Opinion: Is it time for a royal flush?


By Dale Peacock

Another Victoria Day come and gone and we are still celebrating the birthday of a dead queen who had been on the throne for 30 years by the time the British colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were federally united into the Dominion of Canada, which morphed over time into the current configuration of ten provinces and three territories. But here we are, almost 150 years after Confederation, with Victoria’s great, great, granddaughter Elizabeth as our head of state.

For many, Victoria Day has always been ‘May 2-4’: the beginning of summer, the first safe date to plant the petunias and the time to haul out the dusty BBQ and fire it up. They may not care or even ask why Canada still has a castle dweller in another continent as the head of state.

For the rest of us, I think there is a lot of the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ mentality in maintaining the status quo. Opinion polls over the years – and there have been many – regularly show that while people tend to believe that it is time to have our own head of state they shy away from the notion of abolishing the monarchy.

Many Canadian nationalists harbour the bizarre fear that should we ever reject royalty, we would instantly mutate into Americans, as though the Canadian sense of self is so frail and delicate a bud, that the only thing stopping it from being swallowed whole by the U.S. is an English lady in a funny hat.Jokes Canadian author and satirist Will Ferguson

Other supporters of the monarchy value the tradition of it all and I understand that. But I don’t see abolishing the monarchy as repudiation of our history and culture. I see it as an embrace of our own unfolding history.

Constitutional chaos is also used as a good reason for maintaining our ties to the monarchy but most Commonwealth countries cut their ties without any degree of  difficulty. Most of them have a prime minister, who leads the elected government, and a president, who is largely the ceremonial head of state. If Canadians squirm at the idea of having a president as ‘too American’ then I’m sure we can come up with a more palatable name for the leader of our new parliamentary republic.

The Queen may just be a figurehead whose powers are largely ceremonial but, even so, I don’t think we need it. There is just something about this vestige of our colonial past that rankles me. I’d like to see a change that better reflects the maturation of Canada than a “Queen of Canada” who doesn’t live here.

As an aside, I doubt that a freshly minted Canadian would question out loud why they are swearing allegiance to a foreign queen, however I’m pretty sure they must wonder why we make them do it!

One of the biggest perceived hurdles to Canada becoming a republic is that the Constitution requires unanimous approval by all the provinces and parliament. But that may have become a whole lot easier due to the passing of the Succession to the Throne Act (Bill C-53). The intent was to modernize rules for royal succession, but in a ploy to avoid a debate on the monarchy, the bill got passed without a constitutional amending formula. And that is – somewhat inadvertently – a break for republicans.

One of the ancillary benefits to ending the monarchy is that doing so will deliver a strong disincentive to the Quebec separatist movement because the oath of allegiance will then be to Canada itself. The idea of pandering to Quebec might not be a good enough reason for some to dump the monarchy but after all these years, do we/they really need to be reminded of the French loss to the British? It seems unnecessarily divisive at this point in Canada’s history.

Even the British periodically debate the monarchy’s merits. Are we just waiting for them to dispose of the monarchy before we decide to become a republic?

Given our culture of celebrity, the desire for change may have waned a bit thanks to the charming Prince William, his winsome wife Kate Middleton and their adorable moppets, Charlotte and George.  I have the utmost respect for Queen Elizabeth and affection for the rest of the Royals. We aren’t banishing them forever; they could still come to visit as they do other Commonwealth countries that are now republics.

“Having the monarchy makes us different from Americans,” is a familiar refrain.  It does, but is hanging on to the last vestiges of colonialism something to celebrate? Canada is different in so many other ways. And, as a parliamentary republic within the Commonwealth, we’d still be different.

Dale Peacock

Dale Peacock

Following a career in the hospitality sector and the acquisition of a law and justice degree in her 50s, Dale embarked on a writing career armed with the fanciful idea that a living could be made as a freelancer.  To her own great surprise she was right.  The proof lies in hundreds of published works on almost any topic but favourites include travel, humour & satire, feature writing, environment, politics and entrepreneurship. Having re-invented herself half a dozen times, Dale doesn’t rule anything out.  Her time is divided equally between Muskoka and Tampa Bay with Jim, her husband of 7 years and partner of 32 years.  Two grown ‘kids’ and their spouses receive double doses of love and attention when she’s at home. 

 Feature artwork courtesy of  www.anglotopia.net

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  1. Rob Millman on

    At the risk of this becoming a habit, I concur completely with Ms. Peacock. Furthermore, I cannot imagine the timing for a change ever being more propitious.

    After all, it was the current Prime Minister’s father who patriated our amended Constitution (the BNA Act), with its embedded Charter of Rights and Freedoms, during his second majority government. Also, this is the first time in our history that we can claim our own “royal couple”. We have Prince Charles to thank for greasing the wheels of Monarchy succession: Why not simply have our Governor General succeed her (pending approval of the British Parliament and Her Majesty)? I would expect that his duties would remain identical; “reporting to the Queen” excepted.

  2. Brian Tapley on

    You can do what you like with the status of the monarchy, but do you really want to change it that much?
    What do you gain by getting rid of it?
    What do you lose by keeping it?
    You can forget it at your peril, and then repeat the same dumb errors of the last few hundred years again and again if that is your choice but this is not very efficient.
    I’m biased I have to admit as my family has a British heritage, but then so does Canada in general. (Wolfe won on the Plains of Abraham!)
    I see nothing wrong with the holiday in memory of a very significant figure from our past history.
    I do think calling it the “2-4” weekend is crude, vulgar and lacks any sign of respect for anything except maybe a particular brand of beer.
    Maybe if you are going to drop the “Victoria day” label, you could call it the “Fireworks” weekend, or “Craft Beer” weekend, or the “garden planting north of the 45th parallel” weekend” but climate change may catch us out on this one too.

    Alternatively, just cancel the names for all the long weekends, cancel all the existing long weekends and just give us every second weekend as a “long weekend”, the others to be regular weekends and forget names altogether. Vastly better for business and family time off, easy to remember, and nearly the same effect.

    I mean if you want to change things, don’t just tinker around…. Make a significant change and have some serious fun doing it!!

  3. Joy Salmon Moon on

    I also am appalled by “2-4 Weekend”. And one of the reasons I want to retain Victoria Day dates back 63 years. I’m on the deck of the “Santa Cecilia” one of the Grace Line ships, travelling from Valparaiso, Chile, through the Panama Canal to New York. An elderly man (NOT gentleman…I did not know his character) asks where I am going after we arrive. I tell him Welland, Ontario, Canada. “Oh, one of the British colonies” says he. “No, Canada is a sovereign country” is my snappy comeback. “We have a prime minister of our own, and a Governor General.” My mother had done a good job of teaching me history, using material sent from Ontario.

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