The Speaker’s Chair stands on a dais at the south end of the Chamber. From this chair, the Speaker presides over debate and is responsible for enforcing and interpreting all rules and practices and for the preservation of order and decorum during House proceedings.
The Mace is the ornamental staff, symbol of the authority of the Speaker, which rests on the Table during sittings of the House. The Mace must be present for the House to be properly constituted. The Mace is carried in and out of the Chamber at the beginning and end of each sitting of the House by the Sergeant-at-Arms. During a sitting, it is considered a breach of decorum for Members to pass between the Speaker and the Mace.
In front of the Speaker’s dais is a long oak table where Table Officers sit to provide procedural advice to the Speaker, to other Chair Occupants, and to Members of the House. They also take the votes and keep the minutes of proceedings. On the Table is a collection of parliamentary reference texts for consultation by Members and Table Officers.
The Prime Minister and members of Cabinet sit in the front rows to the Speaker’s right.
Directly across the floor from the Prime Minister and to the Speaker’s left sits the Leader of the Opposition, flanked by members of his or her party.
Members of the governing party are seated to the Speaker’s right. When there are more Government members than can be accommodated on the Speaker’s right, some are seated on the left, usually in the seats closest to the Speaker.
The Official Opposition, other recognized and non-recognized parties, and independent Members are seated to the Speaker’s left. Traditionally, the front-row seats to the left of the Speaker are reserved for leading Members of the opposition parties. When there are more opposition Members than can be accommodated on the Speaker’s left, the remaining opposition Members are seated on the right, closer to the Bar of the House. Members of parties not recognized in the House and independent Members are assigned seats by the Speaker.
The Sergeant-at-Arms is a senior official of the House and performs various roles. In the Chamber, the Sergeant-at-Arms sits at a desk in front of the Bar on the opposition side of the House. The Sergeant-at-Arms is the guardian of the Mace and accompanies the Speaker, as Mace-bearer, in all parliamentary functions.
Adjacent to the government and opposition sides of the Chamber are the lobbies; the one behind the government benches is reserved for Members of the government and the other for Members of the opposition parties. Members attending sittings of the House use the lobbies to conduct business and can return to the Chamber at a moment’s notice. Party Whips’ staff work from the lobbies and pages are stationed there to answer telephones and carry messages. The lobbies are not open to the public and access is controlled by security staff.
Overlooking the floor of the House on both sides and at both ends of the Chamber are the galleries. Seats are reserved in various parts of the galleries for the public, the diplomatic corps and other distinguished guests, guests of the Prime Minister and the Speaker, guests of government Members, guests of the Leader of the Opposition, guests of Members of Parliament from other opposition parties, Senators and their guests, the Press Gallery, and departmental officials. The doors to the galleries are opened at the start of each sitting of the House, after the prayer is read.
The Bar is a brass rod extending across the floor of the Chamber inside its north entrance. It is a barrier past which non-Members are not to go.
The Chamber contains enclosed booths for interpreters at the south end of the Chamber. Members’ desks are equipped with earphones to receive floor amplification, as well as simultaneous interpretation of the proceedings into French, English and several Indigenous languages.
House of Commons pages are stationed at the foot of the dais below the Speaker’s chair and in other locations in the Chamber and lobbies during sittings of the House. The pages are first-year university students employed by the House of Commons to carry messages and deliver documents to Members during sittings.
Proceedings and Verification Officers are staff members of the House of Commons responsible for observing and recording information about events and interactions happening in the House during a sitting. They are seated in the central aisle. This information is used to create the Debates of the House of Commons, the official record of the House.