Politics

Monarchists criticize Canada's 'lacklustre' and 'embarrassing' Platinum Jubilee plans

Monarchists in Canada say they're disappointed with what they call the federal government's "lacklustre" plans to celebrate the Queen's Platinum Jubilee, an event that honours the sovereign's remarkable seven-decade reign.

Limited royal tour, absence of a jubilee medal amount to an insult to the Queen: monarchists

The Queen receives Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during an audience at Windsor Castle on March 7, 2022. Monarchists in Canada aren't happy with what the federal government has planned to mark the Queen's seven-decade reign. (Steve Parsons/Pool via AP Photo)

Monarchists in Canada say they're disappointed with what they call the federal government's "lacklustre" plans to celebrate the Queen's Platinum Jubilee, an event that honours the sovereign's remarkable seven-decade reign.

Monarchists say the federal government's "indifference" to this historic event — which they see in the shortage of officials events, the lack of a jubilee medal to celebrate community service and a limited three-day royal tour by Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall — amounts to an insult to the Queen's legacy.

"It's actually embarrassing. I won't say shameful but it's embarrassing. I think we're a better country than this and I don't think it represents who we are," John Fraser, the founder of the Institute for the Study of the Crown in Canada, told CBC News.

"We are the number one dominion so it would have been nice if the federal government had actually shown some interest," Fraser said, citing Canada's senior status in the Commonwealth of Nations and close historic ties to the Crown.

Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall visit Canada House in London on May 12, 2022 ahead of their royal tour. (Hannah McKay/Pool via AP Photo)

Canadian Heritage, the federal department that takes the lead on all things royal, has a web page that details what Ottawa has planned for the occasion.

Canada Post has released a stamp. The Royal Canadian Mint has issued a $250 commemorative coin set — the limited run is already sold out. And there will be some sort of exhibit on display at Ottawa's Chateau Laurier Hotel this summer.

Canadian Heritage will fly banners in the national capital region. Provincial lieutenant governors and territorial commissioners will dedicate some gardens to the Queen.

In the U.K., there will be an extended four-day long weekend in early June with 1,800 public events and 2,000 street parties planned to celebrate the Queen who, after more than 25,000 days on the throne, is the third-longest reigning monarch in world history.

The U.K.'s extensive programme also includes official events like the Trooping of the Colour parade, religious services, a concert at Buckingham Palace and a special running of the Derby for the Queen, a noted horse lover. 

Rower Natalie Mastracci, left, takes a photo of herself with soccer player Diana Matheson as they display their Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medals during a ceremony in Toronto on Friday, December 21, 2012. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Australia, another Commonwealth country where the Queen is head of state, has earmarked June 2 to 5 as the period to celebrate Her Majesty's reign. There will be concerts, special events, "services of thanksgiving," the illumination of prominent buildings in royal purple and exhibitions nationwide.

There's also an online directory of community events to mark what the Australian government calls "this truly immense achievement" and to "acknowledge the Queen's 70 years of dedication and service to Australia."

In Canada, the federal government announced on Monday — just weeks before other Commonwealth countries are set to celebrate the Queen — a $2 million grant to help communities plan their own events in the months to come.

"For more than 70 years, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has been a model of dedication and a privileged witness to the growth of and accomplishments of Canadians, and to the values that unite us," Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriquez said in announcing the funds.

He said the funds will "allow Canadians across the country to learn more about our sovereign, celebrate this historic anniversary and reflect on the meaning of public service in today's society."

No jubilee medals

The federal government will not issue jubilee medals to Canadians this year, as it did for the Silver, Gold and Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 1977, 2002 and 2012. These medals traditionally are given to thousands of selected Canadians to recognize significant contributions and achievements.

Workers prepare for Platinum Jubilee celebrations at Buckingham Palace in London on May 6, 2022. Queen Elizabeth II acceded to the throne on the death of her father King George VI on Feb. 6, 1952, and the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday weekend celebrations will take place June 2 to 5. (Kristy Wigglesworth/AP Photo)

Instead, Ottawa has outsourced the distribution of "jubilee pins" to the Monarchist League of Canada, a private organization, which has been flooded with requests. While jubilee medal recipients are selected, anyone can send away for a pin.

