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Britain's Prince Philip awaits Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah to arrive at Windsor Castle during his state visit in west London November 27, 2012.

Carl Court/Reuters

The overnight visit to Toronto by Prince Philip that begins today (Friday) is a welcome and happy honour for Canada. The Duke of Edinburgh has been a strong supporter of this country, and his visit at age 91 attests to that. If there is any justice, he will return to England with an Order of Canada button finally pinned to his lapel.

The husband of Queen Elizabeth II is coming to present new colours to the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of York. He will also attend a breakfast at Queen's Park on Saturday. For a man of his age whose health has been fragile of late, his exhausting 24-hour trip is a true demonstration of loyalty and duty.

As we wrote recently, no member of the Royal Family has been closer to Canada than the Duke of Edinburgh. From his service to Canadian regiments and cadet corps, to his patronage of dozens of organizations and his support of educational institutions, the Duke has been incredibly active in this country. His greatest legacy, the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, has recognized generations of young Canadians for their commitments to community and self-improvement.

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Yet, in a twist of bureaucratic intransigence, the man who has stood at the Queen of Canada's side for 60 years and has served this country so selflessly is not eligible to be invested as a full and regular companion of the Order of Canada. This is an honour he richly deserves, and which is bestowed automatically on the spouse of Canada's Governor General, but for which he is not technically eligible to earn on his merits alone.

The reason? He is not a Canadian. The Duke of Edinburgh is only eligible to receive an honorary version of the Order that is conferred on foreigners. It is beneath him. He deserves full honours based on his many merits and contributions to Canada.

There comes a moment when institutions need to wriggle free of the red tape that binds them. This is that moment for the Order of Canada. Prince Philip will be greeted at the airport by Governor General David Johnston. We sincerely hope Mr. Johnston will extend to the Duke of Edinburgh more than an empty hand.

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