By MPP Toby Barrett
Pre-Christmas debate in the Ontario Legislature provided me an opportunity to highlight upcoming changes in parliamentary protocol, and procedure with respect to the Crown.
For example, a change to the Legislature’s Standing Orders will add a clause: “Following prayers on the first sitting Monday of each month, the Canadian national anthem and the Royal Anthem shall be sung in the chamber.”
Although I love the concept, I can’t recall hearing parliamentarians singing “God Save the Queen” in the legislative chamber. I find this strange, considering every elected member has sworn allegiance to the reigning monarch – I would assume since the times of Loyalist Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe – in the House since 1792. For Ontario MPPs since 1952, that monarch has been Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second.
Upon the death of her father, King George the Sixth, in February 1952, Queen Elizabeth became head of the Commonwealth and Queen Regnant of the then seven Commonwealth nations: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, Ceylon, and, of course, the United Kingdom.
Her Majesty has reigned through major political transformations, such as devolution in the United Kingdom, Canadian patriation, and the decolonisation of African republics. Through all that, what hasn’t wavered is the admiration, respect, and affection people in Ontario feel for the Royal Family. Something else that hasn’t changed is the anticipation loyal Ontarians and Royal Watchers have each year for the Queen’s Christmas message.
Our Queen’s grandfather, King George the Fifth, initiated the Christmas message in 1932. He was initially unsure about using radio in this manner, but a visit to the BBC to see their cutting-edge technology reassured him. The first Christmas message was written by poet and writer Rudyard Kipling. The first sentence being: “I speak now from my home and from my heart to you all; to men and women so cut off by the snows, the desert, or the sea that only voices out of the air can reach them.”
The first televised message was broadcast live in 1957. It allowed viewers to see the Queen in her own residence, decorated for Christmas like many viewers’ homes.
As I read through my favourites of the Queen’s Christmas message, it impresses me how tied to current events – both good and bad – they are.
I was touched by her humanity when she mentioned the 2018 Manchester bombing tragedy –truly a monarch with a heart and conscience.
Throughout her 68-year reign, Her Majesty has demonstrated tremendous dedication to serving the public. It is a commitment that has inspired countless others to follow in her footsteps. She has been involved in the work of hundreds of organizations, charities, and causes and has met more people than any other monarch in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the Commonwealth.
Her humanity and commitment to good causes fits perfectly into the spirit of the Christmas season, and is the main reason, year after year, millions eagerly tune in to hear her speak.
Christmas is the time of year that brings us together and reminds us to appreciate those in our lives. May Christmas fill you with joy and peace, and the yuletide spirit fill your heart and home with laughter, harmony and many blessings.
From my family and staff, have a wonderful Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year.
God Save the Queen.
Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk