Jurisdiction Over the Precincts
of the Legislature, Speaker John Reynolds, British Columbia Legislative
Background: In April, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr.
Skelly, raised a question of privilege relating to the public's right to
demonstrate, by way of residency, on the grounds of the Legislative Building.
The Ruling (Speaker John
afternoon, the Honourable the Leader of the Opposition rose under the
provisions of Standing Order 26 relating to a matter of privilege and described
recent events which had taken place on the lawn in front of the Legislative
Firstly, I wish to thank the
Honourable Member for his courtesy in advising the Chair of this matter, prior
to his raising it in the House. Honourable Members will appreciate that
privilege belongs to Members of the Legislature, individually and collectively.
The individual privileges are:
a) freedom of speech in debate; and
(b) freedom from arrest
The collective privileges are:
(a) access to the Crown;
(b) the right to provide for its
(c) the right to regulate its own
(d) the power to punish for
(e) the power to summon witnesses;
(f) those privileges enumerated in
the Legislative Assembly Privilege Act
The distinctive mark of a privilege
is its ancillary character. The privileges of Parliament are rights which are
(and I stress) "absolutely necessary for the due execution of its
power." They are enjoyed by individual Members because the House cannot
perform its functions without unimpeded use of the services of its Members; and
by each House for the protection of its Members and the vindication of its own
authority and dignity. The question the Chair must address is whether or not
the privileges enumerated above have been breached by the actions described by
the Honourable the Leader of the Opposition yesterday.
The Chair must also observe that
the Speaker's jurisdiction in British Columbia has never been clearly defined
and the problems relating thereto were placed before this House in a report
filed under the Legislative Procedure Review Act in 1984. In that report, at
page 41, it was recommended that the legislative precinct be defined as the
land the buildings bounded by Belleville, Government, Superior and Menzies
Street, and further recommended that that definition be included in an Act
establishing an Internal Economy Board.
The Chair feels the matter raised
yesterday by the Honourable the Leader of the Opposition could have been
examined by such a board and the experience in other jurisdictions of the
Commonwealth lends support to that conclusion.
The right to demonstrate and
protest are integral parts of a parliamentary democracy. The question the
Chair, and indeed this Assembly, must address is whether or not they wish to
circumscribe limits to these rights, particularly when the actions in question
directly impact upon the precinct of this Legislative Assembly. The Speaker is,
and will remain, the servant of this Assembly, but is placed in an invidious
position when the extent of his jurisdiction remains uncertain. It is hoped
that the Premier's statement relating to the formation of a Board of Internal
Economy will hasten the resolution of many of these uncertainties.
The matter raised by the Honourable
the Leader of the Opposition has brought into sharp focus these jurisdictional
problems but the matter described does not, under the authorities, qualify as a
prima facie breach of privilege.
For the further assistance of all
Members, I refer them to a comprehensive treatment of this matter contained in
Parliamentary Privilege in Canada by Joseph Maingot, and Sir Erskine May's
Parliamentary Practice, 19th edition, at page 92, and Beauchesne's
Parliamentary Rules and Forms, 5th edition, at page 11.
The Chair must make a further comment
in relation to a fresh incident reported by the Honourable the Leader of the
Opposition during this morning's sitting which, as the Chair understands it,
amounted to a repeat of yesterday's incident on the lawn of the Legislative
Assembly. As a result of this last-mentioned incident, the Speaker has issued
instructions to the Sergeant-at-Arms that neither he, nor any of his staff, are
to become involved in the forcible removal of persons or articles from the
grounds of the Legislative Building. These instructions will remain in place
until the Chair has been given different instructions by this House, or by a
duly constituted Board of Internal Economy. Let me emphasise, this in no way
derogates from the Chair's acknowledged responsibility for security matters
within the walls of the Legislative Building, which will continue in accordance
with the Standing Orders of this House and well-established custom and usage.