God Save the Queen


I am not a big fan of the monarchy. And why should I be? I've been a Canadian all my life, and have never once set foot in the United Kingdom. Canada is seeing the influx of hundreds of thousands of immigrants per year from across this world, and we have developed ourselves, especially these past twenty-five years, into a cosmopolitan, multicultural society with little connection to the British throne.

However, I once told my Australian stepfather-in-law that England is likely to become a republic before Canada does. And with the media taking a new look at the monarchy during the Queen's jubilee, I'd have to reaffirm that statement. Elizabeth will be the Queen of Canada until the day she dies. Charles will likely become Canada's King.

For those who don't know, Canada is officially a constitutional monarchy. The Governor-General (now former award-winning journalist Adrienne Clarkson) is appointed by our Prime Minister in order to represent the monarchy. Her powers are, as is to be expected, quite limited: to approve legislation passed by parliament ("granting Royal Assent"), and to dissolve parliament and theoretically take care of the reigns of power while a parliamentary election takes place. Canada's constitution was patriated in 1982, meaning that the British government no longer has to approve Canadian constitutional amendments. Appeals of Supreme Court decisions to the British House of Lords was cut in 1931. The Governor-General's position is purely symbolic, acting as a figurehead head of state while the prime minister and parliament get down to the business of governing.

Most Canadians agree or are beginning to agree that the British monarchy is irrelevant to Canada, our history aside. But is it irrelevant enough to go through the trouble of changing things? Probably not.

I mean, first question: what do we replace the monarchy with? Do we maintain the Governor-General's position? Do rename her President? Do we elect her and, if so, how?

There is far less agreement on that front. And Canada's constitution requires that a decision as significant as cutting our connection with the monarchy gain the approval of the federal government and all ten of Canada's provinces.

That's not going to happen, folks. As an analyst says, "the provinces will immediately demand that they have a big part to play in the selection process. They would object to a straight popular election for the position. Quebec would object to everything."

The constitutional wranglings of the 1980s gave each and every Canadian a big Excedrin headache, and I'm sure that most Canadians won't want to go through that process again to fix something that, while useless, really isn't broken.

Far more lasting benefit could be derived if we concentrated our attention on reforming a political institution that actually wields power in this country. Like the Senate.

Until then, God save the Queen.

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