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The Queen’s funeral is just behind us. It is still too early for any deep debate on the long journey ahead to a Canadian republic.

The Globe and Mail editorial board has nonetheless already opined that “Canada is stuck with the monarchy. We should thank our lucky stars for that.”

Some who for excellent patriotic, democratic, multicultural, and even economic reasons altogether disagree with this sentiment may already have their own thoughts.

Those who share the Globe and Mail’s opinion, for instance, often profess scepticism about related opinion polls. Canadian politicians themselves have so far largely ignored the growing evidence of Canadian “republicanism” or “anti-monarchism” in the polls of the past few decades.

Yet very soon after the Queen’s unhappy death our federal and provincial leaders were proclaiming Charles III the new King of Canada. And as this happened some voters may have remembered two recent surveys by the Vancouver-based Angus Reid Institute.

Both polls suggested that a two-thirds majority of Canadians (66%-67%) “oppose recognizing … Prince Charles as King and Canada’s official head of state.”

Polls on the monarchy in Canada can depend a lot on the exact questions asked. A very recent Leger poll taken just after the Queen’s death asked whether respondents “thought the accession of King Charles to the throne was good or bad news.” In this case 15% said good, 16% said bad,  and 61% were “indifferent.”

The Leger and two Angus Reid polls do point in similar broad directions for Canada. Leger found that a three-quarters majority (77%) “felt no attachment to the British monarchy.”

Another very recent poll from Pollara Strategic Insights reported that: “Only one third of Canadians believe the country should remain a constitutional monarchy.”

The second Angus Reid poll, published April 21, 2022, was headlined “The Queen at 96: Canadians support growing monarchy abolition movement, would pursue after Elizabeth II dies.”

The Leger poll points this way as well. But its questions also elicit a parallel note of apathy on the issue, which has its own history and logic.

Early reactions to Queen Elizabeth II’s unhappy passing were similarly nuanced. The online blogTO in Toronto reported that “People think Canada should … become a republic.”

The left-wing rabble.ca concluded: “Fully abolishing the monarchy would be a tall order and would require amending Canada’s Constitution, getting the provinces on board, and likely settling other Constitution issues, such as the status of Quebec.”

Whatever else, none of this means that the Canadian people are “stuck with the monarchy.”

Getting the legislatures of all 10 provinces on board will be challenging, especially when it almost certainly means settling a few other nagging constitutional issues at the same time.

In the end, however, such things must finally depend on what the great majority of  the Canadian people want. That is a key part of  the “free and democratic society” noted at the start of the Constitution Act, 1982, which finally “patriated” Canada’s Constitution from the United Kingdom.

Growing popular support for an end to the monarchy in Canada in the new age of King Charles III could ultimately be the driving force behind an at last successful cut at the still haunting  constitutional issues that eluded the failed Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords 30 years ago.

And this could help build a stronger Canada for the global storms ahead.

On closer examination, abolishing the monarchy in a parliamentary democracy like we have in Canada today, while politically awkward in several respects, is not  difficult in principle or unprecedented in practice. It has already been pioneered by our fellow former British dominions in Ireland and India.

Very quickly, there is an important enough practical role for a head of state (monarch) separate from the head of government (prime minister) in our kind of parliamentary democracy.

But in Canada this role  is now played by the governor general — in theory a representative of the British monarch, but in practice  a Canadian appointed by the Canadian prime minister since the early 1950s.

All we have to do to politely wave goodbye to the monarchy is change our official head of state from the British monarch to the Canadian governor general (under whatever new name and selection method … or not??).

It will take a long journey to politically dot all the “i”s and cross all the “t”s in even such a common-sense process. But if this is what the great majority of the Canadian people who vote in elections finally want (in our less indifferent moments), it is not a difficult thing to do.

And if we are even half as democratic as we like to imagine, our free and democratic society in the Constitution Act, 1982 is almost certainly bound to finally arrive at a Canadian republic, even at some point not too much further down the road.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.



