Rules of the Senate of Canada

Appendix I: Terminology



Grammatical gender in French text

In the French version of the Rules, the masculine gender is used throughout, without any intent to discriminate but solely to make the text easier to read.

“Shall” and “may”

The expression “shall” is to be construed as imperative and the expression “may” as permissive.


In these Rules, unless the context suggests otherwise, the following definitions apply, with such modifications as the circumstances require:

Adjournment of the Senate
The termination of a sitting of the Senate, by order or pursuant to the Rules, until a day appointed for the resumption of sitting in the same session. The period between the last sitting day and the resumption of sitting is also known as an adjournment. (Levée de  séance or clôture de séance; Ajournement du Sénat)

Adjournment of debate
The ending of a debate on a bill, motion, committee report or inquiry on a particular day, postponing further consideration either to the next sitting day or to a specified date. A motion to adjourn a debate is decided by the Senate without debate or amendment. When the motion to adjourn a debate is applied to a non-Government item, it stands on the Order Paper in the name of the Senator who proposed the adjournment or the Senator indicated in the adjournment motion. (Ajournement du débat)

An alteration proposed to a motion, a clause of a bill or a committee report. It may attempt to modify the proposition under consideration or to provide an alternative to it. A Senator may propose amendments to a bill during clause-by-clause study in committee, during the Senate study of the report if the committee recommends amendments or during third reading debate. (Amendement)

Ancillary motion
See “Motion”. (Motion subsidiaire)

A proposed law that becomes an Act of Parliament if adopted in identical form by both the Senate and the House of Commons and then given Royal Assent. (Projet de loi)

Bills may be of various types, including:


Bill of aid or supply: A specific type of public bill that relates to funds for government operations. Such bills include appropriation bills, which authorize government expenditures and reflect spending requirements set out in the Estimates. Bills of this nature can only originate in the House of Commons and require a Royal Recommendation. (Projet de loi de crédits)


Public bill: A bill of general application, concerning matters of public policy. A public bill introduced in the Senate may be a Government bill (introduced by a Cabinet Minister or in a Minister’s name) or a non-Government bill (one introduced by a Senator who is not a Cabinet Minister). A similar distinction is made for public bills originating in the Commons. (Projet de loi d’intérêt public)


Private bill: A bill to confer particular benefits or exemptions on specific individuals or groups, distinct from the general law. Such bills are introduced after receipt and examination of a petition from the affected parties, and are subject to special provisions in the Rules. (Projet de loi d’intérêt privé


Pro forma bill: A bill introduced on the first day of each session prior to the Speaker reporting the Speech from the Throne. The bills – S-1, An Act relating to railways in the Senate and C-1, An Act respecting the administration of oaths of office in the Commons– are given first reading but there are no further proceedings. The pro forma bill serves as an assertion of each chamber’s right to determine the order of its deliberations, independently of the reasons for which Parliament was summoned as set out in the Speech. (Projet de loi symbolique

Bill of aid or supply
See “Bill”. (Projet de loi de crédits)

Case of privilege
See “Privilege”. (Cas de privilège)

The Clerk of the Senate, who is also Clerk of the Parliaments. (Greffier)

A body of Senators, Members of the House of Commons, members of both houses, or others, appointed by one or both of the two houses to consider such matters as may be referred to it or that it may be empowered to examine, including bills. A Senate committee is, except in the case of the Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight, one composed solely of Senators (as opposed to a joint committee — see below). (Comité)

There are several types of committees:


Committee of Selection: A Senate committee appointed at the beginning of each session to nominate a Senator to serve as Speaker pro tempore and to nominate Senators to serve on the standing committees and the standing joint committees. (Comité de sélection


Committee of the Whole: All Senators present sitting as a committee in the Senate Chamber, with a Senator other than the Speaker in the chair. A Committee of the Whole is usually established to consider urgent legislation, to hear from persons nominated for senior public positions or to hear testimony from a Minister or expert witness, though it may meet for any purpose ordered by the Senate. The mace is placed under the table when the Senate is sitting as a Committee of the Whole. (Comité plénier)

