British Columbia.

Author:Couture, Josee
 
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The fall sitting of the fourth session of the 41st Parliament of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia adjourned on November 28, 2019. During the sitting, 13 bills received Royal Assent, including a Private Member's bill introduced by the Leader of the Third Party, Andrew Weaver. It is anticipated that the Legislative Assembly will resume sitting on February 11, 2020.

Amendments to the Standing Orders

To ensure that the Legislative Assembly's Standing Orders continue to better reflect British Columbia's growing diversity and evolving standards and expectations, a number of them were amended during the fall sitting.

On October 3, 2019, Rachna Singh, MLA for Surrey-Green Timbers, wrote a letter to Speaker Darryl Plecas seeking clarification regarding a recommendation contained in the Acting Clerk's May 2019 Report on Dress Guidelines and Expectations in the Parliament Buildings. Ms. Singh inquired about the status of the recommendation to solidify the long-accepted unwritten practice that "Indigenous attire, traditional cultural attire and religious attire continue to be considered appropriate dress," and asked how it pertained to the Standing Orders, in particular Standing Order 36 which requires Members to 'rise uncovered' to speak. Ms. Singh felt that Standing Order 36 might prohibit religious and Indigenous head wear in the Chamber and possibly contradict the Acting Clerk's recommendation.

On October 10, Ms. Singh sought and received unanimous consent to move a motion without notice to amend Standing Order 36 to read "Every Member desiring to speak shall do so from their assigned place and address the Speaker." In her remarks upon moving the motion, Ms. Singh thanked the Speaker for his response to her letter, "which made it clear that a change to the order would be necessary in order to ensure the Legislature remains a welcoming space for all Canadians." She indicated that the amendment to Standing Order 36 would reflect "our mutually held values of diversity, religious freedom and reconciliation." The motion was adopted unanimously and Members may now wear a head covering in the Chamber if it is part of their traditional cultural, Indigenous or religious attire. Further certainty in this regard was provided with the addition of Standing Order 17B on October 31, 2019. The Standing Order provides that Members shall dress in professional contemporary business attire for all proceedings of the House, and that Indigenous, traditional cultural and religious attire are appropriate dress.

Under Standing Order 25, the daily routine business of the House for each sitting day begins with "Prayers" and are the only proceeding not transcribed for publication in the Hansard transcript. The Speaker will invite a Member or invited faith leaders, Indigenous leaders or Elders to "lead the House in prayer." On the last day of the session, the Government House Leader moved a motion without notice to amend Standing Orders 25 and 17A, replacing the reference to "Prayers" with "Prayers and...

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