Q: What is the
A: The Senate is an essential part of
Over 135 years ago,
the Fathers of Confederation agreed that Canada
should have a Parliament to make Canada's laws. They
wanted to be sure that everything decided in
Parliament be carefully thought through by not one,
but two houses, so they created an Upper House, the
Senate, and a Lower House, the House of
The Queen, represented by the Governor General, the
Senate and the House of Commons, make up
Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, called the
Senate a place of "sober second thought."
Q: What does the Senate
A: One of the most important jobs of the Senate is
to help make the laws that we live by.
The Senate carefully examines bills, which are
proposed laws, to make certain that they are the best
they can be. The bills are studied to find out how
they might affect the daily lives of Canadians.
Changes are suggested to improve them; some bills may
even be rejected. The Senate may also introduce bills
of its own, even though most bills are introduced in
the House of Commons.
No bill can become law in Canada without Senate
The Senate is responsible for protecting the rights
and interests of Canadians in all regions, especially
minority groups or people who do not often get a
chance to present their opinions to Parliament.
Before a bill can become law, it goes through three
stages, called "readings," in both Houses. The bill
is debated, fine-tuned and then voted on by each
House. Once approved, the bill is presented to the
Governor General for royal assent and is made
Q: Who are
A: The Senate is made up of women and men from all
over Canada with many different
Business people, lawyers, teachers, journalists,
artists, doctors, hockey players, police officers,
scientists, writers, nurses, Aboriginal leaders, and
politicians have all become senators.
This variety of experience gives senators a better
understanding of the people they represent and of the
problems that Parliament must try to solve.
The Prime Minister recommends the names of senators
to be appointed by the Governor General.
There are many requirements to become a senator. For
example, you must:
be a Canadian citizen;
be at least 30 years old;
own property in your province or territory; and
live in the province or territory that you will
represent as a senator.
There are usually 105 members of the Senate.
Q: What happens in a day
in the life of a senator?
A: Senators are busy people. On any given day, they
discuss and debate important issues in the Senate
meet with the people they represent;
work with office staff who help do research;
go to committee meetings;
submit bills to make laws;
present petitions from groups who want to be heard;
help people solve problems in dealing with
read books, reports and studies;
travel between their home region and Ottawa; and
represent Canada around the world.
Senators work on
committees to investigate important issues, including
literacy, poverty and terrorism. They speak on behalf
of those whose rights are often overlooked, such as
children, veterans, the elderly and the poor. These
investigations allow people from all walks of life a
chance to give their views on issues that affect
Each year, Senate committees hear from more than
1000 people (also called "witnesses"), hold an
average of 400 meetings and produce more than 100
Q: What happens in the Senate
A: The Senate Chamber is where senators meet when
Parliament is in session.
They gather here to discuss committee reports, to
debate important issues and to pass laws. During
Question Period, senators can ask the Leader of the
Government in the Senate about how the country is
The Opening of Parliament, the Speech from the
Throne and other important ceremonies take place in
When the Senate is in session, the Speaker sits in a
chair on a raised platform at one end of the Chamber,
in front of the two thrones. The Speaker keeps order
and makes sure that the rules of Parliament are
The mace is a symbol of the Senate's authority.
Whenever the Senate is sitting, it must be set on the
Clerk's table with
the crown pointing toward the thrones.
Q: Why is the Senate
called the Red Chamber?
A: The Senate is where the Queen comes when she
visits Parliament, so it is decorated in red, a
traditional colour of royalty.
To see more photos of the Senate Chamber, go to the
Photo Gallery Section:
the ceiling covered in gold leaf;
carvings of plants and animals native to Canada;
stained glass windows set high in the walls;
two bronze chandeliers weighing almost two tonnes
murals depicting scenes from the First World War;
two thrones reserved for the Queen or the Governor
General and their spouses.