COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY ASSOCIATION NEWS 41st CPA Canadian Regional Seminar in British Columbia focuses on strengthening democratic institutions and engagement
The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, Hon. Darryl Plecas, MLA hosted the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) Canadian Region 41st Regional Seminar in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada from 17 to 20 October 2019. This annual event brought together 40 delegates from ten provincial Assemblies and the Federal Parliament of Canada to discuss ways of building public trust, enhancing citizen engagement and enriching democratic institutions as part of the conference theme ‘Strengthening Democratic Institutions and Engagement’. The seminar opened with a warm welcome and blessing from the Lekwungen Traditional Dancers. Dr Lorna Wanosts’a7 Williams, Professor Emeritus at the University of Victoria and former Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Knowledge and Learning, delivered the keynote address on indigenous languages. The address urged Commonwealth Parliamentarians to consider and discuss ways they could support indigenous languages in their institutions and communities. This topic was a timely subject given that the United Nations proclaimed 2019, the International Year of Indigenous Languages and that governments are increasingly recognising the importance of recovering and revitalizing indigenous languages to reconciliation and ensuring indigenous peoples’ most basic human rights. The remaining sessions of the seminar provided Parliamentarians with the opportunity to discuss other issues fundamental to parliamentary development. During the second business session, Interparliamentary Relations and Strategies: Opportunities and Best Practices, Hon. Nathan Cooper, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, spoke about the significance of interparliamentary relationships and the Alberta experience – their Legislative
Assembly has twinning relationships with 14 overseas subnational governments – while Hon. Marie-Claude Nichols, Member of the National Assembly of Québec, described the National Assembly’s bilateral and multilateral relations. Speaker Plecas shared the findings from the first year of the Speaker’s Forum on the Role of Members in a session on reforming the culture of Parliament and how issues in the prevailing institutional structure impact on Members’ parliamentary responsibilities. In his presentation for this session, Hon. Hal Perry, MLA, Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island, highlighted challenges within the current political environment. In a session on respectful workplace policies, Hon. Scott Reid, MHA, Acting Speaker of the House of Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador, outlined their Assembly’s experience with building a respectful work environment and implementing a four-day training program customised for elected officials. Hon. Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, Member of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly, shared that Assembly’s process to develop a complainant driven Member-to-Member sexual harassment code to address allegations of non-criminal sexual harassment. Additional business sessions included: Strengthening Democratic Institutions, during which Hon. Laura Ross, MLA, Member of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan and the CWP Canada Chair, explored topics related to improving diversity and representation; and, Access to Information and Disclosure: Building Parliamentary Transparency, where Senator Hon. Jim Munson and Hon. Chantal Soucy, MNA, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Québec, discussed access to information and public disclosure as they apply to parliamentary jurisdictions.
The Parliamentarian | 2019: Issue Four | 100th year of publishing | 347