Britain's Queen Elizabeth II told Canadians on Sunday their country is one to be proud of and worth preserving.
"The Canadian Confederation represents to the world the ideals of freedom and democracy," the queen, resplendent in a long white chiffon gown and diamond tiara, told a state dinner in her first public speech of her 10-day trip to Canada."Being Canadian also means working to ensure that such values are never undermined," she added. "I have no doubt that here and throughout Canada, those who stand on guard will continue resolutely to protect all that Canadians have held dear throughout this country's history."
Although Canada became independent from Britain in 1867, it is still part of the Commonwealth of former British colonies and the queen is officially Canada's head of state. In practice, however, she has little role to play, and her duties are performed by a government-recommended appointee.
Her comments Sunday come as Canada is once again embroiled in uncertainty over its future. The mainly French-speaking province of Quebec is in the middle of an election campaign that will likely result in the election of a separatist government.