Ottawa, ON – “All authorities agree that the right of petitioning parliament for redress of grievances is acknowledged as a fundamental principle of the constitution. It has been uninterruptedly exercised from very early times and has had a profound effect in determining the main forms of parliamentary procedure.” (Gaspard Fauteux, Speaker of the House of Commons, 1947)
Recently, the Honourable Diane Finley, MP for Haldimand-Norfolk, challenged the Liberal government to amend a discriminatory rule of the House of Commons that limited the paper size of petitions to letter or legal size. This size restriction discriminated against people with vision impairments, who often need larger paper and typefaces to be able to see what is proposed.
More than a year after raising the issue, and after continued pressure by Finley, the Liberal dominated Procedure and House Affairs Committee recommended changing the rules to be inclusive of all Canadians. On November 29th, the House of Commons officially approved the changes to these rules.
“The ability for people to petition their government is the most ancient Parliamentary form of direct communication between the people and Parliament, dating back to the Bill of Rights, 1689,” said Finley. “I am thrilled to see that after a year of advocating to amend these rules to allow all Canadians to have equal opportunity to express their opinions to Parliament, all Members have unanimously agreed to change this rule. I want to thank Reverend Paul Sherwood of Simcoe, Ontario, for bringing this issue to my attention.”
In October 2017, the Honourable Diane Finley, MP for Haldimand-Norfolk received a petition from a local Haldimand-Norfolk pastor who had enlarged it so that his elderly parishioners could see it well enough to read it. The petition was rejected because it wasn’t “on paper of the usual size.” In response, MP Finley sought and received the unanimous support of her fellow Members in the House of Commons, and eventually got the petition accepted.
To keep this from happening again, Finley asked the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to permanently change the paper size rule that prevents people with visual impairments from participating in Canada’s democracy and was given assurances that it would be “dealt with soon.” After nearly a year of inaction, MP Finley brought awareness to the issue again by tabling a second petition on enlarged paper, this one signed by almost 200 MPs and Senators, each with some form of visual impairment, in October of this year.