Joint address (Canada)

Richard Nixon Prime Minister of Japan ISBN (identifier)
Richard Nixon addresses a joint session of the Parliament of Canada, 1972

A joint address is a special procedure of the Canadian parliament in which members of the House of Commons and Senate sit jointly in the former chamber, which, for the occasion, becomes an auditorium. The Speaker of the House of Commons takes his chair as normal, with the Speaker of the Senate seated to his or her right. Members of parliament also take their usual seats, with senators and justices of the supreme court positioned on the floor of the house, in front of the clerk's table. Gallery privileges are suspended during a joint address and access to those areas is strictly limited to invited guests.


Such an event is used most commonly when a visiting dignitary—such as a foreign head of state or head of government—wishes to address parliament. However, on more rare occasions, the process may also be used to make a formal, binding request of the Canadian monarch; for example, this was part of the process used to amend the Constitution of Canada prior to patriation in 1982.[1] In extreme circumstances, a joint address may also be used to remove a person previously appointed by the Queen-in-Council—such as a judge or ambassador—if other avenues of doing so have failed. For example, Lester Pearson announced a joint address in 1967 to have Leo Landreville removed from the bench of the Supreme Court of Ontario due to allegations of improper stock trading. Landreville had previously refused to resign as he had not actually been convicted of a crime, but resigned voluntarily after the government declared its intention to forcibly remove him from office.[2]

Although most addresses are made to joint sessions of parliament, on 7 May 1941, Robert G. Menzies, Prime Minister of Australia, spoke only to the House of Commons. On 25 August 1943, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States, addressed senators, Members of Parliament, and the general public outside the houses of parliament.[3]


The following persons have addressed a joint session of parliament:

Date Dignitary Office
30 December 1941 Winston Churchill Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
3 June 1943 Edvard Beneš President of Czechoslovakia
16 June 1943 Soong Mei-ling[4][5] First Lady of the Republic of China
1 June 1944 John Curtin Prime Minister of Australia
30 June 1944 Peter Fraser Prime Minister of New Zealand
19 November 1945 Clement Attlee Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
11 June 1947 Harry S. Truman President of the United States
24 October 1949 Jawaharlal Nehru Prime Minister of India
31 May 1950 Liaquat Ali Khan Prime Minister of Pakistan
5 April 1951 Vincent Auriol President of France
14 November 1953 Dwight D. Eisenhower President of the United States
6 February 1956 Anthony Eden Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
5 March 1956 Giovanni Gronchi President of Italy
5 June 1956 Sukarno President of Indonesia
4 March 1957 Guy Mollet Prime Minister of France
2 June 1958 Theodor Heuss President of West Germany
13 June 1958 Harold Macmillan Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
9 July 1958 Dwight D. Eisenhower President of the United States
21 July 1958 Kwame Nkrumah Prime Minister of Ghana
17 May 1961 John F. Kennedy President of the United States
26 May 1964 U Thant Secretary General of the United Nations
14 April 1972 Richard Nixon President of the United States
30 March 1973 Luis Echeverría President of Mexico
19 June 1973 Indira Gandhi Prime Minister of India
5 May 1980 Masayoshi Ohira Prime Minister of Japan
26 May 1980 José López Portillo President of Mexico
11 March 1981 Ronald Reagan President of the United States
26 September 1983 Margaret Thatcher Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
17 January 1984 Zhao Ziyang Premier of the People's Republic of China
8 May 1984 Miguel de la Madrid President of Mexico
7 March 1985 Javier Pérez de Cuéllar Secretary General of the United Nations
13 January 1986 Yasuhiro Nakasone Prime Minister of Japan
6 April 1987 Ronald Reagan President of the United States
25 May 1987 François Mitterrand President of France
10 May 1988 Beatrix Queen of the Netherlands
16 June 1988 Helmut Kohl Chancellor of West Germany
22 June 1988 Margaret Thatcher Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
27 June 1989 Chaim Herzog President of Israel
11 October 1989 Hussein King of Jordan
18 June 1990 Nelson Mandela Deputy President of the African National Congress
8 April 1991 Carlos Salinas de Gortari President of Mexico
19 June 1992 Boris Yeltsin President of Russia
23 February 1995 Bill Clinton President of the United States
11 June 1996 Ernesto Zedillo President of Mexico
24 September 1998 Nelson Mandela President of South Africa
29 April 1999 Václav Havel President of the Czech Republic
22 February 2001 Tony Blair Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
9 March 2004 Kofi Annan Secretary General of the United Nations
25 October 2004 Vicente Fox President of Mexico
18 May 2006 John Howard Prime Minister of Australia
22 September 2006 Hamid Karzai President of Afghanistan
26 May 2008 Viktor Yushchenko President of Ukraine
26 May 2010 Felipe Calderón President of Mexico
22 September 2011 David Cameron Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
27 February 2014 Aga Khan IV Imam of Nizari Isma'ilism
17 September 2014 Petro Poroshenko President of Ukraine
3 November 2014 François Hollande President of France
29 June 2016 Barack Obama[6] President of the United States