(c) Joint committee: A committee composed of a specific number of members of both the Senate and of the House of Commons. It may be either a standing committee, appointed under the Rules of both houses, or a special joint committee, appointed by a resolution of each house to deal with a particular matter. Joint committees have and may exercise only those terms of reference, powers, duties and procedures granted to them by both the Senate and the House of Commons by equivalent provisions in their respective Rules, by resolutions or by Act of Parliament. As such, provisions in the Rules of the Senate relating to joint committees are only made as far as the Senate is concerned. (Comité mixte)
(d) Legislative committee: A Senate committee, other than a special committee, established for the specific purpose of studying a particular bill. The Rules establish the maximum membership of legislative committees at 12 Senators. (Comité législatif)
(e) Special committee: A Senate committee established especially for the purpose of examining a bill or investigating a subject; it normally ceases to exist once it has made its final report. Unless it is clearly indicated that reference is to a joint committee, the term applies only to Senate committees. (Comité spécial)
(f) Standing committee: A Senate committee appointed under the Rules, with a mandate related either to the operations of the Senate or to an area of public policy as provided for in the Rules of the Senate. Unless it is clearly indicated that reference is to a joint committee, the term applies only to Senate committees. (Comité permanent)

Committee of Selection
See “Committee”. (Comité de sélection)

Committee of the Whole
See “Committee”. (Comité plénier)

A meeting between representatives of the two houses, called “managers”, convened in the case of a protracted disagreement on a bill or another item requiring bicameral agreement. Such meetings can be of two types, either a simple “conference” or a “free conference”. In the former type, the managers meet, exchange written messages, and withdraw, without a word spoken. In the latter type, the managers can discuss their respective positions without restriction, save the general directions given by their respective houses. (Conférence)

Consequential business
Business that must be disposed of directly as a consequence of adopting a preceding motion. (Travail qui découle d’une affaire)

Critic of a bill
The lead Senator responding to the sponsor of the bill. The critic is designated by the Leader or Deputy Leader of the Government (if the sponsor is not a government member) or the Leader or Deputy Leader of the Opposition (if the sponsor is a government member). While the critic is often the second Senator to speak to a bill this is not always the case. (Porte-parole d'un projet de loi)

Deputy Leader of the Government
The Senator who acts as the second to the Leader of the Government and who is normally responsible for the management of Government business on the floor of the Senate. The Deputy Leader is also generally responsible for negotiating the daily agenda of business with the Opposition and other recognized parties and recognized parliamentary groups.  In the absence of the Deputy Leader, the Government Leader may designate another Senator to perform the role. The full title is “Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate”. (Leader adjoint du gouvernement)

Deputy Leader of the Opposition
The Senator who acts as the second to the Leader of the Opposition and who is normally responsible for negotiating the daily agenda of business on the floor of the Senate with the Government and other recognized parties and recognized parliamentary groups. In the absence of the Deputy Leader, the Opposition Leader may designate another Senator to perform the role. The full title is “Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate”. (Leader adjoint de l’opposition)

Dilatory motion
See “Motion”. (Motion dilatoire)

Evening suspension
The interruption of the sitting that normally occurs between 6 and 8 p.m. In some situations provided for in the Rules the suspension does not take place. In other cases, the Senate may decide, with leave, not to suspend over this period, which is often referred to as “not seeing the clock”. (Suspension du soir)

Facilitator of a recognized parliamentary group
See “Leader or facilitator of a recognized party or recognized parliamentary group”. (Facilitateur d’un groupe parlementaire reconnu

Free conference
One of the two types of conferences. For further details, see definition under “Conference”. (Conférence libre)

Government Business
A bill, motion, report or inquiry initiated by the Government. Government business, including items on notice, is contained in a separate category on the Order Paper, and the Leader of the Government or the Deputy Leader may vary the order in which these items are called. (Affaires du gouvernement)

Government Leader
See “Leader of the Government”. (Leader du gouvernement)

Government Whip
The Senator responsible for ensuring the presence of an adequate number of Senators of the Government party in the Senate for purposes such as quorum and the taking of votes, and to whom the Government Leader normally delegates responsibility for managing the substitution of Government members on committees. (Whip du gouvernement)

In camera
Committees can meet in camera in certain circumstances, and the public is excluded from those meetings. The deliberations and any proceedings related to in camera meetings are confidential. Any unauthorized disclosure of in camera deliberations and proceedings could be treated as a contempt – a breach of parliamentary privilege. Appendix IV of the Rules outlines procedures for dealing with the unauthorized disclosure of confidential committee reports and other documents or proceedings. (Huis clos).

