Parliament Hill (French: Colline du Parlement), colloquially known as The Hill, is an area of Crown land on the southern banks of the Ottawa River in downtown Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Its Gothic revival suite of buildings, and their architectural elements of national symbolic importance, is the home of the Parliament of Canada. Parliament Hill attracts approximately three million visitors each year. Law enforcement on Parliament Hill and in the parliamentary precinct is the responsibility of the Parliamentary Protective Service (PPS).
|Location||Ottawa River / Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa, Canada|
|Built for||Legislature of the Province of Canada, Parliament of Canada|
|Visitors||3 million annually|
|Governing body||National Capital Commission|
|Official name||Grounds of the Parliament Buildings National Historic Site of Canada|
Originally the site of a military base in the 18th and early 19th centuries, development of the area into a governmental precinct began in 1859, after Queen Victoria chose Ottawa as the capital of the Province of Canada. Following several extensions to the parliament and departmental buildings and a fire in 1916 that destroyed the Centre Block, Parliament Hill took on its present form with the completion of the Peace Tower in 1927. Since 2002, an extensive $1 billion renovation and rehabilitation project has been underway throughout all the precinct's buildings; work is not expected to be complete until after 2028.
Parliament Hill is a limestone outcrop with a gently sloping top that was originally covered in a primeval forest of beech and hemlock. For hundreds of years, the hill served as a landmark on the Ottawa River for First Nations and, later, European traders, adventurers, and industrialists, to mark their journey to the interior of the continent. After Ottawa, then called Bytown, was founded, the builders of the Rideau Canal used the hill as a location for a military base (and hospital), naming it Barrack Hill. A large fortress was planned for the site following the War of 1812 and the Upper Canada rebellion, but the threat of an American invasion subsided, and the project was scrapped.
Selection as a parliamentary precinct
In 1858, Queen Victoria selected Ottawa as the capital of the Province of Canada. Barrack Hill was chosen as the site for the new parliament buildings, given its prominence over both the town and the river, as well as the fact that it was already owned by the Crown. On 7 May 1859, the Department of Public Works issued a call for design proposals for the new parliament buildings to be erected on Barrack Hill, which was answered with 298 submitted drawings. The entries were narrowed down to three, but the panel of judges could not decide on who came first or second. Governor General Sir Edmund Walker Head was approached to break the stalemate, and the winners were announced on 29 August 1859.
The Centre Block, departmental buildings, and a new residence for the governor general were each awarded separately, the team of Thomas Fuller and Chilion Jones, under the pseudonym of Semper Paratus (Always Ready), winning the prize for the first category with their Victorian High Gothic scheme of a formal, symmetrical front facing a quadrangle and a more rustic, picturesque back facing the escarpment overlooking the Ottawa River. The team of Thomas Stent and Augustus Laver, under the pseudonym of Stat nomen in umbra (Stands in the shade), won the prize for the second category, which included the East and West Blocks. These proposals were selected for their sophisticated use of Gothic architecture, which was thought to remind people of parliamentary democracy's history, would contradict the republican neoclassicism of the United States' capital, and would be suited to the rugged surroundings while also being stately. $300,000 was allocated for the main building and $120,000 for each of the departmental buildings.
Development into a national heart
Ground was broken on 20 December 1859, and the first stones were laid on 16 April of the following year. Prince Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), laid the cornerstone of the Centre Block on 1 September. The construction of Parliament Hill became the largest project undertaken in North America to that date. However, workers hit bedrock sooner than expected, necessitating blasting to complete the foundations, which the architects had altered to sit 5.2 metres (17 ft) deeper than originally planned. By early 1861, Public Works reported that $1,424,882.55 had been spent on the venture, leading to the site being closed in September and the unfinished structures covered in tarpaulins until 1863, when construction resumed following a commission of inquiry.
Two years later, the unfinished site hosted a celebration of Queen Victoria's birthday, further cementing the area's position as the central place for national celebration. The site was still incomplete when three of the British North American colonies (now the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick) entered Confederation in 1867, with Ottawa remaining the capital of the new country. Within four years Manitoba, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, and the North-West Territories (now Alberta, Saskatchewan, Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut) were added and, along with the associated bureaucracy, the first three required representation be added in parliament. Thus, the offices of parliament spread to buildings beyond Parliament Hill even at that early date.
