Administration and Support
The Senate relies on administrative and procedural support to function efficiently and serve Canadians. The Senate Administration provides the services that allow senators to accomplish their work, for example, support in procedure, security, financial administration, human resources, communications and building maintenance.
Three senior officers of the administration lead the Senate’s commitment to the modern, effective management of its internal affairs: the Clerk of the Senate and Clerk of the Parliaments, the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, and the Chief Corporate Services Officer.
Another key position is the Usher of the Black Rod, a senior parliamentary officer who serves as personal attendant and messenger to the Queen in Parliament and as a senior protocol official.
Senators are also supported by staff in their respective offices.
Members of the Executive Committee
Clerk of the Senate and Clerk of the Parliaments and Chief Legislative Services Officer
Mr. Charles Robert was named Clerk of the Senate and Clerk of the Parliaments in February, 2015. The position of Clerk of the Senate is a Governor in Council appointment made pursuant to paragraph 130(b) of the Public Service Employment Act.
The Clerk of the Senate serves as the primary advisor on the procedures and practices of the Senate, both in the Senate Chamber and in committees. He is also involved with the Senate Administration sharing this responsibility with the Chief Corporate Services Officer; and the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel and Chief Parliamentary Precinct Services Officer together they are accountable to the Senate through the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration and the Speaker.
Mr. Charles Robert first came to Parliament Hill more than 35 years ago, beginning in the Library of Parliament before going to the House of Commons and finally, since 1991, coming to the Senate of Canada.
He has written several published papers on privilege and other topics related to parliamentary affairs.
Since Confederation, Mr. Robert is the thirteenth Clerk of the Senate.
Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel and Chief Parliamentary Precinct Services Officer
By resolution of the Senate on June 13, 2014, Michel Patrice was named eighth Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel of the Senate. On August 15 of the same year, he was appointed Commissioner to administer the oath of allegiance to members of the Senate.
As chief legal adviser to the Senate, Mr. Patrice has legal, management and officer functions, and is accountable to the Senate through both the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration and the Speaker of the Senate. He heads the Senate’s in-house legal department and is responsible for providing politically-sensitive but non-partisan legal advice and services in relation to the legislative process to the Senate, Speaker of the Senate, standing and special Senate committees, and individuals Senators on the many areas of the law that are engaged in the course of parliamentary business, including the law on the privileges, immunities and powers of Parliament. Mr. Patrice is also responsible for providing expert legislative drafting services to Senators to assist them in their constitutional mandate to deliberate and legislate in all matters that fall within the legislative authority of the federal Parliament.
Mr. Patrice advises the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration on legal and risk management issues concerning all directorates of the Administration, and plays a lead role in corporate governance and business policy. He analyzes legal issues and judicial decisions; conducts legal analysis and risk assessments on major, complex or sensitive issues affecting the institution; provides strategic legal advice and interpretation for the preparation of legal briefings and correspondence; and develops or oversees the preparation of legal opinions, legal strategies and arguments for litigation. These responsibilities require Mr. Patrice to advise at the most confidential levels and to work closely with the Interim Clerk of the Senate and Clerk of the Parliaments and the Chief Corporate Services Officer for the Senate of Canada in their respective areas of responsibility.
As Law Clerk, Mr. Patrice arranges for the preparation of parchments of Senate bills, for the engrossing of Senate amendments to House of Commons bills, and for the publication of all Senate—government, senator’s public, and senators’ private—bills. Mr. Patrice also serves as a Table Officer in the Chamber, enabling him to be closely informed of the progress of legislation in the Senate.
Mr. Patrice joined the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel in 2002, and has held the positions of both Assistant Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel (2006–2007) and Deputy Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel (2007–2014). He has served on numerous senior management committees, lending his legal and business acumen to the corporate affairs of the Senate.
Mr. Patrice’s experience and knowledge extends beyond the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel: he has extensive experience in procedure and committee business, having first joined Canada’s Upper House in 1994 with the Committees Directorate. In that Directorate, he served as clerk of, amongst others, the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, Environment and Natural Resources, and numerous special Senate committees. He also played a key role in the work of the Special Senate Committee on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, as well as that of the Special Senate Committee on the Pearson Airport Agreements and the Task Force on Corporate Governance, by providing procedural, legal and strategic advice to the committees.
Prior to joining the Senate, Mr. Patrice practiced law in the private sector in the areas of commercial law, labour law, property law and civil litigation, representing a broad spectrum of clients from individuals to small businesses to national financial institutions. He regularly appeared before the Superior Court of Quebec and the Court of Appeal of Quebec.
Mr. Patrice has been a member in good standing of the Bar of the Province of Quebec since 1991. He has been a long-serving member of the following associations, holding various offices:
- Canadian Bar Association
- Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice
- Assemblée des Secrétaires généraux des parlements francophones
- Association of Clerks-at-the-Table in Canada
- Association of Parliamentary Counsel in Canada
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Mr. Patrice was appointed Chief, Parliamentary Precinct Services in January 2015. In this capacity, he is accountable to both the Senate through the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration and the Speaker of the Senate for Parliamentary Precinct Services, which is comprised of three directorates: Senate Protective Service, Building Services, and Real Property Planning.
