The Senate of Canada, also known as the Upper House of Canada, was founded by the Fathers of Federation over 135 years ago when they wanted a Parliament to make laws in Canada. They wanted the laws created in Canada to be thoroughly thought out so they established two houses, the Upper House (Senate) and the Lower House (the House of Commons). The Governor General, representative of the Queen, the Senate and the House of Commons make up the Parliament of Canada. Sir John A. MacDonald, first prime minister of Canada, described the Senate as “sober second thought,” so that legislation would receive a proper consideration becoming a law in Canada.
The Senate’s duty is to essentially regulate the power of the House of Commons. They review bills proposed by the House of Commons to ensure its effectiveness and reliability, and how it may affect the day to day lives of Canadian citizens. If the bill seems unreasonable or needs improvement, they send them back to House of Commons with suggestions for improvement. It’s extremely rare that the Senate ever utterly rejects a bill suggested by the House of Commons. Occasionally, the Senate can propose of a bill, but most of the laws in Canada are generally suggested by the House of Commons. No bill can be passed without the approval of the Senate. Senators are responsible for protecting the rights and interests of Canadians, especially those who do not have much say in the Parliament.
There are three stages in which a bill must go through to become a law, called “readings.” These readings occur in both the Upper House and the Lower house, and they are as follows:
- The bill is discussed and improved by each House.
- The each of the House votes on the bill.
- Lastly, the bill is given to the Governor General for royal assent, and if all three stages are passed, the bill becomes a law.
The people in the Senate come from all sorts of background. They can be business people, lawyers, teachers, journalists, artists, doctors, hockey players, police officers, scientists, writer, nurses, Aboriginal leader, and politicians. By having such diverse backgrounds, it gives Senators a better understanding of the people they represent and which issues should be brought up in Parliament to be solved. The Prime Minister provides the Governor General with names, who then appoints Senators. To become a Senate, there are certain qualifications, such as:
- must be a Canadian citizen
- have to be at least 30 years of age
- have ownership of property in your territory or province
- reside in the territory or province that, as a senator, you will represent
There are generally 105 members of the Senate.
A senator is a busy person. They have multiple tasks they complete daily, such as:
- talking about vital issues in the Senate Chamber
- discussing and talking with the people they represent
- collaborating with office staff who assist with research
- attending committee meetings;
- proposing bills to establish laws
- presenting petitions from minorities who want to have some voice in the Parliament
- answering questions from reporters
- assisting people in solving problems regarding the government
- reading and reviewing books, reports and studies
- providing speeches and lectures
- going to conferences
- gingo and come back from their home province or territory to Ottawa
- representing Canada globally
Children’s rights, poverty, literacy, and terrorism are some of the issues discussed in the Senate. They talk for those whose rights are overlooked and mistreated, such as children, veterans, elderly, and the poor. Annually, the Senate is contacted by 1000 people (also called “witnesses”), organizes and holds approximately 400 meetings, and makes over 100 reports.
In the Senate Chamber, they debate about committee reports, talk about important issues, and pass bills. Senators have the choice to ask The Leader of the Government in the Senate how the country is doing during Question Period. Important ceremonies, such as the Opening of Parliament and the Speech from the Throne, take place in the Senate Chamber. The Senate Chamber is occasionally referred to as the Red Chamber because most of the Senate Chamber is decorated in red in the honour of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.