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At the modest peak of Parliament Hill stand both the Centre Block and a separate Peace Tower. This is where the Canadian government carries on its daily business in both the House of Commons and Senate Chambers portions of the building. The original building and its Victoria Tower were completed on this site in 1878 but were subsequently destroyed by a fire in 1916. The present structures, completed by 1927, are the replacements for those originals, using the Gothic Revival style of architecture similar to that used in Britain's capital.
Because reconstruction was started in the middle of the First World War, the Peace Tower was named to honour the thousands of Canadian men and women who sacrificed their lives for Canada during that war. The 92-m (300-ft) tower is constructed of sandstone from a nearby quarry and it houses both a clock and a carillon for chiming out tunes on its various bells. I was impressed by the four gargoyles jutting out from high above, with these 2.5-m (8-ft) rainspouts being carved from Quebec granite (3rd pic).
As we continued our walk to the left, around to the Ottawa River side of the building, we came upon one of the few relics of the first Parliament building, a large bell (4th pic) that had originally been installed in the Victoria Tower in 1877. It shows a few dents and scars from its ordeal, but has been lovingly restored to a new place of rest, sitting at an angle just the way it was found after the fire of 1916.
Security at the Parliament Buildings was unobtrusive, no concrete barriers, fences, soldiers or para-military guards barred the public from wandering in off the streets. All there was were a couple of Mounties sitting in their cars in the expansive area in front of the Centre Block. We walked up and opened one of the huge doors for a look inside, but there was a security guard inside and a sign pointed to a different Visitor's Entrance off to one side. However, we had child-minding duties coming up shortly, so gave it a miss.
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A couple of Parliament Hill statues
Just as we had finally almost completed our circle and were back to the East Block building, we came across two statues that piqued our interest on this beautiful 16 C (60 F) day. The first was a recent (1992) statue dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of Canada's 125th birthday. The work, led by Canadian artist Jack Harman, took two years to complete and shows Her Majesty mounted on her horse Centennial. This horse had been presented to Queen Elizabeth by the Mounties in 1977 in celebration of the 25th year of her rule. Centennial was also ridden by President Ronald Regan during a 1982 visit with the Monarch at Windsor Castle.
We had only walked a bit further before we came across a group of statues depicting women in early 1900s garb. From the Parliament Hill web site: "Inaugurated on October 18, 2000, this monument entitled 'Women are Persons!' is a tribute to Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Emily Murphy, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards. Known as the Famous Five, these women won the 'Persons' Case, a 1929 court ruling which legally declared women as persons under the British North America Act and made them eligible for appointment to the Canadian Senate." The five separate sculptures were created by another Canadian artist, Barbara Paterson and were donated to the Canadian government. Irene Parlby, the last of the five immortalized women, died in 1965 aged 97. Several tourists from India were taking photos of themselves there, so I offered to take a group photo for them. They reciprocated for Sue and I, but I am not sure which one of the ladies we chose to pose for!
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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.
Tour the Parliament Buildings....
Its a fairly common thing to do if youre visiting Ottawa and you've never done it before...
Because tour times, routes and schedules are subject to change without notice,there are no specific tour departure times and visitors must line up and agree to a security scanning...Tours of the Centre Block begin in the Visitor Welcome Centre located on the ground floor under the Peace Tower.
The Center Block is where the House of Commons sits as well as the Senate of Canada..in addition to the Center Block....there is a West Block as well as an East Block...all separate structures.There is also another structure...attached to the Center Block....the Library of the Parliament of Canada.There is also another structure...the Peace Tower that is attached to the Center Block but in fact is a separatate structure.
The Peace Tower is in fact a free standing bell tower that stands in front of the Center Block and is named "The Peace Tower" in honour of the men and women that sacrificed they're lives in the First World War.At the top of the Tower there is an observation deck,a carillon and a Memorial Chamber that houses Books of Remembrance of Canada's War dead.
There are Books of Remembrance on display here from each of Canada's armed conflicts...The First World War,The Second World War,the Korena Conflict and I believe the War with the Boers in South Africa.As well there are Books of Remembrance listing those who died while serving in the Merchant Navy and "In the Service of Canada".
Each day a page is turned in each of the books....and it is possible to find out quite easily what day exactly any particular name will be able to be viewed in either of these Books.All you need to do is contact the Veterans Affairs of Canada.....www.vac-acc.gc.ca.
The Parliament Buildings as they are seen today are not the original structures except for the Library Building.There was a fire that wiped out the Center Block in 1916 so what you are seeing today is in fact not the original building but a structure that was completed in 1922.
The West and East Blocks were completed in the mid 1860's and are incredible buildings.
Presently the West Block is under a major renovation requiring work that will take a number of years to complete.
Until the renovation started it was occupied by Ministers, Members of Parliament and their staff.
The East Block contains many senators' offices, as well as some rooms re-created in the style of the early years of Confederation.
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The lone Survivor
To me, the most impressive building on Parliament Hill was the Library of Parliament that had been built over a period of several years (1860-1876) as part of the original buildings on the hill. It survived the great fire of 1916 by virtue of the fact that the first Parliamentary Librarian had recommended during the design stages that it be connected to the main Centre Block building by a stone corridor to protect it from possible fire damage. When the dreaded event actually did take place, a quick-thinking employee in the Library closed its massive wooden connecting door before evacuating, thereby saving this building from being destroyed. The fire-damaged bell from the original Victoria Tower is now situated on the lawns close to the Library of Parliament.
