Supreme Court of Canada

About the Court

Court Building

The Supreme Court building was designed by Ernest Cormier, the Montreal architect who also designed the Quebec Court of Appeal building in Montreal, the Government Printing Bureau in Gatineau and the University of Montreal. Situated just west of the Parliament Buildings on a bluff high above the Ottawa River, and set back from a busy Wellington Street by an expanse of lawn, the building provides a dignified setting worthy of the country's highest tribunal.

A statue of former Prime Minister Louis S. St-Laurent (1949-57), erected in 1976, stands on the lawn in front of the building. It is the work of Vancouver sculptor Erek Imredy. There are two flagstaffs at the front of the building. The one to the west is hoisted daily. The other flag flies only when the Court is sitting.

[Photo - The Statue Veritas]

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of the Statue Veritas

[Photo - The Statue Justitia]

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of the Statue Justitia

Two tall statues have been erected on the steps of the building, Truth, on the west, and Justice to the east. They were made by the Toronto artist, Walter S. Allward, creator and architect of the Canadian War Memorial at Vimy Ridge in France. At the rear, there are a fountain and a terrace overlooking the Ottawa River.

At the entrance to the building are two candelabrum-style fluted metal lamp standards. Two bronze doors give access to an impressive grand entrance hall, measuring 32 by 17 metres, and 12 metres in height. The walls are rubané marble and the floor rubané and Montanello marble. Four Verdello marble columns along the end walls support a deep coffered ceiling.

In the Gallery, off the Grand Entrance Hall, is a bust of Sir Lyman Poore Duff, Chief Justice from 1933 to 1944 and the Court's longest serving member, having been appointed to the Court in 1906. The busts of Chief Justices Cartwright, Laskin, Dickson and Lamer, by the sculptor Kenneth Jarvis, Q.C., can also be found there together with photographs of all the judges of the Supreme Court since its establishment.

At each end of the Grand Entrance Hall is a courtroom used by the Federal Court of Appeal and the Federal Court. The walls of these two courtrooms are panelled with Australian Blackwood, punctuated with zebrawood pilasters trimmed with Honduras mahogany. Corridors, with Missisquoi marble floors and walls, encircle the building on the ground floor and on the first and second floors.

The Main Courtroom, reserved for the use of the Supreme Court, occupies the centre of the building on the first floor.

Public access to the Main Courtroom is by a flight of stairs on either side leading up from the entrance hall. At the foot of these stairs is a reproduction in bronze of the original Supreme Court Building, a gift from the Canadian Bar Association for the Court's centennial year in 1975. It is the work of Canadian artist Arthur Price. Verdello marble was used for the staircase and golden Morocco marble for the ramps.

The Main Courtroom, measuring 12 by 16 metres, has black walnut walls between fluted pilasters. Six windows, each seven metres in height, open to interior, naturally lighted courtyards provide it with protection from outside noises. The courtroom is equipped with simultaneous interpretation equipment and a video-conference system. This system may be used by litigants to argue their cases from remote locations.

The groundwork for electronic hearings was laid in the summer of 2007 with the installation of new computerized audio-visual equipment, an accessible lectern and wireless internet connections for counsel. Display monitors for counsel and the media have been added, and the judges now have access to laptop computers that are embedded in the bench desktop. The new lectern can be raised and lowered to accommodate counsel of different heights and those in wheelchairs. In addition, new cameras have been installed along with an improved lighting system.

The Court Registry and the chambers of the Registrar and Deputy Registrar are located on this floor. The Judges' Conference Room is directly behind the courtroom.

On the third floor, directly above the entrance hall, is the Library's main reading room.