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Independent Senators Group

The Independent Senators Group (ISG; French: Groupe des sénateurs indépendants) is a parliamentary group in the Senate of Canada formed on March 10, 2016, by senators who were nominated to the Senate on the advice of Prime Ministers from various parties. It was formed as a technical group, to provide non-affiliated (independent) senators with representation on committees and funding equivalent to those who sit in the two partisan caucuses. It is akin to the crossbenchers in the British House of Lords.[citation needed]

Independent Senators Group

Groupe des sénateurs indépendants
FacilitatorYuen Pau Woo
Deputy FacilitatorRaymonde Saint-Germain
FoundedMarch 10, 2016
Technical group
Seats in the Senate
50 / 105

With Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointing only non-affiliated senators, the ISG became the largest caucus in the Senate on October 30, 2017.[1]

Media reports on senator appointments and voting patterns have questioned the extent to which the nominally unaffiliated senators are truly independent.


The Trudeau government began appointing independent senators, which in theory would make the Senate a non-partisan body. The growing number of these appointments created a challenge within the upper house as it had always been organized along partisan lines and there were no mechanisms in place to deal with a large number of independent senators, in terms of funding or appointments to committees, whereas the Conservative and Senate Liberal Caucuses were funded and guaranteed appointments.

As working group (2016–17)Edit

On March 10, 2016, six non-affiliated senators, former Independent Progressive Conservative Senator Elaine McCoy, former Conservative caucus members Jacques Demers, John D. Wallace, Michel Rivard and Diane Bellemare and former Liberal Pierrette Ringuette formed an independent, non-partisan working group that would "ensure the rights of equality" for all senators, "regardless of their political or non-political affiliation" while working to restore "public confidence" in the upper house "as a necessary and vital institution".[2]

In order to press for the recognition of the equal rights and obligations of non-affiliated senators and facilitate their activities, the group, which had grown to fifteen senators adopted the name "Independent Senators Group". On September 27, 2016 the members of the ISG elected McCoy to act as the group's facilitator until the end of the parliamentary term in June 2017.[3] Unlike the two partisan caucuses, the ISG announced it would not have parliamentary whips and that its members would not vote together except on issues such as changes to Senate rules and logistics that would accommodate the existence and rights of independent senators.[4]

The Senate formally recognized the ISG on December 2, 2016, passing a motion to fund the Independent Senators Group for the next two fiscal years. It was also agreed to make appointments of non-affiliated senators to committees proportionate to their numbers. However, the ISG's assigned budget of C$722,000 for 2017–2018 was less than the C$1 million allotted to each of the partisan caucuses.[5][4]

Beginning in January 2017, the official Senate website distinguished affiliations between members of the Independent Senators Group and other non-affiliated senators by listing ISG members as "Non-affiliated (ISG)".[6] Several non-affiliated senators, including Speaker of the Senate of Canada George Furey and Representative of the Government in the Senate Peter Harder (along with two senators who share responsibilities with them) remain entirely non-affiliated and are not members of the ISG.

As caucus (2017–present)Edit

On May 17, 2017 senators voted to remove the requirement that a caucus must be formed by senators who are members of a political party, making the ISG equal under the rules of the senate with the two partisan caucuses.[7] Following that change, McCoy stated that the ISG's influence in Senate standing committees will be increased to ensure its representation is proportional to the other caucuses.[8]

A formal secret ballot election was announced in June 2017 to replace facilitator Elaine McCoy.[9] At the close of nominations on September 22, 2017, Yuen Pau Woo was the only candidate for facilitator with Raymonde Saint-Germain the only candidate for Deputy Facilitator. Larry Campbell had intended to run but decided to recuse himself.[10] Woo and Saint-Germain were elected unopposed on September 25, 2017.[11]

The ISG adopted a new policy in October 2017, replacing its previous informal approach to membership with a requirement that all new applicants for membership in the caucus to be approved by at least 60 percent of current ISG members.[12]

Following an agreement between the three Senate caucuses, a November 2, 2017 motion reallocating committee positions saw the ISG allotted both committee chair and committee member positions proportional to the size of their membership.[13]

