Who Will Be the Next King of Canada?

The future king and queen of Canada?

In an article published in the Nov 13 2009 issue of Macleans magazine Andrew Coyne, Maclean’s editor made a valiant attempt to Defend the Royal Family and the monarchist status quo in Canada.

Sorry to dredge up this (relatively) old article, but I thought it was relevant given that we just installed a new Governor-General and that I made a few critical comments in a previous post about our Failure to Cut Ties to Britain….

Andrew Coyne, is well known as a regular panelist on the “At Issue” program on CBC TV News. He argues in this article that critics of the monarchy just don’t realize how deeply embedded the monarchy is in our constitutional democracy. As he says, “To do away with the Crown, to replace it with a republic, would require nothing less than a revolution.”

This seems a bit of an overstatement, and, in any case Coyne recognizes that the monarchy is unpopular and therefore vulnerable. He even agrees there is a deeper issue, one of what we might call a question of legitimacy:

“The problem is not the monarchy, as such. It is its delegated status. There’s an outdated colonial relic in our constitutional firmament, but it isn’t the monarchy. It’s the Governor General. If the monarchy is to be a lived reality in Canada and not merely a constitutional principle…it can no longer fob us off with former speech writers and mid-level CBC journalists, the stuff of recent governor general appointments. We need the real thing.”

So far so good.

Unfortunately he goes on to make the outrageous proposal that we try to convince Prince Harry to move to Canada, become a Canadian citizen and “start a new wing of the dynasty”.

In true Canadian fashion Coyne sees this as a sacrifice by Prince Harry who might not find Ottawa as attractive as London, but should be convinced to “take one for the team” nevertheless.

What Coyne seems to be missing here is that the real problem is one of Canadian political autonomy and self-respect. It is a national embarrassment that our head of state resides in a foreign country. And to suggest that Britain is not a foreign country is to reinforce our status as a colony of Britain.

Prince Charles himself is reported as having said it is surprising that former colonies like Canada, Australia and New Zealand do not want to dump the British monarchy.

Furthermore to cling to the British crown like Coyne is suggesting we do is to reinforce the increasingly outdated and discredited “two founding peoples” myth. If we think it is a fundamental truth of the Canadian experience that we have sprung from British and French colonial roots we will never shuck off our adolescent status.

What we need is a rewriting of Canadian cultural and political history that emphasizes our indigenous roots. We need to learn how Canada has sprung from North American soil, not from Britain and France. These were just passing phases of a history that goes back hundreds and hundreds of years.

In the process we may find our unique identity as Canadians. Not as transplanted British or French, or aspiring Americans – labels which can be attached to fewer and fewer Canadians every year. It is hard to see how this can happen until we eliminate our dependence on institutions like the British monarchy.

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