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LETTERS: Hypocrisy and double standards from Trudeau Liberals
All Canadians should give thanks to Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex. Not only have they honoured Canada as a place where they want to live and raise their family, at least part of the year, but the media frenzy about their change of status and abode has foreshadowed a great debate soon to come to this country.
While polls show that most Canadians don’t mind the Duke and Duchess of Sussex moving to Canada, they also show that most Canadians do not want to be responsible for paying the price for their private security.
And something else could be discerned in the many letters to the editor in Canadian newspapers and in the phone-in shows. Over the past few weeks, Canadians were viscerally reminded about the presence of the monarchy in this country. And many Canadians did not like what they saw.
We were reminded of a royal family standing at the apex of the British class system. We were reminded of a royal family that lives a lifestyle absolutely foreign to the vast majority of Canadians. And we were reminded that Canada is a constitutional monarchy, with the Queen as our head of state, meaning no Canadian can ever aspire to this symbolic height.
In the letters to the editor and the phone-in calls a seed of an idea began to germinate and take root. While survey polls show that most Canadians like and respect Elizabeth II, these same surveys suggest that a majority of Canadians do not want to see Prince Charles become King of Canada upon the death of his mother.
If this is a true reflection of Canadian public opinion, we are slowly approaching a turning point in Canadian history.
There has long been a quiet debate in this country between monarchists and republicans (those who oppose the rule of kings and queens) respecting the merits of the monarchy, whether we should establish a new, republican form of government, with a Canadian as our head of state.
This debate is now heating up. We are getting ever closer to the end of this Elizabethan era. The Duke of Edinburgh is secluded, the Queen is lessening her royal engagements, and Charles is stepping up as head of the family. At some point in the next decade, the words will be said: “the Queen is dead; long live the King!”
Are Canadians ready for this? If not, if we wish to terminate the monarchy in this country upon the death of the Queen, we have work to do, and a dispute to settle.
The group Citizens for a Constitutional Republic (CCR) has long argued that there should be a national referendum in this country offering us the choice of maintaining the monarchy or replacing it with a republican form of government with a Canadian as our head of state. To republicans, the monarchy is an archaic relic of the British empire, redolent with racism and classism, and something we need to rise above if we are to be a truly independent and multicultural society.
But Canadian monarchists, championed by the Monarchist League of Canada, have long professed their loyalty to royalty. Monarchists defend the royal family, its saga in the history of the British and Canadian constitutional order, and the deep connection of the monarchy to the living reality of responsible government, the ceremonial role of Crown and its promotion of worthy causes.
As this debate unfolds the greatest challenge to republicans is procedural. Abolishing the monarchy in Canada requires a constitutional amendment. Under the terms of the Constitution Act, 1982, such an amendment requires the unanimous consent of the federal government and parliament and all 10 provincial governments and their legislatures. This is one high hurdle to get over.
This procedural requirement, of course, does not preclude such an amendment from being successful if enough Canadians and their elected representatives view this change as important and necessary. Meeting this threshold, however, will compel republicans to advance the strongest of cases in their favour.
This debate, long quiet, will get louder.
David Johnson teaches political science at Cape Breton University in Sydney, Nova Scotia. He is the author of ‘Battle Royal: Monarchists vs. Republicans and the Crown of Canada,’ published by Dundurn Press.