On November 4, 2019, eight senators from the ISG joined with two Conservative senators and one non-affiliated senator to form a new non-partisan parliamentary group known as the Canadian Senators Group.[14] Speaking with CTV News' Don Martin on Power Play with Don Martin, CSG interim leader Scott Tannas cited the concern that following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's radical overhaul of the Canadian Senate, the ISG, numbering 58 Senators, had simply become too large, and that a diversity of voices was needed in order to prevent a "tyranny of the majority."[15] Included among those decamping to the CSG was Elaine McCoy, who previously served as the ISG's facilitator.[16]

On November 7, 2019, non-affiliated Senator Tony Loffreda joined the ISG, bringing the group's caucus to 50.[17][18]


Deputy Facilitator

Question of independenceEdit

A 2017 CBC News study found that independent senators appointed by Justin Trudeau voted with the government 94.5 percent of the time.[19]

The Globe and Mail reported in May 2019 that Trudeau used Liberalist, a Liberal Party database, in order to vet prospective senate appointees.[20]


  1. ^ Aiello, Rachel (October 30, 2017). "Independent Senators Group now biggest contingent in the Senate". CTV News. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  2. ^ O'Malley, Kady (March 10, 2016). "@Kady — Just don't call it a caucus: Independent senators form 'non-partisan working group'". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  3. ^ "Patrick Brazeau returns to Senate after 3-year legal saga". CBC News. September 28, 2016. Retrieved July 8, 2017. Senator Elaine McCoy will serve as the group's facilitator until June 2017, while Frances Lankin, Elaine McCoy, Pierrette Ringuette and Don Meredith make up the 'chamber co-ordination' team.
  4. ^ a b Smith, Marie-Danielle (January 3, 2017). "How the Senate changed in 2016 - and what it means for the government's agenda for 2017". National Post. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  5. ^ Smith, Marie-Danielle (December 6, 2016). "'A victory for fairness': Senators agree to allow more independents on committees". National Post. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  6. ^ "Senators". Senate of Canada. Archived from the original on February 10, 2017. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  7. ^ Tasker, John Paul (May 17, 2017). "Senate changes definition of a 'caucus,' ending Liberal, Conservative duopoly". CBC News. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  8. ^ Rana, Abbas (June 5, 2017). "Change is going to come: Independent Senators Group wants 40 per cent of Senate committee chair, vice-chair positions by fall". The Hill Times. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  9. ^ Smith, Marie-Danielle (June 12, 2017). "Increasingly powerful group of Senate independents to hold formal election for their own leader". National Post. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  10. ^ Smith, Marie-Danielle (September 19, 2017). "Powerful group of senators to choose new leader next week, with only one contender". National Post. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  11. ^ Tasker, John Paul (September 25, 2017). "B.C.'s Yuen Pau Woo named leader of Independent senators, soon to be Senate's largest bloc". CBC News. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  12. ^ Evelyn, Charelle (October 11, 2017). "Independent Senators Group adopts 60 per cent approval threshold for new members". The Hill Times. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  13. ^ Naumetz, Tim (November 2, 2017). "Independent senators win equal shares of Senate committees". iPolitics. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  14. ^ Flanagan, Ryan (4 November 2019). "11 senators break away to form new Canadian Senators Group". CTV News. Retrieved 5 November 2019.
  15. ^ Martin, Don (4 November 2019). "Tannas on Wexit and Western Alienation". Power Play with Don Martin. CTV News. Retrieved 5 November 2019.
  16. ^ "Senators List". Senate of Canada. August 25, 2019. Archived from the original on August 25, 2019. Retrieved 4 November 2019.
  17. ^ Loffreda, Senator Tony (7 November 2019). "Senator Tony Loffreda on Twitter: The Senate plays a crucial role in the Canadian parliamentary system, I am looking forward to leveraging the experiences that I've accumulated throughout my career as we attempt to improve legislation, as well as the lives of Canadians. Thank you!". Twitter. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
  18. ^ "Senators List". Senate of Canada. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
  19. ^ Curry, Bill (24 September 2018). "Independent Senators Group poised for majority with latest appointments". Maclean's. Retrieved 11 August 2019.
  20. ^

See alsoEdit

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