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Parliament Hill


The Buildings


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If any one institution represents the many facets of the Canadian character it is the Parliament at Ottawa. Parliament is concerned with all the people, with all the provinces and territories, with all of the racial and ethnic communities. The very word parliament is derived form the french word parler which means to talk and talking is what Parliament does most of the time. Sometimes it may talk too much and it is true that debate can sometimes become acrimonious. But in a country where freedom of speech is highly prized this must sometimes be expected.

Most Canadians are familiar in one way or another with the famous group of buildings which dominates the Ottawa skyline. They are probably the most photographed buildings in Canada and they attract thousands of visitors every year. They house the nation's legislators and have become the visual symbol of the Canadian tradition of Government.

The House of Parliament were first built in 1865 and the first Federal Parliament of Canada assembled there on November 6, 1867. The original building was completely destroyed by fire on February 3, 1916, while the House of Commons was in session. Seven people lost their lives. The Library of Parliament, the picturesque building at the rear of the Centre Block, was saved. According to one report, this was due to the foresight of then Librarian who closed the iron doors leading into the library before the fire could take hold. Another report gives credit to Arthur Meighen, who later became Prime Minster. It is not known to this day what caused the fire, but a Royal Commission which was appointed to investigate reported that arson could not be ruled out.

Work began shortly afterwards on a new building and Parliament's first session in its new home was opened on February 126, 1920.

The central feature of the Parliament Buildings is the Peace Tower, a noble campanile in the finest tradition of gothic architecture. It houses the Memorial Chamber, a beautiful shrine which in turn houses the Memorial Chamber, a beautiful shrine which in turn house the Book of Remembrance. Together they commemorate the sacrifice of those Canadians who died in the service of their country. The Peace Tower is also notable for the four-faced clock which looks out in all directions over the cities of Ottawa and Hull and the surrounding country and for a fine Carillion of 53 bells on which the carillonneaur gives regular recitals.

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