70 years of service

Over the past 7 decades, Queen Elizabeth II has been a constant presence in the lives of Canadians and has witnessed growth and significant change in Canadian society. The Queen has cultivated enduring ties with Canadians over years of connecting with our rich cultures and traditions.

Throughout her reign, The Queen has made 22 official tours of Canada, more than any other Commonwealth country. Her travels have brought her east, west and north, to large cities, small towns and tiny hamlets. She has met countless Canadians and been present for our most important milestones and celebrations. Her Majesty has said in multiple speeches that she always regarded Canada as home and shares in the pride we take in our achievements.

Take a trip down memory lane!

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1950s: A decade of firsts

A black and white photograph of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh seated on the Senate Thrones during the Opening of Parliament
Queen Elizabeth II reads the Speech from the Throne, Ottawa, 1957. Source: Canadian Press

In 1951, Queen Elizabeth II made her first visit to Canada as Princess Elizabeth, representing her father, King George VI. With her husband Prince Philip by her side, she travelled for 33 days from coast to coast and was enthusiastically greeted by thousands of Canadians.

Of this visit, she said:

I am sure that nowhere under the sun could one find a land more full of hope, of happiness and of fine, loyal, generous-hearted people. […] They have placed in our hearts a love for their country and its people which will never grow cold and which will always draw us to their shores.

Just a few months later, on February 6, 1952, The Queen acceded to the Throne upon the passing of her father, King George Vl. Days prior to her Coronation, which took place on June 2, 1953, the Canadian Parliament passed the Royal Style and Titles Act making her Queen of Canada, the first monarch in Canadian history with this title.

In 1957, during her first official visit to Canada as Queen, Her Majesty read the Speech from the Throne, the first occasion in Canadian history that a Sovereign has personally presided over the opening of Parliament. She would do so again in 1977.

In 1959, Her Majesty made a 45-day visit to Canada where she visited all 10 provinces and 2 territories, and inaugurated the St. Lawrence Seaway, an historic binational project, alongside the Prime Minister of Canada, John Diefenbaker, and the President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

1960s: Personal connections

A black and white photograph of a young Queen Elizabeth II walking with former Governor General Georges P. Vanier who is in military attire
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Right Honourable Georges P. Vanier, former Governor General of Canada, at the Citadelle, Québec, 1964. Source: Library and Archives Canada (PA-1964 AP C-056999)

In the early years of her reign, The Queen established a personal connection with Canada, becoming increasingly present and involved just as the country was striving for a national identity of its own.

At the start of the decade, The Queen approved and adopted her Personal Canadian Flag, which is used to indicate her presence when in Canada.

In 1964, The Queen travelled to Prince Edward Island and to the cities of Québec and Ottawa to mark the centennial of the historic Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences that led to Confederation in 1867.

While in Québec, she visited the Citadelle and addressed the National Assembly in both official languages, English and French. In 1965, she proclaimed the red and white flag with a single maple leaf in its centre as the National Flag of Canada, the foremost symbol of our national identity.

In June 1967, Queen Elizabeth II took part in Expo 67 in Montréal and then joined thousands on Parliament Hill in Ottawa for festivities to celebrate Canada’s centennial on July 1. On that same day, the Order of Canada, one of Canada’s highest civilian honours, was established under the authority of The Queen. Since then, more than 7,000 people from all sectors of society, who have made a difference to this country, have been invested into the Order.

1970s: A decade of celebrations

A black and white photograph of The Queen talking to two elderly women in traditional regalia and wearing head scarves
Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by Joe Tikivik, an Inuk leader, speaks with community Elders during a visit of the Northwest Territories (now the territory of Nunavut), 1970. Source: Getty Images / Doug Griffin

In the 1970s, Her Majesty travelled throughout Canada to mark the centennial celebrations of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories (1970); British Columbia (1971); Prince Edward Island (1973) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (1973), which she celebrated in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

During this decade, The Queen introduced her adult children to Canada’s people and cultures. In the years following, Her Majesty’s children and grandchildren would undertake their own official tours and establish Silver Jubilee.

As per Olympic tradition, as Head of State, Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montréal.

In 1977, Her Majesty marked her Silver Jubilee in the nation’s capital and presided over the opening of Parliament. In the opening passage of her second Speech from the Throne, she said:

Whenever I am in this wonderful country of Canada, with her vast resources and unlimited challenges, I feel thankful that Canadians have been so successful in establishing a vigorous democracy well suited to a proud and free people.

In 1978, The Queen visited Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan and Alberta, where she officially opened the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton.

1980s: A part of Canadian identity

A colour photograph of The Queen signing an official document. Former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau is seated on her right
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II with former Prime Minister, The Right Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau, signing the Proclamation of the Constitution Act on Parliament Hill, Ottawa, 1982. Source: Robert Cooper, Library and Archives Canada (PA-141503)

While Her Majesty had been deeply involved with Canada since the beginning of her reign, the 1980s saw her established more than ever as a feature of Canadian identity, through her involvement in formative, nation-building events.

In 1982, The Queen travelled to Ottawa specifically to take part in one of the most significant events of Canadian history and a fundamental pillar that established Canada as a modern state: she signed the Proclamation that patriated our constitution, giving Canada complete independence from British law. This also brought about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in which our democratic rights and privileges are enshrined.

The Queen would go on to travel extensively in Canada throughout the decade, making 2 significant tours spanning much of the country. In 1984, The Queen toured Canada for 13 days to celebrate the bicentennial anniversaries of New Brunswick and Ontario. She then continued to Manitoba.

