This week in Canada: Unacquitted Queen love

Sue Spang

A good look at a map of the City of Toronto may lead to some confusion when giving or getting directions: Queen Street, Queen’s Park Crescent East, Queen’s Park Crescent West, the Queensway and Queen’s Quay are all major roadways within the major metropolitan area. Beyond wondering about what on earth a “quay” is — for personal knowledge, the Oxford Dictionary defines “quay” as “a solid, stationary, artificial landing place.for loading and unloading ships” — a trend nonetheless emerges.
Canadians, and particularly Ontarians, love the Queen of England. Few people are unaware of Canada’s historic ties to Great Britain and, of course, France, but the extent to which British symbolism remains to this day is remarkable.
Canada’s colonial ties were severed almost a century and a half ago, the North American territory confederated in 1867 by Queen Victoria, and in 1982 the current Queen of England, Elizabeth II, declared the country entirely independent.
Though inarguably separate from its colonizer, Canada retains the visage of Elizabeth II on every piece of its coinage, as well as on its $20 paper bill. The grounds of Toronto’s governmental buildings are covered in statues of important Canadian figures. However, hugged closely to the legislative building are a number of rose gardens dedicated to the Queen. They occupy a portion of Queen’s Park, home to the government complex and the center of the University of Toronto campus.
We all recognize the Canadian flag, that ubiquitous red maple leaf between two vertical bands of red. Here in Toronto, however, one is just as likely to see the flag of the Ontario province, sporting a Union Jack in its upper corner, and a crest half-composed of the St. George’s cross of the English flag.
Like all good western New Yorkers, I grew up watching Scott Thompson from “The Kids in the Hall” impressively imitating the Queen and spent summers driving up the Queen Elizabeth Way to a cottage in North Bay, but what is there to make of this obsession with Britain in a de-colonized British nation?
To the outside world, it seems that Canada is the subject of some kind of identity crisis, some sort of strange desire for re-colonization, or at the very least, maintaining a strong sense of alignment with Britain. Unlike the much more visible province of Quebec, with its separatist party and rejection of English culture in favor of French, Ontario quietly sits by, paying homage to a motherland from which it has been emancipated for a century.
On the other hand, Canadians don’t seem to mind. The few Canadian friends I’ve asked about this curious obsession simply don’t notice. On a somewhat similar note, Canadian identity took another bit of a tumble a few weeks back, when the folks at the Oxford responsible for dictionary publishing decided that the Canadian/English dictionary would cease to be edited by a devoted team of four lexographers in Toronto. The Oxford folk cited that the Canadian edition, basically an OED with around 2000 uniquely Canadian additions, has been a money-drain since its inception, and though the dictionary will continue to be available, future editors will be British instead of Canadian.
This concept was upsetting to many Canadians — proving that Canada is, and will remain, exactly as British as it wants to be.