70 years of service

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

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

Take a trip down memory lane!

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1950s: A decade of firsts

The Queen is sitting in the monarch's throne, in the Senate Chamber. The Duke of Edinburgh is to her left and John Diefenbaker to her right.
Queen Elizabeth II opens Canada’s 23rd Parliament, Ottawa, 1957. Source: Library and Archives Canada/e010949327

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, she read the Speech from the Throne, the first time in Canadian history that a sovereign personally presided over the opening of Parliament. She would do so again in 1977.

In 1959, Queen Elizabeth II made a 45-day visit to Canada where she visited all 10 provinces and 2 territories, and inaugurated the St. Lawrence Seaway, a 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 was 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, thousands of 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

The Queen is smiling. She is wearing a hat and a fur trimmed parka.
Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Anne (right) with Thomasina Emoralik during a visit to an Inuit community near Resolute Bay, on Cornwallis Island, in present-day Nunavut, 1970. Source: The Canadian Press

In the 1970s, Queen Elizabeth II 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 children and grandchildren would undertake their own official tours and establish royal patronages in Canada.

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

In 1977, she marked her Silver Jubilee in the nation’s capital and presided over the opening of Parliament for the second time. 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, signs the Proclamation of the Constitution Act on Parliament Hill, Ottawa, 1982. Source: Robert Cooper, Library and Archives Canada (PA-141503)

While Queen Elizabeth II was 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: the signing of 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.

Queen Elizabeth II 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 standing in a classroom, smiling and talking with a young student as her teacher looks on.
Queen Elizabeth II smiles as she talks with a student at the Newfoundland School for the Deaf in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, 1997. Source: Government of Canada

The 1990s saw Queen Elizabeth II 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: Government of Canada

By the 2000s, 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 The Queen’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 in Canada played a significant part in The Queen’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 until the very end of her reign.

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.

The Queen returned to Canada in 2005 where, over the course of a 9-day tour, she 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: Government of Canada

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

Again celebrating Canada Day on Parliament Hill before a full 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 Queen Elizabeth II set foot on Canadian soil, other members of the Royal Family have continued to foster and deepen their ongoing relationship with Canada.

Canada celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2012, marking her 60th anniversary as Queen of Canada. On September 9, 2015, another milestone was passed when she became the 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.

2022: Queen Elizabeth II’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 celebrated Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, Canadians reflected on our many accomplishments and challenges, and our strengths as a diverse, multi-talented nation.

A 3-day Royal Tour of Canada by the then Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall contributed to this reflection. The program of their visit included meetings with inspiring Canadians and important discussions around Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in Canada and the impacts of climate change.

A Canadian Platinum Jubilee emblem was also designed by the Canadian Heraldic Authority for the occasion. The symbolism behind the emblem included the national colours of Canada and several allusions to the idea of celebration and her 7 decades of reign.

Canadian Platinum Jubilee Emblem
Canadian Platinum Jubilee emblem Source: Government of Canada

Other national initiatives included the funding of hundreds of community events and 3 major national projects, the dedication of Platinum Jubilee Gardens by lieutenant governors and territorial commissioners, a national illumination initiative as well as the launches of tribute coins by the Royal Canadian Mint and a permanent commemorative stamp by Canada Post.

The Centre Block is lit up in purple. 2 photos of The Queen and one of the Canadian Platinum Jubilee Emblem are projected on the building.
The Centre Block along with other federal buildings in Canada’s Capital Region and across the country were lit up in purple in celebration of The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Source: Government of Canada
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are standing with Indigenous leaders, in a solemn moment.
Their Royal Highnesses take part in a solemn moment of reflection and prayer at the Heart Garden with Indigenous Leaders and community members in the spirit of Reconciliation, St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. Source: Government of Canada

In Canada's Capital Region, some initiatives included the installation of colourful commemorative banners featuring the Platinum Jubilee emblem along Confederation Boulevard, a special segment to mark the Platinum Jubilee in the Northern Lights 2022 show, and The Queen and Canada exhibit on the Château Laurier terrace, overlooking the Ottawa Locks of the Rideau Canal.

View of a street with people walking and lampposts, on each of which are hung banners in shades of purple.
Commemorative banners were displayed in Ottawa along the Confederation Boulevard. Source: Government of Canada
People walking by and looking at an outdoor exhibit composed of panels with photos and texts.
The outdoor exhibit The Queen and Canada, mounted on the Château Laurier terrace, was part of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations in Canada's capital. Source: Government of Canada

Queen Elizabeth II passed away during her Platinum Jubilee year, on September 8, 2022. To mark her passing and highlight the important connection between The Queen and Canada, a commemorative website was published, including photos and links to the various commemorative events that were held in her honour, in Canada, during the 10-day mourning period.

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