Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Royal Pain In The Ass

With all the hullaballo around Michaelle Jean and her FLQ friends, the debate over the position of Governor General has been put on the backburner. But it’s still a debate worth having. So I’ll come out and say it bluntly – we should abolish the Monarchy.

I recognize the support may not be there for it right now but it’s hard to argue we’re not heading in that direction. When cases were being made for different politicians in the Greatest PM contest, I was shocked by the number of “legacy” items related to Canada asserting it’s independence for Great Britain: confederation, signing for ourselves in Versailles, the Statute of Westminster, Canadian flag, repatriation of the constitution. Our history has been a gradual move towards complete Canadian sovereignty and the logical conclusion to that is to replace the Queen with a Canadian head of state.

Although the head of state is merely symbolic, I really have issues with what it symbolizes on two levels. Firstly, having a British head of state implies we’re not a full fledged independent country. Some Canadians may still feel strongly about our ties to Great-Britain but do French Canadians? Do immigrants? Canadians from India may not have fond memories of the crown. Canada is no longer a British country and it’s time we brought our institutions up to speed with reality.

Secondly, and most importantly, the Monarchy is a hereditary institution. It says that certain people are better than others from birth. To me, this is completely contradictory to the values of most Canadians (and most Britons too, I'd wager). If we had a Canadian head of state, no one would advocate making it a hereditary position so why do we put up with it in the current situation?

It may not be worth the hassle to abolish the Monarchy right now but the only reason to keep it around is out of a sense of tradition. And generally if that’s the only reason to keep something around, it’s likely not worth preserving.

34 Comments:

  • Here here. If we were building Canada from scratch, it wouldn't be a constitutional monarchy. The only reason it is today is because it was yesterday. And that still doesn't mean it's worth actually doing anything about.

    By Blogger Gauntlet, at 2:10 AM  

  • On the notion that tradition is no reason not to destroy something, you might want to ask the Chinese what they think of the cultural revolution *now*.

    By Blogger matt, at 2:54 AM  

  • I just hope we're not the ones to open up Pandora's box!
    The role, while symbolic, still plays an important part in Canadian culture - rather I should say, it ought to. An independent head of state who can act as a representative of the country outside of the trenches of political discourse is essential. While I recognize this is no argument *for* the monarchy, tradition still holds some weight, even if it isn't very heavy.

    By Blogger Keegan, at 8:52 AM  

  • While blood-line elitism might not be consistent with the values of Canadians, Britons, Swedes, Danes, Dutch, etc., all of these eqalitarian countries still are constitutional monarchies. The role of the monarchy has changed over the years and I would argue that it should play an important role still.

    Modern constitutional monarchies in western Europe are different now. The monarch is the ceremonial head of state, a symbol of loyalty and of the nation, and a non-partisan person who can rally all of the people together whether its in rememberance of those who sacrificed themselves in war time, or in celebrating the national holiday. They are above the partisan bickering and arguing of everyday governance and are a symbol of sanity and stability (usually, yes I know there are exceptions but I'm speaking generally).

    In the US and France by comparison, the head of state is a politician who is also engaged in partisan debates and has specific political allegiances to certain parties and ideologies. By contrast, the monarch (or in our case the GG) is supposed to be above this and to deal with issues that unite us and strengthen us as a nice. It is a nice ceremonial position that ties us to tradition but also provides a symbol of leadership for our nation that isn't tied in partisan bickering. I would argue that this means that our head of state commands more respect and loyalty than elected ones such as in France and the US.

    In the end, I am a proud supporter of maintaining the current system in Canada. I think that the glamours pomp and ceremony is a wonderful thing and that our ties to Britain have made us a classy, northern European-like nation.

    I will point out one other thing. Whether or not the majority of Canadians eventually that the monarchy should go is completely irrelevant. According to the constitution, to make this change, parliament and every province must agree to it. I am proud to say that I live in a province that will most likely oppose such a move. Hurray for Nova Scotia!

    (Note: PEI probably wouldn't support it either).

    By Blogger Maritime Liberal, at 9:32 AM  

  • I'm with Maritime Liberal on this one. I like that the position is fairly non-partisan; I like that the position is a reminder of our past and all of its triumphs and horrors; I like that our head of state is typically a uniting figure, rather than a dividing figure; I like wine corks made out of actual cork. It is the romantic in me.

    By Blogger Manatee, at 10:05 AM  

  • I'll add my voice to the chorus. An elected head of state represents the division in society between political majorities and minorities. The Crown and its representatives (Monarch, GG, LtGs) represent the unity of Canada.

