The Parliament Buildings are situated on a cliff,
originally a primeval forest of beech and hemlock, whose southern approach
consisted of dense cedar swamps and a beaver meadow. The site, which was formerly the location of military barracks, overlooks the
Ottawa River. It is bounded by Wellington Street to the south (the Wellington
Wall, which was built in 1872, stands on the north side of Wellington Street,
separating the lawns and buildings of Parliament Hill from the city street),
the Rideau Canal to the east, the Ottawa River to the north and Bank Street to
the west, and has the legal name of Parliament Hill.
(See Figure 6.1, Parliament Hill.) The original complex of buildings comprised
the Parliament Building—fronted by a tower and backed by the Library of
Parliament, a 16‑sided polygonal structure—as well as two extant
departmental buildings styled East Block and West Block. The Parliament Building, including the Victoria Tower, was destroyed by fire on February 3, 1916.
Only the Library survived intact, thanks to an employee who closed the great
iron doors connecting the Library to the rest of the building. For the next
four years, both Houses of Parliament met several city blocks south of
Parliament Hill in the Victoria Memorial Museum, now called the Canadian Museum of Nature.
6.1 Parliament Hill
Sittings resumed in 1920 in the new but unfinished Centre Block, which was built on the same site as the old building. The new building was completed in 1922. A new tower, called the Peace Tower in commemoration of Canada’s human and material
contributions to World War I, was completed in 1927.
While originally sufficient to house the
entire parliamentary and governmental apparatus, the Centre, East and West
Blocks ceased to provide adequate accommodation as the size, complexity and functions
of Parliament and government multiplied. Today, government departments are
housed in office buildings throughout the National Capital Region and elsewhere
in the country. The Parliamentary Precinct—those premises which both Houses of
Parliament “occupy from time to time for their corporate purposes”—has expanded to include several other buildings in the immediate
vicinity of Parliament Hill.
The House of Commons and Senate Chambers
are located in the Centre Block. Offices for Members of Parliament are for the
most part located in the Centre Block, East Block and West Block, as well as
the Confederation Building and the Justice Building. Committee rooms are found
in the Centre, East and West Blocks, as well as in other buildings located near
Parliament Hill. Offices for House staff and parliamentary services are found
in these and other locations in the capital.
The grounds around Parliament Hill have
undergone several stylistic transformations since Confederation but have always
included a wide central walk leading from the gateway at the south end of the
grounds to the main entrance at the base of the Peace Tower. At the southern
end of the walkway is a fountain; in its centre burns the Centennial Flame,
which was lit on New Year’s Eve 1966 to mark the first hundred years of
Confederation (1867‑1967). The fountain is a 12‑sided truncated pyramid, each side
holding a bronze shield bearing the coats of arms of a province or territory. Water flows continuously around the shields; the flame, fed by
natural gas, burns through the water and gives the impression of the flame
dancing over the water. Coins tossed into the fountain are retrieved to fund the
Centennial Flame Research Award Fund.
The grounds of Parliament Hill are the site
of 19 bronze statues, erected between 1885 and 2000.
Represented are seven former Prime Ministers (John A. Macdonald,
Alexander Mackenzie, Wilfrid Laurier, Robert Borden, William Lyon Mackenzie
King, John Diefenbaker and Lester B. Pearson), five Fathers of Confederation
(George‑Étienne Cartier, a joint memorial to Robert Baldwin and Louis‑Hippolyte Lafontaine,
George Brown and Thomas D’Arcy McGee) and two monarchs (Victoria and Elizabeth
II). There is
also a monument dedicated to the “Famous Five” and their victory in the 1929
There are several other notable features
found on the grounds of Parliament Hill. Behind Centre Block and facing the Ottawa River is the Summer Pavilion, a replica of a gazebo originally built for the Speaker
of the House of Commons, but demolished in 1956. In 1995, the Summer Pavilion was re-built as a tribute to Canadian police and peace officers
killed in the line of duty. Nearby, the Canadian Police
and Peace Officers Memorial Honour Roll, which lists
the names of each officer killed in the line of duty, is mounted along the
fence separating Parliament Hill from the cliffs along the Ottawa River. Next
to the Summer Pavilion is a monument displaying the Victoria Tower bell, one of the few artefacts which remains from the original building.