A procedure used for the purpose of drawing the attention of the Senate, through debate, to a particular matter. An inquiry does not lead to a decision of the Senate and is dropped from the Order Paper once debate concludes. (Interpellation)

Instruction (to a committee)
A grant of authority by the Senate to a committee to exercise certain powers that it does not normally possess, such as the power to divide a bill. A motion of instruction may be either mandatory or permissive. If it is mandatory, the committee is obliged to follow it; if it is permissive, the committee is not obliged to do so. (Instruction)

Intermediate proceeding
A proceeding, other than debate, that would be recorded in the Journals of the Senate. Examples include the adoption, rejection or adjournment of a motion; the adjournment of debate on an inquiry; the reading of messages; announcements of Royal Assent; and the standing of items of business. (Fait de procédure)

Joint committee
See “Committee”. (Comité mixte)

Leader of the Government, or Government Leader
The Senator who acts as the head of the Senators belonging to the Government party. In modern practice, the Government Leader is also a member of Cabinet. The full title of the Government Leader is “Leader of the Government in the Senate”. (Leader du gouvernement)

Leader of the Opposition, or Opposition Leader
The Senator recognized as the head of the party, other than the Government party, with the most Senators. The full title of the Opposition Leader is “Leader of the Opposition in the Senate”. (Leader de l’opposition)

Leader or facilitator of a recognized party or recognized parliamentary group
The Senator who heads a group of Senators recognized as a party or a parliamentary group under the Rules. (Leader ou facilitateur d’un parti reconnu ou d’un groupe parlementaire reconnu)

A term commonly used to refer to various positions in the Senate, notably the leaders or facilitators of the recognized parties or recognized parliamentary groups, their deputies, their designates and the whips. (Dirigeants)

Leave of the Senate
An agreement of the Senate, without dissent expressed, to take an action involving the suspension of a rule or usual practice without notice. (Consentement du Sénat)

Legislative committee
See “Committee”. (Comité législatif)

Meeting of the Senate
The assembling of Senators in the Senate Chamber at a time designated according to the Rules or by order. (See also “Sitting of the Senate”.) (Ouverture de la séance)

The duty of a person injured by breach of contract or tort to exercise reasonable diligence and ordinary care in attempting to minimize damages, or to avoid aggravating the injury. (Mitiger les dommages)

A proposal made for the purpose of eliciting a decision of the Senate or a committee. A motion, once adopted, may either express the opinion or make an order of the Senate that something be done. It may be either a Government motion or a non-Government motion, and these appear at different places on the Order Paper and Notice Paper. (Motion)

There are various kinds of motions, and one motion may fall into more than one of these categories:

(a) Ancillary motion: See “Subsidiary Motion”. (Motion subsidiaire)
(b) Dilatory motion: A motion designed to dispose of the original question either for the time being or permanently. These include motions to adjourn the Senate, to adjourn debate and to postpone consideration of a question until a certain day. Such motions are typically not debatable. (Motion dilatoire)
(c) Privileged motion: A type of motion that arises from and depends on the matter under debate. A privileged motion can be moved without notice when the motion to which it relates is under debate, and it then takes priority over the original motion. Privileged motions include amendments (see separate definition) and superseding motions (with the latter including the previous question and dilatory motions). Privileged motions are distinct from motions relating to questions of privilege. (Motion privilégiée)
(d) Procedural motion: A non-debatable motion dealing with a routine matter necessary to move an item of business forward. A procedural motion gives a direction as to how or when to deal with a matter before the Senate. Such motions include, for example, motions for setting the day for second or third reading of a bill, for referring a bill to committee or for setting the day for consideration of a report. (Motion de procédure)
(e) Subsidiary motion: Sometimes known as an ancillary motion, this is a class of motion that is dependent on some other order or proceeding already before the Senate and is used to move the item of business forward. Subsidiary motions include, notably, the motions for second and third reading of a bill, to adopt a report that has been placed on the orders of the day for consideration and to refer the question under debate to committee. (Motion subsidiaire)
(f) Substantive motion: A motion that stands independently of other business, in that it does not relate to any other proceeding or order of the day before the Senate. Such a motion seeks to bring forth an opinion or action of the Senate. Substantive motions typically require notice and are debatable and amendable. (Motion de fond)


