Keep the Monarchy

Posted on November 14, 2009
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Prince Charles and his new wife, Camilla, toured Canada over the past week. Charles took part in the national Remembrance Day services in Ottawa. He wore a Canadian forces uniform. So did the Queen’s representative in Canada, Governor General Mihaelle Jean.

During the royal visit, there were some protests of Canada continuing to keep the Queen as our head of state and a Governor General as her representative in Canada. Many people see the Monarchy as like the appendix we each have. It once served a purpose, perhaps, but is now obsolete.

Many Canadians see it as a sign of subservience to the British Empire cum Commonwealth. Some see it as a reminder of the empire that colonized, exploited or made war on the country of their origin. “She is not my queen!” they exclaim.

I see it as the link back to the foundations of our systems of government and justice. It is probably the first significant legal document in the history of democracy.

It came, hand in hand, with the foundations of individual rights like habeus corpus. Put simply, that is the provision in law that prevents the state from taking you away in the night and refusing to answer questions about where you are. Rather an important one, don’t you think?

All of my life, wave after wave of immigrants and refugees had come to this country seeking the blessed rights and privileges we have. The government and justice we have is not the norm in the world. What we tend to take for granted is what makes us perhaps the finest sanctuary in the world.

It is understandable that some immigrants and refugees do not understand what is at the root of the system that evolved, and still evolves, toward a more and more just society. Too many of them, in fact, see Canada as a fort in which they can hide and from and within which they can carry on the ethnic, tribal, political and cultural wars and atrocities of the lands whence they came.

Canadians seem to agree that we cannot and will not tolerate that. We talk quite a bit about insisting that newcomers honour and adopt Canadian values. Most of us are delighted to learn that the new pamphlet “Discover Canada,” issued by the Government of Canada department of Citizenship and Immigration, outlines for new citizens some of the responsibilities that go along with our magnificent list of rights.

It seems to me that one way to reinforce our sense of Canadian values is to remember and honour their source. What better way to do that than to maintain and promote our link back to the Magna Carta via the Monarchy?

It is dangerous, I think, to erase the links to our most important ideals like democracy and justice. For one thing, knowing what they are, where they came from, and why is important to ensuring we understand them and do not carelessly let them be legislated or negotiated away.

As it is, we have a great deal of difficulty remembering the difference between not liking something and having the right to make it illegal.

It is quite possible that the United Kingdom itself may eliminate the Monarchy in a generation or two. I wonder if that would be a sign of progress or a milestone on the way to the erosion of democracy as it especially pertains to individual rights.



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