World·Royal Fascinator

Some provinces to offer medals to mark Queen's Platinum Jubilee after Ottawa opts out

While the federal government has decided not to offer medals to mark Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee, some provinces will provide their own honours to recognize both her 70 years of service and contributions of their residents.

Gardens also planned in all provinces and territories to recognize Elizabeth's 70 years as monarch

Queen Elizabeth inspects the Guard of Honour during Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on July 1, 2010. While the federal government has said it won't be offering medals to mark her Platinum Jubilee and 70 years as monarch, they will be presented in some provinces. (Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images)

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While the federal government has decided not to offer medals to mark Queen Elizabeth's Platinum Jubilee, some provinces will provide their own honours to recognize both her 70 years of service and contributions of their residents.

"This is no coincidence of course," said Michael Jackson, president of the Institute for the Study of the Crown in Canada. "A number of the provinces have got together ... once they realized that the feds weren't going to do a Platinum Jubilee medal."

That federal decision was a disappointment for Jackson, who sees such medals as part of a well-established tradition of Canadian honours and as a way to acknowledge the achievements of ordinary Canadians.

"They recognize citizens, grassroots ... not just the bigshots," he said over Zoom from his home in Regina. 

"They are [a] golden opportunity for our country through the sovereign to recognize the unsung heroes and heroines," he added, and this year could "recognize all those people, paid and unpaid, emergency responders, doctors, medical officers, nurses, clinics, everybody who worked so hard to get us through the pandemic."

Among the provinces, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia have announced plans for Platinum Jubilee medals. 

Two people hold a large photo depicting a medal.
Gov. Gen. David Johnston, left, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper unveil the design for the Diamond Jubilee medal presented to mark the Queen's 60 years on the throne in 2012. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Others — including New Brunswick and Manitoba — appear to be considering it. 

Still others — including Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec — aren't offering a medal but will mark the jubilee in other ways. (Further information from other jurisdictions was not available. We'll also continue to follow this issue in future Fascinators.)

In Saskatchewan, 7,000 medals will be awarded beginning later this spring.

"The Government of Saskatchewan recognizes the opportunity presented by the Queen's unprecedented Platinum Jubilee year to celebrate Her Majesty's service, and also the many people throughout the province who contribute positively to the fabric of our society," Jason Quilliam, the province's chief of protocol, said via email.

"Given that there were medals in each of Her Majesty's previous anniversary years, including her coronation, it was felt that it would be appropriate to create the second-ever Saskatchewan commemorative medal — after the commemorative medal for the centennial of Saskatchewan in 2005."

In Alberta, the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Recognition Act took effect late last month. 

Along with establishing a Queen's Platinum Jubilee medal to recognize 7,000 Albertans "who have made significant contributions to society," it sets up scholarships and awards for young Albertans who are leaders in their communities and the arts.

Rower Natalie Mastracci, left, and soccer player Diana Matheson display their Diamond Jubilee medals during a ceremony in Toronto on Dec. 21, 2012. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

In Ontario, there are no plans for a provincial medal to honour Elizabeth's reign.

"Instead, the Queen's Platinum Jubilee will be celebrated through Ontario's existing honours and awards programs and ceremonies," a spokesperson for the Ministry of Citizenship and Multiculturalism said via email. 

"For example, Ontario honours and awards recipients will receive a commemorative Platinum Jubilee lapel pin during the Jubilee year."

There are, of course, varying views on the significance of medals, the relevance and appropriateness of them now, at a time when there is a wider reckoning with the past, not to mention the debate that recurs regularly about the role of the monarchy and Canada's connections to it.

"I have heard comments that some people think medals are colonial," Jackson said. 

He doesn't.

"You could say our Parliament is colonial or the Senate is colonial or the prime ministership is colonial, all because they came out of that original British parliamentary monarchy system, but I would disagree."

School principal Jennifer Carhart wipes a tear after receiving a Diamond Jubilee medal from Prince Charles while he was touring the Hazen White-St. Francis School in Saint John on May 21, 2012. (Paul Chiasson/AFP/Getty Images)

John Blatherwick also sees merit in medals, and questions why — after having other national ceremonial and jubilee medals for several decades — Canada would stop now and not have one in connection with the Queen's 70 years as monarch.

"This is not going to happen again in our lifetime," said Blatherwick, a retired public health leader who has 11 medals of his own, including the orders of Canada and British Columbia.

"It's not going to happen, probably in anybody's lifetime, that a person is going to sit on the [throne] for 70 years," Blatherwick, 77,  said over Zoom from his home in New Westminster, B.C.

"Whether you like the Crown or not, it's hard to dislike this Queen. She's done her duty."

And, as he sees it, "the thing the politicians don't seem to understand is how valuable these [medals] are to people."

When Blatherwick received his Order of Canada in 1995, two former prime ministers — John Turner and Joe Clark — were also getting the honour, as was a Nobel Prize winner. But those aren't the people he recalls from the occasion.

"The people I remember from that ceremony were the people from Saskatchewan and Quebec and Nova Scotia who had gotten it for something I had never even heard about, but I thought it was marvellous."

John Blatherwick has received 11 medals, including ones for the orders of Canada and British Columbia. (Submitted by John Blatherwick)

For Blatherwick, medals are invaluable.

"We don't talk a lot about citizenship for those people who already have it. We talk about it for immigrants ... but we don't talk about people being proud of their country.  But you pin a medal on from your government and you're very proud of it — and [people] look for opportunities where they can wear it." 

While not all provinces and territories will have Platinum Jubilee medals, they have found common ground in another way to mark the Queen's milestone.

