Despite the national dust up that followed the newly installed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision remove the Elizabeth II’s portrait from the Foreign Affairs Building, the Canadian monarchy doesn’t seem to face any immediate risk of extinction.
Even so, Canadian monarchists fear that the removal portends an effort by the Trudeau government to expunge all images of the Queen from Canadian national life.
Whatever the case, Trudeau’s widely reported and well-received toast to Elizabeth II struck this American as, well, slightly dissembling. While Trudeau offered his toast within the context of the Commonwealth meeting, he seemed to emphasize the Queen’s Commonwealth functions, obfuscating her role as Canada’s head of state. But I don’t find that surprising at all. Canada has always been an anomaly among Commonwealth countries. It is arguably as American as it is British – really an amalgamation of the two cultures – and Canadian views on monarchy have always been rather ambivalent largely for this reason. Indeed, a surprising number of Canadians appear to be unaware that Elizabeth II is their nation’s head of state.
Indeed, perhaps the Canadian monarchy soldiers on solely because it represents the only symbol of real significance that distinguishes Canada from its southern neighbor.
Granted, I have no dog in this hunt. As an American, albeit one with strong Tory sympathies, I find the whole concept of a monarchy as repellent as I do endearing. While I respect the symbolic value of the Crown and the role it serves in underpinning the constitutional systems of Britain and the Commonwealth realms, it’s hard for me to look past the hereditary nature of the monarchy. But, again, I’m an American and, even worse, from the standpoint of committed monarchists, one with generations of Back Country republican sympathies behind me.
Still, I must confess a certain amount of envy for some attributes of the monarchy. There is something endearing about a head of state who has spent her entire tenure standing above the sordid political fray. I even contend that it would behoove us Americans to remodel our presidency along the lines of Ireland’s and Germany’s presidencies, both of which were conceived with the historical memory of ancient monarchies firmly in mind. But I know that this will not happen in my lifetime, or my children’s.