Commemoration and the Manitoba Legislative Building

By David Suatac

The majestic legislative building on Memorial Boulevard in downtown Winnipeg commemorates Manitoba’s participation in the World Wars in many ways. The building’s history began in 1911, when the government of Manitoba announced that it would hold a competition to determine the building’s design. The renowned British architect Frank Worthington Simon’s submission bested 67 others, and construction began months before the outbreak of the First World War. Over the course of the next four years, the government of Manitoba’s wholehearted commitment to the war meant shortages of labour, materials and money for civilian projects. As a result, the legislative assembly was not ready for partial occupancy until 1919.

The MLB in 1919. Credit: Canadian National Railways/Library and Archives Canada/

As the grounds and interior of the Manitoba Legislative Building evolved after 1919, much focus was placed on the commemoration of Manitoba’s participation in both World Wars. In the Hall of Honours, regimental plaques line the walls, commemorating Manitoban regiments like The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada which fought at Vimy and in Normandy. Memorial books that list the war dead – replicas of the ones found in the Memorial Chamber in Canada’s Parliament – fill the room. Down the road from the legislative assembly on Memorial Boulevard, one can find a cenotaph that is inscribed with the names of Canada’s battlefields. Not far from there lies a monument to Sir William S. Stephenson, a First World War veteran instrumental in organizing the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during the Second World War.  

The Manitoba Legislative Building continues its tradition of military commemoration even today. The building is the most heavily accessed provincial assembly in Canada, regularly hosting military-related events and exhibitions.

Victory in Europe Day, 1945. Credit: City of Winnipeg Archives/

Sources:

1. http://www.gov.mb.ca/mit/legtour/legbld.html

2. https://www.gov.mb.ca/mit/legtour/pdf/walkingtour.pdf

3. http://www.gov.mb.ca/legislature/visiting/docs/indoorselfguidedtour.pdf

Featured image: Credit: City of Winnipeg Archives

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