Phillip Mendonça-Vieira

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Canada, Keep the Queen!

March 18, 2017 | #canada
A $20 Canadian bank note with a brown-skinned Queen against a backdrop of the Rockies
Kaley McKean

Let’s talk about the Queen, shall we? Elizabeth Alexandra Mary has been the Queen of Canada and fourteen other countries since 1952. She is now ninety years old, and she’s not getting any younger.

Those of you not in the Commonwealth may have only a dim and fuzzy idea of the Queen’s role. As a loyal subject, the picture’s only slightly clearer.

The Queen decorates our money, she provides royal assent to our laws, and is the literal personification of the Canadian government. To swear loyalty and to love Canada is to be loyal to and love the Queen. Except, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II the physical old lady is technically a distinct and separate legal entity from the Crown, the Canadian state.

It’s complicated1.

A recent article in the Guardian explained what’ll happen when the Queen kicks it. There is a vast machinery in place for the English, proud, vain and fond of their symbols and rituals, to exercise their mass grief. Every news channel will pause and emit the same message, the streets will be clogged with mourners and into the ground she will go, wrapped in a lead coffin2.

What comes next will be even sadder, and more terrible.

It is at this point that Charles will receive the Mandate of Heaven and ascend to the throne. He will become King, assume her responsibilities as sovereign of the Commonwealth realms, and appear on our money.

It’s not his fault he will be disappointing. He’s just… unexceptional.

After sixty five years on the job, it’s difficult to imagine anyone else inhabiting the role. Popes come and go; POTUS’ and prime-ministers rotate on the regular, but the Queen kept on keeping on throughout the twentieth century and well into this one.

On VE Day, 1945 prim in her uniform, she stood waving to the crowd from the balcony of Buckingham Palace. She is the last living link to the founding myth of the Western world system as we know it today3.

It's time for Canada to Brexit

I don’t have to tell you it’s insulting that a country as vibrant, diverse and democratic as ours is represented by some old white failson who inherited the job. That it’s time for us to move beyond our shameful colonial past and present into our confident, multicultural future.

I’ve come to believe that it is the duty of all loyal and patriotic Canadians everywhere to prevent this event from ever coming to pass. We are overdue for reconsidering our relationship with the United Kingdom. Our Crown should Brexit, and be done with it.

But what of the legal and political implications of such a break? The very idea of revisiting our constitutional agreements is enough to bore most people to tears. Surely, this will provoke years of pointless debates and fights between the provinces.

To you I say, fear not.

I have devised the ultimate, most Canadian solution to our conundrum. When the time comes, we should simply do nothing.

That’s right. When our beloved Queen passes away, we should simply preserve the status quo. Keep her as the Queen in perpetuity. Canada will remain being a constitutional monarchy, we’ll pay obeisance to some shared heritage by attending the Commonwealth Games or whatever, and the Queen of Canada will soldier on as a literal symbolic figurehead that has no actual bearing on the functioning of our country, i.e. nothing changes4.

We keep Charles off our money, we avoid any stupid fights with either Québec or Alberta, and we get to keep referring to the Crown using female pronouns, which I’ve always found to be pleasant.

A Queen for everyone

Better yet, once people get used to having a wholly symbolic Queen, she can become representative of us all. We can hold contests so that any female-identifying person in Canada may embody the Queen, for a day. We can appropriate the symbols of the Crown to fashion a self image that doesn’t rely on Anglo colonial settlers and their multicoloured wool blankets5.

I can picture it now. Young women across the land competing to become the Queen, and in exchange for having to sit there next to the prime-minister during the speech to the throne, and signing lots of laws, they’ll be crowned and tour the country and get a scholarship. The ratings alone could save the CBC.

Instead of a mere mortal vessel of flesh, the representation of our state can change with us, as we no doubt will keep changing, in due time.

  1. Though, I mean, growing up Catholic, it has a familliar ring to it.

  2. “British royals are buried in lead-lined coffins. Diana’s weighed a quarter of a ton.” One presumes, in order to keep them from escaping or contaminating the environment further.

  3. Exquisite framing courtesy of Jonathan Freedland by way of Colin Horgan.

  4. The great trick of the Westminster system is most of its gears and cogs are made of unwritten norms and traditions. The Queen may sign off on parliament’s laws but it’d actually be inconceivable for her to quibble about it. Anything short of automatic assent would trigger a vast crisis, right?

  5. I recently got woke and now find Hudson’s Bay blankets to be inappropriate objects to own. Now, I’m not saying you should destroy your $300 blanket, but you should at least hide it from polite company.

# 2017-03-18