Is the Royal Family still relevant to politics in Canada?
Jarod Smart, Contributor
The act of “royal-watching” has been gaining popularity since the beginning of the 20th century, when events like royal weddings went from private affairs to heavily publicized ceremonies in an effort to increase popularity amongst the masses. These past seven years have been a whirlwind of royal news and ceremonies since the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011, the most recent of which being the announcement of Harry and Meghan’s first child, due in the spring of 2019.
Realistically, the Royal Family is no more relevant to politics than the Kardashians, though their followings are similar, with superfans going as far as camping outside of St. Mary’s Hospital for over two weeks in April 2013 for a chance to catch a glimpse of newborn Prince George, the first child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Royal obsession isn’t a recent phenomenon, however, as the 1951 visit of Princess Elizabeth and husband Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, received much fanfare, with a crowd of 15,000 awaiting their arrival at Montreal airport. With the Canadian Geographical Journal dedicating 25 pages to this visit alone, it’s no wonder this was considered to be the most covered news event in Canadian history at the time.
No other royal family is followed as closely as the British one. People don’t talk about how early they woke up to stream the wedding of Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden, in 2010, and people visiting Copenhagen don’t return with bobbleheads of Margrethe II of Denmark. The British royal family has become a brand and marketing tool of sorts to attract tourist revenue to England.
It’s impossible to discuss one of the longest lasting remnants of British colonialism – the Royal Family – without discussing politics. Canada has been independent of the United Kingdom for over 150 years, so why do we still obsess over the Royal Family? There has been an increasing number of Canadians who believe ties with the monarchy should be cut once Queen Elizabeth II dies, suggesting that the Royal Family is losing relevance amongst Canadians. For many, the issue with the Royal Family is political, and not about whether or not they tune in to watch the royal wedding. Notable rejection of the monarchy comes from some permanent residents of Canada wanting to apply for citizenship – those becoming Canadian citizens must pledge an oath to “be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors.” Refusal to pledge allegiance to the monarchy will lead to a rejected citizenship application.
The issue for many is what the monarchy represents. Described as a “hereditary, parasitic oligarchy,” the Royal Family is contradictory to the democratic society that we know Canada to be. But what would Canada become, if not a constitutional monarchy? The most likely answer is a parliamentary republic, where the role of Governor General, who acts on behalf of the monarch, would become a president. This president would hold no significant executive power, much like the current Governor General of Canada. Executive power would instead remain with the Prime Minister.
Monarchists and critics of republicanism in Canada argue that the monarchy is an essential part of Canadian history and identity. Canada should not maintain a monarchy based on the idea that it is a “part of history” – if we neglected to change over time, Canada would never have become an independent country to begin with. Our history isn’t going anywhere, so it’s time we move on from an outdated form of government.