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For decades, we have heard the same refrain—that when the Queens’ reign ends that Canada should have a discussion on the future of the monarchy, and whether or not Charles should become king. On the one hand, this was always seen as a bit crass because the only way that her reign would end would be upon her death, and nobody wanted to mention that aspect. As well, these republicans knew full well that the Queen herself was too beloved to have this kind of a conversation around, and Charles is far more unpopular, so therefore they could try and frame their plans around him instead. The problem with this line of thinking is that it ignores how monarchy works.

The Queen is dead. Long live the King.

The moment that the Queen passed on Thursday, the crown immediately passed to Charles, who became King Charles III. The process is immediate and automatic, because that’s half the point of monarchy. The Crown operates as a corporation sole, meaning that it is a sort of fictitious legal personality with two capacities—the natural person who inhabits the role, who changes over time, and the legal personality, which endures regardless of who the natural person is. This allows for there to be a seamless transition, so that the office and its effects endure. Contracts, laws, the very constitution, all carry on because the Crown as the institution and legal personality remain unaffected by the current office-holder. Oaths of allegiance or citizenship are to the legal personality, so they remain in force even after the transition. (That’s why the oaths are not only to the monarch, but to their heirs and successors—heirs referring to the natural person, and successors to the legal personality).

If the logic was that there was some kind of decision to be made upon the time of the Queen’s death as to whether or not we continue with the institution, well, that’s not how it works. Even though there was pomp and ceremony around the Accession Council and affirmations from the Privy Council in each of the realms (which includes Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and others), it doesn’t change the fact that the transition is seamless and happens instantaneously. There is no debate—Charles is now King, because our entire constitutional order depends on there being a someone to occupy the Crown. It’s not an option—it’s the entire central organizing principle by which the country operates, and cannot be left vacant. And no, the Governor General could not operate in the vacuum, because she is merely operating on behalf of the occupant of the Crown. If there is no one to fill that role, the Governor General is but an empty vessel who cannot wield the powers of state on the advice of her prime minister. That’s the simple constitutional mechanics of how it all works, and we could not wait to decide if we want Charles or not.

The notion that we could somehow do away with the monarchy upon the death of the current monarch is also overlooking the fact that we would need to rewrite the entire constitution in order to make that happen. This is not a few neat edits—as I said, it’s the entire central organizing principle, and it’s not simply a matter of swapping out “Queen” (or now “King”) in the constitution an inserting “president,” because the fundamental underlying mechanisms by how those offices operate is different. Also, this is Canada, so if you want to try and open the constitution for one thing, you’re opening Pandora’s Box, and all kinds of things will start spilling out, as each province will have competing demands on what they want to see changed, and the Quebec question will once again dominate, and because it’s the 2020s, Alberta will also stamp its feet and hold its breath to try and outdo any of Quebec’s demands. That’s not going to happen on the afternoon of the Queen’s death, and even if the House of Commons, the Senate, and all ten provinces could miraculously come up with a republican option, well, with there being no monarch in place, nobody could sign the bill to change the constitution. The whole logical underpinning of this republican notion falls apart on its face.

But even before we get there, it would almost be impossible to determine what sort of president should replace the King of Canada, given the linguistic and cultural divides in Canada, and the influences of American politics that pervade our political discourse, nor is the election of one as feasible as a non-partisan figure in the style of an Irish president, as some will try to point to as a model. That’s one of the biggest reasons why republicanism failed in Australia—because they could not agree on what should replace the Crown. And while there is a lot of talk the relationship between the monarchy and colonialism in Canada, we also need to recognize that a lot of the rhetoric around this conversation is coming from different colonial contexts, whether from India, Africa, or the Caribbean, and that in Canada, the treaties with the First Nations are with the Crown. Eliminating the monarchy would actually mean completing the colonial project because those treaties would no longer be in existence, and that would not aid Reconciliation—it would fundamentally undermine it.

If we want to have the republican conversation, then we should have it honestly and clear-eyed, about what it means for constitutional change, about what it means for the treaty relationship with the First Nations, about what kind of presidency should replace it—and be achievable rather than a fairy tale ideal that cannot exist in the real world—and using more than just public sentiment about Charles as the hook for this conversation, or the false notion that the Canadian Crown is still the British Crown when in fact ours has been separate and distinct for over 90 years now. But thus far I have seen few signs that there is an honest conversation to be had, which is one more reason why the Canadian monarchy will endure. Long live the King.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.



