When many Canadians think of celebrating the Canadian Crown (if they do so at all), they are likely drawn only to thoughts of Victoria Day, that odd, seemingly outdated May holiday that many take advantage of but few understand. Indeed, it has been one of our many goals to make New Brunswickers aware of Victoria Day’s deeper significance as the Queen’s Canadian Birthday.
But more significantly, however, I believe Canadians think that our Monarchy is something we only celebrate on Victoria Day and when the Royal Family is touring some part of the nation or marking a milestone (the recent Royal Wedding and the Diamond Jubilee being examples). The Monarchy is often thus relegated to the shelves when it’s not making headlines (good or bad) in the press.
The Monarchy is, in fact, a part of our everyday lives. Many Canadians just don’t realize it. While it’s true that the Queen only spends a few days on Canadian soil every few years, it is not true that that’s the only time when Canada has her attention. In fact, she is regularly kept abreast of Canadian issues through communications with her representative, the Governor General. As Canada’s Viceroy, the GG exercises most of the Queen’s prerogatives. He opens and prorogues Parliament, receives Ambassadors and High Commissioners (as Ambassadors from Commonwealth Realms are known), greets foreign Heads of State, and communicates with the Prime Minister (exercising, we hope, Bagehot’s three rights of a constitutional monarch – the right to encourage, the right to warn, and the right to be consulted). The Queen and her Family are involved personally with a vast number of Canadian charities, organizations, and regiments, and these are often featured in what have recently become frequent royal tours.
Then there’s the everyday working of the Canadian constitution. Every law that is enacted, ever sentence handed down, every passport issued, is done so in the name of the Queen. The Queen’s representatives, the GG and the Lieutenant Governors, act in the Queen’s name, bestowing honours and patronages to worthy individuals and organizations. They are appointed by the Queen, and in turn invite the leaders of political parties with the largest number of seats in their respective legislatures to form governments as prime ministers and premiers, also in the Queen’s name. Simply put, the Crown is everywhere.
The Queen has not been a stranger to our national celebrations, either. She has been present on Parliament Hill for Canada Day on five separate occasions (her grandson and granddaughter-in-law, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, have also taken part, in 2011); she was on hand to open to St Lawrence Seaway with President Eisenhower in 1969, to preside at Centennial celebrations in 1967 and 125th Anniversary events in 1992, to attend centennial celebrations for several western provinces in the 1970s and 2005, to open the Montreal Olympics in 1976, to mark her Silver and Golden Jubilees in 1977 and 2002, etc. Her extended family have also been present for many of our other milestones.
On each occasion for which the Queen has been present for Canada Day festivities on Parliament Hill, the crowds have far exceeded any other Canada Day records. This was even more the case when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended in 2011. This should remind Canadians that many of their fellow countrymen see the Monarchy as central to our national life.
This is the point which I am trying to make – our Monarchy is part of who we are. For as long as there have been humans on this territory, they have been ruled by Kings, Queens, and Chieftains. It’s bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. So, this Canada Day, whether you’re waving your flag, watching the local parade, sporting a maple leaf tatoo or relaxing with a cold one on a deck somewhere, remember that our Monarchy is part of who we are as a people and one of the many reasons you can feel proud to be a Canadian.