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1980: Paper fight in the Manitoba legislature

The Story


The Manitoba legislature has an amusing tradition. On the last day of a session, members of the legislative assembly and reporters in the press gallery have a big paper fight to blow off a little steam. Normally it's just harmless fun, but in 1980 the "thrown speech" gets out of hand.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: July 30, 1980
Guest(s): Harry Graham
Host: George McLean
Reporter: Judy Waytiuk
Duration: 1:40

Did You know?


• The tradition of having a paper fight in the Manitoba legislature began around 1900, when members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) threw their papers up in the air to celebrate the end of a session.

• A session is the period of days during which MLAs meet to carry out the business of the legislature. It begins with the speech from the throne on the first day and ends with prorogation on the last day.

• By 1920 Manitoba MLAs began throwing paper at each other. The paper fight would begin when the lieutenant-governor walked out after the session ended. It was a bonding event, particularly for backbenchers who didn't get to participate much in parliamentary proceedings.

• The fights escalated when MLAs starting targeting other members or reporters with whom they had grudges. They rolled up Hansards or magazines and taped them together to make dangerous projectiles.

• A Hansard is the printed record of the proceedings of Canadian or British legislatures. It was named after Luke Hansard and his son Thomas, who began printing British parliamentary proceedings in 1774.

• In 1811 Thomas Hansard was the first person officially authorized to publish reports of British parliamentary debates. Before that, note-taking in the galleries was forbidden and anyone who printed reports of debates could be imprisoned.

• The paper fight tradition in Manitoba ended in 1981 due to injuries and damage to expensive new desk microphones.

• Other institutions around the world have paper fight traditions. The theatre at Stanford University in California begins its Sunday night movies with a big paper fight.

• Don't try this at home.

Also on July 30:
1974: The Quebec National Assembly gives final approval to Bill 22, making French the province's official language. The new law only applies to language use in civic administration, services and the workplace.
1984: Alex Baumann wins Canada's first Olympic swimming title in 72 years. The 20-year-old from Sudbury, Ont. breaks the world record in the men's 400-metre individual medley in Los Angeles. Five days later, Baumann adds a second gold and world record in the 200-metre individual medley.
1996: The Irving Whale oil tanker is raised 67 metres to the surface of the Gulf of St. Lawrence after sinking northeast of Prince Edward Island in 1970. At $42 million, the 70-minute salvage operation was the most expensive in Canadian history.


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