The Queen of Canada Visits

The Queen of Canada visits. We’re delighted to see her. And then she leaves.

It’s odd, isn’t it? Our Head of State resides in a distant land. The French Head of State lives in France. Where else? The Israeli Head of State lives in Israel. That’s the norm.

Sure. But remember what the Queen said when she touched down in the Maritimes. “I’m glad to be home.” Home?

I consulted Wikipedia. It’s true. The Queen resides in England, but is legally, “at home” in Canada. This is her country.

She’s also “at home” in this legal sense in fifteen other countries. We share our Monarch with fifteen other “realms”! Wikipedia is firm on this point. She’s not just “at home” in those fifteen other places. She’s “equally at home.”

And then there are the other bits and pieces of the old Empire-Commonwealth, the ex-colonies and so on that don’t have the status of “realm.” The Queen’s not said to be “equally at home” in them. But she visits. She has obligations. She belongs.

Spell it all out and you begin to see why some people are suggesting that Canadians break away and establish our own Lives-In-Canada-Full-Time Head of State.

It would be a mistake. The present system works well. In the Queen’s absence the Governor General assumes her obligations. It’s been our system for a long time. In breaking away we’d be cutting loose a lot of history.

In the 1960s Canadians threw out the flag under which our forces served with distinction in two world wars. We changed the name of our country. (We used to be the Dominion of Canada.) We changed the name of our national Parliament. And in 1982 – this was the worst crime – a true crime against history – we changed the name of our founding Constitution.

Dear friends, think! In the entire history of the human race there’s been only one country with the right to call its founding constitution, the British North America Act. The constitution remains; it’s still the law of the land. (It’s been amended, but only in minor ways.) It’s now called the Constitution Act.

Any country can have a Constitution Act.


2 Responses to “The Queen of Canada Visits”

  1. 1 Stephen MacLean July 11, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    Professor Ajzenstat is right: it would be a mistake to institute a ‘Lives-In-Canada-Full-Time Head of State’ (although I do not, unlike some ultra-monarchists, believe the heavens would come crashing down if this were to happen—even if this were just retribution for an act of lèse-majesté).

    The present system does work well.

    Queen Elizabeth (and her eventual royal successors) imbues the HoS position with a dignity that balances the political power exercised by her prime minister; she exemplifies what Bagehot termed ‘the dignified parts of a constitution’. Home-grown governors-general fulfil their vice-regal roles with honour; yet could such a one be found, as de jure Head of State—apolitical, non-partisan—to rebuff untoward prime ministerial advances at home? What of their influence upon the world stage?

    More important, for those who seek a change in constitutional arrangements in favour of republican government, the onus is on them to demonstrate to the rest of us, and to allay our fears, how this would work in practice: how the constitution would be amended; how candidates would be chosen; how the nature and duration of their office-holding would proceed. As the philosopher David Hume observed

    To tamper … or try experiments merely upon the credit of supposed argument and philosophy, can never by the part of a wise magistrate, who will bear a reverence to what carries the marks of age; and though he may attempt some improvements for the public good, yet will he adjust his innovations, as much as possible, to the ancient fabric, and preserve entire the chief pillars and supports of the constitution.

    Meanwhile, we others can take comfort that our system of constitutional monarchy works; for who can point to egregious errors and abominable abuses that require reformation? Without with great tumult will ensue?

    And as for the constitution, let’s start a grassroots, ginger group movement to restore the noble nomenclature of the British North America Act.

  1. 1 Macdonald Laurier Institute » Blog Archive » The Queen of Canada Visits Trackback on July 8, 2010 at 9:52 pm

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