Off With Her Head!

The Snark Zone: Letters from the Editors
Theryn Fleming


I’m a Canadian. I’m also a small-r republican. If I could change one thing about my country, it would be to sever all Canada’s ties to the British monarchy. It irritates me every time I look at a coin and see Elizabeth Windsor’s head on it, instead of a Canadian who deserves the honor.

Yesterday morning I picked up my daily newspaper and saw the editorial* was entitled “Monarchy plays an important role”. In it, editor Peter van der Leelie said that despite most Canadians’ apathy toward the British monarchy, if given the opportunity to vote on the issue, they’d keep said monarchy as head of state. The unfortunate reality is that he may be right.

His explanation for our hypocrisy? The monarchy is a part of Canada’s history. In other words, we can’t be bothered to make the effort. Grand. That stirs up the old national pride, doesn’t it? Or, he suggests, maybe it’s because the U.S. “yearn[s] for royalty”. They do? Okay, let’s say they do. So what? It’s irrelevant. Talk about an inferiority complex.

He writes, “[R]oyalty cannot be bought on Hollywood Boulevard–it just is.” And that’s precisely the problem. “Royalty” is the archaic leftover of a class-based society. Monarchs were considered “royal” because they had more money than everyone else. Period. Not because they were more intelligent, accomplished, or did more for their country than anyone else. I have more respect for a hard-working actor than any “royal”. What does this word really mean? Nothing, that’s what. They’re just people. If they want respect, they should earn it by doing something worthwhile, just like everyone else.

It’s ironic that Canada, a country that prides itself on social justice, insists on clinging to an inherently discriminatory political system. We’re ever-insisting that we’re better than the U.S. because we have universal health care and a “cultural mosaic” society, yet we force new citizens to swear allegiance to a wealthy white woman (not to mention her heirs) who is not a Canadian citizen, who lives in a foreign country, and who inherited her status. If the monarchy were any other government-funded organization, we’d be crying about the injustice.

The sad truth is, most Canadians are apathetic about things patriotic. Mocking American patriotism is a sport here. We can rouse ourselves for a hockey game, but politics? Yawn. Frankly, it’s an embarrassment. Canada didn’t even have its own flag until 1965–ninety-eight years after we became a country! If it took that long to decide on a damn flag, well, the chances we’ll give the Windsor clan the boot in my lifetime are slim.

Nevertheless, I rage on. We Canadians deserve to honor fellow Canadians on our money. We deserve to have a Canadian as head of state. We deserve the right to elect our head of state. The idea that “during a crisis [the royals] have the right to intervene.” is offensive. Of course they wouldn’t, but that’s not the point.

Most Canadians would argue that the role of the monarchy is purely symbolic, that they have no real power, and so therefore it’s not worth worrying about. But it is. This is not about ability to govern; it’s about national pride. Symbols are powerful things, and I don’t want a rich foreigner symbolizing my country, just because she happened to be born into a certain family.

van der Leelie claims this undemocratic system protects “democratic order”, and that the British monarchy makes us “a little more civilized, a little more democratic, a little more Canadian.” Civilized? Democratic? Canadian? Huh?

Keeping the British monarch as head of state in Canada doesn’t make us more Canadian; it makes us less Canadian. This clinging-to-the-apron-strings mentality is the reason why Canadians suffer from an inferiority complex in the first place.

We need to stop worrying about looking “American” (gasp)–because, let’s be honest, that’s what’s really stopping us from breaking free–and stand up and take pride in ourselves and our country. Every day. Not just when we win a gold medal at the Olympics.

Excuse me. I think I’ll go toss some tea into the river. (Hey, it can’t hurt.)

*van der Leelie, The Rev. Peter. “Monarchy plays an important role.” Kamloops Daily News 27 Feb. 2002: A6.

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Obnoxious Canadian Theryn can be reached at beaver[at]toasted-cheese.com.

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