About Commissions of Inquiry

Commissions of Inquiry are established by the Governor in Council (Cabinet) to fully and impartially investigate issues of national importance.

Led by distinguished individuals, experts or judges, Commissions of Inquiry have the power to subpoena witnesses, take evidence under oath and request documents.

A Commission of Inquiry's findings and recommendations are not binding. However, many have a significant impact on public opinion and the shape of public policy.

Different Types of Commissions

Although Canadians are perhaps most familiar with ‘Royal Commissions', there are several different kinds of Commissions of Inquiry.

These can be established under either Part I or Part II of the Inquiries Act, or any one of 87 or more federal statutes.

The mandate of a Commission of Inquiry depends on the nature of the issue to be considered.

  • Advisory Commissions – usually have a broad mandate. This is to ensure that commissioners consider all options and consult all parties with an interest in the matter.
  • Investigative Commissions – usually have a more specific, focused mandate.

Role of the Prime Minister

Commissions of Inquiry created under Part I of the Inquiries Act are considered government departments for the purposes of the Financial Administration Act (FAA).

Often the Prime Minister is given responsibility for the commission for the purposes of the FAA. This enables the commission to receive administrative support from the Privy Council Office.

Commission's Reports

Cabinet decides whether to make a commission's report public. Most reports are tabled in the House of Commons at the time of their release and made available to the public.

Records

Commissions of Inquiry created under Part I of the Inquiries Act file their records with the Clerk of the Privy Council at the end of their work. The Privy Council Office then arranges for the safe transfer of the records to Library and Archives Canada.

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