Exploring the Canadian Kingdom

Exploring the Canadian Kingdom

Posted on April 19 by D. Michael Jackson in Non-fiction
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Did you know that our country was originally supposed to be called the Kingdom of Canada? This was the proposal made in 1866 by John A. Macdonald, who was to become the first prime minister at Confederation a year later. But the idea was turned down by the British government because they feared it would offend the Americans — a familiar story! Canada was then and is today a constitutional monarchy, a completely different political system from that of the United States. The twelve contributors to The Canadian Kingdom: 150 Years of Constitutional Monarchy give their own perspectives on this Canadian-style monarchy.

Historian Barbara J. Messamore tells how central the Crown was in making Confederation happen. Carolyn Harris describes the involvement of members of the royal family in promoting the arts in Canada, especially those of the Indigenous peoples. Robert E. Hawkins focuses on royal links with the epochal battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917.

Former British Columbia lieutenant governor Steven Point reflects on the connection of the Crown with the Indigenous peoples, based on his own experience as a First Nations chief and activist for Indigenous rights. Nathan Tidridge emphasizes the importance of the relationship between the First Peoples and the Crown ever since the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the Treaty of Niagara in 1764, including the roles of the royal family and vice-regal representatives today. What about these vice-regal representatives, who carry out most of the monarch’s functions in Canada and the provinces? Christopher McCreery calls for stronger recognition and support for their offices, analogous to that enjoyed by officers of Parliament.

But is there really such a thing as a “Canadian” monarchy? Andrew Heard and Senator Serge Joyal discuss the process of “Canadianizing” the monarchy since the 1950s. They conclude that the notion of “Queen of Canada” may be a political construct, even a legal fiction, but that’s fine: Canada and fourteen other Commonwealth realms are proudly independent democratic nations and yet have chosen that the Queen of the United Kingdom act as their sovereign.

The Crown in those other realms has been very much influenced by the Canadian example. Australia’s Peter Boyce compares and contrasts his country’s approach to the monarchy with that of Canada. Sean Palmer, a Canadian living in New Zealand, illustrates how each realm has “nationalized” the monarchy to suit its own culture. Finally, journalist John Fraser suggests that the Canadian version of monarchy could actually help the United Kingdom with its current political issues.

The last word goes to John Fraser, who says that while Canada is “a constitutional monarchy not exactly seething with royalist fervour,” most Canadians “understand how the Crown represents a certain stability but, equally importantly — if not more importantly — is infinitely less scary than all the posited alternatives.”

D. Michael Jackson

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014
D. Michael Jackson photo

D. Michael Jackson

D. Michael Jackson is president of the Institute for the Study of the Crown in Canada and a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order. His books include The Crown and Canadian Federalism (Dundurn, 2013) and The Canadian Kingdom (Dundurn, 2018). He lives in Regina.