"They are all doing some form of Jubilee garden based on our Indigneous traditions and practices," said Jackson. 

"This is a great initiative. Quebec is doing it slightly differently, as Quebec always does.... Again, the provincial Crowns are doing it."

A Jubilee visit to Canada

Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, watch Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on July 1, 2017, during their last visit to Canada. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

The trip Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, are making to Canada next month may have a unique purpose as part of efforts to mark the Queen's Platinum Jubilee.

But the three-day trip — with stops in Newfoundland and Labrador, Ottawa and the Northwest Territories — is very much in keeping with the broad strokes of royal visits in recent years: keep them short and tightly focused.

Details of the trip have not been announced, but it seems likely the couple will spend a day in each of the three locations.

"The visit is a chance for us to showcase the evolution of our country, our diverse and inclusive society, as well as the resilience of Indigenous communities," Gov. Gen. Mary Simon said in a statement released this week.

Charles has visited Canada 18 times, with the first trip happening in 1970. Camilla has visited with him four times since 2009.

That year, there were sparse crowds in some places and anxious moments in another when riot police had to push back about 200 anti-monarchists before the royal couple visited an armoury in Montreal. A visit to New Brunswick, Ontario and Saskatchewan to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012 was better received.

Prince Charles and Camilla pose for a photograph as they visit the historic community of Brigus, N.L., on Nov. 3, 2009. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Previous trips have also focused on some of Prince Charles's charitable interests through the work of Prince's Trust Canada, which welcomes next month's visit.

"The 2022 royal tour is meaningful to Prince's Trust Canada, because it is an opportunity to highlight our work, creating employment opportunities for young people and members of the military and veteran community," CEO Sharon Broughton said in an emailed statement.

WATCH | Prince Charles and Camilla to visit Canada in May: 

Prince Charles, Camilla, to visit Canada in May

1 year ago
Duration 2:02
Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, will visit Canada in May. The visit is planned as part of Queen Elizabeth's Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

The trip comes as senior members of the Royal Family travel throughout the Commonwealth to mark the Jubilee. Princess Anne recently returned from a four-day trip to Papua New Guinea and Australia, and Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, undertook a week-long visit that turned controversial in the Caribbean last month.

Jackson welcomed word of the upcoming visit and said it's "entirely appropriate in the Platinum Jubilee year [that] the Queen's eldest son, who is going to succeed her on the throne, comes to see us in her senior realm outside the United Kingdom."

But the scope of the visit leaves him disappointed.

"It's too short, three days, for a realm the size and importance of Canada, and where the federal government has chosen that they should go also disappoints me."

Prince Charles and Camilla spot some cupcakes featuring their caricatured faces as they visit Seaport Farmer's Market on May 19, 2014, in Halifax. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Not that Jackson has anything against Newfoundland and Labrador and the Northwest Territories, he said, "far from it," but why not also take Charles and Camilla to "more populous parts of the country and give them more time?"

While no specific dates for the tour have been announced, other royal visits in May have occurred around the Victoria Day long weekend. In Canada, the Queen's official birthday is marked on Victoria Day.

  • There was more attention this week on time that two other members of the Royal Family spent in Canada, as our friends in CBC's investigative unit delved into who really owns the lavish Vancouver Island estate where Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, stayed in 2020 before they stepped back from official royal duties. Read the full report here.

Keeping close to home

Queen Elizabeth marks her 96th birthday on April 21, and it's likely she will spend the day quietly at home, at Windsor Castle.

Her attendance at a memorial service for Prince Philip last month was a rare public appearance, and her first in about five months. But she missed the Maundy Thursday service at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle and is not expected to attend church with other members of the Royal Family on Easter Sunday.

As concerns over her health and mobility have kept her away from public engagements, the Queen has continued online meetings, something she took to and has seemed to enjoy since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

The pandemic was front and centre as she met virtually with staff of the National Health Service the other day.

"It does leave one feeling very tired and exhausted, doesn't it, this horrible pandemic," said Elizabeth, who tested positive for COVID-19 herself in February.

Royally quotable

"As stewards of this precious planet, it is our actions, and our actions alone, that will determine its future." 

— In a video message for the 7th Our Ocean Conference, Prince Charles encourages action to ensure the longevity of the world's oceans and wildlife. 

Royal reads

Prince Harry, centre, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, speak with officials as they arrive ahead of the Invictus Games in The Hague on Friday. (Remko de Waal/ANP/AFP/Getty Images)
  1. Prince Harry and Meghan made a surprise visit to the Queen on their way to the Invictus Games in the Netherlands. Prince Harry was last reported to have been in the United Kingdom in July, and Meghan is not thought to have been in the country since 2020. [CBC]

  2. On the first anniversary of Prince Philip's death, the Royal Family shared a poem written in tribute to him. [The Guardian]

  3. Prince Andrew reflected on the Falklands War on the Instagram account of his former wife, Sarah, before the posts were deleted. She has also been linked to a further payment in a court case. [Sky News, BBC]

  4. Catherine the Great looked to England for top parenting tips and public health practices, importing English royal customs and scientists to modernize "feudal" Russia in the late 18th century, according to a recently published book. [The Guardian]

  5. During a visit to the house-turned-museum where Jane Austen lived from 1809 until her death eight years later, Camilla saw items from the author's literary career — including a tiny writing table — along with a more modern piece that had its own pop culture moment: the white shirt actor Colin Firth was wearing when he emerged from a lake in the 1995 TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. [BBC]

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Janet Davison is a CBC senior writer and editor based in Toronto.

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