It is the practice that the consort of the governor-general be invested with the Order of Canada at its highest rank, that of Companion. Sharon Johnston has received the nation’s highest civilian honour, as has Jean-Daniel Lafond. Given the public nature of the role that they are expected to play in our national life, it is appropriate that they carry such a dignity. The failure to similarly invest the Duke of Edinburgh with the Order of Canada, and the Order of Military Merit, is both puzzling and regrettable, and it should be put right when he is in Toronto in April.
The Duke has earned both of these honours. The Diamond Jubilee celebrated the lengthy and successful reign of the Queen, but it could easily have been an equal celebration of the Duke as he has also served as Consort for the past 60 years.
No member of the Royal Family has been closer to Canada than the Duke of Edinburgh. He has served as Colonel-in-Chief of five Canadian regiments and plays a similar role with all three cadet corps, he has served as a patron or president of some 35 Canadian organizations, from the Canadian Curling Association to the College of Family Physicians of Canada. He is a Distinguished Honorary Fellow of Massey College in Toronto, and has served as a trustee or governor or patron of numerous other educational institutions in this country.
He is the second most senior member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada (to which all cabinet ministers must first be sworn), a position he has held since 1957. Only Paul Hellyer, who served in the Liberal government of Louis St. Laurent, has seniority as he was appointed in April 1957.
For his 90th birthday, the Government of Canada appointed the Prince to honorary ranks as Admiral in the Royal Canadian Navy, and a General in the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force.
But of all his many roles, and all the contributions to Canada he has made during his lifetime, it is The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme has that is perhaps his most inspired legacy. Generations of young Canadians have now been recognized for their contribution to community, volunteerism and betterment of self. It has served to inspire the best in Canadian youth, and is a gift to this country on a scale that is hard to conceive.
It’s time we said thank you in the form of national honours that should have been conferred long ago.