Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament

With the controversial prorogation of Parliament last week comes a new grassroots movement, Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament. Started only a few days ago by University of Alberta student Christopher White, this group is organized via a Facebook group and currently boasts over 30,000 members.

The idea behind the group is to ask Members of Parliament to return to Parliament despite the prorogation. The precedent being cited is the so-called Long Parliament that, according to Wikipedia, took place in England in the 1600s after the English Civil War. The Facebook group includes a sample letter to MPs inviting them to “ignore Stephen Harper’s request to prorogue parliament and attend anyway.”

Additional information:

Comments

  1. Update: There’s now a Vancouver chapter planning a rally for January 23rd.

  2. Katherine Hyrcza

    On the surface, it’s an amazing display of mobilization of public voices but let’s hope it’s not another case of ‘slacktivism’ as described by L. Jutras here http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/technology/personal-tech/facebook-mobilizes-masses—but-what-for/article1390916/

    Great blog!

  3. Remember Erol Mendes? Seems like he may have been right.

    See his sharply-worded editorial in today’s Star.

  4. Katherine, while I agree Facebook allows a lot of people to just become joiners without actually taking any action, I do think the Facebook group and the resulting media have raised the profile on this issue, helping the average person to understand a bit better what prorogation is about if nothing else.

    Omar, thank you for reminding us of Mendes’ warnings and the link to his article.

    I do wonder, since proroguing Parliament happens with every government, what will happen with future governments, if they will be under extra scrutiny when they try to do so? That is perhaps not a bad thing, though. As a law librarian who often had to explain what prorogation is, it is amusing to hear my friends not in law talk about it.

  5. No Connie – there’s a difference between an adjournment (which does happen each Christmas and in the summer) and a prorogation. See the good discussion here, and Eugene Forsey’s still classic The Royal Power of Dissolution of Parliament in the British Commonwealth. Toronto: Oxford University Press (1968).

  6. Yes, I do understand the difference between prorogation and adjournment. I’ve had to explain it to lots of people over the years. Most Parliaments have more than one session, and prorogation ends a session. If they had just adjourned things at this time, it wouldn’t have been so maddening since this way it delays progress of all the legislation that is still in progress–it all dies on the Order Paper, and has to be reintroduced, or there has to be unanimous agreement to have it continue where it left off.

  7. Here’s a list of sessions, 1867 to 2008, courtesy of Parliament’s web site. Someone else can calculate the statistics, but an 11-month session doesn’t seem to be an especially brief one. It was the 1st session of the 32nd Parliament that gave us those delightful S.C. 1980-81-82-83 citations.

  8. I don’t think it’s the brevity of the session that has people upset, but rather the reasons (i.e., Senate majority, avoiding torture) and the method.

    Mendes:

    Apart from the doomed attempts of Charles I to prorogue the British parliament in the 17th century, there was no precedent in any parliamentary democracy anywhere in the world where a democratic parliament was shut down to hide from a vote of confidence. It opened the door for other abuses of the rights and privileges of the majority of Members of Parliament elected by Canadians. Harper has gone through that door once again.
    [emphasis added]

  9. Here’s an alternative list which is more current.

    I wish I could edit comments.

  10. Your wish is my command, John. At least, I hope so: logged-in contributors ought to be able to edit their own comments now, whether on their own or others’ posts. Email me to let me know if it does, in fact, work for you.

  11. Is there a pettion being circulated to sign? I do not live near one of the cities where there will be a demonstration but I wish to do something to register my disgust with Harper’s complete disdain for our democratic process. I have written to Globe & Star. I will write to my MPP who unfortunately is a Harper “yes person”. I heard professor emeritus Peter Russell speak on minority governments last fall. His credentials are impeccable & if he is warning that “parliamentary democracy is in danger”, we should certainly be listening & taking action. Harper is relying on a complacent public to get away with this. Thank goodness a grassroots movement is developing to let him know we are not complacent & will not put up with this. We can certainly demonstrate our disapproval at the ballot box. Canada deserves much, much better.

  12. Thanks, Simon.

    I always wanted a swell job in the Ministry of Truth.

  13. Actually, John, I once had a job in the Ministry of Truth. For a summer while in graduate school I worked with a group in the World Bank in DC. Our job was to come up with data to show that what the head of the bank had said was in fact true. (Oddly, it’s not a million miles away from what I learned a year later in law school about a sort of legal argument — i.e. starting with the assumption that the client is right, and then working back to see how that can be made to come about.)

  14. Wow–thank you for pulling that out to support me, John.

    Omar, I agree it is not that they prorogued Parliament, but how it was done, that has people upset. I just wonder if the average citizen will now consider prorogation in and of itself a negative thing.

  15. P.Preston – No petition, that I know of. Merely sign up for the Facebook group, and/or send a message to your Member of Parliament. I doubt your MPP (Member of Provincial Parliament) would be as influential.

  16. There is now a Petition that can be signed. Please see the hyperlink at this weblink address: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/7/stop-the-prorogue-of-canadian-parliament

    Let’s get some signatures folks.

