The Queen in Canada: A Long and Valuable History

No bow needed

Rahman Mohamed

It’s touched the world. On September 8 Queen Elizabeth II passed away. Some have had individual interaction with the Queen. 15 Prime Ministers in UK had personal meetings after being voted in. To many she was a mother or grandmother. Worldwide she had a strong image, someone who could bring hope and peace. In Canada people had different view and she had a different meaning for many.

The Queen did visit Canada a lot (second only to UK). Autumn Phillips is part of the Royal family and is a Canadian,

Canadian Autumn Kelly met Prince Peter Philips, son of Prince Phillips (child of Princess Royal Anne and Mark Phillips), Queen Elizabeth II’s eldest grandchild. At the Montreal Grand Prix they met and the Canadian entered the royal family in 2008.  She’s a Canadian who personally knew the Queen.  In an interview with Peter Mansbridge she said that “The Queen knows more about Canada than I ever will … She keeps up with everything Canadian … She’s been to Canada 22 times … She loves Canada.  She passionately speaks about Canada, and you know, as Canadians we have a lot of respect for the Queen and she really has respect back.  You know it’s a mutual admiration, I think.”

Queen Elizabeth II came to Canada more than any other country; in 1982 she came to sign the Constitution Act; Canada became it’s own country, independent of the British Parliament. She passed away on September 8, 2022 but Canada doesn’t have any immediate plans to change its currency; eventually they will change to reflect Prince Charles, now King Charles III.

On CBC‘s the Cross Canada Checkup (Sunday, September 11) the topic was a 2 hour special “What did the Queen mean to you?“. Many gave personal stories of thoughts and individual stories. From Regina, Vaughn Solomon called in; she said she thought she would be in a short meeting with the Queen but had one longer then expected, she considers it an honour. When speaking of the Queen, Vaughn said “She’s very fond of Saskatchewan”. For some she was an inspiration. Some were talking about changes; others spoke of Indigenous treaties with the Crown that weren’t honoured, and have seen no apology to communities. To much of the world she had a meaning, personal or just a symbol. Persons in India termed the death “bittersweet” being haunted by a colonial past but seeing the Queen on welcoming visits and inspiring, similar to Canadian Indigenous and their Canadian supporters. In Canada the Queen continues, but the question: how much she is worth (in the portraits carried in pockets and wallets).

The Queen is worth $23.40; she was worth $23.41 but antique pennies were confiscated, it’s kept by collectors and not in circulation.  Canada’s first two Prime Ministers – Sir John A. Macdonald and Alexander Mackenzie were worth $10 and $5 respectively; combined both were worth less than the Queen. Although $10 polymer bills with the Right Honourable John A. Macdonald are found, the first PM was replaced in March 2018 by Viola Desmond in a vertical rather than horizontal style; the bill went into circulation November 2018 for a short time. Viola Desmond is seen as Canada’s Rosa Parks; on November 8, 1946 she fought for civil rights by being a Black woman who sat in the “White Only” section of a Nova Scotia theatre and refused to get up when told and went to jail. Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms now prevents this. (Currency with Queen Elizabeth II might soon be a collector item; likely already being kept by the Penny People.). Kings Edwards VII, George V, George VI were on coins too but Queen Elizabeth II has the record for longest and 4 coin portraits. Not only was she the last monarch on the Penny but was the first on Toonie ($2 coin)!

Tails of the $0.01 Penny (extinct 2012) and $1 Loonie (common). Heads of all coins since 2003
John A. MacDonald ($10); Wilfrid Laurier ($5); Queen ($20)

During elections, Canadians vote for their local representative.  Depending on the level of government it’s the national, provincial, or municipal representative.  Provincially the Premier (chief of the party with the most seats) becomes the leader; federally it’s supposed to be the Prime Minister (chief of the party with most seats).  Reality (thankfully) Canada is a constitutional monarchy: the provincial head of government is the Lieutenant-General, federally it’s the Governor General.  Both represent the Monarchy – Late Queen Elizabeth II and now King Charles III.  Neither GG or LG are voted in; they’re appointed for a fixed term by Premier/Prime Minister unless choosing to step down a job is guaranteed; one can be given a succession, another term. Their roles are largely seen as symbolic, persons having ceremonial not political power.

Before any Bill becomes law the Lieutenant-Governor or Governor General has to sign off.  Even if the Bill has been passed by Legislature/Assembly/Parliament until there’s the signature it’s not part of the Rule Book. Constitutionally the Lieutenant-Governor and Governor General are representative of the Monarchy; symbolically Head of Monarchy signs the Bills, making it law.  An election is called when the writ is dropped – LG or GG says there’s going to be an election after the Premier or PM ask.  When an official representative the Lieutenant-Governor or Governor General is the official; an elected politician usually accompanies depending on the purpose.

All the Lieutenant-Governor and Governor General represent the Monarchy, today the Monarch doesn’t have power in Canada, just visits.

Few know Queen Elizabeth II and UK were the Head-of-State in Canada until the constitution was patriated in 1982, with the Constitution Act, reality; Canada’s iconic Charter of Rights and Freedoms was included in the patriated Constitution.  Before patriation Canada might have made a law but UK government could have legally changed it if the law wasn’t popular there. Canada had a written constitution to follow in 1867 and has an updated one including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms since 1982 (UK can’t do anything anymore; it doesn’t have a written constitution).  In fact, in 1928 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled against the Famous Five (female activists in Canada for gender equality). Women were being denied the vote but the Canadian constitution then stated all persons could vote; in the “Person’s Case” women weren’t persons in the eyes of the Supreme Court of Canada. The Privy Council in London, England was the highest court for Canada before patriation; the Famous Five took their case there and women became ‘persons’ in 1929 over the ruling of Supreme Court of Canada. The London Privy Council said Canada had to make women persons; Canada had to listen to the parent since it wasn’t officially independent (it was living across the pond). Women gained the right to vote in Canada because they crossed the Atlantic. Amendments to the Constitution in the past were finalised by the UK Parliament. Today, as long as Canada abides by its complicated amendment formula it created, it can change the Constitution without UK approval – just as long as the amendment complies with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, constitutional. No UK approval needed!

While the Governor General/Lieutenant-Governor are the legal head-of-state in Canada, in the UK the Monarchy is the head of state. Some former British colonies have no representative (Barbados, India and others), they are Republics but are part of the Commonwealth like Canada. In Canada the Governor General (Mary Simon), Prime Minister (Justin Trudeau), and Canada’s High Commissioner in UK (Ralph Goodale) will be at the funeral. Joe Biden and his wife were invited though USA is not part of the Commonwealth (it yelled at UK, dumped their tea in water, and created its own Constitution; less than 100 years later Canada just asked permission for its Constitution and was told OK)

New Zealand has declared a public holiday on Monday 26 September to mark the passing of the Queen. In Canada there’s a federal level holiday on Monday 19 September (a week before New Zealand); the start of Fall Parliament has been delayed to September 20 by all members to mark memory of the Queen.

The only time a Canadian voter actually gets to vote for the leader of the representatives is municipally – Mayor. The Mayors do supervise the planning of celebrations for Canada Day, They supervised planning Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Celebrations (modified for Pandemic). Mayors will accordingly appoint a committee or supervise planning of death of Queen Elizabeth II funeral and the celebrations for King Charles III Coronation (locally). Family and friends may just show a mayor the Queen as a gift; never a bad gift.

$20 in Canadian circulation today; design first circulated 9 September 2015

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