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Guide

Glossary

amend
To change or improve something; for example, a law or an Act of Parliament.
French: amender
amendment
A change that is made to a bill, a motion or a committee report with the intention of improving it.
French: amendement
bicameral
Of two chambers, or rooms. Canada's Parliament is made up of two separate Chambers. They are the Senate and the House of Commons.
French: bicaméral
bill
A proposal for a law to be considered by Parliament.
French: projet de loi
budget
The government's plan for how it will collect and spend money each year.
French: budget
Cabinet
The Cabinet is a group of all Ministers (mostly from the House of Commons and at least one from the Senate). The Cabinet makes decisions about the Government's priorities and policies, the legislation that will be presented to Parliament, and how to collect and spend money.
French: Cabinet
Cabinet Minister
A person — normally a Member of Parliament or a Senator — who is chosen by the Prime Minister, and appointed by the Governor General, to help govern. A Minister is usually the head of a government department. The Government Leader in the Senate is also a member of the Cabinet.
French: ministre
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
An important part of the Canadian constitution that ensures all people in Canada are guaranteed certain basic human rights and freedoms.
French: Charte canadienne des droits et libertés
capital
The city where a country's legislature is located and the government carries out its business. The capital city of Canada is Ottawa. Each province and territory also has a capital city and a legislature.
French: capitale
caucus
A group made up of all Senators and Members of Parliament from the same political party. Caucuses meet regularly.
French: caucus
Centre Block
The Parliament Buildings have three parts (West Block, Centre Block and East Block). The House of Commons and the Senate Chambers are in the Centre Block. It is recognizable by the Peace Tower with the clock.
French: édifice du Centre
ceremony
A formal event that follows rules or traditions.
French: cérémonie
chair
The person in charge of a meeting. This person directs the discussion of business in a Senate or a House of Commons committee meeting.
French: président
Chamber
One of two large rooms in the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings. The Senate Chamber, or the Upper House, is where Senators meet to discuss business. The Commons Chamber, also called the Lower House, is where Members of Parliament meet. Traditionally, the Senate Chamber has red furniture and carpet, to signify monarchy, while the House of Commons' furniture and carpet are green, following the tradition set in Britain.
French: Chambre
Chief Electoral Officer of Canada
This person is responsible for overseeing all federal elections.
French: directeur général des élections du Canada
citizen
A person who has full political and civil rights in his or her country.
French: citoyen
Clerk of the House of Commons
The senior official in the Commons, and the main advisor to the Speaker and Members of the House of Commons regarding House rules and procedures.
French: greffier de la Chambre des communes
Clerk of the Senate
The senior official in the Senate, and the main advisor to the Speaker of the Senate and to Senators regarding the Senate's rules and procedures. The Clerk is also Clerk of the Parliaments and is responsible for all legislation passed by Parliament.
French: greffier du Sénat
committee
A group of Senators, Members of Parliament, or both, selected to study a specific subject or bill and write a report about it.
French: comité
Confederation
The agreement by the provinces to join together to form the nation of Canada and create a federal Parliament. This happened in 1867 with four present-day provinces: Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The other six provinces and three territories joined at later dates.
French: Confédération
constituency
The specific geographic area in Canada that a Member of Parliament represents in the House of Commons. (Synonym: riding or electoral district)
French: circonscription
constituent
A person living in an area in Canada represented by a Member of Parliament.
French: électeur
constitution
The set of rules that a country like Canada follows to work as a nation. It includes the Constitution Acts of 1867 and 1982, but is not limited to them.
French: constitution
constitutional monarchy
A system in which the powers of the Monarch are limited by the written or unwritten constitution of the country. Canada is a constitutional monarchy. The Queen or King of Canada is our Head of State, whereas the Prime Minister is our Head of Government.
French: monarchie constitutionnelle
debate
A discussion in which the arguments for and against a subject are presented according to specific rules. Discussions in the Senate and the House of Commons are called debates.
French: débat
dissolution
The bringing to an end of a Parliament, either at the end of its four-year term or if the government is defeated on a motion of non-confidence, by proclamation (an official announcement) of the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister. It is followed by a general election.
French: dissolution
elect
To pick one person from a group of several people by voting. The person with the most votes is elected.
French: élire
election
The process of choosing a representative by vote. In a federal election, voters in each riding elect one representative to the House of Commons. The person who gets the most votes represents the riding.