Notable addresses

Winston Churchill

In the dark days of World War II, Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, stopped in Ottawa after meetings with the United States Government in Washington DC. Churchill spoke to a joint meeting of Canada’s parliamentarians in the House of Commons on December 30, 1941. Churchill delivered an "electrifying address that stirs the passions and strengthens the resolve of a nation at war."[7] The most iconic phrase from Churchill’s remarks was met by laughter and thunderous applause. In responding to a French General’s claim that "England will have her neck wrung like a chicken" in three weeks time from a German invasion, Prime Minister Churchill boldly declared "Some chicken! Some neck!".[8] Churchill would go on to lead the Allied effort to victory in the Second World War.

Richard Nixon

United States President Richard Nixon arrived in Ottawa on a state visit on April 13, 1972. He met with Governor General Roland Michener and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau before addressing a joint meeting of the Parliament of Canada.[9] President Nixon, invoking his Nixon Doctrine on foreign policy, struck a blunt tone in his remarks. "Canadians and Americans [must] move beyond the sentimental rhetoric of the past. It is time for us to recognize that we have very separate identities… each nation must determine the path of its own progress."[10] Muirhead writes that after the state visit, "Nixon returned to Washington with a reinforced dislike of Ottawa, Trudeau, and most things Canadian. He told his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, that he had put it to these people for kicking the US around after what we did for that lousy son of a bitch [Trudeau]. Wasting three days up there. That trip we needed like a hole in the head."[11]

Ronald Reagan

President Ronald Reagan travelled to Ottawa on his first state visit as President of the United States. After meeting with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the President addressed the Canadian Parliament on March 11, 1981,[12] speaking humbly of the about the strong Canada-US relationship. "America counts many friends across the globe, surely we have no better friend than Canada."[13] President Reagan even demonstrated his ability to use both of Canada’s official languages when he spoke several phrases in French. The President concluded his remarks by offering an olive branch to the people of Canada: "We’re happy to be your neighbour. We want to remain your friend. We’re determined to be your partner, and we’re intent on working closely with you in a spirit of cooperation."[14] Reagan addressed the Canadian Parliament once more as President, in 1987.[15]

Margaret Thatcher

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom travelled to Ottawa and addressed Parliament on September 26, 1983. Only one year after the patriation of the Canadian Constitution with the Canada Act of 1982, Prime Minister Thatcher recognized that "a constitutional link has, quite properly, been severed," but Canada and the United Kingdom are still linked in important ways, including the belief "in the same high and honourable ideals" like freedom, justice, and parliamentary democracy.[16] In 2013, after a 30-year ban on classified cabinet files had expired, documents from the British National Archives revealed that prior to her trip to Ottawa, Prime Minister Thatcher had been briefed to be careful of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s "unsound personal views" and the fact that Canadians are "inordinately sensitive."[17] Prime Minister Thatcher returned to Canada in 1988 and at the invitation of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, addressed Parliament once again.[18]

Nelson Mandela

Mere months after being released from 27 years prison, South Africa’s Nelson Mandela visited Canada in June 1990. He became only the fourth non head of state or head of government to address a Joint Session of the Parliament of Canada. Mandela thanked Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and the Government of Canada for its strong opposition to the apartheid regime in South Africa, and pleaded to keep the sanctions in place to pressure the South African government towards reform. In 1998, Mandela returned to address the Canadian Parliament as the first democratically elected President of the Republic of South Africa.[19]

Aga Khan

Prime Minister Stephen Harper welcomed His Highness The Aga Khan to Canada and invited him to address Canada’s Parliament in February 2014. The spiritual leader, and 49th Hereditary Iman of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, spoke of the "unprecedented honour" to speak in the House of Commons and called Canada an "exemplary leader" in the "global effort to foster peace, prosperity, and equality through pluralism." The Aga Khan was bestowed honorary Canadian citizenship, and fresh after the 2014 Winter Olympics, joked that he hoped be asked to join the Canadian Olympic hockey team.[20][21]