Given Parliament’s right to administer its
own affairs free from interference, including overseeing the areas used in the
performance of official parliamentary functions, the Speakers of the two Houses
have traditionally held authority and control over accommodation and services
within the Parliamentary Precinct. At Confederation, Parliament Hill (including the adjacent parcel of
land on which the Confederation Building stands) was transferred by the
imperial government to Canada as “ordnance property”. As
such, control of the grounds and construction, repair and maintenance of the
buildings fell and continues to fall under the general mandate of the
government department responsible for federal buildings and property. The National Capital Commission, a federal body whose mandate is
the improvement and beautification of the National Capital Region, is charged with the landscaping and upkeep of the grounds of
The grounds of Parliament Hill, including
the two lawns between the East and West Blocks, are treated as a public park,
and are frequently used for recreational purposes by visitors. Organized public
gatherings are also permitted on the grounds, although these require prior
permission from the Committee on the Use of Parliament Hill. The Committee,
which consists of the Sergeant-at-Arms and representatives of the Senate, the
Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the National Capital Commission, the
Privy Council Office, and the departments of Canadian Heritage and Public Works
and Government Services, ensures that the proposed activity does not obstruct
the work of Parliament or have a negative impact on the heritage character of
Built in a modern Gothic revival style, the
rectangular Centre Block is some 144 metres long by 75 metres deep, and six stories high. More than 25 different types of stone and marble were used in the
building’s construction; however, much of the exterior is Nepean sandstone,
quarried near Ottawa, and its interior walls are sheeted with Tyndall limestone
from Manitoba. Inside, the history and traditions of Canada are reflected in
many stone carvings which are the result of the ongoing, intermittent work of
over 60 sculptors and carvers since 1916.
The main entrance to the Centre Block is
located at the base of the Peace Tower, where a broad flight of steps leads
into a stately Gothic archway. The main doors open onto stairs leading up into
the octagonal Confederation Hall (also called the Rotunda) and the Hall of
Honour leading to the Library of Parliament (see Figure 6.2, Floor Plan of the
Centre Block). In the centre of the Confederation Hall is a massive stone
column dedicating the building to the Canadian soldiers who fought in World War
I. On the eastern end of the Centre Block is found the Senate Chamber and on
the western end, the House of Commons Chamber. Each House has a separate
entrance to the building for its members.
6.2 Floor Plan of the Centre Block
The Peace Tower with its four‑faced
clock is the focal point of the Parliament Buildings. It commemorates Canada’s contributions to World War I and houses on its third floor the Memorial Chamber, which
holds the seven Books of Remembrance naming those Canadians who have given
their lives in service to Canada. An enclosed observation deck below the clock
offers a view in all directions of the National Capital Region. The Tower,
which is 92.2 metres high, is surmounted by a mast from which the flag is
The Peace Tower also contains a carillon of
53 bells, inaugurated on July 1, 1927, in honour of the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation. Regular recitals are given by the Dominion Carillonneur. The bells chime every quarter‑hour, controlled by a mechanism
connected to the clock.
At the north end of the Centre Block’s Hall
of Honour, opposite the main entrance, are the doors to the Library of
Parliament building. Its style of architecture is High Victorian Gothic
Revival; its interior is circular in form and richly ornamented with carved
white pine panelling. The Library survived the fire of 1916, but in 1952 a fire broke out in the cupola of the Library, causing extensive smoke and water damage. From 2002 to 2006, the historic Library of Parliament building was
closed while craftspeople worked to conserve, rehabilitate, and upgrade the
building. Damages which the building had sustained over the years were repaired
and current building standards were met while preserving the Library’s existing
features and heritage character. During this period, the Library’s collections
were stored in various other buildings occupied by the Parliament of Canada,
and its services were not interrupted. The Library of Parliament Building
re-opened its doors on May 30, 2006. There are also
branch libraries in some of the other buildings used by Parliament.
The Library serves Parliament using state‑of‑the‑art
information technologies and has more than 17 linear kilometres of materials in
its collection (books, periodicals, government documents, CD-ROMS and videos).
