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The Queen of Canada's Golden Jubilee

Dr. Kenneth Munro

Dr. Kenneth Munro

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August 23, 2002 - The Golden Jubilee celebration of Queen Elizabeth II provides a splendid occasion to remind us of the importance and value of our Crown and what we have collectively built during Her Majesty's fifty year reign.

Since her accession to the throne on 6 February 1952, Canada's Queen has demonstrated that she possesses an unfaltering sense of duty and service, embodying those ideals that Canadians consider theirs. In October 1964, Queen Elizabeth II said the role of the constitutional monarch "is to personify the democratic state, to sanction legitimate authority, to assure the legality of its measures, and to guarantee the execution of the popular will."

The Queen embodies Canada and acts as her Head of State. Most importantly, she appoints the Governor General on the advice of the Canadian Prime Minister. Over the past fifty years, nine Canadian-born Governors General and nine Prime Ministers have served Her Majesty and helped her gain an intimate knowledge of our country.

On 12 October 1957, the Queen was the first reigning monarch to open a session of her Canadian Parliament and repeated this constitutional function again during her Silver Jubilee year of 1977. Later, on 17 April 1982, she proclaimed the Constitution Act at a special ceremony on Parliament Hill. In addition, in the fall of 1990, on the advice of the Governor General, she appointed eight extra senators to the upper house to ensure passage of Brian Mulroney government's Goods and Services Tax (GST) legislation. Under section 26 of the constitution, only the Queen herself can make such extra appointments.

From time to time, the Canadian government has asked the Queen to carry out other duties. At the request of Prime Minster John Diefenbaker, Her Majesty went to the United States as Queen of Canada in 1957 on a fence mending visit after the Suez Crisis.

In 1970, following a dispute with the Americans over whether the North West Passage was within Canadian territorial waters, the Queen agreed to visit the Arctic in order that the world would understand that this disputed passage lay within Canada’s jurisdiction. The international press which follows the royal family ensured that Canada’s message received world-wide attention.

Also, the Queen often represents Canadians at war cemeteries and monuments overseas. On 11 November 1998, the Queen took part in a special "Last Post" ceremony at the Menin Gate in Belgium to mark the 80th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I. There she greeted a few Canadian veterans from World War I at a place made famous through the poem by the Canadian soldier, John McCrae: "In Flanders fields the poppies blow, Between the crosses, row on row..." In these continuing ways, Her Majesty carries out her duties on behalf of her Canadian subjects.

Over the past fifty years, the Crown has become firmly rooted in Canadian soil with Queen Elizabeth II at the centre of what we have collectively built as a people. Symbols have been transformed to reflect Canadian tradition and experience. By proclamation in 1957, Her Majesty's official Canadian birthday is celebrated on Victoria Day. In 1962, the Queen adopted a new personal flag specifically for use in Canada and on 28 January 1965, she signed the act proclaiming the Maple Leaf as Canada's "national" flag.

Since the Crown is the font of all honours, an indigenous Canadian system of Honours was established with the Queen as Sovereign of the various Orders. The first person the Queen invested with the Order of Canada after its establishment in July 1967 was Governor General Roland Michener. Through this Honours system, Her Majesty calls attention to achievement and service of Canadians in numerous fields of human endeavour.

During her reign, the Queen has come to Canada some 20 times to help us highlight our accomplishments. She opened the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959, the Montreal Olympics in 1976, the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton in 1978 and Victoria in 1994, and helped celebrate our Centennial at Expo '67. The Queen's reign has mirrored the explosion of cultural excellence with the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards, and she has witnessed the transformation of Canada into a bilingual, multi-cultural country. Because the Queen is Head of the Commonwealth, she expands the fellowship of Canada in an even wider multi-racial international association.

Canadians have much to celebrate in their collective experience that has occurred during the fifty glorious years of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. God Save the Queen.

Dr. Kenneth Munro is a professor of history at the University of Alberta and an associate dean (social science) of the U of A Faculty of Arts.

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