AUGUST 4, 2014. This past June James Cudmore at CBC News reported that : “At a time of federal belt-tightening, the Conservative government’s return to World War II-era ranks and insignia will require new dress uniforms for Canadian soldiers and naval officers at a cost of $4.5 million.”
As Cudmore also noted, these “costs are part of a host of changes announced since 2011 to return certain Canadian ranks and titles to their traditional equivalents. Both the navy and air force acquired the title ‘Royal’ in their name.”
This host of changes has been part of a wider strategy of trying to revive the old colonial folkways of the British monarchy in Canada.
The year 2011 is important, because that is when the present federal government finally managed to win a majority of seats in the Canadian House of Commons — with less than 40% of the cross-country vote of the Canadian people!
With this mere majority of seats in the federal parliament, a more regressive conservative monarchist agenda than had been possible under earlier minority governments began to unfold. (That is how Canada seems to work these days!)
Yet only a few years later there was growing evidence that — even with the fabled royal wedding of Prince William and the lovely Catherine Middleton, at the end of April 2011 — the wider monarchy revival strategy was just not working.
A Harris/Decima teleVox survey of more than 2,000 suitably sampled individuals, “between January 31st through February 11th, 2013,” found that “a majority of Canadians (55%) want to change to a Canadian head of state, while only 34% want to continue with a member of the British royal family as Canada’s head of state.”
Another year later again, we have now had a mid-summer 2014 blossoming of similar encouraging intelligence, over the past month or so.
1. Uniting Canadians?
To start with, a Leger Marketing online survey, between June 24 and June 26, 2014, asked a sample of 1,509 respondents across the country to rank 11 items “in terms of whether they help unite Canadians.”
The first choices were, in descending order : “Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (25%) ; Universal health care (22%) ; Hockey (12%) ; A shared history (11%) ; Multiculturalism (9%) ; Respect for provincial jurisdiction (6%) ; Official languages law/bilingualism (4%) ; Equalization transfer payments (4%) ; National transportation network (3%) ; The threat of Americanization (2%) ; and (last and least) The monarchy (2%).”
2. Retired diplomat Paul Heinbecker on Canada Day
This past Canada Day — Tuesday, July 1, 2014 — the Globe and Mail published an article by the retired Canadian diplomat Paul Heinbecker. It was headlined “The monarchy hurts Canada’s standing in the world. It’s time to let go.”
The article began with : “Fealty to the British monarchy is an anachronism and a drag on Canadian foreign policy that confuses many and delivers little. It is time to turn the page on Buckingham Palace.”
We may not all agree with Mr. Heinbecker’s views on just how to get from here to there. But they are worth thinking about : “We can start by again treating the Governor General as the de facto head of state in all ways that the constitution does not actually preclude.” And the holder of this office “should represent Canada on all occasions of state at home and abroad.”
Paul Heinbecker goes on : “Further, we should change the Oath of Citizenship to require new Canadians to swear allegiance not to ‘to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors…’ but just to Canada, and to the Canadian Constitution and rule of law. ”
Finally : “When the day comes that Canadians are ready to change the Constitution in order to reform the Senate, we should also de-link from the monarchy and select our own Head of State … In the meantime, we should prepare for that joyous day by retiring the portraits of the royal family from our foreign ministry and offices abroad and curtailing royal visits to Canada .”
Mr. Heinbecker concluded with a compelling thought, for anyone who agrees with his view of the monarchy in Canada : “And we should elect a government willing to make these changes.”
3. The new reign in Spain and King Charles III in the Canadian future ????
A few weeks after Paul Heinbecker’s Canadian republican wishes for Canada Day, Ashok Charles, executive director of Republic Now/République du Canada, posted an intriguing piece on the counterweights blogazine : “The new reign in Spain shows how we need to start thinking about the future of the British monarchy in Canada.”
Mr. Charles began by noting that “Last month’s abdication of King Juan Carlos I of Spain in favour of his son triggered a fierce debate on the future of monarchy in Spain. It also brought out tens of thousands of republicans to rallies in Madrid, Barcelona, and other cities.”
He went on : “There are good reasons for Canadians to consider and debate the implications of an upcoming transition in our own monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II is 88 years old, and the assumption of her role as our head of state by her son [Charles III of Canada ??] will be a matter of mortality rather than abdication, but otherwise the same issues are raised — democracy, egalitarianism, and political evolution.”
The Republic Now executive director concluded his blog posting with : “Canada, too, ought to be responsive to its coming royal transition … in our current circumstances the federal government ought to be initiating a nation-wide exploration of our future relationship with the British monarchy … Constitutional experts should be assessing our available options. Citizens’ forums and town halls should be probing the will of the Canadian people. Eventually, no doubt, some kind of federal-provincial conference should be held. Perhaps a national referendum is called …No self-respecting nation should blithely accept a new head of state, for life, solely on the basis of a hereditary succession in another country.”
4. “It is time Canada’s head of state move into the 21st century, became sovereign, and most of all, Canadian”
Just a few days ago, this past July 29, 2014 the Queen’s University graduate researcher Justin Mathews posted a related intriguing piece on the Queen’s Journal website.
This piece was called (presumably with some irony) “Happy Monarchy Day.” But Mr. Matthews is far from happy about the British monarchy in Canada. He writes that : “While Canada remains undoubtedly successful in its multicultural experiment, it is unbelievable and bizarre to learn that Canada is still beholden to the British laws of succession that dictate expressly, that Canada’s head of state cannot adhere to any form of religion save for Anglican Christian … .”
He continues : “Canada’s antiquated traditions that pay homage to the British monarch extend even to the Citizenship Act, which requires applicants to swear to ‘bear true allegiance to Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors’ … It is simply antithetical and hypocritical to a multicultural democracy that aspires to meritocratic advancement, that we routinely criticize the inept democratically elected leaders of our neighbours to the south, and praise our head of state for winning the lottery and being born ‘royal’.”
Justin Mathews concludes : “Undoubtedly our own polity is enriched by the traditions of British common law and parliamentarianism, but as history has quite clearly indicated, Canada has rightly evolved her own separate national identity … It is time Canada’s head of state move into the 21st century, became sovereign, and most of all, Canadian.” And all of us who believe in Republic Now/République du Canada’s primary mission — “to advocate for the replacement of the non-resident British monarch as our Head of State with a democratically-selected resident Canadian” — can only say Amen to that.