Prince Charles, first in line to the British crown, and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, are currently visiting Canada. Meanwhile, a weighty biography of the late Queen Mother has hit the bookstore shelves with a mighty thud.
Select Canadian bagpipers are currently getting some extra employment, in advance of Remembrance Day, the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the opening of the curling bonspiel season.
Other than that — and the rather jarring thought of seeing John Crosbie wearing his ceremonial sealskin coat for the benefit of international paparazzi — outside of the communities actually hosting events, Canada goes on with life, oblivious to the visit by the family whose matriarchal portrait is on our money.
There has never been a time when Canada has cared less about its official head of state. There has never been a time when it has been more obvious that Canada needs its own Canadian head of state.
The era of royalty, of the very idea that certain people can be allowed even ceremonial authority over entire nations by no other virtue than birth, ended with the invention of the printing press and the French and American revolutions. It’s just taken that long for certain families involved to figure it out.
As the final preparations were being made for Charles’ and Camilla’s visit, the Canadian Friends of the Royal Family commissioned polling firm Navigator to sound the current depth of Canada’s loyalty to royalty. They discovered the royal yacht has run aground. In fact, it has been for more than a decade.
Essentially, Navigator found that the younger the respondent (50 years of age or less), the less likely it would be that a Canadian can even reply without prompting that Queen Elizabeth is officially Canada’s head of state, much less that they approved of that situation.
Among Canadian youth, if you suggested that an advanced nation would decide its head of state by birth alone, you would get an incredulous stare.
CBC got a copy of the poll and reported that more than 60 per cent of respondents feel that Canada’s constitutional monarchy is outdated.
Actually, depending on how pollsters frame their questions, this could be a warming process.
Just over 10 years ago, a wide-ranging poll by the national firm POLLARA, commissioned by the Ottawa Citizen and Global TV, showed 80 per cent of Canadians hold little attachment to the monarchy. Seventy-one per cent of respondents then also said the Canadian Senate should be changed.
So that just shows you how little really changes in the halls of power over time.
Previously, although no thinking person could ever really mean it when they swore allegiance to the Crown, there was a ceremonial and cultural attraction in retaining a hereditary monarchy.
First and foremost, it meant we weren’t Americans.
But the cultural attraction has waned over time, as a larger proportion of Canada could no longer trace ties to Europe, much less Great Britain.
Today, the monarchy mostly just symbolizes the separation of people from their government. We have no control over who will be our head of state, but what does that matter when no matter how we vote, neither can we influence how government acts or even be represented proportionally to our collective wishes?
As long as we have a king or queen, we will never be masters in our own house. As long as “because that’s the way it’s done” is the reason to uphold an office without a function, Canadian government itself retains a certain absurdity.
We want a new generation to assert its control over the future of Canada. They will be the best educated and prepared generation in history to do so. And virtually none of them feel any personal allegiance to the House of Windsor.
May God save the Queen, and allow her subjects freedom from her successors according to law.
Greg Neiman is an Advocate editor.