The Peace Tower and the Centre Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa have a prominent place on Great War 100 Reads. An iconic symbol of Canada, the seat of government is in fact a war memorial. The dedication is carved on the central pillar supporting the fan vaulting in the rotunda, just inside the main entrance of the Centre Block:
1867 July 1917: On the fiftieth anniversary of the Confederation of British Colonies in North America as the Dominion of Canada, the Parliament and people dedicate this building in process of reconstruction after damage by fire as a memorial of the deeds of their Forefathers and of the valour of those Canadians who in the Great War fought for the liberties of Canada, of the Empire and of humanity.
One hundred years ago this week, on the evening of 3 February 1916, the original Centre Block burned to the ground. The exact cause of the fire has never been definitively determined. With the country at war, rumours quickly spread that the fire stemmed from enemy sabotage. Careless smoking and faulty wiring were also suspects.
In peevish moments, I fancy that the building spontaneously combusted at the thought of some Manitoba women winning the vote six days earlier. Those women took the first step on a long road to expand the franchise beyond propertied men of British decent. When Parliament returned to the new Centre Block, it welcomed MP Agnes Macphail, the first woman elected to the House of Commons.
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