The British military gave a nine-pounder naval cannon to the British army garrison stationed in Ottawa in 1854. It was purchased by the Canadian government in 1869 and fired on Parliament Hill for many years as the "Noonday Gun".
By 1876, the structures of Parliament Hill were finished, along with the surrounding fence and gates. However, the grounds had yet to be properly designed; Governor General the Lord Dufferin sent chief architect Thomas Scott to New York City to meet with Calvert Vaux and view Central Park. Vaux completed a layout for the landscape of Parliament Hill, including the present day driveways, terraces, and main lawn, while Scott created the more informal grounds to the sides of and behind the buildings. In 1901 they were the site of both mourning for, and celebration of, Queen Victoria, when her death was mourned in official ceremonies in January of that year, and when, in late September, Victoria's grandson, Prince George, Duke of Cornwall (later King George V), dedicated the large statue that stands on the hill in the late Queen's honour.
Fire, rebuilding, and beyond
On 3 February 1916, a fire destroyed the Centre Block. Despite the ongoing war, Governor General Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught re-laid the original cornerstone on 1 September 1916; exactly fifty-six years after his brother, the future King Edward VII, had first set it. Eleven years later, the rebuilt Centre Block was completed and dedicated as the "Peace Tower", in commemoration of the Canadians who had lost their lives during the First World War.
Thereafter, the Hill hosted several significant events in Canadian history, including the first visit of the reigning Canadian sovereign—King George VI, with his consort, Queen Elizabeth—to his parliament, on 19 May 1939. A huge celebration on 8 May 1945, marked VE Day; the first raising of the country's new national flag took place on 15 February 1965; the centennial of Confederation was celebrated on 1 July 1967; and the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II was marked on 18 October 1977. The Queen revisited Parliament Hill on 17 April 1982, for the issuing of a royal proclamation of the enactment of the Constitution Act that year.
In April 1989, a Greyhound Lines bus with 11 passengers on board travelling to New York City from Montreal was hijacked by an armed man and driven onto the lawn in front of the Centre Block. A standoff with police ensued and lasted eight hours; though three shots were fired, there were no injuries.
Crowds marked the beginning of the third millennium with a large ceremony on the quadrangle, and the "largest single vigil" ever seen in the nation's capital took place in 2001, when on 14 September 2001, 100,000 people gathered on the main lawn to honour the victims of the September 11 attacks on the United States that year. The following year, Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee was marked on 13 October. The Queen's Diamond Jubilee was commemorated by a specially tinted window in the Centre Block on 6 February 2012, (Accession Day).
On 22 October 2014, several shooting incidents occurred around Parliament Hill. After fatally shooting a Canadian Army soldier mounting the ceremonial guard at the National War Memorial, a gunman moved to the Centre Block of the parliament buildings. There, the shooter engaged in a firefight with Kevin Vickers, the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons, and members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which ended when he was killed by RCMP Constable Curtis Barrett. The gunman also injured one House of Commons constable, who was shot in the foot.
Since 2002, an extensive $1 billion renovation and rehabilitation project has been underway throughout all the precinct's buildings to bring the Parliament buildings to modern safety standards and address the deteriorated state of the current buildings; work is not expected to be complete until after 2028. The Senate of Canada Building was renovated in 2019 to prepare for the Senate moving, and the West Block was completed in November 2018 before the House of Commons moved in. The Wellington Building was completed in 2016, and the Sir John A. Macdonald Building was completed in 2015. The Centre Block and East Block are undergoing renovations, an architectural competition is being held for designs pertaining to the city block south of Wellington Street, and a new building, the Visitors Welcome Centre, is being built.
Grounds and name
The 88,480-square-metre (952,391 sq ft) area, maintained by the National Capital Commission, is named by the Parliament of Canada Act as "Parliament Hill" and defined as resting between the Ottawa River on the north, the Rideau Canal and the Colonel By Valley on the east, Wellington Street on the south and a service road (Kent Street) near the Supreme Court on the west. The south front of the property is demarcated by a Victorian high gothic wrought iron fence. Named the Wellington Wall, its centre is on an axis with the Peace Tower to the north and the formal entrance to Parliament Hill: the Queen's Gates, forged by Ives & Co. of Montreal.
The main outdoor area of The Hill is the quadrangle, formed by the arrangement of the parliament and departmental buildings on the site, and laid out in a formal garden fashion. This expanse is the site of major celebrations, demonstrations, and traditional shows, like the changing of the guard, or the annual Canada Day celebrations. To the sides of the buildings, the grounds are set in the English garden style, dotted with statues, memorials, and, at the northwest corner, a Carpenter Gothic structure called the Summer Gazebo, a 1995 reconstruction of an earlier gazebo, Summer House, built for the Speaker of the House of Commons in 1877 by Thomas Seaton Scott and demolished in 1956. Beyond the edges of these landscaped areas, the escarpment remains in its natural state.
Though Parliament Hill remains the heart of the parliamentary precinct, expansion beyond the bounded area described above began in 1884, with the construction of the Langevin Block across Wellington Street. After land to the east, across the canal, was purchased by private interests (to build the Château Laurier hotel), growth of the parliamentary infrastructure moved westward along Wellington, with the erection in the 1930s of the Confederation and Justice Buildings on the north side, and then further construction to the south. By the 1970s, the Crown began purchasing other structures or leasing space deeper within the downtown civic area of Ottawa. In 1973, the Crown expropriated the entire block between Wellington and Sparks Streets intending to construct a south block for Parliament Hill. However, the government dropped this proposal and constructed more office space in Hull, Quebec, like the Terrasses de la Chaudière and Place du Portage instead. In 2021, this idea was revisited, with the Ministry of Public Services announcing a building contest for the block.
In 1976, the Parliament Buildings and the grounds of Parliament Hill were each designated as National Historic Sites of Canada, given their importance as the physical embodiment of the Canadian government and as the focal point of national celebrations.
The Parliament of Canada Act renders it illegal for anyone to name any other area or establishment within the National Capital Region as "Parliament Hill", as well as forbidding the production of merchandise with that name on it. Any violation of this law is punishable on summary conviction.
Map showing the buildings on Parliament Hill and its surroundings. Click on the buildings to read their respective articles.
The Parliament Buildings are three edifices arranged around three sides of Parliament Hill's central lawn, the use and administration of the spaces within each building overseen by the speakers of each chamber of the legislature. The Centre Block has the Senate and Commons chambers, and is fronted by the Peace Tower on the south facade, with the Library of Parliament at the building's rear. The East and West Blocks each contain ministers' and senators' offices, as well as meeting rooms and other administrative spaces. The buildings' unifying architecture style is Gothic Revival.
Statues and monuments
Most of the statues on Parliament Hill are arranged behind the three parliamentary buildings, with one outside of the main fence.
|Sir George-Étienne Cartier||This was the first statue erected on Parliament Hill, to the immediate west of the Centre Block, at the instigation of Sir John A. Macdonald. From amongst proposals from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Italy, Louis-Philippe Hébert was chosen to form the monument, which was set up in the 1880s.|
|Sir John A. Macdonald||Louis-Philippe Hébert was selected from 44 submissions from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Europe, to sculpt the statue of Canada's first prime minister. It was unveiled on the hill on 1 July 1895.|
|Queen Victoria||Located at the north-west corner between the West and Centre Blocks, the statue of the country's first monarch was sculpted by Louis-Philippe Hébert in 1900, and dedicated by Prince George, Duke of Cornwall and York, in 1901.|
|Alexander Mackenzie||Placed directly to the north of the statue of George-Étienne Cartier, Louis-Philippe Hébert was commissioned to sculpt this figure at the same time as he was awarded the project of the monument to Queen Victoria. The statue was unveiled in 1901.|
|Sir Galahad||This is the only statue on Parliament Hill that is not of a monarch or politician, or within the site's fences. It was installed in 1905, on the initiative of the future prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, to honour the bravery of his friend Henry Albert Harper, who drowned trying to rescue a girl who fell through thin ice in the Ottawa River in 1901. The statue was created by Ernest Wise Keyser.|
|George Brown||This statue was created by George William Hill, and installed in 1913 just north of the monument to Alexander Mackenzie.|
|D'Arcy McGee||The competition for this sculpture took place simultaneously with that for the rendition of George Brown, and was won also by George William Hill.|
|Robert Baldwin and|
Sir Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine
|This dual statue by Walter Seymour Allward has occupied the site at the northeast corner of the parliamentary precinct since 1914.|
|Sir Wilfrid Laurier||This work by Joseph-Émile Brunet was selected from 40 entries received from around the world and was placed at the southeast corner of the site in 1922.|
|Sir Robert Borden||Frances Loring cast this likeness for the 1957 session of parliament opened by Queen Elizabeth II; it stands at the southwest corner of Parliament Hill.|
|William Lyon Mackenzie King||This statue was commissioned for the Canadian Centennial in 1967, designed by Raoul Hunter, and stands at the northwest corner of the East Block.|
|John Diefenbaker||In 1985, Parliament voted unanimously in favour of a motion that would commemorate John Diefenbaker with a statue. Leo Mol was chosen from 21 submissions to sculpt this 1985 work, which stands immediately north of the West Block.|
|Lester B. Pearson||In 1989, Danek Mozdzenski was commissioned to form this monument that rests immediately north of the West Block.|
|Queen Elizabeth II||Situated in the opposite corner of the site from the statue of her great-great-grandmother, the monument was sculpted by Jack Harman and unveiled in 1992, in the presence of the Queen, as part of the 125th anniversary of Confederation celebrations. Due to construction on Parliament Hill, the statue was moved to a roundabout on Sussex Drive.|
|The Famous Five||This monument was donated in 2000 to the Crown by the Famous 5 Foundation and is a collection of five individual statues, by Barbara Paterson, of each of The Famous Five—Emily Murphy, Irene Parlby, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, and Henrietta Edwards—as well as one empty chair. Due to construction on Parliament Hill, the statue was moved to Plaza Bridge, near the Senate of Canada building.|
A number of other monuments are distributed across the hill, marking historical moments or acting as memorials for larger groups of people.
|Centennial Flame||Lester B. Pearson dedicated this fountain and flame on 1 January 1967, to mark the beginning of the Canadian Centennial.|
|Canadian Police Memorium||This memorial was designed and constructed to honour Canadian police officers killed in the line of duty since 1879. Dedicated on 22 March 1994, the memorial has since been expanded to include the names of fallen officers from all law enforcement agencies, including the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Ministry of Conservation.|
|Victoria Tower Bell||Unveiled in 2000, the bell is the original from the Victoria Tower, and is canted to recall the way in which it was found after it fell from its perch in the fire of 1916.|
|War of 1812 Monument||Seven figures—a First Nations individual, a Métis militiaman, a British infantryman, a Quebec Voltigeur, a woman bandaging one of them, a Royal Navy marine, and a farmer—represent the War of 1812. Also part of the monument is a maple tree planted in soil taken from 10 Canadian battlefield sites and watered at the dedication with water from six oceans and lakes significant in the War of 1812. It was dedicated on 6 November 2014, the 200th anniversary of the war's final battle in Canada, the Battle of Malcolm's Mills.|
- Parliament Hill cat colony
- Government Hill
- Capitol Hill
- Parliament Hill, London
- Parliamentary Triangle, Canberra
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- "Interview With Pervez Musharraf; Interview With Paul Martin; Interview With Kweisi Mfume". CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer. CNN. 5 December 2004. Archived from the original on 8 April 2005. Retrieved 6 May 2005.
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- House of Commons 1999, p. 48 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFHouse_of_Commons1999 (help)
- House of Commons 1999, pp. 3–5 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFHouse_of_Commons1999 (help)
- Parliament Buildings. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
- Public Grounds of the Parliament Buildings. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
- Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1, s. 80(1-2)
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- Proceedings at the Unveiling of the Monument to Sir John A. MacDonald, G. C. B. at Ottawa, July 1st, 1895 (PDF). Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau. 1895.
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- "Women Are Persons!". canada.ca. Queen's Printer for Canada.
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- Bourrie, Mark (1996), Canada's Parliament Buildings, Hounslow Press, ISBN 0-88882-190-5
- Van Dusen, Thomas; Susan Code (1998), Inside the tent: forty-five years on Parliament Hill, General Store Publishing House, ISBN 1-896182-86-0
- Young, Carolyn Ann (1995), The glory of Ottawa: Canada's first parliament buildings, McGill-Queen's University Press, ISBN 0-7735-1227-6
Media related to Parliament Hill at Wikimedia Commons
- Parliament Hill Website
- Canada by Design: Parliament Hill, Ottawa at Library and Archives Canada
- M.H. Stoneworks Inc. images of the restoration of various buildings on Parliament Hill
- Terry Guernsey fonds at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario