IQALUIT, Nunavut ? Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip braved the beginning of the Arctic winter on Oct. 5 as the monarch began her Golden Jubilee tour of the country in Canada's newest territory.
Iqaluit is the capital of Nunavut, a territory with a large Inuit majority. One of the 76-year-old Queen's official activities during her two-hour stop was to dedicate and open the territorial legislature.
The royal couple attended a demonstration of traditional Inuit sporting events at the local high school, where they were greeted by "God Save the Queen" sung in Inuktitut, English and French. Aboriginal elders offered several prayers thanking Her Highness for her visit and asking for her safety while traveling in Canada. Prince Philip presented Duke of Edinburgh Awards to several students. The normally composed monarch is reported to have laughed during the visit to the school.
During her address to the legislature, the Queen applauded the people of Nunavut, describing the creation of the territorial legislature as "history in the making." She added that the North was the strength of the Inuit people and would help guide their future.
The Queen was greeted by territorial leaders and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chr?tien. Ironically, the monarch's official escort is Deputy Prime Minister John Manley, who has been an outspoken critic of the monarchy and an advocate for dissolving Canada's relationship with the Crown as the source of political authority. Chr?tien rejected Parliamentary calls for Manley's replacement before the Queen's arrival.
Canada is a constitutional monarchy; it is an independent country with its own constitution, but the British Crown, manifested in Elizabeth II, is still the supreme ruling authority. The Governor General of Canada, as the Queen's legal representative, is actually the head of state, although political power lies with the Prime Minister.
The First Nations generally hold Queen Elizabeth in high regard because she has expressed a demonstrated interest in their affairs. One Canadian media report said she is the only British monarch since Queen Victoria who has taken seriously her personal role in treaty obligations with the First Nations and other aboriginal populations in the Commonwealth.
"When no one else is listening to the concerns of First Nations people in Canada, you can usually count on the Queen," Chief Morris Shannacappo, chairman of the West Regional Tribal Council of Manitoba, told the Ottawa Citizen during the Queen's stop in Winnipeg on Oct. 8.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that the Queen may request more information from Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault on the current status of Ottawa's relations with the First Nations. Queen Elizabeth has a long history of asking well-educated questions on the Crown's treaty obligations.