"We should have a Canadian head of state. The King is a talented person, and The Queen an admirable selfless human being but the Royals are foreigners."
Canadians living in a diverse and mobile society rarely properly describe people as “foreigners”. We judge individuals not by the place of their birth, the colour of their skin or their accents, but by their character and their contribution to Canadian society. By this standard our Royal Family is as Canadian as can be! Consider Charles’ concern for youth employment and environment; our late Queen’s length of service to the country, in her pride in being our Queen and our reciprocal affection for her; in both Elizabeth and now Charles embodying the source of law and acting as the guardian of the Constitution, as well as linking Canadians to the multi-cultural peaceful alliance that is the Commonwealth.
When The Monarch is not physically present, a number of our fellow Canadians represent her as Governor General and lieutenant governors – and thus we enjoy the best of both worlds, one might say!
"The monarchy costs the taxpayer way too much. Why should we support The King and his family in luxurious palaces? Why should we pay anything towards his expenses and Royal tours to Canada?"
Canadians do not give any financial support to The King in his roles as Head of the Commonwealth, as King of the United Kingdom or as Sovereign of his other Realms. Nor does he receive any salary from the federal government. In this respect, his role as chief volunteer of the Commonwealth is unexcelled.
As shown in the latest triennial study of the cost of the Canadian Crown, each Canadian contributes about $1.55 a year (a total of a little over $50 million) towards our form of governance. However, the great majority of these costs stem from: a) maintaining the historic buildings (Government Houses) occupied by vice-regal representatives; and b) from honouring Canadians who have performed outstanding acts or given a lifetime of service to the country.
Whether a republic or monarchy, Canadians would maintain these heritage buildings and recognize achievements through an honours system. A president would likely be more expensive – look at the proportional costs of the White House and Elysée Palace! There may be arguments for a republic, but cost-saving is not one of them.
The only “cost” of The King arises when, as our head of state, he performs duties in Canada. As was demonstrated by Charles and Camilla’s many homecomings to Canada, and in 2010 and during Elizabeth II’s tours, people flock to welcome her, and clearly derive great pleasure from her being with us. The most recent tour cost Canadians approximately 15 cents per person. Like all countries, Canadians regularly welcome and bear similar or greater expenses for visiting heads of state and government, ranging from the Pope to the Emperor of Japan to the Presidents of the United States and Mexico, none of whom have any constitutional involvement with our land, but whom we welcome as friends, allies or trading partners. How much more, then, should we welcome our own head of state, especially when a lifetime of service to Canada has been undertaken without her receiving one penny of salary?
"The King is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and is also officially styled Defender of the Faith. Why? We don’t have a state religion in Canada."
The King plays no religious role in Canada. However, Canada’s Parliament chose to include the phrase “Defender of the Faith” in the monarch’s title in 1953. Though it stems from history, today it can be taken to signify the Crown’s role in protecting freedom of religion. The King usually worships at an Anglican Church (except in Scotland where he is a member of the Church of Scotland) just like anyone else who might seek out a mosque, temple or church of their own faith. However, The King’s role within the Church of England is only of consequence in Great Britain. In Canada, he plays no role in promoting any religion. However, he has the same constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of religion as any other Canadian.
"If we abolished the monarchy, national unity would be improved."
The absurdity of this belief is illustrated in the fact that the separatist premier of Québec, Réne Lévesque, joined the nine other premiers in 1978 in acknowledging that any federal state needs at its head a neutral arbiter. Of course it is true that separatists, devoted to destroying the unity of the Canadian state as we know it, logically oppose all the institutions of Government. Canadians would hardly wish to cater to their formula for “improving” Canada.
It is equally fanciful to assume that the millions of devoted monarchists across Canada would ever accept the Crown being used as a bargaining chip towards the attainment of some supposed greater unity. The nature of democracy means that there will always be debate and discussion about every aspect of our political system. However, not up for change are the founding principles of Canada, such as our constitutional monarchy and federal state together with the special place of the First Nations, the existence of two European founding peoples, the inpouring of new Canadians of other backgrounds enriching our diversity through the centuries and our special status as a Northern country.
Only old people support the monarchy."
Neither monarchists nor republicans can or should be stereotyped. In any event, the multi-age crowds hailing our Royals and the organized support for the monarchy amongst youth (many of whom choose to express their loyalty via the Monarchist League of Canada) suggest that people of all ages and backgrounds support the Crown. Of course, those brave veterans of conflict – many of whom are now of considerable years – feel a special bond to The Late Queen and her parents who played an admirable role during World War II. Most of us consider that this relationship is to be honoured, and would consider it an additional factor in promoting, not denigrating, the special place of the Crown in Canada.
"I don’t like King Charles. Why can’t we skip over him and have William as King."
Just as in our own families, our shared national family – the members of the Canadian Royal Family – each possess their own personalities, particular interests and quirks. Again as in our own families, the failure of a marriage or the fact we prefer certain relatives to others does not lead us to seek the destruction of the institution of the family.
