Thursday, May 03, 2007

We Should Get Rid Of The Monarchy

Probably not a popular opinion, but I have to agree with Quebec's Intergovernmental Affairs Minister when he questions the role of the monarchy in Canada. Can anyone question why Quebecers don't embrace what essentially amounts to a symbolic reminder of unpleasant history?

I've never been a fan of ceremony, empty office and largely irrelevant symbolism. I've never been particularly impressed with a political system, wherein elected officials need clearance for an election by what amounts to a imperialist mascot. That said, my bias openly admitted, I see a practical need to erase any overt monarchist ties.

People will argue that figures like the Governor General serve a practical purpose. That may be true in certain instances, although you could easily counter that another civil servant could fill any obligation, without the symbolism of British rule. The question for Canada, if we are truly inclusive, then where is the harm in removing the historical example of conquerer? If you want to engage Quebec, in a way that really isn't earth shattering to the federation, then it would send a powerful message if Canada evolved into a more unique entity.

I don't blame Quebecers for questioning the role of the monarchy, for obvious reasons. Why keep an institution that has no positive connotation for a segment of Canada's population? Why not remove the irritant, and in so doing demonstrate a sensitivity? I understand the constitutional implications which might make this opinion impractical, but from a "greater good" position, with minimal relevant fallout, I say we can easily afford to lose the monarchy.


Anonymous said...

Here, here I agree.

Canada needs to grow up. We have our own Constitution now, why not our independence.

We don't really need the Monarchy. There are some traditionalist who worship the Monarchy and as I've heard it, governments didn't go into this before because polls showed that the majority wanted to keep it. But I doubt that would be the same now. Yes, there are some but I doubt a majority anymore - with immigration and all.

Let's be a "real" country. Become our own and rename ourselves United Canada.

Sounds like a good plan to me.

A Quantum Liberal said...

Agreed, toss her.

Replace the governor generals' with some sort of rotating symbol of Canada's multicultural heritage and demographic reality; Inuit, Frist Nations, French Canadian, English Canadian etc. Have them tour the country promoting unity and our shared values.

Lizt. said...

With Harper thinking about joining us with the U.S, and Mexico, we need the Monarchy to prevent this and in becoming a Republic

AQL said...

How would the monarchy protect us from a NAU?

Loony in LotusLand said...

In the Canada of today my fourth grade teacher would be dragged before a human rights tribunal or a Commons' committee for leading her pupils in the singing of God Save the Queen or heaven forbid the Maple Leaf Forever in her classroom. Canadians should actuality start believing in ourselves as a nation, by not rejecting the traditions and culture of a younger Canada,nor should our educators attempt to keep revising history to fit new political fancies. Unlike our revolutionary republican cousins in the USA (by the people for the people) , Canada's Parliamentary democracy vests all power, authority and legitimacy in the Crown. The Crown appoints as Prime Minister the elected politician who can command a working government by having the confidence of the House of Commons. The Yankees directly (sort of) elect their head of state every four years and that person who becomes President has the legitimate authority (subject to the checks and balances of the Congress and the Supreme Court) to govern. The Monarchy cannot just be abolished in Canada or Great Britain for that matter without devising an entirely new form of legitimate democratic governance to exist. Are you suggesting an American style Republic, or perhaps a committee of old political hacks, or perhaps the current Prime Minister to appoint the Governor General? Just checking for alternatives.

Anonymous said...

I would say that we should keep the Queen, at least for now. It seems to me that it would cause a lot of problems if we tried to open the constitution to get rid of her, and quite frankly the monarchy simply isn't worth the effort. I would say that we should wait until we find an appropriate way to reform the Senate to open up constitutional debates and then get rid of the outdated monarchical system and introduce a new Senate all in one fell swoop.

BTW, what has loony been smoking. "The Crown appoints as Prime Minister the elected politician who can command a working government by having the confidence of the House of Commons." Maybe on paper, but the Crown hasn't appointed anyone in a long time. The Prime Minister makes all the decision and he is 'appointed' by the mere fact that has controls more seats then the rest. What Her Majesty believes or wants doesn't ever enter into it. Also, the Prime Minister already does appoint the GG, been that way for decades


knb said...

Steve, you show courage in raising this.

I will not get into a heated debate over this, but would take issue with your belief that Quebecer's want to see this happen.

Separtists, yes, Quebecers?, I suggest that they feel on the whole, as for and as against, as the rest of Canada does.

