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Privy Council Declares - "Women ARE Persons!"
Here on Ottawa's Paliament Hill there are various statues of prominent Canadian statesmen(plus a couple of English queens). The most interesting, to me at any rate, is Barbera Paterson's relatively recent monument entitled, "Women are Persons". This set of scupltures, depicting 5 women, was inauguarated on October 18th 2000 and commemorates what is known as the "Persons" case.
There is often a misconception concerning what this case was really about but it was certainly a very important stage in Canada's independent legislative developement. The event commemorated is the recognition of women's rights to be members of the Canadian Senate which was instigated by Emily Murphy ,with the backing of 4 other prominent Canadian women (Henrietta Muir Ewards, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney and Irene Parlby).
The issue centred around the interpretation of the word "persons" in the British North America Act which established The Dominion of Canada in 1867. This stated, in section 24, that only "fit and qualified persons" could be appointed to the Canadian Senate. Other sections of the same act expressly defined such persons exclusively in the masculine.
In 1927 Murphy put herself forward as a Senate candidate to the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Bowden, who rejected her on the grounds that legally he could not appoint a woman despite the fact that he personally was quite willing to do so. Not to be deterred Murphy petitioned the Supreme Court of Canada, along with her 4 allies, to seek the answer to the question: "Does the word PERSONS in section 24 of the British North America Act, 1867, include female persons?"
The Supreme Court was in the same position as Bowden and, despite acknowledgeing that women definitely were persons, had to reject the petition on legal grounds. Murphy then appealed the decision (with the full support of the new Prime Minister, Mackenzie King) to the Privy Council in London, which at the time was Canada's highest court. The Privy Council overturned Canada's Supreme Court decision on the grounds that the original 1876 act was written at a time when women didn't even have the right to vote, far less stand for office and that the act needed updating.
This was indeed a major decision. Not just for the simple fact that women were now recognised as "persons", as regards holding public office, but more so for the fact that the 1867 Act was now to be viewed as "A Living Tree". It also emphasised that the Constitution of Canada (as the Act became) should be capable of organic growth and that Canada as a nation had the right to enable such changes.
Definitely a major landmark in Canada's "Oh So Short" History.
- Historical Travel
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Parliament Hill - the Home of Canadian democracy.
Parliament hill is like Ottawa's centerpiece. There stand the Parliament buildings of Canada. The main bulding in the middle is called The Center block with The Peace Tower, which looks a lot like Big Ben up close. And the very ornate tower at the back is the Library of Parliament. The construction work of these Gothic style buildings started in 1859 and was finished in 1927 when the Peace Tower was completed. The East and West blocks make the Parliament hill form a beautiful semicircle.
The Parliament hill is so worth a visit, or even to spend a sunny afternoon there. In the gardens there are many, many statues of famous Canadians and Queen Victoria and Queen Elisabeth II of England. And walking behind the Center block you have a fantastic view of Ottawa river and Gatineau. There is even a Pavillion there so you can admire the views.
The Changing of the guard takes place at 10 o' clock sharp during the summer months.
There are guided tours of the Parliament (see my tip on the guided tours).
Get yourself a guide to the Parliament Hill, before visiting the sights, they have a very good guide. I found it better to read it at home and return later to better enjoy the sights. 1,5 million visitors come here every year.
Behind the Parliament building there has been a Cat Sanctuary since the 1970s. There are now many animals, which are cared for at the sanctuary, like groundhogs, pidgeons, raccoons, squirrels and birds. A lovely sanctuary and a bit surprising that it was given a place on the Parliament Hill.
Now this was my first tip on the Parliament buildings and the Parliament Hill. I will keep it as it is, but since I made this tip I have been on tours of the Centre and East Blocks of the Parliament and have added tips on the Victoria Bell, the Summer Pavillion, many of the statues and more.
The Parliament Library building - awesome!
The Library building at the Parliament is, in my opinion, the most beautiful part of the Parliament buildings. It is the only part of the Parliament surviving the fire in 1916 (plus a part of the northwest wing), by an inch. When the fire started in the Centre Block an employee at the library closed the iron door to the library, thus saving it from the fire. Not only did that save this beautifully historic building - but all the legislative documents and books which would have burnt to ashes.
The Library is built in Victorian Gothic Revival style in the years 1859-1876 and restored in 2002-2006 to conserve this extraordinary building.
The Library preserves and protects all the legislative documents and books, all in all half a million, so that the Parliament can have direct access to them.
When I went on a guided tour of the Centre Block we were guided through the Library - no photos were allowed. It is so beautiful - I add an official video of the inside of the Library, seeing that I have no photos.
The Peace Tower.
After our guided tour of the Centre Block of the Parliament building we were given the option on exploring the Peace Tower by ourselves.
A lift-boy (he was very young) escorted us in the lift, asking everybody where they were from. I felt kind of sorry for him having to be so up-beat on such a short ride in the lift, probably greeting countless people every day. But it was a nice gesture making guests feel welcome.