    Besides, is there a better 'head-of-state-training-school' than the House of Windsor? I can't think of anyone who is better qualified to perform the functions of a head of state than Elizabeth II. Same goes for her heirs and successors.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:16 AM  

  • Why can't we have an impartial head of state that's Canadian? I mean, you could keep the concept of a GG, but have that person be the sole head of state, not some inbred from across the pond. The King or Queen of England, is determined by birth order, males before females, and has to be the head of the Church of England, meaning a Sikh, Catholic, Jew, Muslim, Budhist, etc will never make it on our $20 bill, not very pluralistic. Others argue that the Commonwealth is an important institution...bullshit. Even if it was, most Commonwealth countries have replaced the Queen as their head of state, and still retain membership. It doesn't mean we have to drastically change our government, or become some American/French type of republic, we could still have an appointed GG or whomever that provides a ceremonial function and is the head of state, not the Windsors.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:22 AM  

  • The most vocal critics of the last GG were those Conservatives most clearly defined as 'America-lovers'.

    Are we not missing their point that it's the 'idea' of the Crown and French Canada that keep from being Americans?

    Remove either of these and what's left for cultural differences is pretty airy-fairy and not any more than between Alabama and San Francisco.

    It's an odd state of affairs that the retention of a common head of state contributes to national identity, but it's one of the cards we've been dealt and we best play it wisely.

    David

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:29 AM  

  • I personally would never take the offer as I would have to take oath to protect the Queen. The queen does not even reside in Canada. I would have supported traditional Monarchy if the Queen lived in Canada and served the people of Canada. Moreover, her ancestors enslaved and tortured my ancestors and the queen or her family has never appologised for it, no one ever asked for a compensation, but refusal to admit and accept is not a character that I want to see with a head of state, atleast not in Canada. The Monarchy should be dismantled after the Queens time is over and replaced with a Canadian republic system.

    By Anonymous Vijay Sappani, at 10:47 AM  

  • I cannot believe in that we are living in the 21st century and our head of state is someone who has not earned nor been elected to the position.

    I'm a conservative but I'm amazed at the contradiction in my party which approves of the monarchy but disapproves of affirmative action in favour of a meritocracy.

    You can't have a meritocracy when your head of state did not achieve her position based on merit.

    Down with the monarchy! I'm a subject of no one.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:27 AM  

  • I can't believe this fuss over an unelected head of state when our Senate is unelected...

    By Blogger matt, at 12:41 PM  

  • Here..Here..
    For once I am in agreement with C.C.
    I am a Conservative who thinks its time that we cut our ties with the monarchy. We must have an elected Head of State representing CANADA...One that will not be a token for votes...

    By Blogger DorionHawk, at 12:42 PM  

  • Vijay, I am sure some of your ancestors(anyones' for that matter) did bad things to someone elses ancestors somewhere back in history. Have you appologized to them?

    We use the english language and use a British parlimentary system and owe many other things to the British.

    Constitutional monarchy is here to stay. No one will be able to agree on anything to replace it. Its not perfect but it ours and it will work as well as anything else proposed.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:53 PM  

  • The FLQ consorting sow as my Governor General is a wake up call to us all. It makes me sick. Whatever else the rules, he or she must be elected and not hand picked by a foundering corrupt minority government leading PM.

    By Blogger bijoux55, at 1:02 PM  

  • Rather than distancing ourselves from the English perhaps we should incorporate a few French and immigrant traditions. Perhaps the First Nations National Chief should take over the role of GG.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:37 PM  

  • I see no benefit to having an elected head-of-state. The present system works fine; provided that we keep on appointing our own GG, there is simply no good reason for starting all the ruckus that would result from changing the system.

    By Anonymous richard, at 1:41 PM  

  • bijoux55 said...
    "The FLQ consorting sow as my Governor General is a wake up call to us all. It makes me sick."

    How easily you've been swayed by the right-wing propaganda.

    I read a quote relating to this episode from a quebecer which basically said that as a quebecer, if you'd never flirted with seperation, you had no heart. Having grown up bilingual on th ON/QC border, i can see where they were coming from. I find the west's judgement of quebec (and vice-versa) lacks understanding and insight.

    But that's beside the point. Jean has repeatedly affirmed her commitment to canada since the appointment, even going so far as renouncing her French citizenship. Let her do her job already and judge her by her current actions.

    Furthermore, like many previous posters, I'm also of the opinion that appointees are often (though not always) stronger champions for the everyman/woman than elected officials. I'd hate it if we moved towards american-style elected judges & sheriffs.

