Time to think of replacing monarchy in Canada

The prime minister of Jamaica exploded a time bomb early this year by saying that “the time has come” for her country to break its ties to the monarchy.
Speaking before to a crowd of 10,000 during her inaugural address (January 5, 2012) she said that her administration would “initiate the process of detachment from the monarchy,” converting her country from a constitutional parliamentary democracy to a republic. It is likely that Jamaica will have everything in place by August when it celebrates its independence.
The timing of this announcement was certainly wrong because the Queen is this year celebrating her 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne, being the second longest reigning monarch. Her Majesty is, of course, used to these kinds of outbursts from Commonwealth politicians during her reign. However, the Jamaican announcement certainly opens up the debate whether the monarchy is needed after all. We in Canada are safe in that there is no way the Harper government will agree to abolish the monarchy while the Tories remain in power.
The Tories have unabashedly adopted a pro-monarchy stance in recent months — reinstating the word “royal” into the names of the air force and navy, and hanging a large portrait of the Queen in the main foyer of government buildings in Ottawa.
The overwhelming reception that Kate and Will, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, received during their visit to Canada in June last year and the current visit of Prince Charles and Duchess of Cornwall, are in themselves a testimony of how highly regarded the royal family is held in the estimation of Canadians. Unfortunately for the monarchists, the tide seems to be changing to some extent because there’s an even split among Canadians on whether to abolish the monarchy. Data released by Forum Research shows that 43 per cent of Canadians are in favour of abolishing the monarchy after Queen Elizabeth II dies while 43 per cent are against it. The remaining 14 per cent had no specific opinion. As expected, 67 per cent of Quebec respondents were in favour of abolishing the monarchy. Ontario was down to 39 per cent, Prairies 35 per cent, British Columbia 30 and the Atlantic provinces 28 per cent.
“In Quebec, of course, the monarchy has never been that popular,” said Lorne Bozinoff, president of Forum Research. “The monarchy has always been popular in the Atlantic, and still is, as well as the Prairies.”
As far as Canadian political parties are concerned, Bloc Quebecois supporters were most supportive of abolishment at 71 per cent. New Democratic supporters were the next most likely to answer this way at 49 per cent. It was 41 per cent among Liberal backers, and 37 per cent for those supporting the Conservatives.
A resolution put forward by the Young Liberals of Canada during the last federal Liberal convention, argued that the country needs to turn a page on its links to the monarchy. “Canada is a multicultural nation, built by people from many diverse backgrounds and where at present no Canadian citizen can ever aspire to be head of state of our own country,” it noted.
It further said that “foreign law bars individuals not of the Anglican faith” from becoming the monarch, and Canadians pay more to maintain the monarchy than do the British.” The issue is put to rest for now as the delegates voted against the proposal to abolish the monarchy.
Former Governor General Michaëlle Jean got herself into hot water when she referred to herself, twice, as Canada’s “head of state” during a speech in Paris. For all intents and purposes Queen Elizabeth II is still Canada’s head of state – she was told in no uncertain terms.
Whatever arguments one places in favour of abolishing the monarchy, we cannot deny the fact that Canada being in the Commonwealth and having the Queen as the head of state has had a beneficial effect on the country. She has been a unifying factor throughout the Commonwealth, which is composed of different races, cultures and economies.
The biggest argument that anti-monarchists put forward is that Canada spends a lot of money in hosting the royal family, but then as a host country, Canada would spend on any head of state or government who passes through its borders. The anti-monarchists are obviously neglecting to mention the hundreds of tourism dollars that the royal visitors generate.
Prince Harry completed his tour of Jamaica (March 3,2012) to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Despite the fact that the Caribbean nation’s Prime Minister is considering breaking off ties with the Queen, Prince Harry was warmly received everywhere he went.
“I personally had no idea how much warmth there was towards the Queen,” the Prince said. ” To me that’s been very humbling and I was actually quite choked up seeing the way that they’re celebrating her 60 years. She’s thousands of miles away and yet they celebrated her in the way they did and made me feel so welcome, so I couldn’t thank them more.”
However, there is a growing, if still not overwhelming, opinion in the country that Canadians no longer believe the British monarchy has any future in 21st century Canada. Critics of the monarchy feel that a foreign head of state is out of date in modern Canada and that ways should be explored to seek democratic methods of selecting Canada’s own head of state.
As opinion polls suggest, the wind is certainly blowing in the direction of abolishing the monarchy, but before the reign of the Queen comes to an end, Canadians should be prepared to find solutions to replace the monarchy and have Candianized head of state.

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Mansoor Ladha

Mansoor Ladha is a Calgary-based journalist and author of A Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims.

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