On Rethinking Canada’s Place in the Monarchy, by Paul Heinbecker
I heartily agree with Paul Heinbecker that Canada needs to sever its ties to the monarchy. For longer than I can remember, I have cringed at the fact that our head of state is a non-resident foreigner. Such a status is wildly inconsistent with being a mature nation.
For me, and surely for many others, retaining the monarchy creates considerable emotional discomfort. Until I read Mr. Heinbecker’s essay, however, I had not adequately considered that retention creates more concrete problems, too. He reminds us of the confusion in other nations about how the monarch might speak for us as well as for Great Britain – or indeed speak for us in opposition to Great Britain. In addition there is the association with “a checkered British colonial legacy” that our shared monarchy implies. In short, what good is a Canadian monarch?
There have been 12 governors general in my lifetime, not all of them as distinguished as the present incumbent, but that is no reason to disparage the institution. By all means let the governor general be our head of state de jure as well as de facto. Retaining the title, as Mr. Heinbecker argues, would show proper deference to our history. After all, Canada has had governors or governors general since Samuel de Champlain in 1627. For that matter, avoiding terms like “president” or “republic” would show a similar deference, even though I suppose such a monarch-less polity would effectively be a republic. So be it.
Doubtless the queen is an admirable lady (and surely more admirable than her lacklustre elder son), but I would argue she is someone else’s lady, just as the office she holds is someone else’s. Here’s hoping that the approach of her reign’s end and of the sesquicentennial of Confederation will focus more minds than Mr. Heinbecker’s on doing away with this bizarre vestige of colonial times.
John Kalbfleisch is a journalist retired from The Montreal Gazette, where his column on Montreal history, called Second Draft, continues to appear regularly. He is the author of This Island in Time: Remarkable Tales from Montreal’s Past (2008) and The Royal Gift: A History of Town of Mount Royal (2013).