Under the direction of the Parliamentary Librarian, the Library provides comprehensive information, research and
analysis services to parliamentarians, their staff, parliamentary committees,
parliamentary associations and delegations, and senior officials of both
Houses. It also provides information about Parliament to the general public.
 For a description of the original site, see Eggleston,
 Parliament of Canada Act, R.S. 1985, c. P‑1,
 The Victoria Tower was the most prominent feature of the original Parliament Building. It stood in approximately the same place as the Peace Tower stands today.
 The report of the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the
origin of the fire was presented to the House later that year (Journals,
May 16, 1916, p. 388). The commissioners were “of the opinion that
there are many circumstances connected with this fire that lead to a strong
suspicion of incendiarism,” but as the inquiry was taken no further, the true
cause of the fire remains a mystery. The report noted that the fire started in
the Reading Room, which was furnished and fitted in “highly inflammable”
varnished white pine, and where many newspapers and files were kept. See also
Varkaris, J. and Finsten, L., Fire on Parliament Hill!, Erin, Ontario: The Boston Mills Press, 1988.
 Arrangements were quickly made and the House began sitting in the
Museum’s auditorium the day after the fire (Journals, February 4,
1916, p. 53). The Senate, which was not sitting at the time of the fire,
was accommodated in what had been the Geological Department (Debates of the
Senate, February 8, 1916, p. 50).
 When the session opened on February 26, 1920, the Senate
Chamber was not ready. The Senate met in the House of Commons, where the Speech
from the Throne was read, and the House met in the Railway Committee Room;
thereafter, until the Senate Chamber was ready, the Commons met in its Chamber
and the Senate in the Railway Committee Room (Debates of the Senate,
February 26, 1920, p. 1; February 27, 1920, p. 2). See also
Report of the Minister of Public Works for the Fiscal Year Ended
March 31, 1919, tabled on March 10, 1920 (Journals,
p. 39), pp. 5‑6.
 Maingot, J.P.J., Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, 2nd ed.,
Montreal: House of Commons and McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1997,
 The principal ones are the Confederation, Justice, Wellington,
Victoria and Chambers Buildings.
 The design and the construction of the fountain were the work of
the then Department of Public Works. The flame was originally conceived as a
project for the centennial year and the intention was to extinguish it at the
end of 1967. However, in response to popular demand, the government decided to
continue the flame in perpetuity (Debates, December 11, 1967,
p. 5260; December 12, 1967, pp. 5358‑9).
 Nunavut, which was created on April 1, 1999 as a result of the Nunavut
Act, S.C. 1993, c. 28, and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement
Act, S.C. 1993, c. 29, is not represented on the Centennial
 Centennial Flame Research Award Act, S.C. 1991,
c. 17. The Act originated as a private Member’s bill introduced by Patrick
Boyer (Etobicoke–Lakeshore); it established the Fund which is administered by
the parliamentary committee whose mandate includes matters relating to the
status of persons with disabilities. The Fund provides awards to disabled
persons to conduct research and prepare reports on the contributions of persons
with disabilities to the public life of Canada. Reports prepared by award
recipients are presented to the House by the Chair of the committee. See, for
example, Journals, June 14, 1993, p. 3204; June 10, 1999,
p. 2090; November 28, 2005, p. 1349; April 30, 2007,
 Originally planned for Parliament Hill, the statue of Louis St‑Laurent
(Prime Minister from 1948 to 1957) was erected in 1975 in front of the Supreme Court of Canada building and looks toward Parliament Hill, which is
nearby. This location was considered to be in keeping with his distinguished
legal career and service as Minister of Justice and Attorney General prior to
becoming Prime Minister.
 The monument to Elizabeth II is the only monument on Parliament
Hill not erected posthumously. It was unveiled in 1992, the year of the 40th
anniversary of her accession to the Throne.
