As the world turns Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan Markle’s departure from royal life into incessant tabloid stories about dual loyalties, the woman who “stole” the prince and spurned brothers, the question Canadians ought to be asking is: Should we be removing the Royals from our lives?
It’s a pressing question, since Canada may be stuck with security costs for the now-only-semi-Royals whenever they stay in Canada. This is part of an agreement we, and other countries part of the Commonwealth Realm, have with England; we pay full freight to keep the Royals safe while they pretend to enjoy venison and try not to say racist things to Indigenous performers.
A security expert recently estimated protecting Harry and Meghan would cost more than $10 million annually, money that can’t be disbursed to house or feed Canadians. In a recent Angus Reid Institute poll, 73 per cent of Canadians said they shouldn’t have to pay a single cent of costs associated with the couple.
These costs are just the tip of the iceberg. Canada should absolutely become a republic — a democracy without a monarchy — as soon as possible.
Canadians voted in the “Sunny Ways” Justin Trudeau government twice under the idea that Canada is, and should strive to be, egalitarian and progressive. Canada is far short of that goal — and has been since its inception — but cutting ties with the monarchy would be a step in the right direction.
If Canada’s only connection to the Royal Family was the Christmas broadcast, that would be fine, but the very backbone of our legal system is based on monarchic rule.
Every new bill passed in our country is subject to Royal Assent, historically meaning the Regent would need to sign each bill into law. Until Royal Assent was given, a bill may have been “passed,” but was not in fact law. Since 2002, the Governor General of Canada, rather than the Queen, has been responsible for giving Royal Assent, but that can be overruled by the Queen should she take umbrage with a particular law.
The fact that an unelected, appointed representative of the Queen makes our bills become laws should concern anyone who cares about democracy. Having a regent or an appointed regent in situ means the will of the people can be taken away for a monarch’s caprice. Famously, Royal Assent was withheld in Saskatchewan in 1961 by the province’s lieutenant governor over a bill redefining mineral contracts. It has happened before, and there’s no legal impediment to it happening again.
Why isn’t Canada’s prime minister signing our laws into effect, and being held directly responsible for them? Canadians deserve to have an elected head of state who ensures lawmaking reflects Canadians’ decisions.
It’s also crucially important to break our link with the monarchy because of its past, and the human cost that allowed the British to say the sun never set on their empire.
British colonial rule was responsible for millions of senseless deaths, through genocidal laws and practices, wars, famines, migration and imposing centuries of slavery and indentured servitude on subjects.
Slaves were put to the task of ensuring future slavery elsewhere in the world on the whim of a monarch. The estimated financial cost of this system to India alone is close to $45 trillion in lost value that went directly to enrich the crown and the small group of aristocrats in their orbit.
The monarchy is also responsible for smuggling opium into China so the empire could plunder natural resources. Centuries after the fact, the current Queen’s son participated in a ceremony to hand that country’s own land and people back to them.
It’s truly grim stuff, and every time you put a stamp on a letter, or pay for something with a $20 bill, you’re flashing the face of the system that has been a source of international terror since it set sail in the Medieval era.
The Royal Family also has established ties to the Nazis. King Edward VIII, who ruled from January to December of 1936 before abdicating, was a known Nazi sympathizer. He visited Nazi Germany in 1937, and is on film teaching Queen Elizabeth II, then a child, to do the fascist salute.
While this news made the front page of the tabloids in the United Kingdom when it was first reported in 2015, broadsheets mostly commented on the Royals’ “disappointment” at its release. The video was considered merely tawdry, not actually egregious, and the tabloids were castigated for supposedly being rude toward the Queen, rather than cheered for highlighting the Royal family’s cozy relationship with Adolf Hitler.
Meanwhile, the Marburg files, a set of secret Nazi documents that resurfaced after the war, are said to have implicated the entire family at the time and included correspondence between Edward VIII and the Nazi regime.
Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth’s husband, was related to Nazis. His own sister was a Nazi, and was buried in a swastika-draped coffin. His other sister named her son Karl Adolf as a nod to Adolf Hitler. Philip himself, who has a history of on-the-record racism, admitted his family found Hitler’s plans “attractive” and had “inhibitions about Jews”
Many other members of the Royal Family have been embroiled in racism scandals. Recently, Princess Michael of Kent, whose father was a high ranking officer in the SS, wore a racist pin to Christmas to meet Markle. Harry, who famously broke the Royal Family’s colour barrier, dressed as a Nazi officer for Halloween years before he dated Meghan.
Even if you’re grading on the most generous curve, this is a family with a fairly disconcerting past.
Despite this, newcomers to Canada know that the final step to becoming a citizen is swearing fealty to the Queen, by stating, “I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.”
Consider the implication and optics of forcing a person who came to Canada — likely from a place where centuries of British colonialism ravaged the country’s finances and justice system — to swear fealty to the human embodiment of that system. It’s jaw dropping and stomach churning.
Moreover, there’s still the matter of the cost. Canada spends upward of $50 million a year on the Royal Family and activities related to our monarchist system, enough money to pay the annual salaries of more than 600 nurses, who contribute far more than they ever could.
In a 2009 poll, 60 per cent of respondents said the monarchy was outdated. A year later, 52 per cent of poll respondents were in favour of opening the debate on the monarchy. Meanwhile, in a 2017 poll, 41 per cent of Canadians said they were in favour of abolishing the monarchy entirely.
Canada isn’t the first commonwealth country to question their link to the monarchy. In the United Kingdom, Republic UK, an anti-monarchist advocacy group, has noticed an increase in interest in getting rid of the monarch. Elsewhere, Australia, Barbados, Jamaica and New Zealand have all sought to change their relationship to the Crown. And yet, Canada remains.
Fifteen countries currently operate within the Commonwealth the way Canada does now. Extricating Canada from the monarchy is possible. A plebiscite could be called and a bill could be introduced on the floor of Parliament to debate the removal of Queen as head of state. Then, in addition to the majority vote on the floor, all provinces would have to agree to a constitutional amendment of this nature.
Canada sees itself as an advocate for human rights on the world stage, and yet, for reasons of sheer tradition, it’s willing to perpetuate its relationship with a system that has only ever stood for greed and suffering the world around.
The monarchy is a representation of what makes Canada’s history shameful and rotten, and the very enshrinement of it in the constitution means our country isn’t free. It’s time for Canada to boot out the monarchy once and for all.