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The Queen addresses the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, July 6, 2010. (JESSICA RINALDI/REUTERS)
The Queen addresses the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, July 6, 2010. (JESSICA RINALDI/REUTERS)

Globe editorial

The Queen of Canada's clear leadership Add to ...

When the Queen went to New York on Tuesday to address the United Nations General Assembly, she noted she would be doing so as she had 53 years earlier, by "travelling from this Northern Realm as Queen of Canada." At the international body, she began by saying, "I believe I was last here in 1957" - reminding the assembled dignitaries that they were in the presence of a leader of unparalleled experience and stature, one whose relevance has not diminished with the passage of time. Certainly that was the lesson of her Canadian visit.

Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General, introduced the Queen by saying, "In a changing and churning world, you are an anchor for our age." The Queen's message was not, however, steeped in nostalgia. She urged the UN to lead the world in tackling "global dangers" like terrorism and climate change while honouring its commitments of ensuring "security, prosperity and dignity" for individuals. She welcomed "sweeping advances" in science, technology and social attitudes, and in a comment that might have had a few delegates shifting uncomfortably in their seats, observed that they "have come about not because of governments, committee resolutions or central directives - although all these have played a part," but because millions of individuals were desirous of them. The major theme of the address, though, was about the need for "clear and convening leadership" in the future.

It is a message that was delivered, in words and by deed, throughout her 22nd visit to Canada as Queen. The sovereign embodied the very attributes identified by her next representative in Canada, David Johnston, as his own goal, serving as "a stalwart defender of our Canadian heritage, of Canadian institutions and of the Canadian people." Before large admiring crowds, before aboriginal leaders and high-tech innovators, and before soldiers, children and faith leaders, the Queen - the indefatigable Duke of Edinburgh always close by - succeeded in showing that Canada's constitutional monarchy is not something of the past, but like the Queen herself, of the present and future, too.

In an address in Toronto, the Queen spoke of Canada as a world leader, its success founded upon "its adherence to certain values. Some are enshrined in law, but I should imagine just as many are simply found in the hearts of ordinary Canadians." The Queen ended by telling Canadians she "shall continue to take the greatest pride in being your Queen, now and in the years to come." That is an essential message of her reign; allegiance is both given, and returned.

As the Queen remarked, "in my lifetime, Canada's development as a nation has been remarkable." It is a very different country, and world, from what it was in 1957, but there remains a place for the Queen's clear and convening leadership.

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