French: élection
federal government
The government of Canada that acts and speaks for the whole country.
French: gouvernement fédéral
governing party
The political party that forms the Government because more of its members were elected to the House of Commons than from any other party.
French: parti ministériel
Government
The political party with the most members elected to the House of Commons usually forms the Government. In the federal government, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet decide the policies and priorities, make sure they are put into action, and also guide the Government's legislation through the House of Commons and the Senate.
French: gouvernement
Government House Leader
The Minister responsible for managing the Government's business in the House, including negotiating the scheduling of business with the House Leaders of the opposition parties. (Synonym: Leader of the Government in the House of Commons)
French: Chef du gouvernement à la Chambre des communes
Governor General
A person appointed by our Monarch, on the advice of the Prime Minister, to be the Monarch's representative in Canada. The Governor General is appointed for a term of five years. The term may be extended.
French: Gouverneur général
Hansard
The daily official record of debates in the Senate and the House of Commons in English and French. Hansard was the surname of a British printer who prepared reports of parliamentary debates in 19th-century England. The Hansard is also called Debates of the Senate and House of Commons Debates.
French: Hansard
Head of Government
In Canada, the Prime Minister holds the powers of the Head of Government and looks after the business of the country.
French: chef du gouvernement
Head of State
Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen of Canada, is our Head of State. She is represented in Canada by the Governor General.
French: chef d'État
Honourable
A special title given to Senators and Cabinet Ministers for life, and to the Speaker of the House of Commons as long as he or she is the Speaker. In Parliament, Senators and Members of Parliament use terms such as “Honourable Senator,” “The Honourable Member for...,” and “Honourable colleague” because traditionally they are not allowed to call one another by name in the Chambers.
French: honorable
House Leader
An appointed Member of every party that manages its business in the House of Commons.
French: chef parlementaire
House of Commons
One of three parts of Parliament. MPs meet and debate in the House of Commons Chamber.
French: Chambre des communes
independent
A Member of the Senate or House of Commons who does not belong to a political party.
French: indépendant
interest groups
Groups of businesses, associations and people with a common interest who ask MPs or Senators to speak for them and promote their interests.
French: groupes d'intérêt
law
A rule for all Canadians made by Senators, Members of Parliament and the Governor General through discussion and voting.
French: loi
Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
(See Government House Leader.)
French: Chef du gouvernement à la Chambre des communes
Leader of the Government in the Senate
A Senator appointed by the Prime Minister to lead the Government in the Senate.
French: Chef du gouvernement au Sénat
Leader of the Official Opposition or Leader of the Opposition (House of Commons)
The leader of the political party that usually has the second-largest number of MPs in the House of Commons.
French: chef de l'Opposition officielle
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate
The leader of the party in the Senate that usually has the second-largest number of seats. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate manages his or her party members' activities in the Senate and in its committees.
French: chef de l'Opposition au Sénat
legislation
Bills that are passed by Parliament.
French: législation
legislative process
The steps by which bills are approved by Parliament and become laws.
French: processus législatif
Local government
The council that manages the business of a municipality (village, town or city) that is led by a mayor. Council members are elected by the people living in that area.
French: administration municipale
Lower House
Another name for the House of Commons.
French: Chambre basse
Mace
A large, heavy, silver- and gold-covered staff that is a symbol of the power and authority of Parliament. The Senate and the House of Commons each have a Mace. When the Senate and the House are in session, the Maces rest on the Clerk's Table in each Chamber.
French: masse
Member of Parliament (MP)
Technically, members of both the Senate and the House of Commons are Members of Parliament (MP), but most often this term is used for someone elected to a seat in the House of Commons. Members of the Senate are called Senators. Each member of Parliament represents one of the ridings into which Canada is divided.
French: député
monarch
A king or queen of a country.
French: monarque
motion
A proposal by a Member for either the Senate or the House of Commons to do something, to order something to be done, or to express an opinion on a matter. To be considered by the Chamber, a motion must be seconded by another Member and voted on by all members. If adopted, a motion becomes an order or a resolution.
French: motion
Official Opposition
The political party that usually has the second-largest number of MPs elected to the House of Commons. Both the House and Senate have an Official Opposition.
French: Opposition officielle
opposition
All political parties and independent Members who do not belong to the governing party.
French: opposition
oral questions
Another name for question period.
French: questions orales
page
A university student who works for the Senate or the House of Commons. He or she carries messages and delivers documents and other material to the Chamber during sittings of the Senate or House of Commons.