The fact is that the April, 2018 decision of the Commonwealth leaders that Charles has now succeeded The Queen as Head of the Commonwealth is a worldwide vote of confidence in the remarkable qualities of the Heir to the Throne, borne out of his long training for kingship. Charles knows Canada well, and Canadians know him, appreciating in particular not only the extensive worldwide reach of his concerns via the Prince’s Trust worldwide but also his specific Canadian outreach via the Prince’s Trust Canada.
Quite apart from the admirable personal qualities of our King, two factual points need underlining to those who might favour a “skipped” succession.
First, each of the Commonwealth Realms would have to agree on a process to allow the succession to skip a generation, a time-consuming process which would certainly cause a debate harmful to the Crown and unworthy of the enormous care and devotion with which The Late Queen served the institution, the Realms and the Commonwealth. The moment the identity of the monarch is selected on the basis of “personality” it invites the institution becoming divisive like any electoral process, and subject to the shifting tides of public opinion, with the sort of focus on celebrity and personal attack which is often so destructive in many areas of modern life.
Second, the admirers of William might well wish for him what the premature death of King George VI denied his grandmother our Queen – some years to marry, raise a family and enjoy the relatively greater privacy of and lesser demands placed on the Heir to the Throne. To catapult him onto the Throne ahead of his father would not have been a kind act to him, his spouse or their children. Why would William wish to do so?
Now that we have the Charter of Rights we don’t need a Monarch any more."
The roles of The King and the Charter are distinct. The monarchy continues its many-faceted involvement in the life of Canada and the Commonwealth in a non-political way which seeks to unify people. The Charter, while important, is like other elements of the Constitution, a political document about which Canadians can disagree (starting with Justices of the Supreme Court who often sharply debate its meaning) and can seek to amend any of its provisions. Under the constitution, The Queen constitutes the Canadian state and is the source of executive authority and the Command-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces as well as being a part of Parliament. These are not roles played by the Charter.
"Everyone knows the prime minister and premiers have the real power in Canada. So we might as well abolish the monarchy along with the Governor General and lieutenant governors and save a lot of money."
The financial arguments have been dealt with above. As Canadians would expect in a modern democratic state, we elect those who govern us on a day-to-day basis. The King and his representatives serve to encourage elements of nationhood which are not so easily accomplished by politicians, to provide a focus on things that unite rather than divide Canadians, to celebrate our ideals, to honour our best efforts and to be the emergency back-up should the system ever break down. This separation of partisan political power from the formal executive authority seems to work well and to appeal to most Canadians, who enjoy freedoms which are the envy of many in the world.
"The monarchy is offensive to our First Nations people."
At Confederation, the Canadian Government assumed the responsibilities of the former British colonial power for implementing treaties. In recent decades, the courts have increasingly become arbiters of land and other claims.
The respect of many First Nations people for the Canadian Crown is evident in the special welcome they gave The Queen and the then Prince of Wales during their Canadian Homecomings. The First Nations feel themselves largely to be allies, not subjects of the monarch; and recognize that their just grievances do not stem from the monarchy, British or Canadian, but from the action or inaction of governments – both British and Canadian – down the years. A neutral court system where The King’s justices can adjudicate their claims, and an increasingly compassionate, enlightened Canadian society, are the best guarantors for moving forward in a cooperative, respectful relationship between First Nations and those who have come to their land.
Canada is a modern, forward-looking country. We should move with the times and get rid of the monarchy."
One person’s moving forward is of course another’s moving backwards. It is hard to see that the monarchy has in any way impeded Canada’s modern, dynamic society – a world leader in everything from peace-keeping to craft beers, from the Canada Arm to environmental research. Nor does being a monarchy seem in any way to hinder societies as diverse as Japan, Spain and the Netherlands. In the end, the statement is one of free expression of opinion. That it is not deeply considered, however, may be ascertained from examining the United Nations’ annual Human Development Index.where usually, six of the ten highest-ranked countries in the world are constitutional monarchies, four are republics. While this does not “prove” monarchy or republic superior, it certainly shows that monarchy is no barrier to being modern and forward-looking!
"A presidential system would be much better for Canada."
Hmm, one might be tempted to a two-word reply: Donald Trump! Or how about Vladamir Putin. Seriously, though central weakness of those who propose abolishing Canada’s monarchy is their lack of a credible, demonstrably-superior alternative. To change for the sake of change would involve massive constitutional upheaval and to some extent ape the form of government of the United States, a curious decision for a country where the chief threat to national identity comes from our friendly neighbour south of the border!
How would an elected president improve one aspect of Canadian life? Or reduce crowding in one classroom? Or lower our taxes? Would it make us any more patriotic? If we maintained an appointed head of state, be that individual called governor general or anything else, how would Canadians benefit in concrete terms from this de-racination of our entire history and of our current experience as a stable, respected nation with traditions and a distinct political and social way of life most of us like very much?