Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Reconstructed Parliamentary Debates Online

I learn from Kady O'Malley's CBC politics blog that more of the reconstructed debates of the House of Commons of the early Confederation years are now online. This is the project undertaken back before the 1967 centennial to reconstruct the debates of parliament from the reports of journalists in the period before official records began to be kept in 1875. The Library of Parliament now has up all of these early debates until 1873.

It's nice to have them there, and we can only hope that the others follow soon. It seems amazing that all of the debates for the whole of our history are not online.

Sadly amusing, too, to see in the first debate in parliament on 6 November 1867 that John A Macdonald is the first to speak and put forward a motion and that when he is seconded by Cartier, the reconstructed version of what happened reads like this:

Hon. Mr. Cartier seconded the motion, sup- porting it in a few remarks in French sub- stantially to the same effect as those of the Minister of Justice. 

I thought I'd check out the French language version and it reads like this:

L'hon. M. Cartier appuie la motion, faisant en francais quelques remarques dans le sens de celles du Ministre de la Justice. 

Really? Did none of the French language papers cover this debate? Could it not have been reconstructed, in the 1960s, from papers in both languages? Perhaps it couldn't, but then again, perhaps no one thought to try.

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