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ARCHIVED - LAC Forum on Canadian Democracy

Archived Content

This archived Web page remains online for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. This page will not be altered or updated. Web pages that are archived on the Internet are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards. As per the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, you can request alternate formats of this page on the Contact Us page.

LAC Collection on Politics and Government


Architectural drawing showing details of central entrance gates to Parliament grounds, April 13, 1875


Architectural drawing showing details of central entrance gates to Parliament grounds, April 13, 1875

Parliament in Canada is made up of three parties: the Queen, represented by Canada's Governor General; an appointed Senate; and an elected House of Commons. Together, these three groups are responsible for making laws in all areas of jurisdiction not specifically reserved for the provincial legislatures. Bills, which can be introduced in both the House of Commons and (on occasion) the Senate, must be approved by both Houses and then assented to, in the Queen's name, by the Governor General in order to become law. In addition to the business carried out within the Senate and the House of Commons, members of both of these Houses sit on a number of committees. Committee work might involve examining bills clause by clause and drafting amendments, overseeing the work of a particular department, reviewing a certain government policy, studying the condition or needs of a certain group of Canadians, or exercising mandated procedural or administrative duties for Parliament. In each of these instances, a committee will report its findings to the House to which it is responsible.

Canada's parliamentary tradition has its roots in the mid-nineteenth century, when British North American colonies first secured the right to representative government elected by the people and to responsible government answerable to the majority of the elected assembly. The Fathers of Confederation based the new central government on the system that was in use throughout what is now eastern and central Canada. Library and Archives Canada collects and makes available a vast array of records generated through the responsibilities of Parliament as well as those individuals reporting to or working within the legislative branch of the Government of Canada.

Published and Digitized Resources about Parliament

Archival Collection about Parliament

Records Created by Canadian Parliament

LAC describes, within three archival fonds, the "public" records of the three institutions that make up the Canadian Parliament:

Note: These fonds do include records series for some of the offices of the Parliamentary bureaucracy (e.g., Records of the Clerk of the House of Commons).

Private Records of Officers of the Canadian Parliament (i.e., the Parliamentary bureaucracy)

LAC holds "private" records of a number of individuals whose careers included service as an officer within the bureaucracy of one or the other of the three institutions of the Canadian Parliament (e.g., Clerk of the House of Commons, Clerk of the Senate, Parliamentary Librarian, Usher of the Black Rod, Sergeant-at-Arms). Examples of such fonds/collections are:

Records of Parliamentarians

LAC holds "private" fonds (multi-media) of a number of individuals who have served as Members of the House of Commons or as Senators. Included are records of individuals who have served as Prime Ministers, as members of  Cabinets, as Leaders of the Opposition, as national party leaders, as Speakers of the House of Commons and of the Senate, and as individual MPs and Senators.

Records created by Agencies that report direct to Parliament

A number of agencies are either offices of Parliament or report direct to Parliament, rather than to Parliament through a Minister. Examples include the Office of the Information Commissioner, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, the Auditor General, the Official Languages Commissioner, the Chief Electoral Officer, the Office of the Ethics Commissioner, or the Office of the Senate Ethics Officer. LAC does not yet hold archival records created by most of these offices, exceptions being:

Records of Individuals occupying positions within Federal Agencies that report direct to Parliament

LAC holds "private" fonds (multi-media) of a few individuals who have served with such agencies. Examples include:

Records (not created by Parliament) that document the precincts and activities of Parliament

This is a broad and very general category including such records as:

  • Canadian Public Affairs Channel (CPAC) fonds [audio-visual records including the proceedings of Parliament and its Committees]
  • An enormous quantity of multi-media records (documentary art, photographs, audio-visual records, cartographic and architectural records) that document the Parliamentary precincts, Parliamentarians, visits of dignitaries to the Canadian Parliament, etc. Records of the Department of Public Works relating to the buildings in the Parliamentary precinct are an example, with countless other records from both the public and private sector holdings.
Records created by "Pre-Canada" Parliaments

LAC captures the "public" records of the Pre-Canada Parliaments within three archival fonds:

Note: LAC does not hold the equivalent original "pre-Canada" parliamentary records of the other colonial jurisdictions. See the relevant provincial archives. Records equivalent to those described in categories 2, 3 and 6 above, with respect to the Canadian Parliament, could readily be identified for the "pre-Canada" Parliaments.

Published and Digitized Resources about Parliament

Published Materials

Library and Archives Canada holds an extensive collection of  parliamentary publications in print and microform, including the Journals and Debates of the House and Senate, the minutes of proceedings and evidence of parliamentary committees, sessional papers,  the Canada Gazette, the sessional and revised statutes. LAC also has an extensive collection of pre-Confederation official publications including Journals, sessional papers, official gazettes, and statutes in print and microfilm formats.

As a national catalogue, AMICUS not only shows the published materials held at Library and Archives Canada but also those located in over 1300 libraries across Canada. AMICUS contains over 30 million records for books, magazines, newspapers, government documents, theses, sound recordings, maps, electronic texts, as well as items in braille and large print.

Using the Advanced Search option in AMICUS and selecting "Publication Type", you can limit your search to "Government publications – Federal/national" or "Government publications – State, prov., terr. etc." You can also narrow your search by language and date, as well as format. Specifying "Web documents" in the latter will limit the search to full-text electronic publications.

Here are some sample Subject Keyword searches:

  • Canada. Parliament. House of Commons
  • Canada. Parliament. Senate
  • Legislators – Canada
  • Bourinot, Sir John George
  • Todd, Alpheus
  • Canada. Office of the Chief Electoral Officer
  • Parliament Buildings (Ottawa, Ont)

ARCHIVED - A Nation's Chronicle: The Canada Gazette
Often referred to as "the official newspaper of the Government of Canada," the Canada Gazette has been an important instrument in the Canadian democratic process for more than 160 years. The database comprises images taken from microfilm, microfiche and rare original copies of the Gazette held by LAC.

Web Exhibitions

A Nation's Chronicle: The Canada Gazette
Often referred to as "the official newspaper of the Government of Canada," the Canada Gazette has been an important instrument in the Canadian democratic process for more than 160 years. It has served to inform Canadians of the operations of government and to involve them actively in the legislative process. With this site, Library and Archives Canada (LAC), co-operation with the Canada Gazette Directorate, Public Works and Government Services Canada, will make the Gazette available online, in its entirety, for the first time.

ARCHIVED - Canada By Design: Parliament Hill, Ottawa
Canada by Design features hundreds of historical photographs of Parliament Hill, from the construction of the Parliament Buildings to the many ceremonies and gatherings that have made Parliament Hill central to Canada's civic character. The website also features unique architectural drawings that reveal the artistry and attention to detail that have shaped Parliament Hill since the mid-19th century.