Superseding motion: A motion proposing to replace (supersede) the question before the Senate. Such motions may be moved without notice when a debatable motion is under consideration, and require that the Senator moving the motion have been recognized to speak (they cannot be moved if a Senator rises on a point of order). There are two kinds of superseding motions, which are dealt with separately in this Appendix—the previous question and dilatory motions. (Motion de remplacement)

Notice Paper
See “Order Paper and Notice Paper”. (Feuilleton des préavis)

Notice period
The time that must lapse before an item of business can be considered by the Senate. The notice period varies depending on the nature of the item. A two-day notice period includes an intervening day that, at the time the notice was given, would be a sitting day under the Rules and orders then in force. With a one-day notice, an item may be moved on the next sitting day. (Délai de préavis)

Opposition Leader
See “Leader of the Opposition”. (Leader de l’opposition)

Opposition Whip
The Senator responsible for ensuring the presence of Senators of the Opposition party in the Senate for purposes such as the taking of votes, and to whom the Opposition Leader normally delegates responsibility for managing the substitution of Opposition members on committees. (Whip de l’opposition)

A decision of the Senate giving a direction to its committees, Senators or officers, or regulating proceedings. An order may be sessional (lasting for an entire session of Parliament) or special (in force only once or only for a specified period of time). (Ordre)

Order of reference
The authorization for a committee to study a resolution, motion, bill or the subject matter of a bill, or to undertake an investigation or other work according to the terms contained in the motion or as provided for by the Rules of the Senate. (Ordre de renvoi)

Order Paper and Notice Paper
A document outlining the Senate’s agenda for a particular sitting. Items are listed in several different categories and in a priority established by or under the Rules of the Senate. The Order Paper contains all Government Business, as well as non-Government bills, reports, motions that have been moved and inquiries on which debate has begun. The Notice Paper contains the text of non-Government motions and inquiries not yet moved or debated. The Senate may, in certain circumstances, vary from the order of business set out in the Order Paper and Notice Paper. This document is prepared by the Journals Branch in advance of each sitting in light of the latest decisions of the Senate. (Feuilleton et Feuilleton des Préavis)

Ordinary procedure for determining duration of bells
The Speaker asks the Government and Opposition Whips if there is an agreement on the length of time, not to exceed 60 minutes, the bells shall ring. With leave of the Senate, this agreement of the Whips constitutes an order to sound the bells for the agreed length of time, but in the absence of either agreement or leave, the bells ring for 60 minutes. In some cases provided for in the Rules this procedure is not followed, with the bells ringing for shorter periods of time. (Procédure ordinaire pour déterminer la durée de la sonnerie)

Ordinary time of adjournment
The time at which the Senate must, under the Rules, ordinarily adjourn (midnight from Monday to Thursday, and 4 p.m. on Friday). The Senate may sit beyond this time in situations provided for under the Rules or by special order. If business concludes before the ordinary time of adjournment, the sitting is normally brought to an end by the adoption of a motion to adjourn the Senate. (Heure fixée pour la clôture de la séance)

Other business
Items of non-Government business on the Order Paper and Notice Paper. These may include bills, motions, reports or inquiries. Unless the Senate otherwise orders, items of Other Business are called in the order in which they are printed, which is determined by the Rules. (Autres affaires)

A formal request made to Parliament by Canadian citizens or residents. Petitions may relate to public or private matters, matters of general policy, or the redress of local or personal grievances. Such a request can only be tabled in the Senate by a Senator. Petitions may be tabled during the daily Routine Proceedings. A petition for a private bill is a petition requesting passage of a private bill, which, after a favourable report by the Examiner of Petitions for Private Bills, authorizes the introduction of a private bill. (Pétition)

Point of order
A complaint or question raised by a Senator who believes that the rules, practices or procedures of the Senate have been incorrectly applied or overlooked during the proceedings, either in the chamber or in committee. (Rappel au Règlement)

Parliamentary practice includes the customs, precedents, usages and forms traditionally or habitually applied in the Senate and its committees. (Pratique)

(To) present
See “Report”. (Présenter)

Previous question
A motion in the form “that the question be now put”. It can be moved only on the main motion or the main motion as amended. It cannot be moved if an amendment is under debate. The previous question cannot be amended, but it is debatable, and debate may range over all issues relevant to the main motion. Debate on the previous question may be adjourned.

