NEWS: IOG Welcomes Owen Charters to Board of Directors

Ottawa, ON – The Institute on Governance is proud to announce the addition of Owen Charters to our Board of Directors. Owen Charters is CEO of BGC Canada (formerly Boys & Girls Clubs), the country’s largest child- and youth-focused charity. Former Chair of Imagine Canada and the Human Resources Council on the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector, Owen is also faculty for the Social Sector Leadership MBA at York University’s Schulich School of Business.

The Institute on Governance is excited to have Owen serve as a strategic voice on our Board of Governors. His commitment to people, passion for nonprofit sector work, and dedication to colleagues will serve the IOG as we move towards our future.

Presently, the Board of Governors of the Institute on Governance is comprised of:

Aurèle Thériault, Chair – Co-President, Interlocus Group.

Sarah Paquet, Vice-Chair – Director and CEO at FINTRAC.

Aneeta Bains – Partner, Public Sector at IBM Canada.

Brian Bost – Partner, Advisory Services, KPMG.

Malcolm Brown – Senior Strategic Advisor, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

Julie Di Lorenzo – President, Diamante Urban Corp.

Martine Durier-Copp, M.A., M.Mus., PhD. (she/her/elle) – Academic Dean, NSCAD University

Shingai ManjengwaChief Executive Officer of Fireside Analytics Inc.

Colin McKayHead, Public Policy and Government Relations, Google Canada.

Owen ChartersCEO of BGC Canada.

The Institute on Governance is a Canadian non-for-profit focused on working to advance governance through research, learning, advisory services, and more. Over our three decades, we have worked with federal, provincial, municipal, and Indigenous governments, and not-for-profit organizations. Our networks have taken us to three dozen countries worldwide, including with recent projects in Iraq, and Botswana. Today, we are focused on the 21st century challenges to good governance that governments and their citizens face.

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Nick McRoberts

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Reflecting on the 90th Anniversary of the Statute of Westminster

REFLECTION: Reporting on Reports

With contribution from Shelby Torres.

What’s To Report?

Last week, Canadians saw seven parliamentary reports by Agents of Parliament on various department’s activities tabled within the House of Commons. While these kinds of reports graze the parliamentary table with relative frequency, their importance to governance and benefits to Canadians are seldom emphasized or appreciated.

So what exactly do parliamentary reports do and why should we pay attention to them?

Accountability by Informing.

Parliamentary reports are an essential accountability tool used by both government and opposition parties.  For governments, parliamentary reports communicate important information to the public and promote transparency. 

The Government of Canada is Canada’s largest employer with thousands of entities with varying mandates serving citizens. Parliamentary reports provide a key role in consolidating information from across institutions and communicating it back to the public. 

Canada’s Auditor General Karen Hogan’s recent Reports entitled Regional Relief and Recovery Fund and Enforcement of COVID Quarantine and Testing Orders respectively, are great examples of both keeping Canadians informed and a window into internal activity and resource decisions using public funds.

Improving Service Delivery.

Parliamentary reports, particularly from the Auditor General, also provide decision-makers and governing institutions recommendations on how those institutions can improve program delivery and service to Canadians. You can’t improve a program or fix a problem if you don’t know it’s needed – and you cannot mark your own homework so to speak. 

Reports such as Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux’s Family Wealth Distribution in Canada provides insight into wealth distribution inequality that Canadians may not otherwise be unaware of. An informed public is essential in a healthy representative democracy. 

Politicians are generally attuned to an informed and engaged public, and usually appeal to their citizen’s sensibilities at least every four years.

A Demonstration of Progress – or a lack thereof.

Ministries also release annual reports on important priorities in order to highlight actions and ideally progress.

Women and Gender Equality Canada releases an annual report on Canada’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, highlighting the government’s efforts to support causes that Canadians have deemed important, such as gender equality. Reports such as these let Canadians know public institutions are performing as they should or not.

Other reports such as Commissions of Inquiry, provide the public with a deeper understanding of controversial issues of the day. Both the Final Report from the National Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women as  well as the Calls to Action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada legitimized Indigenous Voices.

These reports demonstrated the need that the government must address societal inequities that span decades if not generations. While some may believe these reports have been relatively ineffective at providing timely solutions, they have informed Canadians on the inequalities faced by marginalized communities and provide non-Indigenous citizens knowledge to demand better from their government. 

Good Governance means Good Reporting.

While parliamentary reports pass through the House of Commons frequently and seldom garner notoriety amongst the general public, they are nevertheless a staple of good governance that should not be discarded.

Once published or tabled, parliamentary reports help hold Canada’s institutions and political actors to account through increased transparency and sometimes the legitimization of voices of those who have historically not been heard. 

Without them, Canadians would be ill equipped to hold their representatives and public institutions into account.

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Reflecting on the 90th Anniversary of the Statute of Westminster

REFLECTION: The Statute of Westminster

With contribution from Karl Salgo and Stephen M. Van Dine.

Autonomy? Not Yet.

December 11th will mark the 90th anniversary of the British statute to which Canada owes its autonomy as a nation. This refers not to what was once known as the British North America Act (BNA) and is now the Constitution Act, 1867, but to a (yet) less well-known act entitled the Statute of Westminster – a crucial piece of legislation.

While Canada did become a country in 1867, it’s a common misconception that we gained our independence at the time.

Britain mostly left us to our own devices on domestic matters but played a not-always-helpful role in our international affairs. They sided with the United States on such significant matters as the Alaska boundary dispute of the early 1900s.

The right to appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) had a significant impact on Canada’s constitutional jurisprudence. Perhaps even more to the point, the British Parliament retained an ill-defined right to legislate for Canada.

The Path to Sovereignty.

Fast forward to the Imperial Conference of 1926 and the Balfour Declaration that came out of it.

The Balfour Declaration stated that “autonomous communities within the British Empire” were equal and “in no way subordinate to one another”. In other words, Britain was no longer in charge.

It’s important to appreciate that the Declaration had been proposed by Canada’s own Mackenzie King. King was a far stronger and more effective champion of Canadian sovereignty than is sometimes recognized. 

King had famously struggled with Governor General Byng earlier in 1926, so it’s interesting that the Declaration recommended that Governors General cease to be representatives of the British government to the dominions.

Legislative Loopholes.

The provisions of the Balfour Declaration were enacted in legislation as the Statute of Westminster in 1931. The Statute of Westminster declared that no act of the British Parliament would have any impact on a dominion without the dominion’s express desire and consent.

This was a profound moment of maturation in Canada’s history, not least because we had shown leadership in bringing it about.

In fact, ties were not severed all that cleanly. Canada continued to allow appeals to the JCPC until 1949 in civil matters. Our written constitution, the BNA, remained a British statute until 1982 essentially because we couldn’t agree on an amending formula.

Canada’s Constitutional Consent.

Even that was not quite the end of it.

The nations affected by the Statute of Westminster remained subjects of the Crown – their consent was required for any amendments to the law of succession.

Before passing the Succession to the Crown Act in 2013 , the British government made a point of securing the approval of the Commonwealth – Canada included.

After some hand wringing about whether this triggered the amending formula under our own constitution, Canada’s government gave its consent to bringing the monarchy into the 21st century.

December 11th is also the anniversary of the 1997 Supreme Court of Canada decision referred to as Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, where Aboriginal title over traditional use and occupancy of lands was recognized and defined by the court. This paved the way for land claim settlements across Canada. 

Sharing the anniversary date with the Statue of Westminster, while coincidental, is nevertheless symbolic of a special day of the Crown recognizing the rights of Nations.

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