Minerva’s owl spreads its wings on Stephen Harper’s last gasp of the British monarchy in Canada ..

Feb 18th, 2011 | By | Category: Canadian Republic

Lauren O’Nizzle, “a 20-something Internet kid living in Toronto, Canada,” dressed in “my owl sweater” which “reminds me of an essay by Harold Innis” – about how “the richest flowering of an empire comes just before its decline and fall.”

Once upon a time, the near-great economic historian Harold Innis began his 1947 “Minerva’s Owl” Presidential Address to the Royal Society of Canada with: “I have taken the title from that striking sentence of Hegel ‘Minerva’s owl begins its flight only in the gathering dusk…’”

As much more recently explained by Lauren O’Nizzle, “a 20-something Internet kid living in Toronto, Canada  …. The gist of Innis’s ‘Minerva’s Owl’ essay is that the richest flowering of an empire comes just before its decline and fall.”

Some proposition of this sort might also be applied to one of the more bizarre features of the Stephen Harper Conservative minority government in Canada today. And that is its strange last-gasp enthusiasm for the now almost totally vacant symbolism of the British monarchy in Canada – unmatched since John George Diefenbaker, Prime Minister of Canada, 1957—1963.

(And as just another example of the impressive lack of fear of contradiction in Mr. Harper’s political thought, he apparently does not believe the monarchy qualifies for the same “relic of the 19th century” label he at least once so aptly applied to the unreformed Senate of Canada, which still owes so much to the British House of Lords.)

Princess Diana chats with Prime Minister Trudeau in Ottawa, June 15, 1983. Her tragic death in Paris, on the last day of August 1997, was one of several beginnings of the end of the British monarchy in Canada in the 1990s.

It can only be Mr. Harper’s rampant (and, it must be said, undemocratic) prime ministerial enthusiasm for the British monarchy that has prompted the Daily Mail online, back in the one of the old mother countries on the north side of the English Channel, to report just yesterday: “Canada has been chosen as the destination for the first official overseas tour that Prince William and Kate Middleton will undertake as man and wife … Despite polls suggesting Canadians are ambivalent towards the monarchy, the pair are expected to be mobbed by fans.”

Mmmm … The latest of the “polls suggesting Canadians are ambivalent towards the monarchy” would seem to be the one from late this past December, reported on by Barbara Yaffe at the Vancouver Sun with: “Ho Hum About William and Kate … An end-of-year Angus Reid poll highlights the ebbing love affair between Canadians and the British royals … Nearly two thirds of us would like to see a Canadian serve as Canada’s head of state … Just 21 per cent favour Canada remaining a monarchy.”

* * * *

A more recent sounding of popular sentiment on the matter in Lauren O’Nizzle’s current city of residence took place just this past week, on the website of the cp24 TV station, which asked “Will you go see William & Kate when they visit Canada this summer?” Some 5% of respondents were Undecided, 24% answered Yes, and 71% said No.

The Canadian fur trade in the east, from Lahontan’s Map of Canada, 1704.

You might wonder why PM Harper is so keen about a declining and falling institution that only 21% of the early 21st century Canadian people believe in? The answer would seem to be that he does not worry unduly (or even at all?) about the opinions of the democratic majority.

According to John Ibbitson in today’s Globe and Mail: “The Conservatives have crafted a plan, it appears, to obtain a majority [of seats in Parliament] while winning only about 37 per cent of the [Canada-wide popular] vote.” (A feat made possible – maybe – by the current increasingly dysfunctional blending of our “first-past-the-post” electoral system with five more or less credible political parties running in federal elections.)

Meanwhile, the offshore Daily Mail may be confident that Prince William and Kate Middleton will be “be mobbed by fans” this summer. But the Monarchist League of Canada is worried.

The Canadian fur trade in the west, 1821—1870.

This past Wednesday the League’s Message Board was asking: “Has anyone read through the commentary various posters have been writing in response to today’s announcement [about the “Upcoming Royal Tour”]? It seems to be much worse than what we saw last summer with the Queen or the previous autumn with the Prince of Wales … the opinions expressed in the ‘comment boxes’ on the CBC website are surely not reflective of what we should expect from Canadians … As a public broadcaster, the CBC should be striving to educate Canadians about their own heritage rather than jumping on to the apathetic/cynical/republican bandwagon.”

Meanwhile again, Ivan Sandoval, another “Internet kid living in Toronto, Canada” (and a rising young Canadian republican activist) has just started up a lean-forward new website called Canadian Republic/Republique Canadienne : A Blog For Canadians Who Want A Republic/Un Blog Pour Les Canadiens/Canadiennes Qui Veulent Une République.

Harold Innis canoeing on the Peace River, 1924, researching his 1930 classic on The Fur Trade in Canada: An Introduction to Canadian Economic History.

Our own best wishes and high hopes go out to this new project. We too believe that our “own heritage” in Canada is much deeper and more diverse and democratic than either the Monarchist League or Stephen Harper seems to understand.

The Harold Innis who Lauren O’Nizzle admires so much (a man once somewhat jocularly described by the Times Literary Supplement in the United Kingdom as “Canada’s first and perhaps only genuine intellectual”) did understand the real depths of the Canadian heritage – more than three-quarters of a century ago. The transcontinental fur-trading “Northwest Company,” he wrote in his still classic book of 1930, “was the forerunner of confederation and it was built on the work of the French voyageur, the contributions of the Indian, especially the canoe, Indian corn, and pemmican, and the organizing ability of Anglo-American merchants.” Maybe, as “a public broadcaster, the CBC should be striving to educate Canadians” about the real Canadian past!

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by CASIE STEWART and Lauren O'Nizzle, Counterweights . Counterweights said: Minerva’s owl spreads its wings on Stephen Harper’s last gasp of the British monarchy in Canada .. http://bit.ly/hUDMEx […]

    And Ms. O’Nizzle said: “I was quoted and pictured in a political blogazine! That’s exciting and makes me feel sort of smart.” (We think she is smart!) http://topsy.com/www.counterweights.ca/2011/02/minerva%E2%80%99s-owl-spreads-its-wings-on-stephen-harper%E2%80%99s-last-gasp-of-the-british-monarchy-in-canada/?utm_source=pingback&utm_campaign=L2

  2. On July 2, 2012 bird feathers fell on the court at Wimbledon. The first thing that came to mind was The Sisters of Mercy lyric “I hear an empire down” from the song Lucretia My Reflection. This song then played on my iPod which was on shuffle without iCloud.

    King Herod aka Agrippa saw an owl before his death. Are these the last days of Herod Harper? Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper allows the torture of targeted indivduals with DEW (Direct Energy Weapons), V2K (voice to skull), laser, accoustic, implants, gang stalking, etc. They torture us more than the 3 days that their lord was tortured.

    Is this the sign of Jonah that Jesus mentions in the bible?

  3. Mmmm … Well something of what you say here may be true Marc of Park! From now until I believe the fall of 2015 just may be the last days (and years) of Herod Harper — IF enough of his opponents work hard enough to defeat him, in the real world, and at last bring enlightenment once again to Ottawa. Cheers, RW (for the cw editors).

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