This part of the tour was my favourite. The views from the Peace Tower´s observation area of Ottawa and Gatineau must be the best ones in the city. I love open spaces so I couldn´t get enough of seeing Ottawa and Gatineau lying flat beneath me - I must have taken 20 photos just of the views.
The Peace Tower dates back to 1927 - it is dedicated to over 65.000 soilders from Canada who died in WW1. The tower is freestanding tower, 92.2 meters high. There are 53 bells in the tower, the largest weighing a whooping 10.160 kg!
There are tours free of charge from May 14 to June 30. Weekdays: 9:00 - 19:40. Weekends: 9:00 - 16:40. July 2 to September 3 - daily: 9:00 to 16:40. From September 4 until May there are guided tours daily from 9:00 - 15:40.
The Memorial Chamber is located in the Peace Tower - see my next tip.
A highly recommended visit.
The Centennial flame.
On Parliament hill in front of the Parliament building there is The Centennial flame. It was ignited on January 1, 1967 by Lester B. Pearson, the Prime Minister. This was done to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of Canadas Confederation.
The light represents a symbolic guide for the country, leading it into a second full century of nationhood (as explained in the "Discover the Hill" booklet).
Natural gas is used to feed the flame which is surrounded by water and burns through the water. The monument is round and divided into 12 parts, each of which represents the provinces and territories which existed at the time the flame was ignited. And there is information on when they joined the Confederation, and a floral symbol.
There are always a lot of people by the Centennial flame taking photos sitting by the flame. I always seem to be there by myself so I have no photo of myself by the flame.
The Victoria Bell and the Summer Pavillion.
It is possible to walk behind the Parliament building and enjoy the beautiful view there of the Ottawa river and Gatineau. There most of the statues are located and the Victoria Bell, which is located almost right behind the beautiful Library of Parliament. When the Centre Block of the Parliament building caught fire on the 4th of February 1916 the tower was one of the last parts to catch fire - and the Victoria Bell struck mid-night - the building was on fire - with the clock striking. It must have been a very sad, strange sight. Shortly after the bell crashed down into the fire. It was later found in the ruins and put on display. It was restored in 2001 and put in the current position - at the same angle as it was in when it crashed down into the blazing fire.
Behind the Centre Block is also the Summer Pavillion. It dates back to 1877 and was made by Thomas Seton Scott. It was supposed to be a summer house for the speaker of the House of Commons. It was torn down in 1956 as it had become run down. A replica of the summer house was made 4 decades later and positioned in the same place as the old Pavillion had been located. It is now a part of the Monument to Canadian police and they contributed to the erection of the replica. See my tip on the Police Monument.
Gargoyles on the Parliament building.
By the main entrance to the Centre block of the Parliament building there are many gargoyles or grotesques. They are probably in other places as well, high up on the buildings, but these are the ones noticable.
One has to look closely to see the grotesques - and they are not pretty, and they stare at you with evil eyes - probably to scare you away?
They are made of Nepean sandstone and when you touch them they feel like sponges.
They started out as beige coloured, but due to pollution this sandstone, being so porous, turns black.
They are interesting - look for them if you are ever visiting the Parliament buildings.
Women are persons.
On Parliament Hill to the right of the main Parliament building "Center block" (facing the building) stand a series of statues of 5 women, one of them holding a newspaper with the headline "Women are persons".
For years women of Canada had wanted equality and that a woman be appointed to the Senate, often naming Judge Emily Murphy as their candidate. Five successive federal governments maintained that women were ineligible to serve in the Senate on the basis that they were not "qualified persons" according to Section 24 in The British North America act 1867 - aha!! In 1927 The famous five, 5 women, began their fight against this stupidity (sorry, my words, but what else can one say about this?) and finally in 1929 won the right to run for Senate even though none of these 5 did, but they paved the road for other women to come. These women, who got their statues here are, Emily Murphy, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Louise McKinney, Nellie McClung and Irene Parlby rejoicing their victory with a tea party.
Now, I am in many of the photos, I always take a photo there when ever I go up on Parliament hill. And so does everybody else, there is sometimes a line of people waiting to take photos of themselves there with these ladies. There are some great photo opportunities here.
Statues of two queens on Parliament Hill.
There are statues of two queens on Parliament hill - the queens of England - Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II.
The statue of Queen Victoria (by Louis-Philippe Hébert) was unveiled in 1901 and stands to the left of the Parliament building. Queen Victoria chose Ottawa to be the capital city of Canada in 1857. The statue was made for Queen Victoria´s Diamond Jubilee.
The statue of Queen Elizabeth II (by Jack Harman) stands to the right of the Parliament building and shows Elizabeth on horseback. The RCMP gave the statue to the Queen in 1977 as a celebration present of her 25th year as a queen. This is the first statue of the Queen on horseback and shows her riding astride. The statue was unveiled on Canada´s 125th anniversary.
Statues on Parliament Hill.
There are so many statues on Parliament Hill - one of them, as seen on my first photo, is of Lester B. Pearson, who was the Prime minister from 1963-1968. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 - as he played a leading role in the creation of the UN Peace-keeping forces. Artist is Danek Mozdenski (1990).
