The debate: Do we need the monarchy?

, Last Updated: 6:43 PM ET

The Canada Day long weekend is more than just hotdogs on the barbecue. It’s a day when we all pause to consider this country’s history — and its future. Our past is firmly linked with the monarchy. But there’s a republican sentiment here that is pushing for us to ditch the Queen. Columnists Michael Coren and Christina Blizzard had a royally raucous e-mail exchange about it recently.

COREN: As we celebrate Canada we should also celebrate removing a foreign and redundant institution. I have great respect for the Queen, but none for an outdated monarchy that will eventually put Charles the adulterer on the throne. It’s not the individual, however, but the concept. Goodbye royalty.

BLIZZARD: The monarchy isn’t foreign. It is a uniquely Canadian institution. We fought not to become part of the American republic. We have been well served by the Crown and its representatives here. The monarchy gives us a level of government that is above the vagaries and foibles of our politicians.

COREN: It can’t be uniquely Canadian because several other countries have the same monarch. As for fighting to retain it, that was more than two centuries ago. We have evolved and so has the monarchy. It’s not that it now serves us badly, more that it doesn’t serve us at all.

BLIZZARD: On the contrary, it is a marvellous institution that can elevate the human spirit above the grasp of grubby politics. And highly relevant. Look at how James Bartleman has used his role as Ontario’s lieutenant-governor to focus attention on the plight of aboriginal people in isolated reserves. No politician has ever been that effective.

COREN:The human spirit should be elevated by art, religion and love. Not by hereditary privilege. Of course politics is grubby, but that doesn’t justify bloodline elitism. As for native issues, we cannot solve one injustice by perpetuating another. Golly, monarchs began empire and colonialism in the first place.

BLIZZARD: In Canada the monarchy has a better history of service than our politicians. Upper Canada was the first place in the world to outlaw slavery with the anti-slavery law of 1793 under Lt.-Gov. John Graves Simcoe. And the Crown has always upheld the rights of minorities. When the U.S. demanded the return of fugitive slave Thornton Blackburn and his wife Lucy, for example, they appealed directly to Queen Victoria, who turned down the request.

COREN: This is history. Often fine history at that. But the Anglo-Celtic nature of this country has been transformed and the Crown represents a past that holds us back rather than thrusts us forward. It says much that the absurd Princess Diana was the most popular royal of recent times!

BLIZZARD: I agree. Diana was a lightweight. But she wasn’t really a royal. I’d say the Queen Mother was the most popular royal in recent times. Now there was a woman to look up to! She embodied grace, duty and fidelity. And she showed best kind of leadership when reached out to people in the East End during the Blitz.

COREN: But that lightweight Diana could have been wife to the monarch! The Queen Mother was indeed wonderful, but if we rely on the chance of compelling personalities we merely gamble. That gamble will give us Charles, who speaks to flowers and thinks we have much to learn from Islam.

BLIZZARD: Charles is thoughtful and intelligent and his ideas on organic farming are way ahead of our time. Of course it’s fun to lampoon people who don’t have the whole media patter down and don’t spout pap. I think he will be a great king. He may have his foibles, but kingship is something he has trained for and worked towards all his life.

COREN: George III spoke to trees so Charles may as well converse with daffodils! He betrayed Diana during their courtship and marriage. He enthuses about eastern cults and Islam, but refuses to defend Christianity. He’s a fool. But even if he weren’t, he has no right to inherited rule.

BLIZZARD: Oh, right. And our democratically elected leaders are so much better. William Lyon Mackenzie King talked to his dead mother and his dead dogs through mediums. Jean Chretien played with his golf balls and President Bill Clinton did some very odd things with cigars.

COREN:Yes, they were all deeply flawed. But democracy allows us to reject the bad and elect the good. Just because politicians sometimes disappoint us does not mean that democracy is a failure. Monarchy, on the other hand, imposes without consultation. Hey, how about King Michael?

BLIZZARD: Sure, Michael, I’d vote for you for king. Just as democracy isn’t flawed by oddballs, the same goes for the monarchy. As an institution, the Crown has given us the underpinnings of a civil society — our courts, our parliaments all maintain their dignity because they operate in the name of the Crown.

COREN:If you could vote for a king, he’d be a politician and not a monarch. But you give the people too little credit. It was monarchs who resisted parliaments, courts and anything that countered their power.

BLIZZARD: Actually, the medieval notion of kingship was a two-way street. People pledged allegiance to the king and he, in return, promised protection. Why are our courts more dignified than the Americans? Because our courts take authority from the Crown. Who are all the tourists at Buckingham Palace? Americans. Because they dumped the monarchy — and have regretted it ever since.

COREN:Please! American courts are far more egalitarian than ours and our Supreme Court — unaccountable, un-elected and arrogant — virtually runs the country now. Buck House was only opened to tourists because of public pressure. You confuse “the Crown” with the achievements of ordinary Canadians.

BLIZZARD: If “Egalitarian,” means you can bring political pressure to bear on a case, then I’m all for a constitutional monarchy that places these precious institutions beyond the reach of the petty machinations of politics. And in the U.S. legal system, the poor have no hope of justice while the rich — like O.J. — walk.

COREN:U.S. Supreme Court nominees are grilled. Here they are appointed with hardly any comment. And if you think justice is income-free in Canada you are dreaming. As you are when you defend hereditary in-bred privilege. Three cheers for Reggie. Regicide. Metaphorically speaking of course.

BLIZZARD: Oh, c’mon, a little noblesse oblige never hurt anyone. Sure, they have their flaws and their failings, but the Crown defines us in North America. We are not Americans. We are proud Empire loyalists, humble subjects of Her Majesty. God Save the Queen, I say. Long may she reign.


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