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About the Senate - Committees

The Parliament of Canada uses committees for a variety of purposes. Committees consider bills in detail, and can make amendments. Other committees scrutinize various government agencies and ministries.
The largest of the Senate committees is the Committee of the Whole, which, as the name suggests, consists of all senators. The Committee of the Whole meets in the Chamber of the Senate, but proceeds under slightly modified rules of debate. (For example, there is no limit on the number of speeches a member may make on a particular motion.) The presiding officer is known as the chairman. The Senate may resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole for a number of purposes, including to consider legislation, or to hear testimony from individuals. Nominees to be officers of Parliament often appear before Committee of the Whole to answer questions with respect to their qualifications prior to their appointment.
The Senate also has several standing committees, each of which has responsibility for a particular area of government (for example, finance or transport). These committees consider legislation and conduct special studies on issues referred to them by the Senate, and may hold hearings, collect evidence, and report their findings to the Senate. Standing committees consist of between nine and fifteen members each, and elect their own chairmen.
Senate standing committees
  • Aboriginal Peoples
  • Agriculture and Forestry
  • Banking, Trade, and Commerce
  • Conflict of Interest for Senators
  • Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources
  • Fisheries and Oceans
  • Foreign Affairs
  • Human Rights
  • Internal Economy, Budgets, and Administration
  • Legal and Constitutional Affairs
  • National Finance
  • National Security and Defense
  • Official Languages
  • Rules, Procedure and the Rights of Parliament
  • Selection Committee
  • Social Affairs, Science and Technology
  • Subcommittee on Population Health
  • Subcommittee on Cities
  • Transport and Communication
Special committees are appointed by the Senate on an ad hoc basis to consider a particular issue. The number of members for a special committee varies, but the partisan composition would roughly reflect the strength of the parties in the whole Senate. These committees have been struck to study bills (e.g., the Special Senate Committee on Bill C-36 (the Anti-terrorism Act), 2001), or particular issues of concern (e.g., the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs).
The Special Senate Committee on Aging tabled its final report Canada`s Aging Population: Seizing the Opportunity in the Senate April 21, 2009.
Other committees include joint committees, which include both members of the House of Commons and senators. There are presently two joint committees, the Standing Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations, which considers delegated legislation, and the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament which advises the two Speakers on the management of the Library. Parliament may also establish Special Joint committees on an ad hoc basis to consider issues of particular interest or importance.
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