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CAEF Letter to Hon. Greg Fergus re conduct of a Member of Parliament

Response received from Hon. Greg Fergus

December 21, 2023


Dear Andria Spindel:


I am writing in response to your recent email about the dress code for Members of the House of Commons and the role of the Speaker regarding decorum.


As you mentioned, it is stated on page 611 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Third Edition, 2017, “While the Standing Orders do not prescribe a dress code for Members participating in debate, Speakers have ruled that Members desiring to be recognized to speak at any point during the proceedings of the House must be wearing contemporary business attire.” Modern practice applies the “business attire” requirement only when Members participate in debate. It is not applicable to Members sitting in the House observing the proceedings. I would note that no additional guidelines exist in regard

to wearing scarves.


On occasion, there are Members who wear a variety of different types of cultural and/or religious attire in the Chamber. There is some acceptance of this practice among Members. On this occasion, that seems to have been the case, given that it was not brought to the attention of the Chair. Any changes to the conventions regarding attire would need to come from the House itself. The Speaker is responsible for maintaining order and decorum in the House and must do this by effectively soliciting the cooperation of Members by reminding them, when necessary, that they themselves must be accountable for their behaviour and must conduct their business in an appropriate fashion. At the same time, the Chair must also ensure the widest range of individual expression, as the House is a place where freedom of speech is essential and where different views are exchanged.


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and for your interest in the work of the House of Commons.


Sincerely,


Hon. Greg Fergus, P.C., M.P.


 

CAEF Letter to Hon. Greg Fergus


December 18, 2023


Hon. Greg Fergus, 

Speaker of the House 

Government of Canada 

Ottawa, ON 


Dear Mr. Speaker: 


I am writing on behalf of the Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation which is dedicated to educating Canadians about antisemitism and combating it in all its forms, including anti-Israel slanders and lies.


It has come to our attention that on or about November 29, 2023, Mr. Matthew Green, NDP MP for Hamilton Centre wore a keffiyeh and raised a clenched fist in the House of Commons.


For your information, the “keffiyeh, a black and white or red and white scarf, is a symbol of solidarity with Palestinian armed resistance.” But since Hamas brutally attacked innocent civilians in Israel on October 7th, many protestors have worn it on the streets in protests in Canada.


While there are no explicit and precise rules dealing with this, it is understood that using or wearing props in parliament is not permitted.


More precisely, there is certain business attire that is appropriate for male members to wear in the House, which Mr. Green failed to abide by. In addition, we do not believe that raising and clenching a fist by a member of the House is appropriate.


We enclose for your reference the following:

Proper Attire 
While the Standing Orders do not prescribe a dress code for Members participating in debate, Speakers have ruled that all Members desiring to be recognized to speak at any point during the proceedings of the House must be wearing contemporary business attire.87 Current practice requires that male Members wear jackets, shirts and ties. Clerical collars have been allowed, although ascots and turtlenecks have been ruled inappropriate for male Members participating in debate. The Chair has stated that wearing a kilt is permissible on certain occasions (for example, Robert Burns Day). Members of the House who are in the armed forces have been permitted to wear their uniforms in the House.90 Although there is no notation to this effect in the Journals or in the Debates, a newly elected Member introduced in the House in 2005 wore traditional Métis dress (including a white hooded anorak bearing an embroidered seal emblem) on that occasion without objection from the Chair.91 
In certain circumstances, usually for medical reasons, the Chair has allowed a relaxation of the dress standards permitting, for example, a Member whose arm was in a cast to wear a sweater in the House instead of a jacket.

CAEF asks that, as Speaker, you bring this to the attention of all members, and specifically instruct Mr. Green to refrain from wearing a keffiyeh and raising his clenched fist in Parliament in the future.


In our view, this is unparliamentary attire and conduct. Proper decorum in the House of Commons must be maintained.


Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Yours truly,





Andria Spindel

Executive Director

Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation

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