At Home with the Hansard
In the US we’ve got the Congressional Record. In Canada—and select other Commonwealth or ex-Commonwealth countries—they’ve got the Hansard. The key difference is that the Hansard records what was actually said, while the Congressional Record allows you to insert what you wish you had said. Like, say, the full list of all your constituents’ pets.
Make that: the Hansard records what should have been said. Not quite the same thing. Here is their boilerplate, attached to the beginning of each day’s preliminary transcript:
Hansard is not a verbatim transcript of the debates of the House. It is a transcript in extenso. In the case of repetition or for a number of other reasons, such as more specific identification, it is acceptable to make changes so that anyone reading Hansard will get the meaning of what was said. Those who edit Hansard have an obligation to make a sentence more readable since there is a difference between the spoken and the written word.
Close quote. I would like to think this means only that a certain number of hems, haws and throat-clearings will be edited out. But that’s a matter for people who follow Canadian politics more closely than I do. What’s important here is: If you are a multilingual country, you get a multilingual Hansard. This can provide hours of education and entertainment, so long as you stay away from discussions of water supplies and the crumbling infrastructure.*
Boring but necesssary disclaimer: All quotations are from the unofficial, day-to-day “blues”. If you need the Hansard for any legitimate, law-abiding purpose, you can pick up the final version at the Nunavut Government web site. The Inuktitut versions for sessions 1.2-1.5, along with the first seating of 1.6 (through March 2002) are in the legacy font Prosyl. Paste the text into the transcoder of your choice—for shorter passages I use the one here—to convert to Unicode syllabics or Roman type. Or some approximation thereof. But I’ll get to that another time.
Spend a year and a half discussing medical care for unilingual elders; crumbling schools; rusting water pipes; and the rising rates of alcoholism, domestic violence and teen suicide. Is it any surprise that some MLAs get a little punchy?
“I think we have to get our Hansard fixed.”
Don’t look at me. An MLA said it way back in May 1999.
Q. What makes Nunavut different from all other Third World countries?
A. It’s got a Hansard.
If your grade ten education is equivalent to an Edmonton grade seven, the best remedy is to get into the Legislative Assembly . . . and stay there.