Mr. Patrice’s creativity and strategic vision oversee a comprehensive set of protective services, accommodation services, asset management services and installations programs and services for the Senate. He provides progressive, collaborative leadership to the Director General of Parliamentary Precinct Services in priority-setting, development and continuous improvement of the Parliamentary Precinct Services’ integrated policy, program and service delivery frameworks in respect of the following:
- the overall security and safety of the Senate, including Senators, Members of the House of Commons, staff, visitors and the historic buildings, balancing the need for protection with the need to maintain an open-door approach to Canadian parliamentarians and historic sites while anticipating potential crisis situations that could develop as a result of political, economic or social complications;
- the strategic planning, accommodation, management and maintenance of space occupied by the Senate, Senators and Senate Administration;
- the Senate Long-Term Accommodation Strategy;
- distribution, asset management and trades; and
- the planning and management of logistic, administrative, technical and specialized services necessary for the operation of the Senate Chamber, Senators’ offices and the Senate Administration, and for the technological support infrastructure in these areas to provide efficient, effective services to clients.
The activities of the Parliamentary Precinct Services require close collaboration and strategic links with the Senate’s parliamentary and external partners and stakeholders, including the House of Commons, the Department of Public Works and Government Services, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Ottawa Police Service, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service, the National Capital Commission, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Privy Council Office, the Supreme Court of Canada, the Department of National Defence, and the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office. Mr. Patrice’s ability to foster a culture of collaboration and stewardship amongst these key players serves to ensure that the Senate’s best interests are considered and reflected in the overall development and implementation of security, accommodations and business continuity strategies for Parliament Hill.
Mr. Patrice’s wide-ranging expertise and knowledge is commensurate with the corporate and strategic nature of the Parliamentary Precinct Services’ activities, which require broad knowledge, significant management expertise and political astuteness. Thorough knowledge and extensive experience in the Senate’s mission, mandate, vision, culture, priorities, objectives and business lines, and an understanding of the Parliamentary Precinct Services’ immediate client Senators, Mr. Patrice provides strong, innovative and informed leadership in the design and delivery of the services of the Senate Administration’s largest directorate—Parliamentary Precinct Services.
Clerk of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration and Chief Corporate Services Officer
Nicole Proulx was appointed Chief Corporate Services Officer (CCSO) of the Senate of Canada in January 2015. The CCSO reports to the Speaker of the Senate. Ms. Proulx joined the Senate in 1998. She was appointed Chief Financial Officer in 2007 and served on numerous senior management committees, further broadening her extensive knowledge of governance. Prior to that, Ms. Proulx held important positions in the Senate’s Human Resources Branch. Before joining the Senate, she gained broad and deep experience working with several federal departments.
As CCSO, Ms. Proulx is ultimately accountable for the strategic leadership, financial management, personnel, performance, control, monitoring and overall management accountability framework of the following sectors, cumulatively referred to as the Corporate Services Sector of the Senate: Finance and Procurement; Human Resources; Information Services (including Information Management); Communications; and Internal Audit and Strategic Planning.
Ms. Proulx was also named Clerk of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration and its Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure (Steering Committee). The Committee provides strategic direction, recommends administrative rules and policies for adoption by the Senate, exercise its governance functions, and orders, delegates and supervises management functions.
As CCSO, Ms. Proulx is accountable for facilitating the advancement of Senate Administration priorities by providing strategic and authoritative advice to the Senate’s governing bodies on all matters relating to corporate management and directly supporting the Speaker and the Chair of the Committee by providing key objective strategic advice on the overall stewardship of the financial management culture and its performance. Ms. Proulx is also responsible for the development and for leading the articulation of the Committee’s vision and direction for the Administration into the development of strategic plans and ensuring the integration and adoption of responsible corporate governance by promoting and supporting the planning, measurement and reporting functions. She must also jointly oversee public and media relations to address the public’s expectations for accountability, transparency and sound management of public institutions and to enhance the understanding of the role and functioning of the Senate as an integral part of the Canadian parliamentary process.
Ms. Proulx has noteworthy experience working with Senate committees, central agencies, legislative assembly officials, boards of directors and auditors, including the Office of the Auditor General and union representatives. Noted accomplishments include successfully leading the Senate in producing audited financial statements, overseeing expenditure reviews to meet reduction targets, guiding the development and implementation of essential Senate policies and meeting governance and audit requirements.
Ms. Proulx earned a Masters of Business Administration at the University of Ottawa in 2005 and has obtained certifications in classification and staffing.
The Usher of the Black Rod
John Gregory Peters
The Usher of the Black Rod is a senior parliamentary officer appointed by Order in Council. The Black Rod, as the Usher is known to senators, is a senior protocol officer in Parliament and a floor officer of the Senate.
The name Usher of the Black Rod comes from the ebony cane that Black Rod carries as a symbol of authority. Under a 600-year-old parliamentary tradition, the Black Rod is the personal attendant and messenger of the Sovereign or the Sovereign’s representative when either is in Parliament.