Toronto — Thousands of people stood cheering in the rain as Britain's royal couple made their rounds. In the town of St. John, New Brunswick, 55,000 out of a population of 80,000 turned out for Charles and Diana, the Prince and Princess of Wales.
School children stood for hours in the rain and went wild when the couple moved into the crowds. No movie star or politician has ever received as friendly a reception as the royal couple.
The wildy enthusiastic welcome shows that the monarchy in Canada is not dead.
Canada's Constitution may have been ''brought home from London'' last year. But its adoption does not change the fact that Canada is officially a monarchy. Queen Elizabeth is Queen of Canada, and the man who will be king arrived for a visit last week.
All this excitement over the royal visit was in the maritime provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, whose first British settlers were the United Empire Royalists who left the United States after the Revolutionary War. They were loyal to the crown and so are their descendants today. In St. John, the oldest loyalist city in Canada, Prince Charles spoke of ''the true affection between the people of New Brunswick and the crown.''
The Queen was given a similar welcome when she visited the west coast province of British Columbia earlier this year.
Since feelings for the monarchy run high in Canada, no federal political party would ever dare suggest abolishing the monarchy - it would be political suicide.
Understandably, however, the monarchy is not popular in French Canada. The Queen was the object of demonstrations and riots during a visit to Quebec in 1964.
But the monarchy has been accepted by new immigrants. Two lonesome examples of antimonarchist sentiment heard this week were from two British expatriots, one a nationalistic Scot, the other a Catholic from Northern Ireland.
As in England, of course, the monarchy has no power in Canada - it is purely symbolic. Political authority rests with the elected Parliament. The Queen is represented by the governor general, who is nominated by the Canadian government. For the past 31 years the Governor General has been a Canadian. The present governor general is Edward R. Schreyer, the former socialist premier of the province of Manitoba.
On their tour of Canada's maritime provinces, the Prince and Princess of Wales have been given a regal reception. But things might not go as smoothly as they move westward on their 18-day visit. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau said as much in a speech at a banquet given for the royal couple in Halifax last week.
Saying that the maritimes were the friendliest provinces in Canada, he added, ''Later you will go to central Canada and the west - that will be the working part.'' There is at least one protest group lying in wait - people who are against Canada's testing of the unarmed cruise missile. They have set up a so-called ''peace camp'' on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, where Prince Charles and his wife arrived today.
So far there has been no incident similar to the demonstration and diplomatic flubs which marred the royal couple's visit to Australia and New Zealand earlier this year.
There was a minor squabble involving a reporter from an independent newspaper in Halifax, the Daily News. At a media reception aboard the royal yacht Brittania, reporters had been warned not to publish any remarks made by Charles and Diana. However, the next day's headline in the Daily News read: ''The Agonies of a Princess'' and went on to describe her dislike of the pushy tabloid press in Britain.
The Daily News has been banned from any future royal reception, but the paper can keep its accreditation for the rest of the tour. The Queen's assistant press secretary, Canadian Vic Chapman, described the paper's story as a ''despicable action.''
In spite of the enthusiastic crowds here, Canadian monarchists feel the royal family has ignored Canada, especially when compared to the attention shown to its fellow commonwealth countries, Australia and New Zealand.