Friday, 17 July 2009
A few months ago it was announced by the Dominion Institute that only 23% of Canadians knew that their Head of State was Elizabeth II as Queen of Canada. As a history teacher, as well as of Canadian government, I was not surprised.
Canada enjoys one of the most stable forms of government that exists on the planet, but its citizens barely understand it beyond a “Wikipedia” standard lacking the depth and respect it deserves. A classic example of this understanding was highlighted during the political events of last December when the Governor General (as representative of our Head of State) prorogued parliament on the recommendation of her prime minister. Newspapers and other media plastered the country with headlines reading “crisis” and “coup” – a complete misunderstanding of how our system operates. In fact, our constitutional monarchy was doing exactly what it was designed to do.
The Prince of Wales will be visiting Canada this fall, followed by The Queen herself in 2010. I can already see the headlines. The recent poll published by the Globe and Mail citing that only 35% of Canadians want to retain the Monarchy will undoubtedly come up. Without proper education and understanding it makes sense that whenever Canadians encounter the Monarchy they do so with confusion.
In Ontario, Civics is a government-mandated course taught to all Grade 10 students. Often times this course will focus on the ideas of global citizenship and community participation (which are very important), while ignoring the mechanics of our government. As a teacher, this makes some sense because Grade 10 students have a difficult time fleshing out our political structure (which can be too abstract for them).
As far as teaching about the role of the Canadian Monarchy, since most (if not all) of our textbooks are produced by private companies, the information presented is blatantly wrong. The Governor General is often referred to as the Canadian Head of State, while the Queen is almost uniformly identified as the British Monarch (even though she has been Queen of Canada – a separate entity politically – since 1953). The Monarchy is always presented as something on the way out to our youth – tied to such things as the old Canadian Red Ensign (a relationship that makes no sense since it was the Queen of Canada who proclaimed our new flag in 1965).
The fact that a former prime minister has been appointed by the Queen of Canada to the highly prestigious Order of Merit brings to light that this institution is still working for us. It must be remembered that the Crown is not designed to promote itself, rather its role is to highlight and honour our country.
Instead of the Prince of Wales’ visit being framed as part of our past, we should be looking at it as an affirmation of our history and political institution as it continues to evolve. As a person, it is interesting to note that The Prince’s views on the environment, rural support and global citizenship are in step with a majority of Canadians.
The Prince of Wales has not visited Canada very often – as heir to the throne he must be invited by the Canadian Government. His visit in the fall represents the future of our country’s political system – a system that is chronically misunderstood by its citizens. Before entertaining the perennial debate on retaining the Canadian Monarchy, we must learn how it works.
This must be a grassroots campaign to understand an institution that is not designed to advocate for itself. In an age of celebrity politicians, The Queen has stood quietly in the background as a source of stability and subtle affirmation of our political institutions and cultural personalities, even in the face of superficial and uneducated attacks. In the end, when looked at in depth, the Crown presents itself as quietly familiar and ultimately Canadian.
Wednesday, 15 July 2009
The one thing that jumped out at me, though, was the republican gentleman's suggestion that the Lieutenant Governors are more or less "redundant and obsolete." Wow! This revelation should sound alarm bells to anyone who believes in the Canadian federation.
What republicans are, in effect, saying is that provincial sovereignty means nothing. In Canada, where ultimate authority is vested in The Queen, we have eleven sovereign governments: one federal and ten provincial. Each has its very own representative of the Crown: the Governor General and the Lieutenant Governors.
Abolishing the offices of the Lieutenant Governors would leave the provinces with no counterpart to the Governor General. The provincial governments would become mere subordinates of the federal government. Probably not what Canadians would want for the governments which are so close to them and handle important things like health end education, eh?
The mere thought of abolishing the provincial vice-regals reeks of constitutional vandalism. Of course, no province is ever going to voluntarily give up its sovereignty to Ottawa. But, if the republicans had their way, we would have a President (with no provincial counterpart) and a federal government that could run roughshod over the provinces. Bye, bye federation!
Until next time,
BTW, please vote in the poll on the right hand side of the Maclean's article.
Monday, 13 July 2009
Royal Visits - or Homecomings, as we Monarchists like to call them - are always a reason for celebration. They are a chance for Canadians to again reacquaint themselves with their Sovereign and the monarchy. So, while the Crown is often left to function in the background away from the public eye much of the time, during the days when The Queen is here Canadians' focus is on HER and this wonderful system of government we call constitutional monarchy.
Of course, The Queen's visit will follow on the tails of the visit of the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall. That's two Royal Homecomings in less than a year apart. Great time to be a Canadian monarchist!
Thursday, 9 July 2009
Friday, 3 July 2009
My letter to the editor was published on the Globe's Website. The condensed response appears here.
Here is the text of my full letter:
Jeffrey Simpson's praise for Her Excellency the Governor General is welcome. True, Michaëlle Jean deserves such praise. She personifies modern-day Canada: bilingual, multicultural, global, hardworking, tolerant, and friendly. And, as he rightly points out she clearly demonstrated her constitutional acumen when it came to the whole issue of Prorogation last Fall.
But, as much as he is spot on when it comes to his assessment of Mme Jean, Mr Simpson loses all credibility with his attack on Prince Charles. Mr Simpson's republican leanings are well known, but to paint such a rosy picture of our Governor General at the expense of the heir to the throne is shameful. His portrayal of Charles as being a "stodgy British prince" is simply a byproduct of his hate-on for all things Royal.
The same characteristics he uses to pump up Mme Jean can just as easily be attributed to Charles, as well: bilingual, multicultural, worldly, modern, etc. The Prince of Wales is (and has been for some time) ahead of the world when it comes to the environment, organic farming, architecture, etc. He has raised millions of dollars for worthwhile charities, many of which he has personally founded, and has been a true leader in helping to reconcile a world of different religions and cultures. As far as I am concerned, Charles very much reflects the ideals of today's Canada...perhaps more than anyone else.
Mr Simpson's peculiar fascination and praise for Canada's Governors General past and present boggles the mind. He says we're lucky to have had them. However, he surely must realise that as representatives of The Queen they are all creatures of the monarchical system of government we have. With no monarchy we would have no Michaëlle Jean. Instead, we would be stuck with a politician as president. How un-Canadian!
Until next time,