Robert Finch, the dominion chairman of the Monarchist League, said the group already has sent out "tens of thousands" of pins. Canadian Heritage did not order enough pins to keep up with demand, Finch said, and there's now a growing backlog of some 20,000 requests.

Finch said it's a sign that, while the government may have planned relatively little, Canadians are eager to celebrate their monarch on this momentous occasion.

"The demand has been absolutely overwhelming. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought there would be this much demand," Finch said in an interview with CBC News.

"We just don't have them to give out. It's a great problem to have. I'd rather be in this scenario than have a bunch of pins that nobody wants."

Finch said the Monarchist League "never received a good answer or reasoning as to why Canada shouldn't have jubilee medals" — a program he said has proven to be "an excellent way to honour and recognize everyday Canadians."

After more than two years of a gruelling pandemic, Finch said, bestowing medals on overworked health care workers and frontline staff would have been a small but meaningful gesture of appreciation from a grateful country.

"It's unfortunate. There's no good reason why we couldn't have done them," he said.

Three-day royal tour is a 'missed opportunity': monarchist

Charles and Camilla will arrive in Canada today for a three-day royal tour, with stops in Newfoundland and Labrador, Ottawa and Northwest Territories — one of several trips by members of the Royal Family to mark the Platinum Jubilee in the Queen's realms.

But the short length of the visit and the limited itinerary are a disappointment to royal watchers. By comparison, Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge did an eight-day swing through the Caribbean earlier this year.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge wave from their aircraft during the departure ceremony at Lynden Pindling International Airport on March 26, 2022 in Nassau, Bahamas, at the end of their eight-day tour of the Caribbean. (Toby Melville/Getty Images)

Finch said the Canadian tour — which was planned by officials at Canadian Heritage with limited input from Clarence House, Prince Charles's office — skips the country's largest population centres and snubs Western Canada entirely in favour of "very small and very remote communities."

"In order for the monarch to maintain a following and a presence in Canada, you have to have members of the Royal Family come to Canada — and they can't just come for two or three days," he said. "It's a missed opportunity."

Fraser agreed, calling it "a very small and sad tour."

Fraser said Canada's jubilee agenda is puzzling because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is known to have a warm relationship with the reigning monarch and met with her a number of times at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle and at Commonwealth summits abroad. He has known her for decades, having first met her when his father, Pierre Trudeau, was prime minister.

On her 94th birthday in 2020, Trudeau said Canada was "grateful for her leadership and steadfast commitment to our country and to the Commonwealth" and praised her "extraordinary service, strength and enduring grace."

Trudeau also called the Queen "a guardian of many of our country's traditions" and, on her 93rd birthday in 2019, said that "many Canadians feel a deep appreciation for the Queen."

Queen Elizabeth II attends the Royal Windsor Horse Show in Windsor, England, Friday May 13, 2022. (Steve Parsons/PA via AP Photo)

Even though she keeps to a much more limited agenda these days due to her advanced age, the Queen personally received Trudeau at Windsor Castle earlier this year after recovering from COVID-19.

After that meeting, Trudeau praised her as "insightful and perspicacious as ever" and said she is "very interested in what's going on in Canada."

Fraser said a combination of the pandemic and politics is likely to blame for the muted jubilee celebration. Former governor general Julie Payette's scandalous tenure as vice regal may also have soured the government on royal traditions, he said.

"Liberal governments for the past 30, 40 years — and I vote Liberal often — have basically downplayed the role of the Crown and the monarchy in Canada. It's in their nature," he said.

"The Liberals play it down and the Conservatives play it up and that's bad. It should transcend those kinds of politics."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Paul Tasker

Senior writer

J.P. Tasker is a senior writer in the CBC's parliamentary bureau in Ottawa. He can be reached at john.tasker@cbc.ca.

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