Saturday, September 10, 2011

Monarchy in Canada: Anachronism?

I have dual British and Canadian citizenship.

In Britain I think the monarchy is a wonderful thing: It brings many tourists, it helps provide cultural cohesion, it reminds people about the richness of their history.

But in Canada, things are not so clear. Prime Minister Harper brought back 'Royal' to the military and has asked embassies to display a picture of the Queen. However, this funny satire by Jeffrey Simpson points out how such changes probably look very odd to many in the country, and even odder to outsiders.

Canada's head of state is the Queen, who occasionally visits, and has her image on all our coins. We probably get some tourism and cultural cohesion value from the monarchy, like Britain. But I think that emphasizing the monarchy will do more harm than good. A great many Quebeckers will feel a little more alienated, and international observers will take Canada a little less seriously.

Do I think we should abolish the monarchy in Canada? Perhaps, but I would prefer to use some term other than 'abolish', and I think we should not do it while Elizabeth II is on the throne. Perhaps we could talk about 'evolving' the monarchy.

I would not like to see an elected president: That would just result in more divisive partisan politics. I would prefer to see the official head of state be the Governor-General, who would eventually become chosen from a group of elder statespersons from all parties, chosen both by the Federal and Provincial governments as well as the aboriginal people. A similar thing would happen with the Lieutenant-Governors of the provinces. Perhaps the elder states persons group could create a private shortlist from which the Prime Minister would finally pick, in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition.

But to preserve a link to the past, perhaps the reigning British monarch could then be given several honorary titles in Canada, such as Honourary Prince/Princess, or Honorary Commander of the Military.

The above would result in formal legal changes to the way government works, but in practice we would continue to be governed as we are now. It would also result in removing the need to have the monarch's image on every coin, and other things that irritate some people. And we could even keep the names 'Royal Canadian Navy' and 'Royal Canadian Air Force' as long as the rank and file members support that.

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