Friday, September 30, 2005

A Republic, eh?

(Yes, I just reinforced a bad Canadian stereotype. Bad blogger!)

Calgarygrit disagrees with the shameless monarchism of his countrymen:
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.
Really? The repatriation of the constitution and the Statute of Westminster both had concrete, real effects on Canadian governance. The Statute gave us the Supreme Court, among other things, and the repatriation of the constitution made the Supreme Court even more important than it already was, with the addition of the Charter. In contrast, replacing the Queen would probably have little effect on the governance of Canada - unless of course, the new position were given new powers. But we could just as soon give the GG those same powers, if that's what we're looking for. I don't see how the long process Calgarygrit talks about "logically" concludes with abolishing the monarchy in Canada.

On the other hand, it does have a lot of similarities with the creation of an all-Canadian flag - abolishing the monarchy would be largely symbolic (though not unimportant for that) and the huge flap likely to result would probably be forgotten within a decade.

There's some other problems with CalgaryGrit's argument:
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.
The question about representing all Canadians is well taken, but it's important to point out that on a technical level, Elizabeth II is the Queen of Canada, a title which is legally distinct from her position as Queen of the United Kingdom and so many other places. Some might see this as splitting hairs (must avoid "heirs" joke) but I don't think it is. In a very real sense, she's "our" Queen as much as she is Britain's or any other Commonwealth country. We aren't subordinated to the British in any way, we're equals to them. Some would argue we're much, much better...
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?
This is an excellent point. I reprint it mainly just to pass it along.
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.
I don't know about that. I'm too much of a Burkean to believe that tradition doesn't have some value in and of itself. I'm not blind to the problems posed by a hereditary institution, or one that doesn't represent Canadians. But that's why we have a Governor-General, isn't it? The position is term-limited, and as Michaelle Jean proves the position can be filled by people who can represent the many different backgrounds of Canada. The Monarch's relevance to Canadian politics is somewhere in the vicinity of non-existent, while the GG's is (a bit) less so.

Now, it's possible there's some positive aspect to replacing the monarchy with an indigenous position. But unless we're simply talking about a "Canadian" clone of the Governor General, that opens up the whole constitutional can of works again. Given that Canada barely escaped the last attempt intact, maybe we shouldn't be in too much of a hurry to head back in.

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