 The “Famous Five” were five women (Emily Murphy, Henrietta Muir
Edwards, Louise McKinney, Nellie McClung and Irene Parlby) who asked the
Supreme Court in 1927 to consider whether the word “person” in section 24 of
the British North America Act included female persons (Emily Murphy
had been denied an appointment to the Senate of Canada because she was not a
“qualified person”). The Court found that the Act did not include women. In
1929, they appealed the decision to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
in the United Kingdom, which was the highest court of appeal available at the
time. The Judicial Committee ruled that women were persons under the British
North America Act and thus eligible for appointment to the Senate.
 For further information on Parliament Hill and the precincts of the
Houses of Parliament, see Maingot, 2nd ed., pp. 163‑78.
 Constitution Act, 1867, R.S. 1985, Appendix II,
No. 5, s. 108, and The Third Schedule, item 9. See also Maingot,
2nd ed., pp. 168‑9.
 Public Works and Government Services Canada.
 National Capital Act, R.S. 1985, c. N‑4,
 Beauchesne, A., Canada’s Parliament Building: The
Senate and House of Commons, Ottawa, Ottawa: 1948, p. 24. Figures
converted from imperial to metric.
 The teams of sculptors who have worked on the stone carvings
in the Centre Block have been led by a chief sculptor, who is responsible for
overseeing the carving. Since the creation of the position in 1936, there have
been five chief sculptors: Cléophas Soucy (1936-50), William Oosterhoff
(1949-62), Eleanor Milne (1962-93), Maurice Joanisse (1993-2006) and Phil White
 On occasion, flags other than the Canadian flag have been flown
from the Peace Tower. When the Sovereign or the Governor General is present on
Parliament Hill for a state or public function, the Canadian flag is replaced
by Her Majesty’s Personal Canadian Flag or by the Governor General’s Flag, as
the case may be. For further information, see the Department of Canadian
Heritage Web site at www.pch.gc.ca. On January 19, 1943, the Dutch flag flew
atop the Peace Tower to commemorate the birth of Princess Margriet of the Netherlands. Princess Margriet was born in the Ottawa Civic Hospital, which had been
temporarily declared Dutch territory so that the Princess would have exclusive
Dutch citizenship, and thus remain in the line of succession to the Dutch
The flag atop the Peace Tower may be flown at half-mast as a symbol of mourning. This has occurred to mark the deaths
of sitting or former parliamentarians, sovereigns, and their relatives or
representatives, as well as to mark national or international tragedies. On
May 10, 2006, Speaker Milliken advised the House that the decision to
fly the flag at half-mast fell under the jurisdiction of the executive, not of
the Speaker of the House (Debates, pp. 1188-9).
 See Speaker Milliken’s remarks on the 80th anniversary of the
inauguration of the carillon (Debates, June 20, 2007,
 There have been five Dominion Carillonneurs since the inauguration
of the carillon: Percival Price (1927-39), Robert Donnell (1940-75),
Émilien Allard (1975-76), Gordon Slater (1977‑2008) and Andrea
McCrady (2008‑present). From time to time, guest carillonneurs have also
given recitals using the Peace Tower carillon.
 For further information on the history of the Library of
Parliament, see Dubé, A. and Graham, M., Chronology of a Building: The
Library of Parliament, Ottawa: House of Commons and Library of
Parliament, 1995 and Binks, K., Library of Parliament, Canada,
Ottawa: KCB Publications, 1979.
 The Parliamentary Librarian is responsible for the administration
and management of the Library. Pursuant to Standing Order 111.1, the Parliamentary
Librarian is appointed by Order in Council, following consideration of the
proposed appointment in committee and ratification by the Senate and the House.
See, for example, the appointment of William Robert Young (Journals,
November 17, 2005, p. 1283; November 22, 2005, p. 1309, Order
Paper and Notice Paper, p. III; Journals, November 23, 2005,
pp. 1314-6; Journals of the Senate, November 24, 2005, p. 1320).
There have been seven Parliamentary Librarians: Alpheus Todd (1870‑84),
Martin Griffin (1885‑1920), Martin Burrell (1920‑38), Francis
Hardy (1944‑59), Erik Spicer (1960‑94), Richard Paré (1994‑2005)
and William Young (2005‑present).
 In addition, the Library of Parliament is responsible for the
Parliamentary Tours Program, which provides guided tours of the Centre Block
for guests of parliamentarians, student groups, and the general public.