Canadian $20 note contains the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II. For those not familiar with the political system in the country, it might seem a little strange to have the picture of a queen on Canadian currency. But there’s more to it. So, why does Canadian currency have Queen Elizabeth on it?
Queen Elizabeth is on Canadian currency due to her position as the Queen of Canada. In line with the Canadian Royal Mint tradition of including an effigy of the current monarch on Canadian coin, the Queen has been on Canadian currency since 1953. She joins Edward VII, George VI, and George VII.
However, her face has long been on Canadian banknotes since 1935, when she was 8. As the Queen of England, she has several duties which her representative, the Governor-General, performs. Here, we discuss why Canadian currency has the Queen on it and what this has to do with the monarchy in Canada.
Why Monarch Appears on Canadian Money
Canada is a constitutional monarchy. Therefore, anyone who is King or Queen of England is also separately and distinctly the King or Queen Canada. In 1908, the Canadian Royal Mint began production and started including the image of the current monarch on its currency. This tradition continues to this day.
Effigies of Canadian Monarchs that have Appeared on Canadian currency
Apart from Queen Elizabeth, three other Canadian Monarchs have had their face on Canadian money during their lifetime. For all of them, their effigies appeared on the Canadian coin. These are:
1. Edward VII (1902-1910)
Edward VII was the great grandfather of the current Queen, and his likeness appeared on the currency in 1908.
2. George V (1911-1936)
He was the grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II. He appeared on the coin with the usual Latin words Some of the coins issued in 1911 didn’t include the DEI GRA. They’re now referred to as the godless coins.
3. George VI (1937-1952)
He was Queen Elizabeth II’s father, and his image appeared on the coins till Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1952.
Appearances of the Queen on Canadian Money
Canada was the first country to depict the Queen on her money. In 1935, it issued a banknote featuring a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. She was eight years old at that time. The second time was in 1951 when the photos taken by photographer Yousuf Karsh appeared in banknotes.
When she became the queen in1953, her effigy started appearing on coins. Over the years, four versions have occurred in 2003, 1990, 1965, and 1953. The first version was in 1953 when I was 27 years old. The 1990 effigy was unveiled when she was 64 years old and was the first to be designed by a Canadian in the person of Dora de Pédery-Hunt. Another Canadian, Susanna Blunt, designed the current effigy. It’s similar to the image of George VI in that the Queen is portrayed without a crown.
In 2002, the Mint issued a special edition 50-cent coin to mark the Golden jubilee. It replicated Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s image, appearing on the 1953 Canadian coronation medallion. The most up-to-date portrait of the Queen is from 2011 and now appears on the $20 Canadian note.
Monarchy in Canada
Canada is a constitutional monarchy. While this might sound strange, the Canadian constitution provides for it. Anyone who’s king or Queen of Britain is also King or Queen of Canada. This doesn’t mean that Canada is under Britain. Rather the King or Queen has a separate and distinct role in Canada. Few countries that were part of the former British empire have this arrangement. They include New Zealand, Australia, and others.
As the Queen of Canada, Queen Elizabeth is the head of state. But she’s not actively involved in the governance of the country. Her functions as head of state are mostly ceremonial. But this doesn’t take away the fact that she has specific powers, and the constitution vests some authority in her. Most of these powers are delegated to the Prime Minister of Canada. So, while the Queen is the commander of the armed forces and head of parliament according to the constitution, the prime minister is the one who exercises these powers in practice.
But the powers of the Queen aren’t fictional. The Queen has the authority to exercise them where there’s an absolute need to do such.
Representatives of the Queen in Canada
The Queen rarely visits Canada due to several factors, such as her age and other obligations. So, the monarchical system in Canada revolves around the Governor-General, who’s a representative of the Queen. The office of the Governor-General is the oldest continuous institution in the country. It dates back to 1627, when Samuel de Champlain was the Governor of New France. French governors held that position till 1760 during which 18 of them served. Then, the British Governors took over. In 1952, Vincent Massey became the first Canadian to hold that position.
As a representative of the British monarchy, the Governor has parliamentary responsibilities. They include:
1. Constitutional Duties
The Governor-General swears in the prime minister, chief justice, and cabinet minister. They also summon, dissolve, and prorogue the parliament. The Governor-General also has to read the speech from the throne that sets out government programs and gives royal assent necessary to make bills into laws. Appointment of lieutenant governors, certain judges, and members of the privy council is also the duty of the Governor-General. He or she also signs official documents such as an order in council to become effective. There are other advisory roles too.
2. Commander in Chief
In line with the constitutional roles of the Queen, the Governor-General is the commander in chief of the Canadian military. So, they visit military bases and award military honours on the Queen’s behalf.
3. Representative Duties
Beyond that, there are also ceremonial duties. These include promoting a sense of identity, receiving important foreign visitors, representing Canada overseas, etc.
The face of Queen Elizabeth is on the Canadian currency because she’s the Queen of Canada. Since she was eight years old, her face or likeness has appeared on Canadian money.