About the Senate
The Senate is the Upper House in Canada’s Parliament. It unites a diverse group of accomplished Canadians in service of their country.
Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, famously called it a chamber of sober second thought but it is much more than that. It is a source of ideas, inspiration and legislation in its own right.
Parliament’s 105 senators shape Canada’s future. Senators scrutinize legislation, suggest improvements and fix mistakes. In a two-chamber Parliament, the Senate acts as a check on the power of the prime minister and cabinet. Any bill must pass both houses — the Senate and the House of Commons — before it can become law.
Senators also propose their own bills and generate discussion about issues of national importance in the collegial environment of the Senate Chamber, where ideas are debated on their merit.
The Senate was created to ensure Canada’s regions were represented in Parliament. Giving each region an equal number of seats was meant to prevent the more populous provinces from overpowering the smaller ones.
Over the years, the role of senators has evolved. In addition to representing their region, they also advocate for underrepresented groups like Indigenous peoples, visible minorities and women.
What Happens in the Senate Chamber?
In the chamber, senators debate important issues with wit and wisdom. Senators propose and consider their own bills and meticulously scrutinize legislation that originates in the House of Commons. During daily Question Period, senators ask federal cabinet ministers and the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Government Representative) detailed policy questions that are in the public interest.
Debates in the Senate are generally less partisan and focus more closely on the issues than debates in the House of Commons. Senators speak with passion and rely on facts and evidence to make their points.
Each Senate sitting begins with Senators’ Statements, where senators speak for three minutes about people or events from their region. They can also call attention to issues that may not be widely discussed elsewhere.
The Red Chamber
The Senate Chamber, or the “Red Chamber” as it is sometimes called, is where senators from Canada’s provinces and territories meet to debate legislation and issues of importance to Canadians. It is located in the eastern wing of Centre Block, the building on Parliament Hill dominated by the Peace Tower.
Decorated in royal red, the Senate Chamber is also where the Monarch, or his or her representative the governor general, addresses Parliament and gives Royal Assent to bills destined to become law.