  17. It is funny how when the going gets tough, the Conservative shut down Parliament. All that work in those committee dies and will have to be introduced back in to the committee again; waste of time.

    And to make it worst, comments from our PM saying that people do not care if the Parliament is in PROROGUING.

    As a Canadian, I do care, and want to see democacy in action. The late Bob Mitchell, MPP once said to me; It does not matter what side your on, the purpose of the opposition is to keep the government HONEST.

    We elected members of Parliament to serve Canadians, and to keep the democacy working.

  18. Update;

    The group is now approaching 150,000 people as of this posting to you.

    There are 714 discussions going on and the comments are happening so fast it is impossible to keep up. At the current rate of growth this group will hit 250,000 within a few days.

  19. When the website referred to by LynnOsh assumes that those signing the petiton live in the United States and a state thereof and have a Zip Code, it hardly seems to be Canadian. If it changes, then I’ll sign.

  20. Ms Swan – The Petition Site serves both Canada and the US. The default is US, but the drop-down menu offers Canada which then allows you to enter which province you are from. You might want to try again.

  21. Just an etymological question: if prorogue is derived from the Latin prorogare ‘prolong, extend’, then why in this context does it mean ‘shorten, abbreviate’?

  22. Interesting question, Simon. I didn’t know the origin of this word. Sometimes words flip and take on opposite meanings in our English language. The one example that comes to mind is “awesome”. Whereas it once meant fear-inducing, it now is primarily used to mean excellent or fantastic. I wonder if it is that kind of phenomenon, or some other reasoning.

  23. I believe it’s just like a “continuance”. If we can’t finish this now, it means more later … sigh. To be continued …. For “continuance”, the OED cites:

    1846 MCCULLOCH Acc. Brit. Empire (1854) II. 135 A prorogation..is the continuance of a parliament from one session to another.

    and

    1641 Termes de la Ley 80 Continuance in the Common Law is of the same signification with Prorogatio in the Civile Law: As continuance untill the next Assise.

  24. It seems I just can’t leave this alone.

    The root of “continuance” is “continuo”, I join together. As links to a chain, so sessions to a parliament.

    “You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?” “I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?” Scrooge trembled more and more. “Or would you know,” pursued the Ghost, “the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it since. It is a ponderous chain!”

  25. That makes more sense, John. Thank you!

    I was looking at the prolific discussions on the Facebook page last night, and noticed a good discussion called Prorogue 101 which discusses prorogation, what it is, the history of it in Canada, and has gone off into a discussion about the word itself. Interesting how that has happened.

  26. The wave of Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament on Facebook has now splashed into mirror groups around the world. Protesters have been meeting – and marching already; January 23rd will see rallies from coast to coast to coast in Canada, as well as solidarity gatherings and rallies now scheduled around the globe.

    Regular sites such http://www.ourcanada.tk, have also now sprung up, and serve as busy places where information and resources are collected and shared by those who do not use Facebook, or wish to remain more private about their politics.

    Years of lies and deceit appear to have caught up to Harper and his ‘team’, and now members are sharing videos of Afghan abuse testimony, detainee abuse reports, a Parliamentary Report condemning the Harper regime, Harper’s angry ‘alert’ to Canadians, and much more. An impressive archive of Canadian media pertaining to Harper’s attacks on democracy is perhaps the largest and most comprehensive available on-line. ourcanada.tk maintains a steadily increasing stream of 10-25 visitors/hour from around the world and is growing.

    It fitting that in one of our Nation’s darkest hours, a movement has begun that is truly historical in nature, and remarkable by design. Fueled by the ire of 200,000 connected members – it is also quite possibly this regime’s worst nightmare, and the rebirth of Canadian democracy. Keep watching.

  27. Nettah Burry-Mccrindle

    Thank you, just when I thought the whole country must surely have it’s head in the sand, your voices appeared.I am suggesting that this awareness and protest be more encompassing than the prorogation issue.The PM has defamed the reputation of this country,has threatened and defied democratic processes,has acted within his personal ideology and ignored basic humans rights, continues to avoid the issues of climate change, detainee abuse,equality of the Canadian people and is basically a threat to the values of this country. Is there an agenda to act?

  28. To the Editor:

    It seems to me that all of the people who are protesting Stephen Harper’s prorogating Parliament must miss the childish behavior of the opposition parties during question period, where nothing of any value gets done.

    Or they might miss seeing the Liberal-dominated Senate sitting on vital bills instead of getting on with the purpose of government.

    These demonstrations are obviously initiated by the Liberal and NDP parties. They are using a technique that was used successfully by Barack Obama to win the presidential election. Going back many years, we have seen Parliaments prorogued many times under Trudeau, Rae and Chretien to name a few but with no demonstrations from the public.

    Clive Naismith

  29. In response to Clive Naismith: the protests against Mr. Harper proroguing Parliament have been initiated by the Canadian citizens themselves and not by the Liberal or NDP party members. In fact if one actually took the time to do some investigating and research into this it would be quickly noted that the people were so angry and disgusted that they began talking among themselves about what they could do to express their disatisfaction over the proroguing of Parliament. The snowball actually started rolling the day Mr. Harper made his announcement.