A Prince of an Idea: End Canada’s Ties to Monarchy

Canadians should be grateful to Prince Andrew. His allegedly reprehensible behaviour and disastrous interview invite Canadians to consider our ties to the monarchy. It’s time to cut them.

The severance would not be a radical act but the final step in our long stroll to sovereignty. It began with Queen Victoria signing the British North America Act. It was a baby step with Britain still controlling all that mattered. But we kept walking.

The first steps involved saying no. When the empire became embroiled in South Africa, we were asked to send troops but said no; allowing only volunteers. When a subsequent Turkish spat led to another request for troops we said no altogether. When asked to bolster the British navy we said no and built our own. Later, we signed the Halibut Treaty with the United States and said no to the necessity of Britain’s co-signature.

We then started not just rejecting requests but demanding respect. The 1931 Statute of Westminster declared that Britain could no longer make or disallow our laws. In 1949 we said that our Supreme Court and not Britain’s Judicial Committee of the Privy Council was our court of last resort. Two years later, the prime minister appointed our first Canadian-born governor-general. Our head of state would never again be another left-over lord.

Prince of an Idea

(Prince Andrew Duke of York – photo: BBC)

Lester Pearson turned Canada’s back on Britain when he sided with the United States in the Suez Crisis, again when we integrated our continental defense, and yet again when we replaced the Union Jack with a distinctive new flag. We began singing Oh Canada instead of God Save the Queen.  A giant leap came with the 1982 patriation of our Constitution and now, nearly forty years later, our stroll has only one step left.

That step would have us confess that titular power is a sham; that we and not the Crown owns our public land, and that in a mature democracy, it has no place in our courts or on our money.  In a nod to fiscal responsibility, we could end the Governor General’s $289,000 salary and all the other attendant costs that exceed $50 million a year. We could sell or repurpose the Royal housing across Canada, beginning with bulldozing the shamble on Sussex and moving the prime minister into Rideau Hall. Our new democracy could dispense with most of the Governor General’s ceremonial duties and leave the rest to a deputy prime minister; a person elected and not selected.

Our last step to independence would necessitate a constitutional conference. Embrace it. Let’s ape our founders and ensure that delegates are the leaders of our federal, provincial, and territorial governments and their opposition leaders. Indigenous representatives must be at the table. Let the conference begin by declaring a republic and then addressing the claims of Quebec’s Bloc and the prairie’s Wexit.

Let us welcome Prince Andrew’s invitation, seize the moment, and engage in a serious national conversation.

(This article appeared as an op-ed in the Toronto Star December 1, 2019. If you like it, please share with others and please comment, agreeing or disagreeing is part of the respectful conversation we owe ourselves.)

2 thoughts on “A Prince of an Idea: End Canada’s Ties to Monarchy

  1. So, a prince 8th in line to the throne allegedly does something improper and it means the monarchy must be abolished, but a prime minister doing something improper leads to no calls for the same? In both cases the institution is bigger than the person but there are those who, for their own purposes, choose to treat them differently.

    And your interpretation of history is also a bit off. At every step of Canada’s development as a country we have re-affirmed the monarchy’s place in Canadian society. Abolishing it isn’t the next step in Canada’s development (whatever that is) but a rejection of Canada itself.

    As for our head of state; for someone who spends so much time writing history you ought to know the governor-general is not the head of state. That position belongs solely to the Queen.

    Oh, and we could move the prime minister into Rideau Hall and demolish the building on Sussex Drive but that ignores the fact that the reason that building got into such a mess is that successive prime ministers didn’t want to pay money to fix it because it ‘might look bad’. A situation that would sooner or later make Rideau Hall unlivable as well.

    As for the idea that declaring a republic would fix the whole national unity issue I do wonder how removing an institution that every province has in common is supposed to better unite us.

    None of which deals with what happens to the Crown’s very real reserve powers. In short, your article displays lazy argumentation throughout and is not the start to any sort of serious conversation.

    ps. We still sing God Save The Queen.


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