Parliamentary Privilege First Report


Letter from the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick

  Thank you for your letter of 7 May 1998, pertaining to the work of the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege.

  In practice, the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick has similar privileges to those enjoyed by the other provincial legislative bodies within Canada. New Brunswick has always claimed as inherent those privileges which are traditionally enjoyed by the UK and Canadian House of Commons.

  Although the Legislative Assembly and its Members have enjoyed those privileges traditionally enjoyed by other commonwealth parliaments, New Brunswick has not legislated those privileges in statute form.

  The New Brunswick Legislative Assembly Act does, however, make reference to the privileges accorded to the Legislative Assembly and the committees and members thereof. Subsection 1(1) of the Act states as follows:

    1(1) In all matters and cases not specifically provided for by any Statute of the Province, the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick, and the committees and members thereof respectively, shall hold, enjoy and exercise such and the like privileges, immunities and powers, as are held, enjoyed and exercised by the House of Commons of Canada and by the respective committees and members thereof; and such privileges, immunities and powers, as are held, enjoyed and exercised by the House of Commons of Canada and by the respective committees and members thereof; and such privileges, immunities and powers of the Legislative Assembly shall be deemed to be and are part of the general and public law of New Brunswick, and it shall not be necessary to plead same, but the same shall in all courts of justice in this Province, and by and before all justices and others, be taken notice of judicially.

  As well, at the opening of each new Legislature, the Speaker of the House claims the traditional rights and privileges of the Assembly. The assertion of the privileges of the House is valid for the full term of the Assembly and therefore need not be repeated by a Speaker who is elected to fill a vacancy occurring in the office during the life of an Assembly.

  You have also probably been made aware of the 1993 Supreme Court of Canada decision in Donahoe v Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In this decision the Supreme Court examines the issue of parliamentary privilege and, in particular, whether the Charter of Rights and Freedoms prevails over the exercise by members of a legislature of their ancient rights and privileges. The majority of the Court decided that the Charter cannot override the privileges of the Assembly because the privileges, like the Charter, are part of the Constitution of Canada. The Court found that both the privileges and the Charter must stand together, based on the principle that one part of the Constitution can not abrogate another part of the Constitution. I would be happy to provide you with a copy of this decision if you do not already have it.

  I hope this will be of some assistance to you . If you require further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Loredana Catalli Sonier

Clerk of the Legislative Assembly

19 May 1998


 
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