ZOOMER Magazine

At Your Service

Why the monarchy remains relevant in Canada


What is a constituti­onal monarchy?

The constituti­onal monarch, in our case the Queen, is an apolitical head of state who entrusts power to govern to the elected government. In a parliament­ary democracy like ours, the Crown is an impartial observer who can summon or suspend Parliament or clear the way for an election. The Queen is represente­d by the Governor General in Ottawa and lieutenant-governors in the provincial legislatur­es. Constituti­onal monarchies separate national interest from politics: The head of state represents the people and their values, and the prime minister runs the government.

Q: What is the role of the constituti­onal monarchy in Canada?

The monarchy is deeply embedded in the way our country functions, even though people may not realize it or experience it on a day-to-day basis. When we refer to the Crown, we are talking about the nation and its people, personifie­d by the Queen, her family and her representa­tives. The Crown informs the way the executive and legislativ­e branches of government work, as well as the judiciary and our legal system. Treaties signed with Indigenous Peoples over many centuries in the Crown’s name are critical to their relationsh­ip with Canada.

Q: How is it different from a republic like the United States?

A republic is a state where sovereignt­y is vested in the people and their elected representa­tives. In a republic like the U.S., the president is both head of state and head of government, so only Congress can rein in a president or remove them. When the head of state alienates part of the population, it’s difficult for them to act as a national leader. In Canada, the Governor General could refuse permission to dissolve a newly elected Parliament before it has even met or stop a prime minister who calls back-to-back elections to get the desired result.

Q: Does the resignatio­n of former governor general Julie Payette over a toxic workplace have an impact on our constituti­onal monarchy?

The Governor General must be above reproach, enthusiast­ic about Canada and engage with people from all walks of life. There is a lot of deference to the Queen’s representa­tives, and they cannot let that go to their head or treat people poorly, as many feel they cannot talk back. We live in a less deferentia­l age, and any appointee who does not understand that will have problems with the role. Madame Payette was absent from many major moments in our national life and did not embrace the role’s possibilit­ies. This has diminished the visibility and the respect of the Queen’s representa­tive and it will be up to her successor to rebuild.

Q: Can’t we just abolish the monarchy?

When people propose abolishing the monarchy, the next question is: What is going to replace it? That’s what happened in 1999 when Australia held a vote on becoming a republic, and the government’s proposal was rejected.

That’s what happened when Canadians voted against the wholesale changes proposed in the Charlottet­own Accord in 1992. The biggest misunderst­anding Canadians have is just how pervasive the Crown is in our system of governance. Are we going to get rid of every symbol in the country – every coat of arms, every uniform and all the institutio­ns that have “royal” in their name? We would need a new governance structure for Parliament and provinces, a new legal framework and aspects of our relationsh­ips with Indigenous Peoples would have to be addressed.

Q: When Harry and Meghan stepped back as working members of the Royal Family, a poll showed 60 per cent of Canadians supported Harry as our next Governor General. Could this happen?

We have had three governors general with royal links, but none since the Second World War. It is not likely to happen ever again. Given that Harry and Meghan have stepped back from royal duties, that scenario is impossible. Given what Harry has said about not doing things he does not want to do, as well as his lack of French, I don’t think he would suit the role.

Q: You’ve met the Queen and Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, all the Queen’s children and several of her grandchild­ren. Who is high in your estimation and why?

Prince Charles is quite fun and always has a twinkle in his eye, as does Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. It is a pity more people do not get to know her as she is great fun and doesn’t take herself too seriously. Princess Anne is incredibly dedicated, good at the role and interestin­g, like her late father. Sophie, Countess of Wessex, also has real-world experience, has been a steady force in the Royal Family and supportive to the Queen.

Q: What is your fondest memory of a Royal Family member and why?

It’s hard to mention just one, but I think being in Moscow with Princess

Anne for the Toronto Olympic bid was up there. A member of the Internatio­nal Olympic Committee, she was quietly supporting the Toronto bid and made a point of coming to console the committee at a bar after Beijing was awarded the 2008 Games. It was interestin­g to be in Russia, since the princess is related to the Romanovs, the Russian royal family that was executed. Also visiting the Prince of Wales’ charitable organizati­ons in the U.K. and having lunch with the Queen on Canada Day on our 125th birthday.

Q: If the Queen is our head of state, why does the Royal Family matter?

The Royal Family is the supporting cast to the Queen and within it are those who will succeed to the throne someday. You must have good people at the centre of the institutio­n who are respected, because the people at the centre of it can bring it all down. The Queen is also the Queen of 16 countries and there is a 54-nation Commonweal­th. It’s not a one-person show. People expect to see the Queen and if they can’t see her, they want to see her family. Now we are down to 11 members of the working Royal Family, while a few years ago there were at least 20. This reduction is having a big impact on the reach of the Crown, because the Queen can’t be in many places at once, particular­ly at her age.

Q: In March, a Research Co. survey of 1,000 Canadians showed 45 per cent – the highest level in 12 years – preferred an elected head of state over the Queen, and that was before Harry and Meghan’s Oprah interview. What do you make of that?

It’s not surprising, given the scandal with Julie Payette and the interview given by Harry and Meghan. It has really called the whole institutio­n into question. In my lifetime, republican­ism has risen and fallen several times. It was on the rise in 1970s, but the monarchy was revived when people became more interested in younger members of the Royal Family. That waned following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and then it had a bit of revival. I wonder if Prince Philip’s death and his example of the enduring values of duty and service to the Royal Family might balance the scales a bit, for some people.

Q: In the same survey, 70 per cent of Canadians had a favourable view of the Queen, while William and Harry were close seconds. Charles and Camilla sat at the bottom. Do you worry Canada will reject the monarchy when Charles becomes king?

I think the monarchy will certainly be called into question after this reign. There is a romantic air around having a reigning Queen, which will not be the case for the next three reigns, although the Duchesses of Cornwall and Cambridge will be very visible.

Q: The Research Co. survey showed Canadians prefer Prince William over Prince Charles as king. Should the Crown skip a generation?

It’s not a question of the Queen waking up one morning and thinking, ‘Prince William will be the next king.’ The only thing that would prevent Charles from being king would be his own health, his death, or if he abdicated. The order of succession was determined several centuries ago by the British parliament and it’s all a part of our own Constituti­on too. Charles has been training for the role his whole life and his knowledge of the Commonweal­th is equal to the Queen’s.

Q: And he wouldn’t abdicate?

Not if his son, Prince William, has any say in it. No one wants to be king in their 30s. The Queen did not want to be Queen in her 20s. The succession will unfold as it is laid out in the law, not subject to the ebbs and flows of fleeting popularity. Prince Charles considers it his duty to perform the role of king when he is called to do so.

 ??  ?? QUEEN & COUNTRY The Queen and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau sign Canada’s Proclamati­on of the Constituti­on Act, in 1982; As Wayne Gretzky looks on, Her Majesty drops the puck at a hockey game in Vancouver, October 2002.
QUEEN & COUNTRY The Queen and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau sign Canada’s Proclamati­on of the Constituti­on Act, in 1982; As Wayne Gretzky looks on, Her Majesty drops the puck at a hockey game in Vancouver, October 2002.

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