Evolution of alternative to monarchy in Canada has been in progress since 1947

Feb 2nd, 2023 | By | Category: In Brief
“On the Way Out” by Michael Seward, January 2023.

ONTARIO TONITE. RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO, THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2023. It appeared almost a month ago now. But I am still remembering Sasha Akhavi’s January 7, 2023 piece in the Toronto Star on his new legal status as a Canadian citizen.

As matters stand he is also a subject of King Charles III of Canada. But he does “not wish to be” just like “most of my fellow Canadians.”

I am an aging one of these fellow Canadians. And I altogether agree with Mr. Akhavi’s thoughts on “devoting a small amount of time, consistently, to building a replacement for the unsustainable structure” of the old British colonial monarchy in Canada today.

The argument I’d like to urge in this healthy new debate is that the inevitably long process of building such a replacement has already been going on for a while now.

“Winter Night” by Michael Seward, January 2023.

Speaking about what I know best, though born in Canada at the end of the Second World War in 1945 I began my legal life in the country as a mere British subject, like everyone else at the time.

Then, some two years later in 1947 the first Canadian Citizenship Act took effect. Like everyone else again, I became a Canadian citizen.

I was only seven years old when Vincent Massey became the first Canadian citizen (as opposed to British aristocrat) to be appointed Governor General of Canada, the offshore monarch’s local representative, in 1952.

Seven years later again I vaguely knew that the Canada I was growing up in was beginning to chase its own destiny. This was underlined when I started college in the fall of 1964.

To earn required athletic credits I joined the football band. And when we marched onto the field we carried the new independent Canadian maple leaf flag, even before it was officially proclaimed on February 15, 1965.

The first version we carried had a red maple leaf on a white background with two blue bars at either end. We were halfway through the fall 1964 football season before it became clear that the bars would be red on the official new flag.

Subsequent more practical patriotic reforms of the late 1960s and early 1970s put the present Canadian “service state” in place, complete with public health care.

Then the late 1970s and early 1980s brought a Canadian constitutional crisis. It was finally resolved by the Constitution Act, 1982, after the 1980 Quebec sovereignty referendum.

“Quantum Clock” by Michael Seward, February 2023.

One minor thing the Constitution Act, 1982 did was change the name of the old British North America Act, 1867 that created the present confederation to the Constitution Act, 1867.

There can be no doubt that under the Constitution Act, 1867 Canada is still, in theory, a constitutional monarchy like the United Kingdom in the middle of the 19th century.

In another somewhat minor way the Constitution Act, 1982 bows to this 19th century monarchy. It requires that any amendment to the institution be approved by the federal parliament and the legislative assemblies of all 10 provinces.

Yet in a much more major way the Constitution Act, 1982 is fundamentally about the rights of the Canadian people, or Indigenous, francophone, anglophone, and other Canadian peoples, created by the first Citizenship Act in 1947.

“Human Nature” by Michael Seward, February 2023.

More recently I was struck by thoughts on the subject from the late Frederick Vaughan, who taught Constitutional Law and Political Philosophy at the University of Guelph for many years.

The Constitution Act, 1982, Professor Vaughan wrote in 2003, “was the instrument that, with one stroke, severed Canadians from their ancestral monarchical foundations.” With the act’s Charter of Rights “Canada began a new life as a nation, a republican nation.”

It is probably worth urging as well that in continuing to gradually build “a replacement for the unsustainable structure” of the old colonial monarchy in Canada today, we Canadian citizens of the 2020s do not have to reinvent any wheels.

Such fellow former self-governing British dominions as Ireland and India have already shown the essential trick.

It is to, in one way or another, just turn the monarch’s local representative of the governor general into an independent ceremonial head of state, ultimately accountable to all the diverse citizens of Canada.

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