French: page
Parliament
Canada's Parliament is composed of the Monarch, the Senate and the House of Commons. Parliament has the power to make laws for Canada in certain areas of responsibility. A Parliament is also the period of time between an election and a dissolution.
French: Parlement
parliamentarian
A Senator or a Member of the House of Commons.
French: parlementaire
parliamentary democracy
A system of government where the citizens express their political views by choosing representatives to go to Parliament to make laws on their behalf.
French: démocratie parlementaire
Prime Minister
The leader of the party in power and the Head of Government. The Prime Minister is normally an elected Member of Parliament and represents a constituency.
French: Premier ministre
private Member
Another name for a backbencher: a Member of Parliament who does not have an official role in the House of Commons.
French: simple député
provincial or territorial government
Each of Canada's 10 provinces and three territories has a legislature that makes laws for the people living in that province or territory. Each legislature is located in the capital city of the province or territory.
French: gouvernement provincial ou territorial
question period
A daily period of time in the Senate and House of Commons when parliamentarians ask the government questions about its activities or important issues.
French: période des questions
reading (of a bill)
A word used for the stages during which a bill is debated in Parliament before it is passed to become a law.
French: lecture
report stage
A step in the passage of a bill through both the Senate and the House of Commons. The Report Stage is when the Senate or the House of Commons considers the report of the committee that has studied a bill, and when changes to the text of the bill may be proposed.
French: étape du rapport
representative
A person who speaks for you.
French: représentant
responsible government
The Government, made up of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, must have the support of the majority in the House of Commons to stay in power. If the Government loses that support on a question of confidence, it must resign and ask the Governor General to call an election.
French: gouvernement responsable
riding
Another word for constituency or electoral district.
French: comté
Right Honourable
A special title given to Governors General, Prime Ministers and Chief Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada. The title can be used for the person's lifetime, even after retirement.
French: très honorable
Royal Assent
The last stage before a bill becomes a law. The ceremony of Royal Assent takes place in the Senate Chamber and is performed by the Governor General or the Governor General's deputy with Members of the House of Commons present. A bill can also receive Royal Assent at Rideau Hall by written declaration.
French: sanction royale
Senate
The Upper House of Parliament is made up of 105 Senators.
French: Sénat
Senator
A person appointed to the Upper House of Parliament by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister. A Senator represents a region of Canada.
French: sénateur
Sergeant-at-Arms
The person who is responsible for the maintenance and security of the buildings used by the staff and Members of the House of Commons, including the Chamber. The Sergeant-at-Arms also carries the Mace when the Speaker enters and leaves the Commons Chamber.
French: sergent d'armes
session
The periods into which a Parliament is divided. Sessions start with a Speech from the throne and are ended by prorogation (suspension).
French: session
sitting
A meeting of the Senate or of the House of Commons within a session. Usually one day long, although a sitting can last for only a matter of minutes or may extend over several days.
French: séance
Speaker of the House of Commons
The Member of Parliament who is elected at the beginning of a Parliament by fellow MPs to keep order in the House of Commons and to ensure that its rules and traditions are respected.
French: Président de la Chambre des communes
Speaker of the Senate
The Speaker is appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Speaker keeps order in the Senate and ensures that rules and traditions are respected.
French: Président du Sénat
Speech from the Throne
A speech delivered by the Monarch or the Governor General at the start of a new session of Parliament. The speech is read in the Senate Chamber and describes the Government's plans for the session.
French: discours du Trône
Supreme Court of Canada
The highest court in Canada. It has nine justices who are appointed by the Prime Minister.
French: Cour suprême du Canada
table (verb)
To place a document before the Senate, the House of Commons or a committee for consideration.
French: présenter
Upper House
Another name for the Senate.
French: Chambre haute
Usher of the Black Rod
An officer of the Senate whose responsibilities include delivering messages to the Commons when its Members' attendance is required in the Senate Chamber by the Governor General or a deputy of the Governor General.
French: huissier du bâton noir
vote
To choose a representative in an election. Eligible Canadian citizens vote for their representatives to the House of Commons by secret ballot during federal elections. In the Senate and House of Commons, Members can vote either orally or by standing in their places.
French: voter
whip (noun)
The Member of Parliament or Senator in a political party who is responsible for keeping other party Members informed about the Chamber's business and making sure they are present in the Chamber, especially when a vote is expected.
French: whip