On the last Sunday in November, a week ago yesterday, I went up to Parliament Hill. There was a thick fog over the city that morning, as you can see in this view of Centre Block. This building is in the Gothic Revival style, which fits in with the other Parliamentary Blocks.
Parliament is in its last weeks of sessions before the Christmas break. After the break, Centre Block will be shut down for several years as part of the ongoing rehabiliation project going on here on the Hill. I wanted to take one of the tours of Centre Block before the closing, and will be coming back here sometime this month as I want to get some shots from the observation deck of the Peace Tower on a clear day (later in this series I'll show you the view, or lack of view, I got on this visit).
Tours are offered in English or French with a guide escorting a group through each space. Ideally it's best to do this when Parliament is not in session. After going through security screening, one waits in a lounge area for their guide. Panels about the Parliamentary procedures are in this area. Included is this ballot box. Members of the House of Commons elect their Speaker at the beginning of a new Parliament by secret ballot, inserted into this.
A party whip is a member of the party who ensures discipline among members of their party. Occasionally they're presented ceremonial whips by their colleagues. This one belonged to James Gladstone, and resembles dance whips used by the Kainai people of the Blackfoot in Alberta- entirely appropriate as Gladstone was First Nations, the first Indigenous Senator.
A panel shows the two Houses of Parliament- the Commons and the Senate. The Commons will be meeting for the next few years in a temporary quarters placed into the West Block. The Senate is going to be meeting in the Government Conference Centre.
This pair of panels is nearby. The current Speaker of the Senate, George Furey (who I've seen in the Senate during a tour I made last December) is with the current Speaker of the Commons, Geoff Regan. Both men flank the poet laureate of Parliament, George Elliot Clarke. The second panel has Prime Minister Trudeau looking on as Speaker Furey presides over the speech from the throne, a tradition done by the Governor General in the Senate as each session begins.
Starting in the lounge area, then moving into a corridor, panels adorn the walls. When each term of Parliament ends, the members of the Commons and the Senate in turn are inscribed on these panels, placed in alphabetical order. The last panels are in a corridor beyond this one, where the tour led next.
The guide took us to our next destination, with portraits of Prime Ministers along the way. The House of Commons foyer is a large space outside the Commons. Canadians will know this area quite well, even if they've never been here, because it's here that politicians come out and face questions from the media. This portrait of Alexander Mackenzie, our second Prime Minister, is on one of the walls.
A Christmas tree is placed here at the moment. Centre Block is the second such building erected in this spot, as the original was destroyed by fire in 1916. The architects deliberately left blank areas in the interior for future sculptures and stained glass to be installed as time went on. The sculpting you see on the walls in this area, for instance, are more recent, and the guide noted that in the years this was done, the sculptor worked at night so as to not disturb Parliamentarians, or for that matter to be disturbed by them.
The staircase you see here will be quite familiar for Canadians- cabinet ministers are often seen in news footage descending here to go into the Commons.
This gives us a glimpse of a new addition. The stained glass window you see here was installed several years ago. It is the Reconciliation window called Giniigaaniimenaaning (Looking Ahead), part of the ongoing efforts to make amends for the treatment of First Nations peoples. The Canadian Museum of History has a copy of it, which you can see at this post.
I took more shots of the surroundings. We continue from here tomorrow.