Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians

Article excerpt

On May 29, 1996 Bill C-275 establishing a Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians was adopted and thirty-four bronze plaques (one for each Parliament) with the names of all members who have served in the Senate and House of Commons were unveiled in the Visitor's Centre. This article outlines the objectives of the Association and the highlights of the May 29 ceremony.

The Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians, (CAFP) modelled after the very successful United States Association of Former Members of Congress founded in 1971, is composed of former parliamentarians who served in either the elected House of Commons or the appointed Senate.

The founding Chairman, John Reid, wrote that "to be a member of the Canadian House of Commons is to be a part of one of the most misunderstood, misreported and most abused institutions in Canada. (1) He was right and this applies to members of our appointed Senate as well. Mr. Reid went on to suggest that creating an association of former parliamentarians, resulting from a recommendation by the Special Committee on Reform of the House of Commons chaired by James McGrath in 1985, was a good idea.

A former parliamentarian as defined by the Act establishing the Association means "a person who was, but is not at present, a member of the Senate or House of Commons of Canada." The objects of the CAFP as defined by law in Bill C-275 are:

* to put the knowledge and experience of its members at the service of parliamentary democracy in Canada and elsewhere;

* to serve the public interest by providing non-partisan support for the parliamentary system of government in Canada;

* to foster a spirit of community among former parliamentarians;

* to foster good relations between members of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada and former parliamentarians; and

* to protect and promote the interests of former parliamentarians.

It is also noted by law that "the Association shall not pursue its objects for any partisan political purpose."

Over the years the Association has held regional meetings in Halifax, Edmonton, Quebec City, Vancouver, and Toronto, co-hosted by the provincial Lieutenant Governors. We plan to continue them. We have also sent delegations to China in September 1992 and October 1993, at the invitation of the Chinese People's Friendship Association with Foreign Countries. A third delegation is scheduled to visit China in October 1996.

We also participate in the United States Association of Former Members of Congress annual meeting in Washington, and are going to be working on some joint initiatives with our American colleagues; one, involving a textbook on how Americans and Canadians are governed, and another, possible exchange programs within our respective countries of former members visiting universities and colleges. We hosted in September 1995, a delegation of former U.S. Congressmen on a Canadian study tour. We also hosted a very senior delegation from China in October, 1995, composed of six members of the People's National Congress representing various provincial levels in China as well as a delegation of Chinese lady mayors in April 1996.

The CAFP has also helped to facilitate the process whereby former parliamentarians can be more easily identified by security staff on Parliament Hill by helping them obtain identification passes and to purchase parliamentary pins for themselves and their spouses. Former parliamentarians have also been able to purchase a limited number of used House of Commons chairs through their Association as unique souvenirs of their days in national public office. The Association was recently presented with a plan that allows its members to purchase life insurance and/or health and dental insurance.

In 1991, the CAFP established a not-for-profit, charitable organization called the Educational Foundation. One of the purposes of the Foundation is to raise funds and to use them to promote the knowledge, education and experience of the principles and the operation of democratic and parliamentary ideals and procedure. …