Department of Canadian Heritage. I am joined by Denis Racine, Executive Director, Major Events and Celebrations and Joel Girouard, Director, State Ceremonial and Protocol.

Although the issue of protocol is not generally given a lot of outside attention, it is foundational to all of the national ceremonies in Canada and defines the etiquette for the treatment of national symbols such as the national flag of Canada.

Today we would like to take this opportunity to provide the committee with an overview of the types of protocol issues we are responsible for. We will then be happy to answer any questions you may have.

The responsibility for national protocol falls under the mandate of the Department of Canadian Heritage under the Department of Canadian Heritage Act. Protocol, by definition, has to be flexible and adapt to the various players on the political or social stage. Developed through years of experience, officials at the Department of Canadian Heritage have significant experience in the area of national protocol. This experience is put into practice in the delivery of numerous events such as royal tours, state funerals, installations of governors general.

The department also acts as a centre of expertise on issues of domestic protocol and procedures. This includes the rules surrounding the national flag of Canada, its half-masting, display and use. We respond to inquiries from the public on national symbols, the use of royal images, the prefix “royal” and the use of symbols for commercial purposes. This role also involves on-going communication and liaison with provincial and territorial government protocol offices.

I would like to take some time to provide more details on protocol in national events, specifically royal tours and state funerals.

Her Majesty The Queen has toured Canada 22 times. Her Majesty's most recent visit to Canada was in 2010, and in 2011 Canada received Their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. This month, as you know, Canada will host the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall as part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

It is important to note the distinction between official and private visits. An official visit is at the invitation of the Governor General. A private visit is one where a member of the royal family undertakes engagements with or on behalf of private organizations. The Department of Canadian Heritage is only involved in official visits.

Royal tours are truly a team effort. The department is not only responsible for planning the tour and ensuring coordination between various partners. We also work with several other federal departments, the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General, representatives from the provinces and territories as well as the royal household, and the Canadian Secretary to the Queen.

Next I'd like to highlight the role the department plays in managing state funerals. A state funeral may be held to honour and commemorate present and former governors general, present and former prime ministers, sitting members of the ministry, and other eminent Canadians at the discretion of the Prime Minister. These national ceremonies provide the occasion for the public to participate in a demonstration of national homage and mourning.

Each state funeral is different, depending on the predetermined wishes of the deceased and the wishes of the family. They do, however, contain some common elements. The department is responsible for the overall coordination of all aspects of the event including the lying in state; the funeral procession; the funeral service; the committal, which may include components of military honours; and the post-committal reception.

The Department of Canadian Heritage is the lead federal department. However, many other government departments as well as provincial, territorial, and municipal governments are involved in the organization and delivery of a state funeral, depending on the complexity and size of the funeral.

While the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General manages issues of protocol for the sitting Governor General, once a new Governor General is identified, it is the responsibility of the Department of Canadian Heritage to provide support for the Governor General Designate until she or he officially assumes office.

The installation ceremony is a major protocol event. It sets the tone for the new Governor General's term and serves as a reflection of the important issues that the Governor General Designate wishes to highlight. As with other significant political events, the department works with numerous partners.

Finally, as I mentioned earlier, the department acts as a centre of expertise on numerous aspects of issues including the proper use of the national flag of Canada.

In this respect, the most visible contribution of the department is in terms of the administration of the Rules for Half-masting the National Flag of Canada. Half-masting being a well-established procedure to bestow an honour and express a collective sense of sorrow.

I thank you all for your time and we'd be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you for your presentation.

The first questioner is Mr. Calandra.

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

This may sound like a stupid question, but is there a manual that guides the department on protocol? Is there a manual on how to handle a state funeral? If so, how has it been developed?

11:10 a.m.

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

Nicole Bourget

The department has various documents, administrative templates, I call them. It's a how-to list for various events. For example, with state funerals there are certain procedures to follow. The same with a royal visit or a massive state event.

These documents, I call evergreen, because they're based on convention and past practice. We have a lot of background information that we hold in the department, for both past royal visits and past state funerals. We don't have one single one, because it's in constant evolution. Each visit or funeral is unique. A royal visit, for example, is based on the size and the scope, the number of cities visited, the events, and maybe whether it's part of our Canada Day celebrations. All the workings vary and we adapt each visit based on some basic premises.

A state funeral is really based on the wishes of the deceased, if they were predetermined, as was the case with Monsieur LeBlanc and Mr. Hnatyshyn and their family members.

If you want a lying in state, for example, we saw with Mr. Layton's funeral that we sometimes need to do it in two cities. We had it in Toronto as well as Ottawa, which had not been done in the past. Some families may choose not to have a lying in state.

There is basic information that we use as reference material. The reason that we don't have something firm is that it's evergreen. Protocol evolves with time, personal wishes, and the people we are serving. Guidelines exist and they have existed since way before my time at the department, back to the earliest royal visits that were handled years ago.

We work very closely with our partners, and they have information too. When we're working with DND, for example, they have their own procedures that they walk through with the RCMP, for security purposes. We also work with Public Works, which specializes in helping to plan the venues and the physical aspects of the space. Then there is what we do. We work within the federal family, with the provinces, and with the cities. We lend that expertise.

