Canada's Parliament

A Different Approach to Democracy

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

July 22nd, 2001

Of all the large cities we have visited in Canada, I think that Ottawa was perhaps the most interesting, with Montreal coming in a very close second. On one of the days we were there we got up early and went downtown to Parliament Hill to see the changing of the guard. It was a warm, clear, beautiful day. We gathered around the large parade ground that separates the East and West buildings of Parliament. Our idle chit-chat was soon ended by the distant sound of bagpipes blaring out. There is something about the pipes that stirs the soul when those pipers are followed by two companies of soldiers dressed in formal red tunics and the famous tall black fur hats, well, it is awe inspiring to say the least. This is the beginning of the day for the Royal Parliamentary Guards. One company is from Quebec and the other from Ontario. Upon taking to the field, the two companies split and faced each other. For the next 20 minutes an exchange of security orders, orders of the day and a quick inspection was supported by a few lively tunes from the band. It was quite impressive, to be sure. They were then re-formed and marched back the way they came, following the piping band and appropriate flags. With the parade field returned to its quiet rolling green, we wandered over to the visitors pavilion where we learned that guided tours of the buildings and the grounds were available free of charge. We signed up for a visit to the Centre Block. Parliament presides in three buildings of approximately the same size. They are laid out in a U shape on Parliament Hill overlooking the Ottawa River. Our introduction to the Centre Block was a most effective security check, I couldn't get a penny in my pocket by. They searched eveybody and everything. We were then usured into the foyer which was marvelously decorated with fine wood carvings and a bas-relief that ran all the way around the room above the arches, depicting the four major industries of Canada; farming, fishing, mining and forestry. I had not yet had an opportunity to study the methodology of a democratic government other than my own so I was interested to see how Canada conducted its legislative business. The first thing I learned is that Canada is considered a Constitutional Monarchy. It actually has a King, or Queen as it is today. Whoever is King or Queen of England is automatically King or Queen of Canada. I was amazed that some Canadians didn't know that. The Monarchy represents one of the three legislative branches. The other two are the Senate and the House of Commons. When the Monarch is not present, she is represented by the Head of State, the Governor General, who is appointed by the Queen.


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