The King and Queen of Belgium will be in Toronto Wednesday
It’ll be a busy day for the Belgian monarchs and their cohort, who’ll be touching down in Toronto at 10 a.m. and jetting off to Montreal by 6
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The King and Queen of Belgium have been getting a taste of Canada during their state visit this week — if a photograph of the pair on Tuesday, licking maple syrup from their fingers in a wooded area of Ottawa, is any indication. And on Wednesday, the pair are scheduled to land in Toronto for a single, packed day.
Here’s what you should know.
King Philippe and Queen Mathilde will be accompanied to Toronto by an official, business, academic and press delegation. The entire Belgian group is around 150 people, and contains seven ministers, including the vice prime minister and foreign affairs minister, representatives from the country’s three regions and rectors of the main Belgian universities. Their official host is governor general Julie Payette.
Who are the King and Queen?
Phillipe became King after his father, King Albert, abdicated on the country’s national holiday in July 2013. The former King said his “age and health” no longer allowed him to serve as monarch after two decades on the throne.
Albert was the first of the six kings since independence from The Netherlands to voluntarily give up the throne, with Phillipe becoming the seventh King. In his first speech as the crown, Phillipe spoke about a long-standing feud between the country’s Dutch-speaking Flemings and Francophones. He cast the division as diversity, and one of their strengths.
Before he was King, Phillipe was Crown Prince Phillipe. Queen Mathilde was Princess Mathilde d’Udekem. The couple were married in Dec. 1999.
What’s planned in Toronto?
It’ll be a busy day for the Belgians, touching down in Toronto at 10 a.m. and jetting off to Montreal by 6.
After arriving at Pearson airport, the Belgium delegation will zip over motorcade-style to Queen’s Park, to be ushered in through a private entrance to the lieutenant governor’s suite. There, they’re slated to have a tête-à-tête with Elizabeth Dowdeswell, the lieutenant governor of Ontario.
After meetings with Dowdeswell comes meetings with Speaker David Levac, and in tight sequence, they’ll arrive at MaRS Discovery District for a luncheon by 12:10. This appearance will be with Dr. Reza Moridi, Ontario’s minister of research, innovation and science, and it’ll include a signing ceremony, a group photo and a tour. The academic delegation will have a roundtable with education minister Mitzie Hunter, a tour and lunch at the University of Toronto.
At 3:15, part of the group will be at Power Corporation of Canada for a Canadian-Belgian CEO Roundtable. The King is expected to make remarks at the time. At the same time, the Queen will split off and visit Sick Kids Hospital for a visit and her own roundtable on mental health for children and teenagers.
Why is this visit important?
This is the first state visit by Belgian royalty since the 1970s. Raoul Delcorde, Belgium’s ambassador to Canada, posted a photo on Twitter last month of Belgian King Baudouin meeting with former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, along with two others with Queen Fabiola. Those snaps were taken in 1977.
But this time, over 40 years later, the prime minister won’t be around to greet the sovereigns. Justin Trudeau has no plans to meet with the Belgian royals or their cohort, with sources telling the Star the delegation feels snubbed. Trudeau is scheduled to tour aluminum and steel facilities in Quebec and Ontario this week, to speak about his opposition to potential American tarifs on their products.
Sources tell the Star it was expected that Trudeau would make time given the strong trade ties between Canada and Belgium, with bilateral trade totalling almost $6.5 billion last year according to Global Affairs Canada. That relationship is expected to strengthen further with the ratification of the Canada-E.U. free trade deal.
One of the main features of the trip is a thank you of sorts, for Canada’s involvement in the First World War — in particular, the liberation of Belgium. “We owe our freedom to the military men who came to our country 100 years ago to end the First World War,” the king said as he was greeted by Payette.
“We in Belgium, we don’t forget that.”
What happened with the flag?
This has been one of the more popular headlines of the couple’s trip so far.
A narrowly-avoided mix-up could have led to an awkward situation during a tree-planting ceremony in Ottawa. While planning for the event at Rideau Hall, a small flag was placed on a tree planted by Queen Fabiola in 1977. The catch? It wasn’t a Belgian flag. It was German. The issue was rectified before the current royals arrived, though.
That wasn’t the only hitch in Ottawa, either. On top of the ghosting by Trudeau, a meeting that had been scheduled with Heritage Minister Melanie Joly — to discuss cultural ties between Canada and Belgium —was cancelled after Joly’s flight was abruptly grounded by computer system disruptions at Air Canada.
With files from Alex Boutilier, Bruce Campion-Smith, The Canadian Press and the Associated Press
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