In the case of Mr. Layton, we offered the City of Toronto advice on how to plan, how to work with the police, how to do the various steps.

Of course there are communications materials and templates for announcing a royal tour, or for putting out a media guide for visits.

I would say we have a variety of documents, administrative templates, that help us realize our work.

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

As protocol changes over time, how do you make sure that the traditions that are being followed, or as they are being modified, fall within the traditions of our founding peoples?

11:15 a.m.

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

Nicole Bourget

In those templates that I'm speaking about, there are certain standards. For example, with respect to a royal visit, there are steps that you cannot escape. There are royal salutes and other things. I'll let Joel, who is currently managing the upcoming royal tour, elaborate some more. There are things that I would call sacrosanct, things that we do not touch, for example, the flying of the Queen's flag when she's in a city. There are many things where traditional protocol is followed.

When I talk of evolution, it's more adapted to the taste of the individuals. We saw this with the young royal couple. We would see in the past a very controlled event, much more controlled and limited in space. The young royal couple really wanted to be involved in the communities. It was a different style of reception.

You can adapt, but the basic tenets always remain. For example, if you're inviting somebody to a state funeral, we are the keeper of the list of precedence. We will follow the list of precedence, as we are the keeper of it in terms of the process. It is the same for the flag of Canada. There are certain ways to display it, in terms of protocol, at an event. The basic rules and tenets remain the same. It is really in the tailoring of the events around the people involved that it often evolves.

Joel, would you like to add anything?

11:15 a.m.

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

As Nicole mentioned, there are certain things that don't change. I think the best example I can give you of adaptation, because protocol is to make everyone feel comfortable, is last summer during the last royal tour, the individual who had precedence decided that because they were guests, he wanted to give up his precedence and walk into the room after them, just as a mark of courtesy and respect, and to be as welcoming as possible.

That's the sort of adaptation that happens. They're not big steps. There will be guards of honour in the same fashion every time. Those elements remain the same, but some small elements can change, where an individual will decide that they prefer to make their guests feel welcome, or something of that nature.

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you, Mr. Calandra.

Next we have Mr. Nantel.

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My thanks to the witnesses for joining us this morning.

For royal visits, for example, there is clearly a lot of protocol involved. I remember once when someone touched the Queen. That caused quite a problem. I have no doubt that, in that kind of situation, protocol is very much stricter.

Our present study, which is going to occupy the next four meetings of this committee, comes as a result of the protocol that was in place during the late Jack Layton's funeral. A number of people have observed how that state funeral demonstrated a degree of flexibility while keeping up the protocol at the same time. People have often told me about the extent to which they had been struck both by the state funeral and the celebration of the individual's life. It even caused some to think about their own funerals and they were struck by that as well.

At the event, you were able to maintain the required standards while remaining very flexible. I even think that the first pages of the Canadian Heritage site mentions the flexibility. Could you tell us about your contribution to Mr. Layton's funeral?

11:20 a.m.

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

Nicole Bourget

You can imagine the flexibility involved. Mr. Layton's family and loved ones had their ideas. They wanted a celebration; they wanted people to come and for it to be accessible. We were able to keep elements such as the lying in state here in Ottawa, and to make it a time of celebration.

I will let Joel speak to this because he was most directly involved with the funeral.

11:20 a.m.

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

Joel Girouard

Let me tell you how it came about. I met with representatives of the family to give them an overview of state funerals on the same day the Prime Minister made the offer that the family accepted. As Nicole mentioned, the half-masting of the flag, the lying in state, the procession and the ceremony can take various forms, according to the family's beliefs and wishes.

The family shared those wishes with us. They said they wanted something a little different. They did not want a traditional ceremony in a traditional place. For funerals, the wishes of the deceased and the family are the most important. So we try to blend in the essential elements. We suggest various scenarios that keep those essential elements, because they are important too. But we leave room for the personal elements to be part of it.

11:20 a.m.

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

Nicole Bourget

I remember Mr. LeBlanc's funeral, which was at the other end of the scale. Mr. LeBlanc wanted something simple, in the place where he was born. We were able to maintain the tradition and keep the protocol, but we blended it in with his wish to be buried in the same place as he was born. So it was much smaller and more intimate, but that was the family's wish.

As we have mentioned, protocol is constantly evolving. We uphold tradition, but we certainly have the flexibility needed to adapt to modern society and to technical requirements. There was no television in the past. It makes the events much more accessible, but we have to move with the times.

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Clearly, protocol is observed calmly in various situations. That very flexibility means being open to new ideas while still maintaining the protocol.

Is there anything you think needs to be changed? Should any procedures be established? Do you need us to become involved in situations like this?

11:25 a.m.

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

Nicole Bourget

You mentioned flexibility. We have a range of highly developed administrative tools. The rest really depends on good judgment and developing good relationships with people. Does anything need to be changed? I can tell you that, in all the funerals that I have been part of, I have been immensely touched. Funerals really are arranged according to the person's wishes. The tools at our disposal allow us to organize these things in a very short time.

The department's team, which works under the direction of myself and Denis, is made up of people who are passionate about their work. These are very significant events that require Canadians to be part of them. They count for a lot. With my expert team and the tools at our disposal, I think we are pretty well set up.