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Canada's Houses of Parliament

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The Parliament Buildings were constructed between 1865 and 1927. They were built on Barracks Hill, overlooking the Ottawa River, since renamed Parliament Hill. The original structure, in the Gothic Revival style, was designed by Thomas Fuller and Chilion Jones. The choice of Gothic was a synbol of Canada's continuing strong links to Great Britain, in imitation of the style of the newly rebuilt Palace of Westminster in London. By the time the centre block was designed, architects were mixing Gothic elements in innovative fashion. The tower reflected German influences, the roofs are of French design, and the Library remains distinctly English in character.

The complex was already under construction at the time of Confederation in 1867. The new Dominion Parliament held its first session there on 6 November 1867.

In 1916 a fire destroyed all of the Centre Block with the exception of the Library of Parliament. The Library was preserved by a quick-thinking librarian who was able to close the massive doors in time to protect its irreplaceable treasures. The Centre Block was rebuilt immediately and completed in 1920. The Peace Tower, commemorating the end of the First World War, was completed in 1927. The new Centre Block, designed by John Pearson and Omar Marchand, integrated elements of Beaux Arts into its primarily Gothic Revival style.

The most prominent part of the complex is the Peace Tower. It is decorated with approximately 370 stone carvings, including gargoyles, grotesques and friezes.

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Photos of the Houses of Parliament. Click on a thumbnail to see the full sized photo.
Parliament in Spring

Parliament in early Spring

lobby of the Centre Block

Lobby of the Centre Block

lobby of the Centre Block

Lobby of the Centre Block

house of commons

House of Commons

senate chamber

Senate Chamber

senate chamber

Senate Chamber Ceiling

Peace Tower

The Peace Tower

stained glass

Stained glass window in the Peace Tower

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Architectural details

architecture

Architectural details

architecture

Architectural details

architecture

Architectural details

Library

Library of Parliament

view of Parliament

View of the Peace Tower over the East Block

reflection of West Block

Reflection on the Bank of Canada building

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The Government of Canada

Canada is a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. The Legislature is bicameral, consisting of the House of Commons and the Senate.

Queen Elizabeth II is Queen of Canada and head of state. When the Queen is not in residence, her duties devolve on the Governor General.

The legal framework of the country consists of written text and unwritten traditions and conventions. It is governed by Canada's constitution. The Constitution includes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This Charter guarantees basic rights and freedoms to Canadians. These rights and freedoms cannot generally be overridden by legislation of any level of government in Canada. However, it contains a 'notwithstanding clause' which allows the federal parliament and provincial legislatures the power to override temporarily some other sections of the Charter, for a period of five years.

Canada's head of government is the Prime Minister (PM). The PM is the leader of the political party that obtains the confidence of a majority in the House of Commons. The PM and his/her cabinet are formally appointed by the Gevernor General (the Queen's representative in Canada.)

The federal parliament is made up of the Queen and the two houses: an elected House of Commons and an appointed Senate. Members of the House of Commons (MPs) are elected by simple plurality in a 'riding' or constituency. General Elections are called by the Governor General when advised by the PM. Elections must occur every five years or less. Members of the Senate, who can serve until age 75, are chosen by the PM and formally appointed by the Governor General. Senate seats are apportioned on a regional basis.

Please visit the other pages in our Ottawa section.

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Patti

This page was updated on 26 November 2007.

Contact me at: patti.primeau@sympatico.ca

This site was updated using Nvu and Style Master.

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