The transition to a republic will facilitate more effective and transparent government and will introduce real constitutional autonomy.
To say that a modern independent nation fills and administers its highest executive office sounds silly- like saying that the Pope prays or that Woody Allen makes movies. How then to characterize Canada’s head of state- shared with fifteen other nations, the office filled and administered in Britain?
Canada is the only member of the G8 which does not independently administer its own office of head of state. In the G20, Canada and Australia, are the only members which don’t.
The severing of the link with the British monarchy is necessary for Canada to achieve constitutional autonomy and control over its highest executive office.
When Canada takes control of it office of head of state, by filling the position independently and internally, we will achieve another milestone in our evolution as a nation, a milestone as significant as the adoption of our distinctively Canadian flag in 1965 or the patriation of our constitution in 1982.
The office of head of state is understood to have both an executive and a symbolic role. In regards to the latter, the head of state is seen as embodying and expressing a nation’s values and ideals. The heads of state of the U.S., Ireland, India, Germany and Russia, for example, all swore at their inauguration, to uphold their nation’s constitution and/or the rights of its citizens.
Our current head of state, who made no such pledge at her inauguration, is incapable of fulfilling the symbolic function of her office because a monarch is incapable of embodying the core Canadian values of equality and democracy. In fact, monarchy embodies values Canadians have rejected- undemocratic governance, hereditary privilege, inequality and classism.
In a Canadian republic, the office of head of state will be filled using a democratic selection process and the successful candidate will achieve the post on the basis of merit. The office will effectively embody and express the principles of democracy and equality.
The confirmation of Canada’s constitutional autonomy which will come with the severance of ties to the British monarchy will eliminate ambiguities in regards to how our country operates, politically.
That ambiguity exists is evidenced in the appeal, in 2012, by Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, to the Queen, expressing her suspicion that Canada’s government is illegitimate and asking that the Queen authorize a Royal Commission to investigate electoral infractions. (Remarkably, May, who identified herself as the Queen’s “obedient and humble servant”, didn’t find it odd to be asking a hereditary monarch to do something about our “endangered” democracy.) The Queen declined to intervene.
Ambiguity was also on display when the previous Governor General, Michael Jean, called herself Canada’s head of state and was then corrected by Harper, who informed her that she wasn’t.
Controversy and a legal challenge by two Quebec law professors, Patrick Taillon and Genevieve Motard, have resulted from Canada’s quick parliamentary approval of the British government’s revision of the royal rules of succession. In particular, these questions are being asked: How is that protocols affecting our office head of state can be altered by British legislation? Considering that our constitution requires provincial approval for any changes to the “office of the Queen” wasn’t their accord necessary?
While the proposed change will make the rules of succession less sexist, it won’t remove the bigoted stipulation that our head of state cannot be Catholic and must be an Anglican. Can a violation of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms that is entrenched in our constitution be tolerated?
Confusion and ambiguity of the sort described above arise from Canada’s identification with an archaic form of government which is incompatible with the democratic and egalitarian principles we have embraced.
The adoption of the republican option will remove the embarrassing incongruities inherent to the current arrangement. In a republic the roles and function of our highest executive are as clearly delineated and codified as other official posts.
The transformation to a republic will give Canada the constitutional autonomy most other modern states take for granted. It will enable our office of head of state to embody and express core values upheld by our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It will facilitate transparency and clarity in regards to the powers and responsibilities of our highest executive office.
As a republic, Canada will more fully live up to its own ideals.