Barack Obama

Immediately following the 2016 Three Amigos Summit in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invited United States President Barack Obama to address the Parliament of Canada on June 29, 2016. Obama, invoking his superior oratorical skills, delivered a strong portrait of the "extraordinary alliance and deep friendship between Canadians and Americans." Nearing the end of his term in office, and fresh off the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, President Obama spoke in defence of the international liberal order, in the face of rising isolationist sentiment around the world. Obama offered an endorsement of Prime Minister Trudeau’s leadership when he said that "my time in office may be nearing an end, but I know that Canada — and the world — will benefit from your [Trudeau’s] leadership for years to come." The President also quoted the Prime Minister’s late father, and former Prime Minister of Canada, Pierre Trudeau: "A country is not something you build as the pharaohs built the pyramids… a country is something that is built every day out of certain basic shared values." This was President Obama’s second state visit to Canada, but the first time addressing a Joint Session of the Parliament of Canada.[22][23]

See also


  1. ^ Lederman, William (1983), "The Supreme Court of Canada and Basic Constitutional Amendment", in Banting, Keith G.; Simeon, Richard (eds.), And No One Cheered: Federalism, Democracy, and the Constitution Act, Toronto: Taylor & Francis, p. 177, ISBN 978-0-458-95950-1, retrieved 12 June 2010
  2. ^ Kaplan, William (June 1996). Bad Judgment: The Case of Mr Justice Leo A. Landreville. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-0-8020-0836-7.
  3. ^ Parliament of Canada. "Heads of States and of Governments who have addressed Joint Sessions of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  4. ^ Parliament of Canada. "Foreign Dignitaries who have Addressed Joint Sessions of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  5. ^ Parliament of Canada. "House of Commons Procedure and Practice: Sittings of the House". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  6. ^ CBC/Radio-Canada. "Three Amigos in Ottawa: Trudeau, Obama, Pena Nieto meet". Retrieved 29 June 2016.
  7. ^ "1941: Winston Churchill's 'chicken' speech" CBC Digital Archives. Accessed 14 March 2017.
  8. ^ "Some Chicken! Some Neck! Prime Minister Winston Churchill's Speech to the House of Commons" Sir Winston Churchill Society of Ottawa. Accessed 14 March 2017
  9. ^ "M. Nixon - Travels of the President" State Department: Office of the Historian. Accessed 14 March 2017
  10. ^ "Nixon: Address to a Joint Meeting of the Canadian Parliament" The American Presidency Project. Accessed 14 March 2017
  11. ^ Muirhead, Bruce. From Special Relationship to Third Option: Canada, the U.S., and the Nixon Shock. American Review of Canadian Studies: 1 October 2004. DOI: 10.1080/02722010409481207. Accessed 14 March 2017
  12. ^ "Reagan - Travels of the President" State Department: Office of the Historian. Accessed 14 March 2017.
  13. ^ "Reagan: Remarks of the President and Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau of Canada Before a Joint Session of the Parliament in Ottawa" The American Presidency Project. Accessed 14 March 2017.
  14. ^ "President Reagan addresses Canadian Parliament" Youtube. Accessed 14 March 2017
  15. ^ "Address to a Joint Session of Parliament in Ottawa, Canada" The American Presidency Project. Accessed 14 March 2017
  16. ^ "Speech to Canadian Parliament" Margaret Thatcher Foundation. Accessed 14 March 2017
  17. ^ Waldie, Paul and Leblanc, Daniel. "Thatcher briefing warned of Canadian sensitivity, Trudeau’s opinions" The Globe and Mail: 1 August 2013. Accessed 14 March 2017.
  18. ^ "Margaret Thatcher addresses Canadian Parliament (1988)" Youtube. Accessed 14 March 2017.
  19. ^ "Nelson Mandela visits Canada" CBC Digital Archives. Accessed 14 March 2017
  20. ^ "Address of His Highness Aga Khan 49th Hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims to both Houses of Parliament in the House of Commons Chamber, Ottawa" Library of the Parliament of Canada. Accessed 14 March 2017.
  21. ^ "Aga Khan addresses Parliament of Canada and signs protocol with Prime Minister" Youtube. Accessed 14 March 2017.
  22. ^ "Remarks by President Obama in Address to the Parliament of Canada" The White House: President Barack Obama. Accessed 14 March 2017.
  23. ^ "President Obama Addresses Parliament" Youtube. Accessed 14 March 2017.