Canadian House of Commons Page Program
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A House of Commons Page is a non-partisan employee of the Canadian House of Commons. They perform both ceremonial and administrative duties including:
- Participation in the Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons' Parade and Royal Assent
- Delivering documents and water to Members of Parliament (MPs) in the Chamber and in House Committees
- Answering telephones in the Lobby rooms and delivering messages to MPs
- Assisting the Speaker, Clerks, Sergeant-at-arms and other House officers in the Chamber
Pages work an average of 15 hours a week in the House of Commons while studying full-time at one of the four universities (University of Ottawa and Carleton University, UQO, Saint Paul University) in the National Capital Region and are paid approximately $15,000 (CDN) for their one-year term.
Pages take part in a number of activities throughout the year designed to enrich the experience including meetings with MPs and government leaders. They also meet frequently with student groups to explain the workings of the House and their duties as Pages.
Forty graduating high school (or CEGEP in Quebec) students are selected each year to serve as Pages in the House of Commons. Applications are open to both male and female candidates from across the country. Pages must be fluently bilingual in both official languages of Canada (English and French) and pass a security screening by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. They are selected based on a written essay, a second-language interview and a face-to-face interview. Once chosen, one of the first challenges for Pages is to learn the names and faces of all 308 MPs in the House. After a week's training, prior to starting their term, Pages are sworn in by the Speaker and Clerk of the House of Commons.
The Page program dates back to at least Confederation (1867) though it was quite different at that time. Pages were male only, and boys as young as 11 years old were selected. One of the more unusual requirements was that Pages had to be short of stature, in order to be as unobtrusive as possible. They were paid $1.50 a day. Pages were chosen by the Speaker, with help from the Sergeant-at-arms, and they held the position until they outgrew their uniforms. There are also references to the term "House Page" as far back as 1841 in the Journals of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada.
In 1968, a minimum working age of 16 years was adopted but it is only in 1978, after an article in The Wall Street Journal criticized the Pages' working conditions, that the previous system was completely discarded in favour of the current one. Some of the Pages from the old system were kept on as "Senior Pages" to supervise the new Pages and serve as a form of continuity. Notable among these first "Senior Pages" were Andre Frechette and David Lavictoire.
Although officially under the auspices and jurisdiction of the Speaker of the House, the Page Program for the first 20 years was the full-time responsibility of Miss Annette Leger, a former assistant to federal Liberal Cabinet Minister, Donald Stovel Macdonald.
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