If the previous question is adopted, the Speaker puts the question on the main motion, without allowing further debate. If the previous question is defeated, the main motion is dropped from the Order Paper. The previous question cannot be moved in committee. (Question préalable)

Private bill
See “Bill”. (Projet de loi d’intérêt privé)

The rights, powers and immunities enjoyed by each house collectively, and by members of each house individually, without which they could not discharge their functions, and which exceed those possessed by other bodies or individuals. Privileges include: freedom of speech in the Senate and its committees, exemption from jury duty and appearance as witness in some cases, and, in general, freedom from obstruction and intimidation.

Witnesses before committees also benefit from certain privileges relating to their appearance, notably freedom of speech and freedom from intimidation. (Privilège)

(a) Case of privilege: A matter that has been determined by a decision of the Speaker on a question of privilege to have prima facie merits. The Speaker’s decision is subject to appeal. (Cas de privilège)


Question of privilege: An allegation that the privileges of the Senate or its members have been infringed. A Senator may bring the matter to the Senate’s attention to request that it be dealt with.

There are various mechanisms whereby a question of privilege may be raised in the Senate, including: (i) using the process for notice provided for in chapter 13, (ii) as a substantive motion after one day’s notice, (iii) by a committee reporting disclosure of confidential material after which the committee may conduct an investigation, (iv) by a committee report of a possible breach of privilege relating to the committee, and (v) by being raised without notice when the Rules allow. (Question de privilège)

Privileged motion
See “Motion”. (Motion privilégiée)

Procedural motion
See “Motion”. (Motion de procédure)

Pro forma bill
See “Bill”. (Projet de loi symbolique)

Public bill
See “Bill”. (Projet de loi d’intérêt public)

The matter before the Senate or a committee for consideration and decision. A question is put by the Speaker or by the chair in the form of a motion for decision following any debate. The term “question” is distinct from Question Period or a question of privilege. (Question)

Question of privilege
See “Privilege”. (Question de privilège)

The three basic stages through which a bill must progress in order to be adopted by the Senate.
First reading is the introductory step and takes place without debate or vote.
Second reading involves debate on the principle of the bill.
Third reading allows the Senate to review the bill a final time, usually following examination by committee. (Lectures)

Recall of the Senate
An action by the Speaker to convene a sitting of the Senate earlier than the time ordered when it last adjourned. The Speaker may exercise this authority when satisfied that the public interest requires that the Senate meet earlier than planned. The notification that the Senate is being recalled must indicate the date and time of the meeting and its purpose. (Rappel du Sénat)

Recognized parliamentary group
See “Recognized party or recognized parliamentary group”. (Groupe parlementaire reconnu)

Recognized party or recognized parliamentary group
A recognized party in the Senate is composed of at least nine senators who are members of the same political party, which is registered under the Canada Elections Act, or has been registered under the Act within the past 15 years.  A recognized parliamentary group in the Senate is one to which at least nine senators belong and which is formed for parliamentary purposes.  A senator may belong to either one recognized party or one recognized parliamentary group.  Each recognized party or recognized group has a leader or facilitator in the Senate. (Parti reconnu ou groupe parlementaire reconnu)

Report (of a committee)
The means whereby a committee formally informs the Senate of the results of its work; reports are in writing, with reports of a Committee of the Whole being an exception. A report may contain a committee’s findings, conclusions and recommendations. Reports are either presented or tabled. Reports are presented when a decision of the Senate is required; they are tabled when they are for information purposes only, although they may be taken into consideration by the Senate and then moved for adoption by the Senate. (Rapport)

