Three cheers for Young Liberals of Canada and Resolution 114: “Canadian Identity in the 21st Century”!

Oct 22nd, 2011 | By | Category: Canadian Republic

Chief Justice Thibaudeau Rinfret presents citizenship certificate to W.L. Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada, during first citizenship ceremony to take place following enactment of the first Canadian Citizenship Act in 1947. Before this Canadians had just been “British subjects.”

If we’re going to start cheering out loud on this site, I’m giving a full three cheers for Resolution 114 at the upcoming Liberal Biennial Convention, to be held in Ottawa, January 13–15, 2012.

It’s called “Canadian Identity in the 21st Century,” and has been proposed by the Young Liberals of Canada. After eight “Whereas” clauses, it resolves “that the Liberal Party of Canada, urge the Parliament of Canada to form an all party committee to study the implementation of instituting a Canadian head of state popularly elected and sever formal ties with the British Crown.”

Even beyond the universe of surviving Liberal partisans, Resolution 114 is bound to strike a chord among all of we Canadian people who have long wondered, like Craig McBride in the Huffington Post Canada this past week, “Why Not Just Ditch the Monarchy?

Members of Parliament with new Canadian flag during the flag debate, Ottawa, 1964 (courtesy NAC/PA-142624).

It will similarly please those who have been dismayed by what the historian J.L. Granatstein has nicely dubbed the “abject colonialism” of the Harper government’s recent bizarre efforts to actually revive obsolete attachments to the British monarchy in our home and native land.

There are, no doubt, some cautionary notes worth noting. A few less than enthusiastic comments from some Liberal Party members on the Convention website suggest that it is not just the Conservative Party of Canada that harbours abject monarchist defenders, even now! It will be interesting to see just what happens to Resolution 114 on the actual Convention floor this coming January. (And, no doubt again, no one should jump to any hasty conclusions just yet.)

Elizabeth II signs Constitution Act 1982, “patriating” Constitution of Canada from the United Kingdom at last, while Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau looks on, Ottawa, April 17, 1982.

As a matter of sheer political realism, the Harper government’s new explicit monarchist agenda probably also means that an “all party committee” in the current Parliament is not a practical way of proceeding on the “Canadian head of state popularly elected” issue right now.  And a deeper pondering of the constitutional requirements to “sever formal ties with the British Crown” may finally point to some linking of this issue with a broader democratic reform agenda.

Yet even with all possible cautionary notes duly considered, it seems hard to exaggerate the good news of Resolution 114 from the Young Liberals of Canada. At last some part of some mainstream Canadian political party has finally stood up for the fundamental principle of making the Government of Canada accountable to “the People of Canada” (see the second Whereas clause), in theory as well as practice. (With apologies to the individual likes of Ken Dryden and John Manley, or even Mitchell Sharp and Lester Pearson in the past — to say nothing of Pat Martin from Winnipeg Centre in the NDP today).

There are those who still say that this is not an important issue. But if you actually do believe in the enduring survival of Canada and the “Canadian Identity” in the 21st century, it certainly is!

Young Liberals of Canada propose Resolution 114 on “Canadian Identity in the 21st Century” for consideration at Liberal Biennial Convention, Ottawa, January 13–15, 2012.

Three cheers to the Young Liberals as well for proposing the only alternative to the obsolete symbolism of the British monarchy in Canada that really makes practical sense in our continuing Westminster parliamentary democracy —  “a Canadian head of state popularly elected” (on the parliamentary democratic models of Iceland or Ireland, with some federal nuances from India as an added ingredient in our vast geography, say: the direction many Australian republicans now see as the one they should have followed in 1999?).

We still of course have many miles to go before we rest on this particular long journey to our own democratic future in Canada. Yet, whatever else may or may not be true, Resolution 114 — which has already been identified by the federal Liberal Party as a “Priority Resolution,” for immediate attention by the “Biennial Convention’s Policy Plenary session” — does confirm that at last the journey has seriously begun!

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