    By Anonymous marco, at 1:48 PM  

  • Anonymous 10:23,

    I dont want to rake up a nationalist war of words here, but it was not my ancestors who put the british on ships and sent them to work as slaves, it was the other way around. The Queens still has the Kohinoor diamond in her corwn stolen from India by her Army, The peacock throne and the sowrd of Tipu sultan and several other arefacts valued at billions of dollars still in her locker. The Monarchy refuses to return it to India and the artefacts stolen from several other countries back to them.

    That is another topic, but why should I pledge my allegiance to the Queen when she rules by remote control. The Monarchy of every other country lives there, ex: Britan, Spain, Morocco, Netherlands etc. It was the people of Canada who have given me this new life, not the queen, my allegiance is to the people and a person elected by them, not a figurative head sitting in a castle thousands of kms away.

    If the Queen lived in Canada then its a totally different issue. The queen has never been for the people, served the people and will never do it, even at times of difficulty. Where was the Queen when stroms hit NS, where was the queen when people in BC suffered from Fires, where was the queen during the Beef ban, and where is she now, during our lumber dispute. A person who cannot serve and protect her people is just a quir and not a queen.

    By Anonymous Vijay Sappani, at 3:46 PM  

  • I'm generally with you on this CG. There is no reason to be tied to Britain. However, we are so far off and I don't think the symbolic importance of having a Canadian head of state outways the real costs that would be involved in making the legal and constitutional changes. Not yet at any rate. Need a good crisis for us all to get interested enough in the issue I would think and the position is just so irrelevant that that is unlikely.

    Even still, though, I still think it is a good idea to have a non-partisan head of state, whether elected or not (and an elected head would always end up being partisan). And she gave an awesome speech after all that I think will really help our unity as a nation. Even Coyne was wowed.

    TB
    Cerberus

    By Blogger Cerberus, at 3:48 PM  

  • I point to the record of Amercian presidents (especially the two Bushes) as evidence that electing a head-of-state produces results no more egalitarian than a monarchy--in fact while three of Britain's longest-serving and most-popular sovereigns have been women no American president has.

    Studies have shown (seriously, just Google it) that elected heads-of-state are more expensive to maintain. I imagine this has a lot to do with the fact that they tend to spread the money around in order to get re-elected.

    The bottom line though is that we do have a Canadian head of state. HM is just as much Queen of Canada as she is of any of the commonwealth realms.

    God Save the Queen

    By Blogger Rhetoric, at 4:22 PM  

  • Unlike almost all of you I get to say what I like about the FLQ consorting sow.

    The windows in my house were blown out by the FLQ. They destroyed my childhood. They are not only terrorists they are criminals and a GG appointment and all the riches we have to offer is that b*t#5 prize for consorting with them.

    They got what they wanted by blowing people up and terrorising people. This is what it has come to.

    This country is corrupt and rotten to the core and she fits in nicely.

    Don't dare patronize me. I have cousins who are bilingual, francophone and anglophone. I am a Canadian although the rest of you appear to have forgotten what that means.

    By Blogger bijoux55, at 4:29 PM  

  • Just because we remove the Queen as our head of state, it doesn't mean we'd have to have an elected head of state. The Globe had a few editorials on this today and one of their suggestions was to have the companions to the order of Canada select the head of state. I'm not saying that's the best route to go, but there are alternatives to electing our head of state outright.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 4:33 PM  

  • CG is right, the head of state doesn't have to be elected, but perhaps more than anything, really doesn't have to represent Great Britain.

    The funny thing here is that Michaëlle Jean, in a lot of her Radio-Canada interventions, always emphasized her ties to Haïti and how brutal French colonialism helped shaping the Haitian identity. Her husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond, wrote, criticized and discussed colonialism quite extensively as well---in films, books and on Radio-Canada. Now they've become the vice-regal couple, which in my view is one of the very last colonial positions (however nominal or symbolic it may be) in the world.

    Very ironic indeed.

    By Blogger Alex B., at 8:28 PM  

  • The companions could also select the GG and leave the Queen out of it.

    Imho, we should ditch the Queen not because we can, and not because we're not compelled to keep her beyond tradition, but because there's something better above and beyond options tweaking the GG process. I haven't heard any on this board.

    By Blogger matt, at 11:21 PM  

  • I have no problem with the GG office either - it would be nice to have selection criteria to start!

    Who know's I may end up with the job one of these days!

    By Anonymous pale, at 8:15 AM  

  • I have no problem with the GG office either - it would be nice to have selection criteria to start!

    Who know's I may end up with the job one of these days!

    By Anonymous pale, at 8:18 AM  

  • In other news, CalgaryGrit has announced that John Manley is his choice to be the next leader of the Liberal party. . .

