Canada 150 project: End the monarchy
Which nation stages a massive birthday bash in front of its own parliament buildings where 30,000 partygoers are asked to sing another nation’s national anthem?
Which nation celebrates its anniversary by making people who are becoming new citizens that day swear or affirm allegiance to members of a royal family in another nation?
Which nation marks its anniversary by producing a series of commemorative coins that carry the image of another country’s Queen and not one coin that carries the image of any of its own historic figures?
The answers are easy: Canada on its 150th anniversary.
What’s not so easy is understanding why, after 150 years of being declared a separate nation, Canada still has a British monarch and a member of the Church of England as its head of state.
With images of Prince Charles and Camilla on Parliament Hill on Canada Day still fresh in our memories, we need to reflect on another question: When will we toss off the last relic of our colonial past and install a Canadian as head of state?
Prince Charles was in Canada in place of his mother, Queen Elizabeth, who at 91 years of age is starting to cut back on her official duties and is handing them off to her son, the future King of England.
Queen Elizabeth has served with grace and dignity since ascending to the British throne some 65 years ago. But her reign is coming to an end and, with Canada still in 150th anniversary year, now is the time to begin a dignified severing of formal ties to the British monarchy.
We wouldn’t be the first to do so. Some 16 nations have dropped their formal ties with Britain since Queen Elizabeth took power, leaving her the head of state of just 16 other countries, including Canada.
If Canada moves smartly, we could complete the process once the Queen’s reign is over, and before Charles becomes King of Canada.
It would be a move many Canadians would favour. An Ipsos poll conducted in June for Global News indicated 61 per cent of Canadians, including 55 per cent of Ontario residents, believe the Queen and the other royals shouldn’t have any formal role in Canadian society because they are “simply celebrities and nothing more.”
Half of those surveyed said Canada should end all formal ties with the British monarchy once the Queen’s reign is over.
Even Prince Harry raises questions about the monarchy, saying members of his family are reluctant to do the job. In an interview last month with Newsweek magazine, he asked, “Is there any one of the Royal Family who wants to be king or queen? I don’t think so, but we will carry out our duties at the right time.”
Tom Freda, director of Citizens for a Canadian Republic, says the prince’s comment begs the question of why Canada is “persisting with the charade” of having a foreigner as our head of state if the post “is held by a reluctant British royal and the majority of Canadians prefer that position be held by a Canadian.”
Ashok Charles, executive director of Republic Now, agrees and says “we deserve a head of state who shares our citizenship, and who is chosen democratically, on the basis of merit.”
Over the past month, Republic Now, a nonprofit advocacy group, has placed banner ads on city buses in Toronto and with an image of Prince Charles beside the message: “We don’t need a king. Our next head of state should be Canadian.”
True, Canada faces more pressing issues in areas such as health care and jobs than divesting itself of its ties to the monarchy. And yes, winning passage by all 10 provinces won’t be easy.
But these should not be excuses for political inaction and indifference when it comes to taking the final step on the path to full independence. If such attitudes were allowed to prevail in the early 1960s, Canada would never have seen the introduction of universal health care and the Maple Leaf flag as the nation approached its 100th anniversary.
We can start the process by holding a national referendum with a simple yes-no question: “Should Canada sever ties with the British monarchy?”
If the answer is yes, a bipartisan federal-provincial commission can decide how to select a head of state, such as by direct election or appointment.
What are we waiting for? Let’s abolish our ties to the monarchy.
It would be a perfect Canada 150 project — and one that lasts forever.