The Senate of Canada (the Red Chamber)


What does this mean? 

The Senate (the Red Chamber), is the upper house in Canada's bicameral parliamentary democracy. The original Senate, created in 1867, had 72 seats, but more seats were added as the country grew. The Constitution now directs that the Senate have 105 appointed members.

The Senate was created to counterbalance representation by population in the House of Commons. In recent years, the Senate has come to bolster representation of groups often underrepresented in Parliament, such as Aboriginal peoples, visible minorities, and women. The Senate was also intended to provide Parliament with a second chance to consider bills before they are passed. Senators may pass bills, propose amendments to them or vote to defeat them.

Decorated in royal red, the Senate Chamber is also where the Queen of Canada, or her representative the Governor General, addresses Parliament and gives Royal Assent to bills destined to become law. It is the venue for historic state ceremonies, including the Opening of Parliament or of a new session of Parliament (where the Queen or Governor General gives the Speech from the Throne) and the installation of a new Governor General

Senate proceedings are open to the public. The second-floor galleries at the north and south ends of the Chamber can accommodate 350 people.

The Senate Chamber is adorned with artistic expressions of Canada’s history and heritage. These serve to remind senators of the people and country they serve. 

Women in the Senate

On February 15, 1930, Canada’s first female senator, Cairine Wilson, was sworn in. Women senators present and past represent a variety of professional backgrounds: Aboriginal leader, athlete, physician, artist, business person, public servant, journalist, lawyer, politician, social activist, and teacher, among many others. These women have brought and continue to bring their knowledge and experience to their work as senators.

Women in Canada's Senate have continued to break barriers, coming to act in such key roles as Speaker, Leader of the Government, Leader of the Opposition, and Whip. In 1972, Senator Muriel McQueen Fergusson, the first female Speaker of the Senate and the first female Speaker in Canada’s Parliament, succeeded in her campaign to open the Senate Page Program to female students. The positions of Usher of the Black Rod and Mace Bearer, traditionally held by men, have also been filled by women.

Women of Colour in the Senate

Anne Clare Cools (born August 12, 1943) is a member of the Canadian Senate. Born in Barbados, she became with her appointment the first Black Canadian to be appointed to Canada's upper house. She was appointed in 1984 and the first Black Woman to be appointed to the Senate in North America.

We also wish to acknowledge Daniel (Dan) Christmas for his appointment as an Aboriginal from the Membertou Community in Sydney, Nova Scotia.