2011: The speaker rises to try to restore order as the parties hoot and yell at each other after one member called another * A grumpy old man*.

2011: The speaker rises to try to restore order as the parties hoot and yell at each other for a couple of minutes after one member called another * A grumpy old man*.
Photo Credit: via CBC

The unruliness of Members of Parliament


Seeking more dignity in Parliamentary debates

This month a U.S. Senator said he would not seek re-election as he did not want to be a part of the indecorous level of debate in U.S. politics of late.

In Canada’s House of Commons, there has long been calls to reduce the amount of undignified and incivil heckling during Question Period.

Many Members of Parliament have spoken out about heckling. Yet concerns about a lack of decorum in the House persist.  Samara Canada is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy group promoting greater public participation and education about Canada’s democratic system

The organisation recently surveyed M-Ps to get their perspective on the issue.  Jane Hilderman,  Executive Director of Samara Canada

Jane Hilderman, Executive-director Samara Canada
Jane Hilderman, Executive-director Samara Canada, in front of Canada’s Centre Block, Parliament Buildings, Ottawa © supplied

Samara Canada’s new report is called, “No One is Listening- Incivility in the 42nd Parliament and how to fix it” (link below story)

The House of Commons in Canada, and indeed in Britain from where Canada’s Parliamentary tradition originates, has a long history of disruptive behaviour.

Jan 2017:Speaker Geoff Regan looks on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in the House of Commons. The debates are often interrupted by the raucus interruptions of hoots, howld, catcalls, of general heckling.
Jan 2017:Speaker Geoff Regan looks on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in the House of Commons. The debates are often interrupted by the raucus interruptions of hoots, howld, catcalls, of general heckling. © Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press

Journalists in the early days of Parliament noted a variety of such acts including bringing firecrackers into the House, throwing paper balls and books at each other and so on. An 1878 report notes one such event,

“While points of order were being argued, Members hammered at desks, blew on tin trumpets, imitated the crowing of cocks, sent up toy-balloons, and occasionally hurled blue-books across the House. Often the babel of sounds was such that neither the Speaker of the House nor the Member who had the floor could be heard. Once in a while amid the din some Member with a good voice would start up the “Marseillaise,” “God save the Queen,” ” à la claire fontaine,” “The Raftsman’s chorus,” or some plantation melody”.

 While that kind of behaviour, especially firecrackers, would not be tolerated today, heckling and other noise making still does occur with regularity. Whereas the heckling in the past often took the form of witty and incisive comments designed to disrupt the speaker’s train of thought, often now the heckles are simply noise making and occasional name calling.

In the new survey, Samara notes that of the MP’s responding, (84 of 338) some 53% said heckling was a problem.  Even more feel that the public gets a bad impression of MP’s due to heckling, yet two thirds admit they do it.  Several MP’s said they don’t like to attend sessions due to the heckling which some feel is a form of harassment.

Interestingly, the longer an MP has served, the less they report being affected by heckling. And only a minority feel that heckling serves the purpose of increasing accountabili

Hecklers specifically called out by the Speaker in spring session 2016
Hecklers specifically called out by the Speaker in spring session 2016 © CBC


One of the suggestions to increase decorum is by having the cameras focus on the hecklers, reducing their “anonymity”.  Another suggestion is the alter seating to place MPs among the opposite party seats, which might reduce temptation to heckler when not surrounded by your own party.

In any case, highlighting the issue, may itself bring about some change as MPs and party leaders realize that the public doesn’t like MPs acting like spoiled children.

CBC:example of heckling in House of Commons

Additional information

Categories: Economy, Politics, Society
Tags: , , , , ,

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.

Netiquette »

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1. RCInet.ca’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. RCInet.ca reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3. RCInet.ca’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.