I'm a Quebecer, (ex), that happens to enjoy the pomp and ceremony. In historical terms, do I think of what happened, of course. I had a french Mom and have an english (Scottish) Dad. That particular history, is both relevant and interesting.

I beg you not to put "Quebecers" into one box. Ontario certainly can not be summed up that way.

In current terms, I think now would be precisely the wrong time for Canada to rid herself of the Monarchy.

We are watching the march of those who would prefer any system other than the parliamentary one. I would not give them an inch to make that more possible.

Just my thoughts.

IslandLiberal said...

I like the ceremony of the monarchy, and I have a huge amount of respect for Queen Elizabeth, so I don't see a need to get rid of her.

If nothing else, I'd miss the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Steve V said...


I'm sorry for the generalizations, they rarely work. Having said that, the recent uproar over a possible appearance of the Queen at the Quebec City celebrations does say something about attitude.
I appreciate your perspective, I don't claim to have intimate knowledge of the other solitude :)

Red Tory said...

Steve — Would it be fair to assume that you are proposing a republic of some sort instead?

Steve V said...


I'm not proposing that we erase our parliamentary system, or that we ignore our history. I just think we can modernize, to better reflect the practical and do away with mostly symbolic ritual. I don't think all Canadians share the view that she is "our" Queen, which seems strange for a supposed nation.

Loony in LotusLand said...

Anon; I am smoking nothing but the best BC bud. We west coasters are certainly regarded as the greenest and flakiest children of Confederation. Now I know by experience that I could never drink with someone from the Rock, although (throw in a by thundering Jesus Bye at this point) but I could smoke with him. The GG certainly has the power to not dissolve Parliament and call an election even if requested by the PM, but rather ask another leader to form a Government. True enough that the PM now defacto appoints the GG by making his/her choice known to the Queen as opposed to the Monarch making that choice, however; most of these recent appointments have been relatively uncontroversial, although there are certainly no guarantees for the future. But what is the nation of Canada? Other than a few unfortunate orphans, who are unable to have knowledge of their biological parents, the confusion lies between roots and nation. Race has very little to do with it, but rather heritage is the determining factor. I am British by birth, even though one side of my family comes from India. Everyone or their family is from somewhere which are ones' roots. The nation of Canada welcomes people from all different roots as long as they truly believe themselves to be Canadian. Canada can never be a nation until we ask ourselves to be proud to be Canadian and accept the constantly evolving founding societal norms. God save the Queen and good night

The JF said...

Hear, hear, Steve!

There's probably some Acadian monarchist somewhere, but I know that most Acadians are also against the monarchy because for us, refusing to swear allegeance to the Queen caused a horrible attempted genocide on Acadians, in which it's estimated half of Acadians died, and a certain number served as slaves to British colonists that settled the land they had taken from the Acadians...

If ever elected to office, I don't know how I could serve, for I would have to do what my ancestors refused to do, and died for it (although, their refusal was on a more pragmatic reason, and the causes for their deportation are more than that, but it boils down to that, basically) I know Acadian politicians just do it anyways, but it's a terrible insult to me. Unfortunately, my own personal feelings, no matter how much it would mean to me, are not really a reason to change a constitution, since I'm sure there's a monarchist somewhere who would hurt and be insulted by Canada becoming a republic.

But... I think I'll write a post on this eventually, with actual pragmatic arguments. Just wanted to let you know that I'm behind you on this though.

Mark Dowling said...

Steve V

There are plenty of reasons for becoming an independent republic - placating Quebec is NOT one of them. As pointed out in an earlier comment, it might be an issue of note for the separatists (as opposed to Quebecers generally) but separatists given their way on issues find new issues to fight about (like when Denis Coderre opens his stupid yap).

Replacing the monarchy with a justification to placate separatists would further enrage people in places like Victoria who can't get enough monarchy.

Finally - while my home country has been generally lucky with elected non-executive presidents since we accidentally elected someone who wasn't a politician put out to pasture (Mary Robinson), would Canada prefer Bush or Betty Windsor right now? In some ways it would be better to have Elizabeth here in Canada to "advise and warn" our own reckless PM.

Anonymous said...

Get rid of PM - then proceed.

It's not just about Quebecers - it's about Canada growing up.

JimBobby said...

Whooee! I'm right alongside you on this one, Stevie.

Monarchy means that some people, by virtue of nothing other than birthright, are better than others. Subjects of royalty are required to lavish the unworthy with riches and oppulence beyond the imagination of most mere mortals.

Such an idea is incompatible with notions of equality and democracy.

