940 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 77 PART 6 NOVEMBER 2019
Mr. Wilson (Etobicoke Centre): Mr. Speaker, would you allow me to say
he is twisting the facts?
Mr. Speaker: Order. I can say to the Hon. Minister that that is an honourable
occupation in this Chamber.
Hansard: 17th December, 1986.
The Speaker of Canada’s House of Commons is a fairly direct
historical descendent of the first Speaker in what was then
known as the House of Commons of England. The first
Speaker to be so designated was appointed in 1377, but the origin
of the Speakership can be traced back to a considerably earlier date.
At that time, the Speaker’s role was to act as an intermediary between the
Commons and the King, a person selected by, and to speak for, the Commoners.
While the Speaker’s independence from the King was at times suspect,
by the 17th century the concept of the Speaker as the servant of the
House, rather than the Crown, was being established.
This new orientation became most clear in 1642 when King Charles I
made a wholly unconstitutional incursion into the House of Commons with
an armed escort and demanded the surrender of five Members who he
claimed were guilty of treason. On being met with stony silence, he asked
Speaker Lenthall to tell him where the five Members were. Lenthall replied:
“May it please Your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak
in this place, but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am
Even though the Speaker was established as independent of the Crown,
the development of political parties in the House meant that the position
remained for many years a partisan one and typically was used to advance
the interests of his party.
It was not until the 19th century that Members of Parliament insisted on
political neutrality in the Chair and it was during those decades that the
Speaker became as distant from the Prime Minister and the Cabinet as he
had earlier been from the Crown.
It is of interest to note that when the Fathers of Confederation adapted
the British model of Parliament to the needs of the new country they were
creating, the impartiality of the Speaker was a relatively recent development.
Indeed, if Confederation had occurred a century earlier, Canada
likely would have had a partisan Speaker.