This activity is designed to introduce students to the complex relationship which exists between Canada and the British Monarchy, and conceptualize the relationship between Commonwealth nations and the Crown. The focus of the activity is a simulated Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (similar to a model United Nations activity), where students must balance their own national interests with the pressures exerted by other nations as represented by their classmates. Students will also have the opportunity to learn about some of the key issues in British relations in which the Diefenbaker government was involved. Consult the online primary documents and website text as resources.

Introduction

  • Introduce students to many of the similarities shared by former British colonies (symbols, political structure, history, etc.).
  • Introduce the major functions of the Crown in Canada, including the role of the Governor General, Lieutenant Governors, and the concept of Royal Assent.
  • Explain that even though the members of the Commonwealth have attained independence, they still have a close relationship with Britain and a common history. The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 countries that support each other and work together towards shared goals in democracy and development. Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings occur every two years to work towards these goals.
  • Give students the opportunity to study the primary documents and familiarize themselves with the relationship between Canada and the Crown.
  • Encourage students to conduct background research to enhance this activity.

Refer to the following links:

  • Constitutional Documents (Canada)
  • The official website of The British Monarchy, Queen and Canada
  • The official website of the Governor General of Canada
  • The Commonwealth, Head of the Commonwealth

Activity

  • In this simulation you could choose to assign each student to a particular country, or allow them to select their own. (A list of Commonwealth nations is available on Wikipedia under the heading "List of members of the Commonwealth Nations.") Encourage students to conduct background research on their respective nations to enhance this activity.
  • Select a member nation to "host" and facilitate the meeting by introducing issues for the other nations to consider.  Suggestions include:
  • Britain would like Commonwealth nations to begin giving them special deals on traded goods; students should be advised that their countries would lose money from doing so.         
  • While Commonwealth nations have a history of not criticizing each other's internal policies, Canada spoke out against South Africa's policies of apartheid in 1961. Encourage students to introduce a motion which would critique another member for something they have done recently.
  • The year is 1965, and Canada has just changed its flag, removing all symbolic ties to Britain. The British representative expresses displeasure and insists that Canada change the flag to include British symbols. Encourage other nations to weigh in on why this is positive or negative.

Optional Activities

  • Additional resources available upon request from the Diefenbaker Canada Centre for extended learning opportunities.

Olive and John Diefenbaker with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip standing outside the front door of 24 Sussex Drive before formal dinner
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip with John and Olive Diefenbaker

Media and Document Gallery

Images

John and Olive Diefenbaker with Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip
Queen Elizabeth II with representatives of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference
Queen Elizabeth II and Dwight Eisenhower with John Diefenbaker
John Diefenbaker with Queen Elizabeth in Newfoundland
John Diefenbaker, Vincent Massey and the Cabinet with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip with John and Olive Diefenbaker

Audio

Speech by John Diefenbaker at a meeting of the Progressive Conservative Association of Nove Scotia, Kentville, NS

Creator: Progressive Conservative Party of Canada

Subject: Canada – Leader of the Official Opposition | Canada – Crown

Description: John Diefenbaker warns that some in the Liberal Party of Canada have a desire to turn Canadian into a Republic, and that the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada will fight against this.

Date Created: 24 April1965

Identifier:MG01/XVIII/T541-PAC177c

Speech by John Diefenbaker at the Moose Jaw Progressive Conservative Association, Moose Jaw, SK

Creator: Progressive Conservative Party of Canada

Subject: Canada – Leader of the Opposition | Canada – Crown

Description: John Diefenbaker describes his battle for the maintenance of traditional symbolism in Canada’s flag as upholding Canada’s past, which is necessary for any country to be a great one

Date Created: 22 January1965

Identifier:MG01/XVIII/T536a-c-PAC175bc

Documents

Memo from R.B. Bryce to John Diefenbaker

Creator: R.B. Bryce

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Trade with Britain

Description: Addresses difficulties which may arise from Diefenbaker’s desire to divert 15 % of Canadian export trade to the UK.

Date Created: 12 August1957

Identifier:MG01/XII/A/731 Volume 28 (019302)

Departing words to the Queen from Diefenbaker

Creator: John Diefenbaker

Subject: Canada – Head of State | Canada – Head of Government

Description: Press release noting that Queen’s visit has strengthened Canadian pride.

Date Created: 16 October1957

Identifier:MG01/XXII/59 Volume 1

Draft of Queen’s Televised Address

Creator: Unknown

Subject: Canada – Head of State | Canada – Speech from the Throne

Description: Notes for nationally televised broadcast to be given by the Queen.

Date Created: 7 September1957

Identifier:MG01/XII/A/715 Volume 28 (019082 – 019085)

Press release announcing Queen to open Parliament

Creator: Unknown

Subject: Canada – Head of State | Canada – Parliament

Description: Queen to open First Session of 23rd Parliament on 14 October 1957.

Date Created: 9 July1957

Identifier:MG01/XXII/4 Volume 1

Press release announcing new trade mission

Creator: Unknown

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Trade with Britain

Description: Discussions have led to a trade mission to UK to begin 22 November 1957

Date Created: 17 October1957

Identifier:MG01/XXII/60 Volume 1

Letter from Georges P. Vanier to John G. Diefenbaker

Creator: Georges P. Vanier

Subject: Canada – Head of State | Canada – Head of Government

Description: The Government of Canada awaits official announcement that the Queen would make a royal visit to Canada.

Date Created: 15 July1959

Identifier:MG01/VI/311.3 Vanier Volume 110 (094448 – 094449)

Newspaper clipping

Creator: Unknown

Subject: Canada – Head of State | Canada – Head of Government

Description: Governor General Georges Vanier’s appointment is hailed as a victory for French Canada.

Date Created:No date given.

Identifier:MG01/VI/311.2 Volume 110 (094376)

Swearing in of Georges P. Vanier as Governor General

Creator: Government of Canada

Subject: Canada – Head of State | Canada – Head of Government

Description: Document describes the swearing in of the first French Canadian Governor General.

Date Created: 15 September1959

Identifier:MG01/VI/311.2 Volume 110 (094344 - 094345)

Telegraph from Georges Vanier to John Diefenbaker

Creator: Georges P. Vanier

Subject: Canada – Head of State | Canada – Head of Government

Description: The Governor General describes his audience with the Queen.

Date Created: 4 August1960

Identifier:MG01/VI/311.2 Volume 110 (094282)