My second photo is of the statue of George Brown (1818-1880) who helped to bring about Confederation in Canada. He founded a newspaper in 1844, which is now the widespread The Globe and Mail.
My third photo is of Thomas D´Arcy McGee (1825-1868) - a father of Confederation. He was shot and killed in Sparks Street. He supported teh cause of Irish immigrants and was against a group of Irish Americans who wanted to invade Canada. It is believed that this group killed him.
My fourth photo is of the statue of Robert Baldwin (1804-1858) and Sir Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine (1807-1864). They helped to establish responsible government in Canada. Meaning that the government has to have the support of the elected assembly (House of Commons). The wall they stand on is called "whispering wall".
My fifth photo is of the statue of Alexander Mackenzie (1822-1892) who was the second Prime Minister of Canada from 1873-1878. He established The Supreme Court of Canada and the Office of the Auditor General of Canada. Below him is a figure holding a scroll on which is written: "Duty was his Law, and Conscience his Ruler."
Parliament Buildings - Tour of the Centre Block
As part of our summer study tours, the university students and I had a guided tour the interior of the Parliament buildings, focusing upon the debating chamber of the House of Commons and also the Senate. The corridors of the House of Commons building are also fascinating, as they are as lined with interesting painting of the good and worthy leaders of Canada from past generations. The architecture of the Parliament is a restrained neo-gothicism, still with much interesting detail. But we were told that the original building, constrcuted in the 1870s, was even more elaborate. There was a terribly fire during World War I that destroyed the original Parliamentary Building, and while a new very handsome legislative temple was constructed on the footprint of the original, apparently it was not as "over-the-top" decorated as the earlier version.
The Parliamentary Library survived the 1917 fire, and it is probably most people's favorite section of the building. It shows what the Victorian Canadians were capable of building when they set their minds to it. Our tour gave us a glimpse of the library, but because it is still a working library, we had to be very quiet and circumspect inside, and we were not allowed to take flash photography either.
- Historical Travel
The Canadian Parliament Buildings in Ottawa
The Parliament Buildings of Canada are as fine a neo-Gothic complex you are going to visit anywhere. These wonderful buildings sit dramatically over the Ottawa River gorge. The buildings actually date from 1859, however the most important building, the Centre Block, is actually a reconstruction of an earlier building that burnt down in 1916. Fortunately the Library, located in the rear of the building, was saved. This beautiful circular room is superbly decorated with carved wooden walls. I think that it might be one the most stunning interiors in all of Canada. Also very importantly, the Centre Block is the location of Canada's House of Commons and it's Senate. Visitors can watch parliamentry debate go on here when parliament is in session, which for my taste is not enough. You can also take free tours of the Centre Block which are quite good in my opinion. This is a wonderful way to see some of the splendidly ornate decorations that are through the building that you would otherwise miss. From the exterior, the building is dominated by the high Peace Tower which was added in 1927 to the facade of the building in honour of those who died during the First World War.
The Parliament Buildings also is host to a Changing of the Guard ceremony similar to what you might see in London. Red tuniced, bearskin hat soldiers in parade. These are performed during the summer months between 9:30am to 10:00am
- Historical Travel
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Parliament - The Memorial Chamber
The Memorial Chamber ( measuring 24’ by 24’ only) is a very special place.
The focal point of the room is the Altar of Remembrance with the first Book of Remembrance wich names 66,655 individuals who lost their lives in the First World War.
A second Book of Remembrance listing 44,893 names from the Second World War was eventually placed in the Chamber in 1957.
There are seven books housed in the Memorial Chamber.
'Pages of the Books of Remembrance are turned every morning at eleven o'clock, according to perpetual calendars. These calendars allow for each page in each Book to appear at least once in the course of a year.'
- Museum Visits
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Parliament - The Commons Chamber
The Canadian House of Commons chamber is located in the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings on Parliament Hill.
The chamber is 21 metres long, 16 metres wide, has seats for 320 members of parliament and 580 persons in the upper gallery that runs around the second level of the room.
The speaker's chair is an exact replica of that found in the British House of Commons and green color reflecting the colour used in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.
The commons chamber has 12 stained glass windows, each of them contains approximately 2,000 pieces of hand-blown glass.
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
Parliament - Senate Chamber
The Senate Chamber, or the "Red Chamber", is where senators from Canada's provinces and territories meet to consider and debate legislation.
The Senate Chamber is located at the east end of the Centre Block the building on Parliament Hill dominated by the Peace Tower.
'At the north end of the Chamber is a dais (raised platform) with a pair of thrones, the larger of the two for the Queen or the Governor General, and the smaller for the spouse of the Queen or the Governor General.
The coffered ceiling, decorated in gold leaf, depicts the French fleur-de-lys, the English lion, the Irish harp, the Welsh dragon and the Scottish thistle, together with Canadian maple leaves. Two massive bronze chandeliers, weighing approximately two tonnes each, hang from the ceiling.'
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