'It means something to be a Canadian': Queen

Queen delivers speech at state dinner thanking Canadians for warmth, inspiration and praising the country for diversity and tolerance

The Queen thanked Canadians Sunday night for their support and encouragement during the past half century, and praised the country for cherishing diversity and tolerance.

At a state dinner hosted by Prime Minister Jean Chrtien, the Queen said she has been "overwhelmed by the crowds, the flowers, and the many words of kindness" during her Jubilee tour from sea to sea.

Speaking in English and French, she said the visit that began Oct. 4 has included many wonderful moments, including an Inuit welcome in Iqaluit, a NHL hockey game in Vancouver, and an entertainment gala in Toronto.

The Queen noted how much the country has changed since her first visit as a Princess in 1951. But she also spoke of important constants that have endured, including the land itself and the nature of the people.

"I have only to look out the aircraft window at the cold expanse of the North, the forests of the West, the wide open Prairies, and the Maritime fishing inlets in the East to be struck again by the sheer size of Canada, its beauty, and huge wealth of natural resources," the Queen said.

"Then there are the people of Canada. Here is the country's greatest resource."

The Queen commended Canadians for being committed to building a society where compassion and acceptance are part of the country's fabric, and the desire to promote peace abroad is strong.

"I have seen over the years how bilingualism and multiculturalism have moved from being an aspiration to a reality, not without difficulties but with a determination to find particular Canadian solutions to the problems along the way," she said.

"I have noticed and admired another constant a confidence and engagement of Canadians, both in this country and in the service of others around the world. It means something to be a Canadian."

"As I have travelled across this country over the years, I have been struck so often by such a clear sense of pride, in community and town, province, territory and nation, which is natural and strong."

Chrtien lauds Queen

During his toast, Chrtien thanked the Queen for devoting her life to helping "knit the countries and the peoples of the Commonwealth more closely together."

"Your majesty, your Golden Jubilee tour has been all too short. But Canadians will never forget it. We hope you have fully felt our gratitude, our respect, and our affection," the prime minister said.

In her response, the Queen said she wanted to use the Thanksgiving weekend "to express my profound gratitude to all Canadians ... for the loyalty, encouragement and support you have given to me over these past 50 years.

"Your understanding and compassion, your confidence and engagement, are sources of inspiration to me. I would like to affirm before you tonight that wherever the future may take us, my admiration and affection for Canada and Canadians everywhere is, and will always remain, clear, strong and sure."

The crowd of more than 500 erupted into applause. When the room became quiet again, the Queen added that, for her, these personal feelings about Canada are also "a constant, an enduring reference point in times of change."

As she arrived for the state dinner at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Que. across the river from Ottawa about 100 protesters yelled obscenties at her in French.

They waved Quebec flags and chanted "We want a country, not a monarchy" when the motorcade drove by. Some of them held signs that read "Elizabeth II Go Home."

It was the first major protest during the Queen's 12-day tour of Canada. She was heckled once by an Acadian woman in New Brunswick, and once in French during a multi-faith Thanksgiving ceremony on Parliament Hill Sunday afternoon.