Standing Committees: finding their electronic information, post-1995, or Web-based access (Part 1)

Parliamentary Standing Committee information can be tricky to find, if you don’t know how the process works. In this two-part series, we’ll link the methods of finding the current, Web-based information to locating earlier hardcopy materials (as far back as the mid-1800s) held at Library and Archives Canada.

A good deal of parliamentary work is done in committee, where members study and amend bills, or examine current issues or departmental spending plans referred to them by the House of Commons.

After every meeting, two official documents are published:

  • Minutes of Proceedings: the official record of each committee meeting contained in a numbered issue. Each issue includes that meeting’s date, content, subjects discussed, list of witnesses, and references to any reports to the House.
  • Evidence: the verbatim transcripts of the meeting

A third official document, the committee report, is the document that most researchers are interested in. These reports are produced irregularly, upon the committee’s completion of specific business or study, and are subsequently presented to the House. There may be responses by the government and/or the parties.

As an example, we will use a study on urban conservation, produced by the Environment committee. Information about standing committees from 1995 to present day, is located on the Parliament of Canada website. The printing of paper versions of committee materials ceased in 1998.

From the front page of the website, follow the links for Parliamentary Business [tab at top of page] → Committees → House of Commons Committees → List of Committees → ENVI Environment and Sustainable Development.

How to find a report

The quickest way to find reports is to use the Search box at the top right of the page. Type “urban conservation” report (keep the words together inside quotation marks); the first item on the list is the report we’re looking for – Urban Conservation Practices in Canada.

Note: Print format [upper right] gives you the searchable .pdf version.

Upon opening the document, we discover the parliament and session in which the report was released (important for further research), i.e., 41st Parliament, 1st Session, June 2, 2011-September 13, 2013.

To search by session, go to the Committee home page, click “Select a different session” and choose the one in which our report was tabled, i.e., 41-1. This opens up a page showing the Summary of Work of the committee during that session. Click on All Reports. Here we find more information about our document—the report number, the dates it was presented to the House, and the government’s response. By clicking on Study Details for Report 7, you’re brought to the page with a list of Witnesses (Evidence) as well as the transcripts of the related Meetings (Minutes of Proceedings).

This brings us to the end of Part 1 on the Standing Committees. There’s more to come in Part 2, where we deal with the task of finding the paper formats!

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