The very first stage of a bill being introduced in Parliament is known as the first reading.
The member (whether or not a cabinet minister) must provide at least 48 hours’ notice to the Speaker before the member introduces the bill to Parliament. The Speaker will then grant leave to the member to introduce the bill. The bill is tabled with the Clerk of the House of Commons (or Senate) and the member may speak to the bill if they so wish.
The Speaker will then ask the members of the chamber when they would like the bill to be debated and they will respond “at the next sitting”. This process formally puts the bill on the order paper and then moves onto second reading.
Unfortunately second reading is not nearly as easy as first reading.
The bill will come up in Parliament a second time for debate. During this debate, parliamentarians may only debate the bill in principle and cannot debate over specific texts of the bill.
The parliamentarian who is sponsoring the bill will move that the bill be read a second time and referred to a specific committee. This committee will study the bill in depth and eventually propose, debate and vote on amendments to the bill to send it back to the chamber.
After the debate on the bill, other parliamentarians may make one of three amendments during the second reading of a bill:
Hoist amendment. This type of amendment will say that the bill not be read a second time now, but three to six months from the time of initial second reading. Sounds reasonable? Wrong. If a hoist amendment is passed, the bill is dropped from the Order Paper, meaning that it will not be debated and voted on in the future and cannot be reintroduced in the same parliament. Only one hoist amendment can be made for each bill.
Reasoned amendment. This may sound like a good type of amendment, but is most certainly is not! A reasoned amendment is one in which the chamber declares that it is opposed to the principles of the bill at second reading and for that reason will not let it proceed. If passed the bill’s process is stopped and dropped from the Order Paper.
- Committee referral. This does not mean that the chamber refers to the bill to committee for the next stage of the process; it means that the bill’s progress will cease, be dropped from the Order Paper and a committee already existing will study the principles of the bill and report back to Parliament
Essentially, all three types of amendments at second reading would kill the bill.
If none of these amendments are introduced or passed, then there will be vote on the second reading motion of the bill. If the vote passes, then the bill is referred to the committee mentioned in the motion to study its contents.
So what can pro-lifers do?
It is important that pro-life bills get past second reading. The best way for pro-lifers to help bills get past this stage is to lobby their Member of Parliament or Senator. RightNow creates guides on how to talk to politicians on specific pieces of legislation that affect life issues. Join us today and we’ll keep you connected with the resources to make you a successful political pro-life activist!