One thing that many "natural born" Canajuns don't realize is that immigranst to Canada, if they wish to become Canajun citizens, are required to swear an oath of fealty to the queen and her successors. I suspect that if all Canajuns were required to raise their right hands and swear an oath of allegiance to the blueblooded British royal family, we might be quicker to realize how demeaning and patently unfair a monarchical system is.

We can respect the past without living in it. Mankind has moved beyond the notion that certain people are born better than others and deserve wealth and our abject loyalty for no other reason than that they were born.

Red-blooded Canajun

Steve V said...

"We can respect the past without living in it."

Well said JB.


I agree, hardcore separatists will just move to another issue, but it might be a solid gesture, without real institutional change.

dalestreet said...

From a practical and financial standpoint the Monarchy is a very good option. The GG costs the taxpayers very little when compared to other Heads of State and rarely, if ever tries to exercise any authority or power over our elected Parliament and Government. If we were to replace the GG with an elected Head of State, then we would run the risk of the office becoming politicised/partisan and eager to exercise whatever powers they possessed. If we abolished the office altogether and made the PM Head of State then we would run into similar probems where our top diplomat has a political agenda. If you want to make a change, then we should set-up our own unelected, resident, titular, powerless Monarch. Though that would cost us considerably more than the GG currently does.

Red Tory said...

Steve — With all due respect, that’s complete pap and an evasive dodge of my question. Can I also ask out of curiosity what prompted your posing the question in the first place? Was it something in particular, or just the perennial feeling that arises every so often that the monarchy is a pointless anachronism? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fair issue to raise and I sympathize with many of the sentiments expressed here, it just strikes me that the consequences of it haven’t been fully considered.

Steve V said...

"just the perennial feeling that arises every so often that the monarchy is a pointless anachronism"

That's pretty much it. I apologize if I'm "dodging", but my real point is why do we still endorse the medieval notion of royalty, which conveys the symbolism of institutional inequalities and elitism. As to consequence, there is really nothing practical in my opinion, given the clusterfuck any tinkering would lead to :)

Loony in LotusLand said...

Having slept on the matter and giving due considerations to all of the options, and not to mention my baagie appears to be empty, here is the final solution. Canadians replace the British Royals with our own! No more arguments about being too British, which should appease the Quebecois, former colonials and other assorted ethnic groups. I nominate Andy Demerais to be the King (nothing to do with MacKenzie King) of Canada. The rational being that he and his family have essentially bee running the country for the last three decades anyway, we might as well formalize the relationship. God save King Demerais!

Red Tory said...

Steve — I’ve pretty much arrived at the same conclusion, which is why I asked. I’m not a fan of the monarchy, but I don’t see an acceptable alternative. Sort of like what Churchill said about democracy, you know...

Josh Gould said...

Abolishing the monarchy would be nearly impossible - it's one of those tricky subjects which requires the unanimity of the provinces and Parliament.

Otherwise, the Crown as an abstract principle is integral to the legal system, with co-equal authority over provincial and federal governments alike. I'm not sure how that would be replaced. That being said, abolishing the monarchy does not imply an elected head of state - countries like Germany, Italy, Israel, and India all have presidents (elected by parliaments) who play little more than a ceremonial role and, in any case, don't take part in partisan politics.

So... it wouldn't require a fundamental change in the parliamentary system per se, but there would be a lot of things, some symbolic, some not so symbolic, that would need to be changed.

(And with respect to "God Save the Queen" - it's sung at convocation ceremonies at my university.)

Steve V said...

"And with respect to "God Save the Queen" - it's sung at convocation ceremonies at my university."

Johnny Rotten would be pleased :)

Mark Dowling said...

Loony in Lotusland

Canadians have their own monarchy - all we need to do is crown the Queen Mother (Margaret), the Queen (Sophie) and of course King Justin. Just like the Yanks with the Kennedys.

I will find it easier when the time comes to choke down swearing allegiance to Betty, Stavros and the rest of the Buckingham Palace Munsters than putting up a stream of "Margaret and Sophie visit poor people" CTV specials.

One upside of monarchy is not having to put with high spending election campaigns and the cost of the vote itself. Having an elected President, even a titular one, costs more than a GG and doesn't mean it won't embarrass you - just ask Israel. We've been here before with C-60, and we have enough pressing issues without "stirring up a hornet's nest with a short stick".

Anonymous said...

Interesting discussion. Republican-minded commentators might be interested in another online discussion:

It's hosted by Canada's republican movement