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:49 PM  

  • We had our chance to get rid of the monarchy in 1776. We blew it. We showed ourselves to be loyal and now we have to live with it.

    I am sure Belinda will have no problem with being disloyal.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:04 PM  

  • I personally like the idea of the head of state not being a politician. It makes it so that they can concentrate on spreading the good news that is Canada instead of staying home and worrying about getting re-elected. I still like having someone fill the position, and I think it would be nice to have someone represent us and not England.

    By Blogger UWHabs, at 9:16 PM  

  • A few years ago someone wrote a letter to The Globe and Mail, saying that in terms of priority on the list of problems facing Canada, the issue of the monarchy was about number 210. I think that about sums it up. But it's interesting to note that, just as Canada never became independent all at once, but evolved into independence, so the Governor General is becoming less and less simply a stand-in for the monarch and more and more Canada's de facto head of state. The ceremony for Jean the other day demonstrated that.

    By Blogger Aeolus, at 11:48 PM  

  • Reading the comments on this topic was an enlightening experience for me. People have given this topic a lot more thought than I imagined.

    One of the most compelling observations was that the Queen does not live here or do anything to advance Canada. Even when there was a public outcry and thousands of people wrote her to object to the apppointment of Michaelle Jean as GG she was mute. As I suppose she has to be. If we have a Head of State who will not help us or stand up for us in our time of need maybe it is time to repatriate the Head of State.

    The Governor General role is potentially an important one in a time of constitutional crisis.

    This person should have a history of service and contribution to the Country, exemplify the best that Canada has to offer, preferably but not necessarily have expertise in legislation and constitutional law, and be impartial. I do not invision a general election. Names could be put forward to Parliament and there should be an attempt to rotate the Head of State from each province and territory. The Head of State would not have to be Canadian born but native Canadians would not be excluded.

    We are big boys and girls now. It is time to bring the Head of State home to Canada.

    By Blogger bijoux55, at 11:50 PM  

  • God save our Queen, and Heaven bless the Maple Leaf forever!

    I'd be very sorry to see the institution go, but I'm living in "the great Republic" now anyway.

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    By Blogger blogger1272, at 11:38 PM  

  • I would never support a republic here in Canada. I would rather have a foreign born Monarch as my Head of State than some spineless politician looking to pay off his debts to big business and powerful friends at the expense of the Canadian people. That, of course, I'm aware sounds absolutely ridiculous, I know, but let's not forget, the current system works. Why mess with something tried and tested?

    This in not the same Monarchy it was 200 years ago, it is completely changed, completely different in the power and influence it has over us. It's greatest function to-day is to remind us of our heritage and hold with tradition, without that we will lose yet another quality about us that isn't American, because let's not deny it, we're becoming more and more like them every day. We need everything we have to set us apart from them. Tradition is important, who are we without it? Who are we without our heritage? If we reinvent who we are, then we will eventually cease to be who we are now, and we may not like what we get afterwards. Do we really want a President? Take a good look at the presidents around the world and the powers they have. Which do you want, a Monarch who will not use their power unless they absolutely, morally have to use them, or a President, a politician, who will take full advantage of his the power he has sought after and lusted for most of his life?

    The Monarchy isn't flawless, but it is still a very good system. It has evolved and grown, changed to suit the times; the Monarch does not put their nose into business that isn't theirs. The benefit of our current system is that, though the Monarch officially has many powers that could be used to influence the governance of Canada, they would be absolutely insane to even try. If the Monarch starts poking her nose where it doesn't belong, Parliament will always have the power to amend the Constitution and end the Monarchy.

    It is basically a fail safe, really. If government starts doing shady or terrible things the Monarch, in theory, has the power to possibly put an end to the government's doings, as long as she has our support. The system is designed to keep the government on a leash; it's a very long leash, but a leash nonetheless. Let's keep the dogs on their leashes, and not set them free to do as they will without some underlying fear of possible consequences.

    I don't want to live in some ruddy republic under some bloody politician who's only loyalties are to some bloody political party. Still, I am quite sure, that I have nothing to worry about, you would never get every Province to agree to abolishing the Monarchy, that day is very far away, indeed, I'd say. I think it is more likely that the Monarchy will collapse before it is ever rejected here in Canada, and, if I'm alive at the point, I would fully support the appointment of a Canadian Royal Family, perhaps some respectable aboriginal family. As long as we don't have a bloody politician as our Head of State, which could very well change Canada in ways we do not want to see it changed. Just my opinion...

    By Blogger Colt McKenzie-Belle, at 4:13 AM  

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