The ongoing Canadian Monarchy Debate

The Canadian Royal Family – Sorry, no Canadians allowed.

There are a couple interesting articles in the National Post today (Jan 21, 2011) about the rightful place of the British monarchy in Canada’s future. As I have expressed elsewhere a few times, I think the fact that our Canadian head of state is, according to our own Constitution and tradition, chosen from the British royal family is an insult to what it means to be Canadian.

Historian Michael Bliss argues in his article It’s time to retire the royals that the monarchy is a relic of the past and an “absurdity”. As he says,

It’s an absurdity that in 21st century Canada, no Canadian can aspire to be head of state of Canada. The head of state of Canada has to be not just of British descent, but actually a member of the hereditary royal family of Great Britain. Our head of state will be the person who by accident of birth, not for any other reason, happens to be King or Queen of Great Britain. That person must also be a member of the Church of England. No Catholics, atheists, Confucians, Muslims, Jews, or Canadians need apply.

Bliss goes beyond arguing just that we should replace a British monarch with a Canadian one (Can you imagine choosing which family would become the Canadian “royal family”?) He argues (as almost everyone will agree) that the Prime Minister has too much power in our system, and that the Governor-General has been de-fanged by tradition – much moreso than even the Queen herself. What we need, he says, is “a second head of state — an impartial referee — to blow the whistle.”

As to the monarchist contribution to the National Post debate, that one is contributed by John Fraser, Master of Massey College at the University of Toronto, in his article called The crown is part of us all.

According to Fraser not only has the monarchy served us well, but it is so intrinsically woven into every aspect of our culture, traditions and formal constitution that it would be impossible to extricate it without doing serious damage to the very fabric of our nation.

This is an amalgam of at least two different standard conservative arguments. The first is a simplistic version of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The monarchy works, so why should we change it.

The second is the argument from deep tradition: We are who we are. Just accept it and get on with life.

If you are convinced by these arguments then I guess you’re glad we have the Royal Family to keep us going. If not, it may be time to start thinking about alternatives.

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