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The Speakers of the Canadian House of Commons


Hon. Robert Franklin Sutherland
P.C. (1905–1909)

Robert Sutherland was a small-town Ontario lawyer, a Presbyterian and an indefatigable cricket-player. He learned French on his own well before he indicated any federal political interests. Consequently, during his campaign as a Liberal in the 1900 general election, he was able to appeal to both urban Protestants and rural French-speaking Roman Catholics in his riding.

Re-elected in the 1904 general election, Sutherland was nominated as Speaker by Liberal Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier in January 1905. Laurier stressed his judicial and fair mind; George Foster, representing the Conservative Official Opposition (and who had previously served in the Cabinets of five prime ministers), did not know Sutherland, but seconded the motion on the recommendation of his colleagues. On his election, Sutherland became the first English-speaking Speaker to give part of his acceptance speech in French.

Some years later, Sir William Mulock of the Ontario Supreme Court praised him as Speaker for discharging “the duties of that difficult office with such fair, judicial impartiality as to win for him the confidence and respect of the whole House.” In 1908 Sutherland did not accept Laurier’s offer to nominate him again as Speaker. The following year the Prime Minister appointed him to the Privy Council, and then as a judge to the High Court Division of the Ontario Supreme Court.

Sutherland chaired a controversial and influential Royal Commission on hydroelectric regulation in Ontario.

Next Speaker: Hon. Charles Marcil

Previous Speaker: Hon. Napoléon Antoine Belcourt

Artist: John Wycliffe Lowes Forster
Date: circa 1906

Born: Newmarket, Canada West, 1859

Died: Toronto, Ontario, 1922

Professional Background: Law

Political Affiliation: Liberal

Political Record:

Prime Minister During Speakership: