Statement to the Senate of Canada calls proposed Château Laurier Addition "a historical mistake"

Proposed addition to Château Laurier / Handout

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Originally published on May 30, 2019. The following French/English statement against the proposed Château Laurier addition was delivered in the Senate of Canada on May 30 by Senator Serge Joyal.

Honorable sénateurs,

Je crois approprié d’attirer votre attention sur un projet d’agrandissement de l’hôtel Château Laurier, situé en face de l’édifice du Sénat, parce que le Château Laurier fait partie du cœur historique de la colline parlementaire. En fait un très grand nombre d’entre vous résidez au Château Laurier quand vous êtes à Ottawa pour vaquer à vos responsabilités. Nous utilisons le même corridor souterrain pour nous rendre aux salles de comités du Sénat, ou au Château Laurier pour y résider

Let me remind you that back in 1912, the Château Laurier’s architects, Ross and MacFarlane, also developed the plans for the Union Station, where we sit now. The objective at that time was to build two outstanding buildings, to give visitors to Ottawa the impression of a Grand and perennial national capital, in the classical historical style of ancient Rome, with a train station modeled on the Roman public baths of Emperor Caracalla, and an impressive hotel with all the charm of a medieval castle with its turrets and towers.

Today, the historical integrity of the Chateau Laurier is threatened by an expansion project that would add a modern addition to the original construction that would have, as commented by Mayor Jim Watson, the subtlety of a pile of containers.

Heritage Ottawa, a group of concerned citizens, has pushed to compel the developer to review the plan and take into account the importance of the immediate environment, because the expansion project would drastically change Ottawa’s historical horizon line, that includes the Parliament Buildings on the east side with the green space of Major’s Hill Park.

Honourable Senators, we cannot remain indifferent to a historical mistake that will happen with this ill-conceived expansion project, as very nearly happened before.

In 1966, the federal Public Works department had decided to demolish the very train station where the Senate sits now to allow for parking space, supposedly to accommodate the thousands of visitors who would flock to Ottawa for the celebration of the Centennial the following year. What a disaster it would have been! We would not be sitting here today in this beautiful historic building.

Senators should have their voice heard as standing against the proposed expansion project of the Chateau Laurier, because the architectural details are ill-matched, it does not take into account the character and soul of the original building and its built environment, and in fact is part of an exercise of maximizing commercial profitability.

Parliamentarians represent the loyal customers who support the profitability of the Chateau Laurier, but we are also the trustees of the integrity of the Hill. Let us have our voices heard to denounce such a historical error. I believe future generations will credit us for preventing this mistake, as we today thank those who prevented the demolition of this very Senate building in 1966.