The circular design of this Gothic-style building is modelled on the Reading Room of the British Museum (built in 1857) and features a ring of sixteen flying buttresses, pinnacles, decorative windows and beautiful ornamental ironwork. The Library building is crowned by a circular lantern. Apparantly the ornate wooden interior is quite spectacular as well, but we did not have time for a full tour. Most of these details are from "www.parliamenthill.gc.ca".
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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.
With its strong stone exterior and picturesque setting on the cliffs overlooking the Ottawa River, the Parliament buildings are often described as one of the most beautiful government centres in the world. The buildings are home to the House of Commons, the Library of Parliament, the Hall of Honour, the Senate, and the impressive Peace Tower. Summer on the hill features the Changing of the Guard Ceremony.
During my visit they were also have a highly light show at now cost, it was beautiful there in the warm summer nights enjoying the light and symphony show.
If you are in the national capital of Canada it goes without saying you will see these buildings but take the time to explore them.
I also took in a session of parliament, it was at a time when the Minister of Human Resourcs and Development Canada was taking a beating for a national boon-doggle. It was very heated and an eye opener for sure to see how the parliament works. I enjoy politics in general anyway and you should too!!! :-)
The web site below gives you a virtual tour and explains what each specific building contains.
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
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Though there are many sights to hold your interest in Ottawa, with only one day to explore, it is best to head right up to the Parliament Hill and enjoy the views down over the river and perhaps the most spectacular architecture in the Province. Built in the mid-1800s and destroyed in 1916, the restored buildings have a much older world feel than they in fact are. Though the most touristy spot in town, in late September, it was not overly crowded and quite pleasant to explore.
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.
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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.
It's a complex of three Gothic style buildings, originally built in 1866. The Centre Block has a 92m tower, called Peace Tower, dedicated to the Canadians killed in WWI. The tower contains an observation deck which provides a great view of the city. Guided tours of the Central Block and East Block are available in the summer.
The changing of the guard takes place daily at 10am in the summer.
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Parliament Buildings - exterior views
Canada's Parliament sits in this impressive neo-Gothic structure, crowning the hillside location where all the centrally important government structures are located. The choice of a gothic design (over a neo-classical concept) was not an accident - it served to underline Canada's continuing association with Britain.
The central "spire" - known as the Peace Tower - rises to a height of 302 feet. Inside are the House of Commons, the Senate, the Hall of Honour, and the Library of Parliament. Guided tours are offered, and how much see can depend on how much activity is taking place on Parliament Hill on the day of your visit.
The foundation stone for the Canadian Parliament was lain in 1860 by "Bertie", the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), in 1860. In 1915, a terrible fire destroyed the Centre Block, but even though World War I was ragings, plans were immediately put into place to rebuild, and the foundation stone for the revised "Victoria Tower" (now the Peace Tower) was put into place on September 1, 1916 by Arthur, Duke of Connaught - "Bertie's" younger brother.
The Library of Parliament is another interesting feature. It's "stars" a remarkable 16-sided dome, supported by flying buttresses and constructed with local sandstone.
- Historical Travel
Take a Parliament Tour
Parliament offers free tours (free...hmm tax payer dollars perhaps) daily. If the House of Commons is sitting then you will not get to see this House unless you go to question period, which occurs everyday that the House is sitting. Expect to see the Peace Tower, the Library (which is closed for restoration over the next couple of years), and the Senate. If you are Canadian and have enough notice, you can contact your MP and actually get to sit in the House of Commons for Question Period in their alloted seats.
Ottawa is the capital city of Canada, and like every capital city has its main political building, Ottawa has the Parliament Building - the building where the Prime Minister works, where all the MP's, premiers, and representatives from every province and territory come to discuss, debate and ask questions... to bring in new laws, new policies, and to do all the other things politicians do to run a country!
The Parliament Building offers a free tour which is a must see activitiy if you want to understand how politics work in Canada. The tour could explain it better than I could! Taking a tour is also a great way to appreciate the gothic architecture of the building. If you're a fan of stone masonry and gargoyles, you'll love this place!
Sit in during a debate during the question period, or take the elevator up to the top of the Peace Tower. Identify the provinces and territories that surround the Eternal Flame, or watch the old man feed the stray cats behind the west wing of the building.
The Parliament Building sits up top Parliament Hill - a giant public lawn with statues of famous Canadian icons and politicians (ie: Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Victoria, Sir Wilfred Laurier, Sir John A Macdonald, William Lyon Mackenzie King, etc).
While the tourists tend to do the tour of the building, the locals will bring their blankets, frisbees, dogs, and picnic lunches, and just sit out on the front lawn, basking in the sunshine.
The Parliament Building is the focal point, architecturally, of Ottawa, but it's certainly not all there is to the city. A visit to Parliament Hill is ideal in the morning as it's a close walk away to many more local attractions, whether it be Byward Market, the National Gallery, the War Museum, Chateau Laurier, Rideau Canal, or the river walk. Either way, Parliament Hill is an ideal place to start.
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