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Repost from Sept 21, on ravensview.substack.com

Royalty in Canada

To Be or Not to Be

Photo-1611831221903-d5cc46c19396I started thinking about this a few days ago, browsing news stories and blogs, but I decided to wait until after the funeral for Queen Elizabeth II.

We need to talk about Canada and the monarchy. Some may think this is not an appropriate time, that we need to be focusing on respecting the memory of the late Queen. I think we can do both at once. If we wait several months, then the whole idea will fade back into our collective consciousness as something most don’t even worry about. Until something brings it to the forefront and reignites the same old debate.

So why not deal with it? I’ll look at some ideas/opinions on why we do or don’t need it, and then how we might change it. 

In Canada, while the monarchy has little more than a ceremonial function, it still helps us define our identity, and adds a sense of continuity. Queen Elizabeth II saw 12 Prime Ministers in Canada during her reign, from Louise St. Laurent to Justin Trudeau. Her presence was a unifying thread over the years, the challenge will be for King Charles to define what his relationship with the world will be.

Many in Canada and other Commonwealth countries see the Crown and its colonial history in a positive light still. The Empire of the last century did much to unify many countries into a common entity, but much of the old-school power and money that still exists owes its existence to that conquering mindset. The current power structure was built largely on the negative actions of colonization, so they look back and see it as good for them, and still support the monarchy. The funeral itself, with all its ritual and pageantry, was also a demonstration of power, of a monarchy 1000 years old, and how that power gets passed on.

But there is a new generation now, with new attitudes. Many Commonwealth countries are considering breaking off ties to the Crown, including Jamaica and Australia. Here in Canada, many of us are immigrants from Commonwealth countries whose parents suffered under colonialism. In a recent IPSOS poll, half of Canadians want to end our ties with the monarchy. Preferably with a referendum first. That question would certainly crank up the participation figures if it was asked at the next Federal election. In Toronto, the school board released a statement before last Monday’s federal holiday. They instructed teachers to avoid tributes to the Queen in the classroom because the subject could remind students of the personal losses they may have experienced.

“For many people, including the Indigenous people of Canada, this could definitely be a painful event,” said University of Toronto professor Kerry Bowman. “We really have to respect people’s differences on this. Those differences might be participation or they might be choosing to completely stand back from this. And I think that schools should respect that as well.”

Perhaps all the more reason to rethink the idea of a monarchy. Here, the First Nations have agreements to share the country with Canada, via treaties with the Crown, crafted starting in 1763 when King George III said, via Royal Proclamation, that all lands here were his. While there were trade benefits for all from this, we’ve seen what the cost was, including the Residential School system, the Indian Act, and the ready supply of arms to the conquering soldiers. There have been many visits of the Crown to Canada, but seem to be just speeches and photo-ops. Why no real action at all? Not even an apology. Maybe it’s more convenient to claim a need to be apolitical.

But just what sort of monarchy do we have? How would we change it?

We have a constitutional monarchy, meaning the monarch exercises their power within the constraints of a constitution. operating under the Westminister system. King Charles is King of Canada, as we recently acclaimed. More specifically, we have a parliamentary monarchy, such as Australia and Sweden. The Crown is head of state, as opposed to head of the government, and has limited ceremonial powers. Even this is further limited by precedent, such as the power to allow, or not allow, the dissolution of the current government. The Governor General, as the representative of the Crown, always seems to agree with our government. Maybe there are exceptions? Let me know.

What would we change to, if not a monarchy? Some sort of republic, still an elected parliament, but with a president as head of state, I assume. But getting there would be a challenge. We would need the unanimous agreement of all ten provinces to change our form of government, as well as to decide just what this new Canada would look like. While balancing the needs of all those in power, and keeping the economy from crashing from market panics.

Not going to happen in my time.

That’s all for today folks, hope I didn’t bore you, comments welcome. Please sign up here for more from my SubStack. 






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