Editor’s Note: Point Vs. Counterpoint is a feature meant to stimulate discussion on thought-provoking topics. The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the authors, The Iron Warrior, or the Engineering Society.
The Point to this Counterpoint: Monarchy has an Essential Place in Canada
Last year, an online poll by Research Co. assessed Canadians’ feelings toward their monarchy. 32% of Canadians would have preferred an elected head of state, 27% would have preferred to keep the monarchy and 28% did not care either way. The 28% is perhaps most interesting: the fact that so many Canadians were ambivalent about their own head of state shows the lack of emotional connection between the monarchy and the people.
However it is the 32% who shall be represented hereafter. Why do so many Canadians wish to replace the Crown, and possibly the Governor General, with an elected head of state?
Perhaps the most obvious issue with the Canadian monarchy is that most Canadian citizens can never join. The closest position a Canadian can reach is being appointed by the Crown as a representative. In a true republic, any Canadian would have a fair chance of being the head of state of their own country, provided their fellow citizens approved.
In theory a Canadian could marry into the Royal family, possibly allowing their child to become the heir. However even this course of action is full of restrictions. The British rules of succession dictate that only Protestant descendants of Princess Sophia (the Electress of Hanover) are eligible to become the Sovereign. Furthermore the Sovereign must be in communion with the Church of England. In any other sphere of public life, this level of religious discrimination would be at best galling, and at worst illegal. So why is it acceptable that the Crown, the root of all executive authority in the nation, be subject to such restrictions?
Another problem is that although the Queen is formally Canada’s head of state, she does not actually represent Canada during most of her travels. Most foreigners consider the Queen to be the monarch and representative of the United Kingdom: her status as Queen of the rest of the Commonwealth is hardly on anyone’s mind.
Now obviously there is a reason the Crown gets away with being a distant, discriminatory institution: because most of their duties in Canada are carried out by the Governor General. The Governor General can sometimes act as a balance against abuses by other areas of government. However this potential is limited by the fact that the Governor General is chosen personally by the Prime Minister.
There are many possible ways to rectify the problems caused by Canadian monarchy. The first stage would probably be to change the selection criteria for the Governor General: instead of being chosen by the Prime Minister, the Governor General could be democratically voted in by the public, the Parliament, or some other body serving the public interest. Then if the political climate ever seems to favor Constitutional reform, all the power currently held by the monarchy can be assigned to the Governor General. From there the Governor General would be a true head of state, rather than a deputy of the Queen across the ocean.
Apart from the difficulty of changing the Constitution, the major obstacle to such a reform is the sentimental attachment many Canadians have to their current Queen. Queen Elizabeth has reigned since the fifties, and has in many ways become part of the Canadian “brand”, as it were. However at some point the Queen’s reign will end, and at that point Canadians will be faced with a choice: be subject to her successor, or reach for a true republic?