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Visiting the Supreme Court of Canada Building, Ottawa, Ontario: a chateau-style, Art Deco creation by Ernest Cormier

Updated on March 5, 2012
Flag of Canada
Flag of Canada | Source
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
Supreme Court of Canada, Ottawa
Supreme Court of Canada, Ottawa | Source
Louis St. Laurent (1882-1973) statue, grounds of Supreme Court of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Louis St. Laurent (1882-1973) statue, grounds of Supreme Court of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada | Source

Sedate seat of judicial deliberations

This fine, chateau-type building, at 301 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario, was built in 1938-1940, the work of prominent Montreal architect Ernest Cormier (1).

Some features

Executed in granite, the building is noted for its Art Deco style, rooted in classicism. A seven bay core is centrally positioned at the main frontage. Pavilions project either side. The building's design is well synchronized, and its approach roads are in well balanced formation.

Steep, copper roofing adds to the edifice's imposing appearance. This roof type was not part of the archictect's original plan, but was added at the Government of Canada's request to be in keeping with the comparable roofing of the Parliament building.

The building's Grand Entrance Hall has marble walls and flooring. Various allegorical and representational statues are found in the vicinity of the building; these include one by Vancouver sculptor Erek Imredy of Louis St.-Laurent (1882-1973), Prime Minister of Canada from 1948 to 1957. Mr. St. Laurent, a prominent lawyer, is seen in his legal robes, which is a particularly suitable depiction, given that he served as Justice Minister from 1941 to 1946 and again in 1948, prior to becoming Prime Minister. The front steps has statues depicting Justice and Truth.

Created in 1875 with six judges, the Supreme Court of Canada reached its present size of nine judges in 1949. In the early years of its existence, its powers were in some ways more limited because of the practice of appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London, England, but this was abolished in principle in 1949 (although outstanding cases were heard in London until the mid-1950s).

The building was essentially complete during most of the Second World War, but the Supreme Court Justices did not begin to use it until 1946. In the meantime, it was deemed necessary for its facilities to fuflil some of the government's wartime needs.

While the main entrance to the Supreme Court building is from Wellington Street, the building can also be viewed to good effect from Gatineau, over the Ottawa River (French: Rivière des Outaouais ). From this direction, the building's situation on a bluff overlooking the River gives it a particular prominence.

Guided tours of the Supreme Court building, by law students, are available.

Canada Post stamp

In 2011, Canada Post issued a stamp depicting the Supreme Court of Canada, as part of a series about Canadian Art Deco structures.


(1) Other well-known buildings for which Architect Cormier is known include: the main building of the Université de Montréal; the building of Quebec Court of Appeal (French: Cour d'appel du Québec ); the Maison Cormier, Montreal, the architect's residence and subsequently that of Pierre Elliott Trudeau..

Also worth seeing

In Ottawa itself, the many visitor attractions include the Parliament buildings and Peace Tower, the Chateau Laurier, the Rideau Canal, Rideau Hall, Laurier House and many museums.

Gatineau , Quebec (distance: 1.8 kilometres); its Maison du citoyen (Citizen's House) has a fine art gallery and the Hall des nations , containing cultural artifacts from around the world.


How to get there: Air Canada flies from various North American destinations to Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport / Aéroport international Macdonald-Cartier d'Ottawa; car rental is available; however, visitors may wish instead to use OC Transpo public transit for travel within the Ottawa / Gatineau area. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. You are advised to check for up to date information with the airline or your travel agent. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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