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The Speakers of the Canadian House of Commons


Hon. James Allison Glen
P.C. (1940–1945)

James Glen was 62 when Prime Minister Mackenzie King nominated him as Speaker following the wartime general election of March 1940. King saw in him, he said, a man interested in parliamentary proceedings who was fair during debates, with legal training and committee experience. The nomination of Glen, a Liberal Progressive MP from Manitoba, was seconded by Richard Hanson in his first statement in the House as interim Conservative leader and Leader of the Opposition.

For Canadians, the Second World War was already eight months old when Glen assumed the Chair. The Conservative party had run in the election on establishing an all-party national unity government (rather like the U.K.’s coalition government that Winston Churchill would set up in May), but King rejected the proposal. In general, Glen’s job was made somewhat easier by the seriousness of the issues before the House. It seemed to many MPs that the real power in the country was the small Cabinet War Committee, using the authority of the War Measures Act, the Official Secrets Act 1939, and the Defence of Canada Regulations.

The war brought not only radical restrictions on individual liberties (including the internment of Japanese–Canadians), but also the use of rare procedures. Hansard was censored to make sure it did not contain information useful to the enemy, visitors to the parliamentary precincts were more closely controlled than before, and the House of Commons met in secret sittings when necessary. The proceedings of these secret sessions were reported only most vaguely; for example, after the fact the Speaker would announce only that a sitting was “devoted to the question of coastal defence in Canada.”

Glen, it turned out, was a keen golfer. On one occasion his parliamentary golfing colleagues prepared an eight-page pamphlet celebrating a hole-in-one he made at the Rivermead Golf Club in nearby Aylmer, Quebec.

Just before the 1945 general election — in which Glen was successful as a Liberal — he resigned as Speaker so that King could appoint him to his Cabinet.

The Library of Parliament holds one of the few remaining copies of the pamphlet that Glen’s parliamentary colleagues published to celebrate his hole-in-one in a golf game.

Next Speaker: Hon. Gaspard Fauteux

Previous Speaker: Hon. Pierre-François Casgrain

Artist: Kenneth Keith Forbes
Date: circa 1945

Born: Renton, Scotland, 1877

Died: Ottawa, Ontario, 1950

Professional Background: Law

Political Affiliation: Liberal

Political Record:

Prime Minister During Speakership: