Events:

The House

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Canada Senate
House Chamber

The House is our venue for debate.  Every other year at Session, we use the house chambers at the Alberta Legislature building for our sittings.  Other years, and at Conferences, we set up our own house in a similar layout.

Sides

Members sit in two sections of desks facing each other.  From the perspective of the picture to the right, the Government sits on the left and the Opposition sits on the right. The Front Bench sit in the front row of each side.  The other rows are for backbenchers.

The two sides are divided by approximately two and one half sword-lengths. This is because when the first parliament were established, members of parliament carried swords, and it was not uncommon for a heated debate to turn into a physical skirmish between the two sides.

The officers of the House later realized that if you divided the two sides by at least this length, it would be difficult to cross swords, and thus it promoted civility. Later, the swords were just confiscated, and it is now prohibited for members to bear arms in the House.

Speaker’s throne

Between the two rows, at the far end of the chamber, is a throne. This is where the Speaker sits. It is also from this position that the Lieutenant Governor will read the Speech From the Throne during the Opening Ceremonies.

The Speaker is the person who acts as a referee to the debates. In the olden days, the Speaker was the person who would report the proceedings of the House to the monarch (SPEAKing on behalf of the House of Commons or House of Lords).

Clerks’ desk

Directly in front of the Speaker is a desk for the Clerks. At the near-end of this table is where the Mace rests. Clerks keep a record of the proceedings of debate. These records are then published in the form of a Journal.

The Mace

Historically, the mace was an offensive weapon constructed of iron or steel, capable of breaking through armour. It was carried in battle by medieval bishops instead of a sword, to conform to the Church rule forbidding bloodshed by priests– since the mace inflicted its damage by bludgeoning.

Early ceremonial maces were carried by the Sergeant-at-Arms (a royal bodyguard established by Richard I) to protect the King’s person.As a symbol of royal authority, the mace is cradled whenever the Queen’s representative is in the House.

The Mace is placed on top of the Clerk’s table when the House is in Session to remind the members of the royalty’s presence and sovereignty. The head of the mace always faces the Government’s side of the House to symbolise the vestige of the Queen’s confidence.

Sergeant-at-Arms

The other table between the two opposing rows is a seat for the Sergeant-at-Arms. The Sergeant-at-Arms is an officer of the House whose key responsibility is to maintain order in the House and protect the Speaker. He or she will escort the Speaker or Lieutenant Governor whenever one of these two individuals enters or leaves the House.This is to ensure that there is no ‘coup de parliament’ while these people are in motion. They will also remove   any persons ordered to leave by the Speaker.

Pages

Flanking the Speaker are seats for the Pages.  During sittings, Pages deliver notes and documents between members of the house.

Willingly and cheerfully doing more than that which is our duty to do.
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