Editorial: Sixty years too many

By Gauntlet Editorial Board

Sixty years is a long time for any relationship. This week Queen Elizabeth ii marks her 60th year on the throne, and Canadians are once again given the opportunity to consider the point of keeping Her Majesty around. Happy occasions aside, we the Canadian people are growing tired of the monarchy, and we’re even more disturbed about its future. The time has come to sit Elizabeth down and end it once and for all. In this case, it’s her, not us.

Monarchists across Canada consider themselves lucky that Elizabeth has been more or less a success, at least compared to her predecessors. Her assumed role has been to wear colourful clothes, nice hats and wave in the agreed-upon style. Her political views are unknown, and she never gives interviews. Canadians tend to view her in exactly the way she acts: a celebrity with no formal power. This impression, well easy to understand, is mistaken and costly.

Elizabeth, after all, is Canada’s head of state. Less than a quarter of Canadians know this, with many assuming that either the prime minister or the governor-general (who is the queen’s representative) is in charge. The fact that Elizabeth’s head-of-state status is so poorly known among Canadians shows two things: that people don’t understand her role, and that she won’t be missed.

Supporters of the crown claim that the monarchy is a source of national identity, often stating that the queen is necessary to distinguish Canada from America. But the monarch’s distinguishing role is entirely misplaced. Canada already has a number of attributes that separates it from America– the queen doesn’t usually spring to mind.

Another common refrain from monarchists is that the Crown acts as a check against an out-of-control government. This claim is touted with such regularity that it’s easy to take it as fact, but it’s deficient. There is no reason that another check can’t serve the role just as well. The constitution itself can be written to provide limits on power.

If there were such a crisis, why would Canadians entrust the outcome to a foreigner whose political convictions are completely unknown to us? Why should we think that Elizabeth– or even more troubling, her heir Charles– should be the one to take on such a task?

Canadians should be allowed to decide who should fill that role, rather than the undemocratic monarchy that was forced upon us.

While trying to dilute the Crown’s role on our lives, monarchists say that the queen is “just a symbol” or that she has “no real power.” Although these two points are in fact false, even if the Crown were just a symbol there are good reasons to abolish the monarchy. In a multicultural society such as Canada, it is an injustice that our head of state is also the Defender of the Faith in Britain. The faith in question is one particular brand of one particular religion, yet Canada does not (and should not) preference one religion over another.

It will be no easy task to overthrow the monarchy in Canada. The consent of the federal government and every provincial government is necessary to become a republic, and that of course will take work. There is, however, reason for optimism. While many Canadians view Elizabeth positively, when she dies Charles is set to take over, and his reputation is much poorer. The majority of Canadians favour ending Canada’s relationship with the monarchy, and the percentage in support is likely to rise considerably when Elizabeth dies.

The time has come, then, to make preparations for a Canadian head of state. The conversation ought to begin now to decide just how best Canada can move forward. It will be progress indeed: toward a true democracy, toward real equality for citizens, and toward a Canada that is finally able to call itself an independent country.

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