The Senate Page Program
The pages are responsible for providing a range of services needed to ensure the effective operation of the Senate and its committees in keeping with the tradition of impartiality and non-partisanship in the Senate Administration.
Preparation for Sittings
Prior to each Senate sitting, pages are responsible for numerous tasks. Upon arrival, pages distribute files, including bills, Journals, Order Papers, and Debates of the Senate and House of Commons to all senators and officers in the Senate Chamber. Pages are also responsible for any special requests pertaining to the day's sitting. After finishing various other tasks, pages then place a glass of water on each senator's desk.
Pages greet senators as they enter the chamber. As the sitting begins, pages take their designated stations that include:
- Speaker's Parade: A member of the Senate Protective Service and the Usher of the Black Rod lead the procession, which includes two pages, into the chamber at the beginning of every sitting.
- North and South Doors: Pages are designated at these positions to assist senators throughout the sitting by fulfilling their requests, opening doors, distributing documents, relaying messages, and so on. These pages are also responsible for ringing the bells, which announce the beginning and end of each sitting, as well as votes.
- Reading Room and Workstation: One page is designated to each position to facilitate the requests of senators and to keep these rooms tidy. These pages are a link between senators' offices and the chamber throughout the sitting.
Once described by Muriel Fergusson, the first woman Speaker of the Senate, as "the heart and soul of the Senate," committees are at the core of Senate work. Pages help ensure the smooth proceedings of the operation and facilitation of Senate committees. Pages greet witnesses and aid the clerk with document reproduction, distribution and management, and also attend to the needs of the senators.
Each parliamentary session begins with a Speech from the Throne to outline the government's agenda for that session of Parliament. Pages attend and assist with the proceedings and are responsible for the regular chamber duties as well as assisting dignitaries, such as the Governor General, the Prime Minister and the Supreme Court Justices, as well as acting as Senate liaisons.
At times, the Senate meets as a committee of the whole to allow all senators the opportunity to hear testimony and participate in debate. The tasks of the pages differ slightly but are relatively the same as a regular sitting.
Votes are a regular occurrence in the Senate. The duties of the pages are to sound the bells to summon the senators and ensure that no one enters the chamber during the vote to disrupt the process.
The Governor General not only appears in the Senate during the Speech from the Throne, but also during a Royal Assent. The Royal Assent is an official event by which a bill that has been passed through Parliament becomes law. The pages are assigned numerous duties besides their usual chamber duties.
Conferences and Special Events
Sometimes pages are requested to assist in other special events in the Senate. These may include provincial speakers conferences, Remembrance ceremonies and the installation of a Governor General. Their tasks vary depending on the event.
Throughout the year, youth from all across Canada travel to Ottawa to participate in various youth programs. While in Ottawa, they gain a greater awareness of federal politics and are privileged with the opportunity to visit the Senate. Pages are often invited to greet student groups in the Senate Chamber and to explain their role in the Senate of Canada. These outreach programs include Forum for Young Canadians and the Teachers Institute on Canadian Parliamentary Democracy.
Since the pages themselves are responsible for a wide variety of tasks within the program, a great deal of time is spent working together on various projects. These projects include publicity, advertising, alumni and so on. While the pages work under the direction of the Usher of the Black Rod, they have the opportunity to coordinate the program and ensure its success.