Her Majesty then ventured to the western part of the country in 1987, embarking on a 16-day tour that brought her to British Columbia and on to Saskatchewan before finishing her tour in Quebec.

A quiet, lesser-known event happened in 1988, which had great significance for Canada’s sense of nationhood. The Queen participated in the creation of the Canadian Heraldic Authority, which gave Canada full authority to create, grant and register national heraldic emblems, such as coat of arms, flags and badges. Canada thus became the first country in the Commonwealth outside the United Kingdom with an independent, official heraldic office.

1990s: Landmark years

The Queen is wearing a red hat and coat. She carries a bouquet of mixed flowers. A paper Canadian flag is seen in the foreground
The Queen meets members of the public in Bowring Park, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, 1997. Source: Getty Images / Carlo Allegri

The 1990s saw Her Majesty again travelling from one end of the country to the other, connecting with Canadians from all backgrounds and celebrating landmark events.

At the start of the decade in 1990, The Queen travelled to Alberta before stopping in Ottawa to take part in Canada Day ceremonies. The Queen returned to Canada in 1992 to mark the 125th anniversary of Canadian Confederation, an occasion for which she gave a parliamentary address.

During 10 days in 1994, The Queen visited Nova Scotia, opened the XV Commonwealth Games in Victoria, British Columbia, and visited the Northwest Territories (specifically Yellowknife, and also Rankin Inlet and Iqaluit, which would later become part of Nunavut).

In 1997, The Queen travelled to Newfoundland and Labrador to join in the celebration of another key historical event: the 500th anniversary of John Cabot’s arrival in Canada. She would then continue her tour in Ontario where she visited several cities and then once again returned to Ottawa to celebrate Canada Day, Canada’s 130th.

2000s: With Canada at the turn of a century

The Queen standing on a red carpet, about to drop a hockey puck. Wayne Gretzky is behind as two hockey players are ready to catch the puck
Queen Elizabeth II drops the ceremonial puck prior to the Vancouver Canucks preseason game with Cassie Campbell, captain of the Canadian Women’s Hockey Team, and Wayne Gretzky, general manager of the Canadian Men’s Olympic Hockey Team, looking on Vancouver, 2002. Source: Kim Stallknecht / Stringer

By the 2000s, Her Majesty The Queen had already witnessed the coming of age of Canadian society through 5 formative decades. More significant events in our country’s growth, and in Her Majesty’s reign, were yet to come.

In 2002, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Golden Jubilee, marking 50 years of her reign. During her tour of Canada that year, she took the opportunity to travel to the new territory of Nunavut that had just been established in 1999. The Queen’s celebration of the creation of Nunavut marked a milestone in her relationship with the North. Indigenous Peoples from everywhere in Canada have played a significant part in Her Majesty’s role as Queen of Canada since the very beginning — for example, Hereditary Chief Joe Mathias of the Squamish Nation attended her Coronation in London in 1953 — and continue to do so to this day.

Her extensive tour of Canada on this occasion included visits to British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick. In Vancouver, she dropped the ceremonial puck at a National Hockey League game, joined by Cassie Campbell and Wayne Gretzky. It was her second time performing this honour — the first was as Princess Elizabeth, in 1951, at the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.

Her Majesty returned to Canada in 2005 where, over the course of a 9-day tour, The Queen visited Saskatchewan and Alberta to celebrate both provinces’ centennials. When speaking at a farewell event in Alberta, she said:

This country and Canadians everywhere have been a constant presence in my life and work, and I have so many vivid memories and a tremendous sense of pride in being part of the Canadian family. This is a relationship I have come to treasure and a country for which I have a deep and abiding affection.

2010s: A special relationship

The Queen is carrying a bouquet of flowers. She is greeting a group of veterans dressed in military attire
Queen Elizabeth II greets war veterans following an international fleet review to mark the centennial year of the Royal Canadian Navy, Halifax, 2010. Source: Canadian Press / Paul Chiasson

Her Majesty’s most recent official tour of Canada was in June 2010. It was her 22nd official visit to Canada, a testament to the special relationship our country has enjoyed with Her Majesty throughout her reign. On this occasion, she visited Nova Scotia, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Toronto.

Again celebrating Canada Day on Parliament Hill before a full capacity crowd, with thousands watching the broadcast from afar, The Queen spoke these words to Canadians:

During my lifetime, I have been a witness to this country for more than half its history since Confederation. I have watched with enormous admiration how Canada has grown and matured while remaining true to its history, its distinctive character and its values.

Although this would be the last time Her Majesty set foot on Canadian soil, other members of the Royal Family continue to support the work of Her Majesty in Canada, deepening our ongoing relationship.

Canada celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty in 2012, marking her 60th anniversary as Queen of Canada. On September 9, 2015, another milestone was passed when she became our longest-reigning Sovereign, officially surpassing the reign of her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. In honour of her Sapphire Jubilee in 2017 — which marked her 65th anniversary as Queen of Canada — Canadians presented The Queen with a sapphire and diamond brooch and dedicated a grove of maple trees in Rockcliffe Park, Ottawa, in her honour.

Today: Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee

The Queen is smiling, facing a row of officers in military uniforms. Behind her is a stone building with an arched doorway
Queen Elizabeth II meets the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery at Windsor Castle, England, October 6, 2021. Source: Canadian Press

In 2022, as we celebrate Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee, Canadians will reflect on our many accomplishments and challenges, our strengths as a diverse, multi-talented nation and know that along the way, over the last 7 decades, our Sovereign Queen Elizabeth II has been with us at every turn, participating in our triumphs and sharing in our sorrows, a witness to our growth as a nation.

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