My daughter had just turned five and for her birthday she got a bicycle. Two wheels, and a set of training wheels. Shortly after her birthday and with suitable practice, I said I’d take her training wheels off her bike after work that night. My wife called me at work and said that our daughter had gone into my tool box, found the right wrench, and taken the wheels off. Those wheels were dumped in the proper recycling box – and off she went. She couldn’t wait for me to get home from work so she did it herself. Spurred by recent events and a good deal of thought, I think it’s time we take the training wheels off as well.
The death of Queen Elizabeth II was sudden but not unexpected. During a 70 year reign over what is remains of the British Empire, the Queen was a steady beacon for many countries during the turmoil of second half of the 20th Century, and for nearly the first quarter of the 21st Century. Queen Elizabeth has been our head of state in the memory of most Canadians. Her death can be called the end of an era given the duration of her reign.
Pollster Leger and Associates released a survey last week that reported an overwhelming number of Canadians were indifferent to or felt little impact from the monarch’s death.
I don’t think that people are indifferent to the death of the Queen, rather the monarchy has little visible impact on Canadians lives. In fact, the British Royal Family has more impact on tabloid news pages and celebrity gossip websites than on the running of the Canadian government.
With the transition, in this case from Queen Elizabeth II to King Charles III, there is opportunity for renewal and change – to take the training wheels off so-to-speak. I think it’s time to reform, to change the British Monarch as our head of state, permanently.
For 155 years, Canada has been an independent country. Our ties to the British Empire have slowly been cut since 1867. Even our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, asserted Canadian independence rather than playing second fiddle to the Empire in international relations when Canada was just a toddler.
Throughout the decades, from the Statute of Westminster in 1931 to the Repatriation of our constitution in 1982, our political ties have lessened – baby steps. Now it is time to grab a wrench and take the training wheels off.
Others already have. Barbados has been an independent country for 56 years, and removed the British monarch as its head of state in 2021. Jamaica is considering this now. Many Commonwealth of Nations countries have done so. Most have done so to cut the colonial ties which caused harm in their history.
For example, African and Caribbean countries which removed the monarchy have done so due to the trauma of the slave trade centuries ago. Removing or de-emphasizing symbols that remind others of past harms is respectful.
The argument can be made that Canada’s colonial past, mistreatment of Indigenous peoples and immigrants into the 21st Century is justification to end our ties with the Crown. It is not my place to make that assertion as it is not my trauma or story.
My reasoning for eliminating the British Crown as our head of state is this: Canada is the oldest country relying on another country’s head of state to be our own. Canada is 155 years old (or young – perspective) – it’s time for the training wheels to finally be taken off and Canada be its own country.
Eliminating this tie does not erase our history. It enables our country to proceed forward independently our own way. It’s the same reason we should have the ability to elect our Senate and not have these plum patronage appointments handed out “independently.”
To cut our ties to the British Monarchy requires the agreement of the federal government and all 10 provincial legislatures. That is a higher standard than a simple constitutional amendment – and we know how well those have worked.
Removing the British Crown as our head of state is a monumental task. The Crown is woven through every legal entity from the courts and Indigenous treaties, to municipal and provincial affairs. It will not be as simple as grabbing some white-out and a sharpie to scratch through a bunch of names; but it is a task that should be done.
Our country’s government should reflect its people, and the British Crown is not a good reflection to see. No disrespect to the Queen, but she will be a difficult act to follow, so let’s take the training wheels off and try.
After 155 years, Canada should free itself of its British monarchist ties and elect its own head of state – we are a mature enough country to at least do that, right?