House of Commons Procedure and Practice

Second Edition, 2009

House of Commons Procedure and Practice - 6. The Physical and Administrative Setting - Ottawa as the Seat of Government


In 1857, Queen Victoria chose Ottawa as the seat of government for the Province of Canada. This followed years of intense rivalry among the elected representatives of the pre‑Confederation colonies of Upper and Lower Canada, who could not agree on a permanent site.[1] The itinerant Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada met in several different cities, beginning with Kingston in 1841. In 1844, it moved to Montreal where it remained until 1849 when the legislative building was burned by rioters.[2] Thereafter a system was adopted under which the Assembly met alternately in Quebec and Toronto before finally settling into its permanent home in Ottawa, where it met for the first time in 1866. With the advent of Confederation the following year, the capital of the Province of Canada became the national capital, in compliance with the Constitution Act, 1867, which states that “the seat of Government of Canada shall be Ottawa”.[3] Accordingly, the Parliament of Canada assembled in Ottawa on November 6, 1867 for the First Session of the First Parliament.

[1] For a complete history of the selection of Ottawa as the capital city, see Eggleston, W., The Queen’s Choice, Ottawa: Queen’s Printer, 1961, pp. 99-110.

[2] During a time of political and economic crisis, protest coalesced against the governor’s assent to the Rebellion Losses Bill (compensating losses suffered in Lower Canada during the 1837 rebellion). There were days of rioting, in the course of which an angry mob invaded the Parliament Building. The building burned on April 25, 1849, and very little was saved. See Careless, J.M.S., The Union of the Canadas, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1967, pp. 122‑6.

[3] R.S. 1985, Appendix II, No. 5, s. 16. The choice of Ottawa as the national capital is reflected in the Quebec Resolutions of 1864, adopted by delegates from the provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and the colonies of Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, and the London Resolutions of 1866, adopted by delegates from the provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The Quebec Resolutions, 1864, and the London Resolutions, 1866, may be found in Ollivier, M., British North America Acts and Selected Statutes, 1867‑1962, Ottawa: Queen’s Printer, 1962, p. 47, s. 52; p. 58, s. 51.

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