Royal Assent
The final stage in the legislative process, whereby a bill passed by both Houses of Parliament in identical form receives approval in the Sovereign’s name, becoming an Act of Parliament. Royal Assent is typically granted by the Governor General or a deputy, although the Sovereign has given it on occasion in the past. Royal Assent may occur by traditional ceremony in the Senate or through written declaration. (Sanction royale)

Royal Consent
The requirement that whenever a bill touches the royal prerogative or the personal property rights of the Crown, the Sovereign’s representative must consent to Parliament considering the measure. This does not mean that the Crown either approves or disapproves of the measure; it means only that there is agreement that the measure may be taken into consideration. (Consentement royal)

Royal prerogative
The powers exercised by the Crown without statutory authority that are the survivors of the original powers possessed by the early English sovereigns. The prerogative powers have been reduced and limited over the centuries by statute and disuse, but still represent a substantial residue, including, for example, the appointment of the Prime Minister; the declaration of war and the conclusion of peace; the making and renouncing of treaties; the establishment and termination of diplomatic relations; the summoning, prorogation and dissolution of Parliament; and the granting of certain pardons. Most prerogative powers are exercised only on advice of the Government, although some limited prerogative powers, such as the granting of honours, are exercised by the Sovereign (or, more usually, a representative) independently. (Prérogative royale)

Royal Recommendation
The authorization provided in a message of the Governor General for the consideration of a bill approving the spending of public monies proposed in a bill. The Royal Recommendation is provided only by a minister and only in the House of Commons. This requirement is based on section 54 of the Constitution Act, 1867. (Recommandation royale)

Rules of the Senate
The written collection of procedures adopted by the Senate for the purpose of regulating its proceedings. Rules may be changed, repealed or suspended by a decision of the Senate. (Règlement du Sénat)

Senate Chamber
The room where the Senate meets, including the area behind the bar, the galleries and the antechamber. (Salle du Sénat)

Senator who is a minister
A Senator who is a member of the Cabinet. The Leader of the Government in the Senate is normally a Minister. (Sénateur-ministre)

Service fee proposal
A proposal in relation to a service fee developed under the Service Fees Act.  Similar proposals were previously referred to as “user fee proposals.” (Proposition de frais de service)

Sessional order
An order governing the conduct of the business of the Senate or of its committees that has effect only for the remainder of the session in which it is adopted. (Ordre sessionnel)

Sitting of the Senate
The time taken by the Senate to conduct its business, starting with Prayers and continuing up to and including the adoption of a motion to adjourn. (See also “Meeting of the Senate”.) (Séance du Sénat)

Sitting day
A day on which the Senate sits or is to sit under the Rules or under any orders in force at a particular time. (Jour de séance)

Special committee
See “Committee”. (Comité spécial)

Sponsor of a bill
The lead Senator speaking for a bill. In the case of a Government Bill, the sponsor will typically be a government member and will normally move the motions for second and third readings and speak first during debate. In the case of a non-Government Bill, the sponsor will introduce the bill if it originates in the Senate, guide it through the different stages, and usually appear as a witness in committee to speak in support of the bill. (Parrain d'un projet de loi)

Standing committee
See “Committee”. (Comité permanent)

Substantive motion
See “Motion”. (Motion de fond)

Subsidiary motion
See “Motion”. (Motion subsidiaire)

Superseding motion
See “Motion”. (Motion de remplacement)

Supplementary question
A follow-up question seeking clarification or further information following a response provided during Question Period. Supplementary questions are permitted under the Rules. (Question supplémentaire)

Suspension of the sitting
A pause during the course of a sitting. The Speaker may leave the chair, but the mace remains on the table. (Suspension de la séance)

(To) table
In relation to committee reports, see “Report”.

To provide a document for the information of the Senate. For example, delayed answers or answers to written questions are tabled, as are certain other documents – either under statute, because they relate to the administrative responsibilities of the Government or because they relate to business before the Senate. In some cases the tabling of documents requires leave, while in other cases it does not. (Déposer)

The means whereby the Senate reaches a decision on a motion before it. Senators may vote either orally or, in the case of a standing vote, by rising in their places and having their names recorded. In English the term vote may also be used in relation to expenditures in the Estimates, but is not used in this way in the Rules. (Vote)

Words represented or reproduced in any visible and legible form. (Écrit)