A very traditional ceremony with some spectacle and pomp, the Changing of the Guard takes place every morning during the summer on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
The Changing of the Guard
Performed by the Ceremonial Guard outside Canada’s Parliament Buildings, the Changing of the Guard is a daily ceremony that is free to watch for all comers. The event takes place from June to August each year, although it was cancelled in 2021 due to COVID-19. Hopefully the ceremony is able to return in 2022.
The event is very traditional, with the soldiers involved wearing the classic British red uniforms and large fur hats. The ceremony’s origins in Canada date back over 60 years. Of course, the British tradition that it’s modelled after stretches back much further.
What to Expect from the Event
The ceremony begins at around 9:45 am each morning. On the grounds outside Parliament Hill during the event there is a bilingual audio presentation about the ceremony. If you want to learn more about the history of the ceremony and what each specific part means, then that is a great time to do so.
At 9:50 am the Old Guard arrives on the scene and awaits the arrival of the New Guard who march from Cartier Square Drill Hall which is about a kilometre away. The New Guard arrives on Parliament Hill at exactly 10 o’clock with their procession accompanied by the Band of the Ceremonial Guard.
Once both sets of guards are together they display their regiment’s colours as well as their armaments. After commanders from each section of the guard inspect the other the keys to Rideau Hall (the residence of the Queen and the Governor-General) are given to the New Guard. From there both sets of soldiers march off in a parade.
The whole ceremony is accompanied by the band and is pretty showy. It’s quite well-drilled and precise, as you would expect given how it’s done every morning in the summer. If the weather is poor then the event might get cancelled, but otherwise you can stop by any morning during that time to check it out.
Overall, the Changing of the Guard is a fun, short event and an interesting way to start your morning. Make sure to bring your camera when you go!
The Ceremonial Guard
The Ceremonial Guard formed in the 1950s as a branch of the Canadian Armed Forces. All members of the guard are members of the Armed Forces (with many being reservists). They come from a variety of different units from across the country.
As the name indicates, the members of the guard perform mostly ceremonial duties. That doesn’t mean they’re not trained for action if an urgent situation does arise, but that doesn’t often happen over the course of their time guarding the capital. And hopefully it stays that way!
The Band of the Ceremonial Guard is very well-regarded and is hailed as the best military band in Canada. They’re often called to perform at various places in and around Ottawa depending on what kind of military or government functions are taking place.
Members of the Ceremonial Guard have some other public duties as well. Sentries stand at both Rideau Hall (the changing of which is represented by the ceremony) as well as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial.
The Ceremonial Guard also leads the annual Fortissimo Ceremony in the summer. Fortissimo is an even bigger spectacle and includes more music, marching and some aerial displays.
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