Xtra
3 min

The meaning of the ‘royal’ restoration

All anyone could talk about yesterday was
the restoration of the “royal” designation to both the Navy and the Air Force. Predictably, there was backlash from small-r republicans, as well as from Quebec, where some illogically feel that this is a divisive bit of Briticism thrown in their faces. (Never mind that the British
Crown allowed them to keep their language, culture, religion and legal system when France abandoned them after the Seven Years’ War. But hey –
details.) And so we were inundated with comments about how people were
“embarrassed” that our “young country” was clinging to “colonialism.” Or worse
yet, boneheaded comments from the likes of Peter MacKay about how this was
recognizing our “historic ties to Britain.”

No. To begin with, Canada is not a young
country. We are in fact one of the older countries in the world (even if you’re
not considering that we’ve had settlements here for some 400 years), and our constitution is one of the oldest in the world. Next, references to the monarchy have nothing to do with colonialism because Canada is a constitutional monarchy. We have a unique and independent
monarchical institution (which, coincidentally, shares the same personages as the
British monarchy, but we could change that at any time). Nor is it an
antiquated institution. It is adaptive and has evolved into
a uniquely Canadian Crown. Not that the people inappropriately waving Union Jacks when the Queen of Canada comes to visit recognize that. And
never mind that constitutional monarchies are inherently more stable and democratic than most
republics. But republics sound more “modern” and “democratic,” so
they must be better, regardless of evidence to the
contrary.

The real lesson here is that restoring
the “royal” title reinforces the fact that the Canadian Forces
report to the Crown (and not Parliament), and that the Queen of Canada is the commander-in-chief. It is a reflection of our constitutional reality, not a
vestige of the past. As to why Harper is doing this, well, we’re not quite
sure. I haven’t seen any news releases that he's tried to slip in while the NDP divides itself over this issue. Maybe
that’s why he’s doing it. As Tom Flanagan suggested, perhaps Harper is just watching the NDP tie itself in knots as its republican and sovereigntist members square
off against more traditional federalists. It could also be his
way of undoing the great Liberal injustice of the renaming back in the '60s (though organizationally, unifying them was probably a good thing). Or it could be that Harper’s growing admiration for the Canadian
monarchy is tempering some of his own worst impulses. We have seen some of
that – he’s stopped breaching protocol by demanding military salutes or
trying to shoehorn his way onto the podium at Canada Day or Remembrance Day.
The use of the “Harper Government” designation on public service documents seems
to have stopped (not that the partisan messaging has, mind you, but it’s not
quite so personally focused). Don’t get me wrong – I still think that Harper
has a lot of presidential envy and that we still can't quite see his end game, but the more constant presence of late of the Canadian monarchy has
had a beneficial impact on him. Perhaps we should give this one a pass.

Meanwhile, Jack Layton says he won’t be
attending
 his party’s September caucus meeting but is still hoping to be back
in the House by Sept 19.

Here’s a look at the worrying contempt that some people, politicians especially, seem to have for Ottawa as the capital and how the city itself is suffering as a result. This contempt is shown in the way the government has let the proposed Portrait Museum
moulder and has opened two national museums outside of the capital.

And Aaron Wherry enumerates all the times the Conservatives have invoked their “strong mandate” to justify their actions.

Bookmark and Share