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During the last full week of August 2022 Jason Kenney, the about-to-retire United Conservative Premier of Alberta, announced that an eight-foot bronze statue of Winston Churchill will be erected this coming spring 2023, on the lawn of the McDougall Centre in downtown Calgary.

Premier Kenney urged that the defiant prime minister of the United Kingdom during the Second World War “loved Canada, and Canadians love him. Indeed, Calgary is one of the only cities in Canada not to have a Sir Winston Churchill statue.”

It has subsequently been noted that Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Victoria still have no Winston Churchill statues. And while Churchill visited Canada with some enthusiasm several times between 1900 and 1954 there were qualifications to his love of Canadians.

The UK Labour Party historian Henry Pelling, in a generally admiring biography first published in the 1970s, criticized Churchill’s refusal to place “the Asian and the African on a par with the Anglo-Saxon.” Pelling also noted that there “seemed to be in his way of thinking a tacit subordinating of the Scots and the Welsh, as well as of the self-governing peoples of the Dominions.”

Whatever else,  the achievements of Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, born in 1874 to an English aristocrat father and a wealthy American mother, are vast and awe-inspiring.

To start with, there is his somewhat checkered but lengthy career as a UK politician who served as prime minister twice — in 1940–45 (when, as Wikipedia puts it, he “played an important role in defending Europe’s liberal democracy against the spread of fascism”), and in 1951–55.

And then he was also a writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953. He wrote a two-volume biography of his father (who died at 45), a six-volume history of the First World War, a four volume biography of his Churchill ancestor the first Duke of Marlborough, a six-volume history of the Second World War, and a four-volume History of the English-Speaking Peoples.

Winston Churchill died in 1965, at the age of 90. In the 21st century it is an indefensible gap in his political thinking that his conception of the English-speaking peoples created by the  imperialism he so admired did not include the many millions of human beings in Asia and Africa (and the Caribbean) who now speak English as a first language.

(And according to an August 2022 Statista report, some 1.5 billion people globally  are  currently classed as English-speaking. The “Anglosphere” of the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand has 470 million — not quite a third of the real-world English-Speaking Peoples today!)

In both 21st century Canada and the United States (and beyond) it is especially those inclined to conservative and Conservative (and Republican) political philosophies who continue to seriously revere Winston Churchill.

Yet in some ways it is odd that present-day conservatives should be so attracted to his memory. His father Randolph was an early Red Tory. At first Winston called himself  “a Conservative and a Tory Democrat.” Elected under this banner in 1900, he soon crossed the floor in the House of Commons, and was a member of the old UK Liberals from 1904 to 1924.

Back in the late 1950s the historian of socialism George Lichtheim published a sparkling essay called “Winston Churchill : Sketch for a Portrait.”

It presented even the post-1924 Conservative politician as “that oddest and most distinctively English of political creatures, a Whig”  — an acolyte of the old aristocratic liberalism that held “a certain contempt for the unlettered country squires who made up the backbone of Toryism.”

Winston Churchill was also what Lichtheim called a “liberal imperialist” — on whom President John F. Kennedy conferred honorary citizenship of the United States in 1963.

In Canada today, Churchill’s refusal to place “the Asian and the African on a par with the Anglo-Saxon” (along with his “ tacit subordinating” of “the self-governing peoples of the Dominions” — and flat dismissal of Indigenous rights) confirms him as a leader of the past and not the future.

At the same time, Winston Churchill did have some rare grasp of what history might mean for the future, even when it contradicted his Anglo-Saxon aristocrat’s bygone vision.

Somewhere close to the new Churchill statue in downtown Calgary someone should place the concluding sentences of his Farewell Address on CBC Radio, during his last visit to Canada in 1954 : “Au revoir, mes amis, Canadiens. C’est toujours plaisir pour moi de faire séjour dans votre pays … C’est un avenir splendide que vous attend demain.”

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.



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“I know that I speak for Members on all sides of the House today in offering to Japanese Canadians the formal and sincere apology of this Parliament for those past injustices against them, against their families, and against their heritage, and our solemn commitment and undertaking to Canadians of every origin that such violations will never again in this country be countenanced or repeated.”

—part of a speech by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to the House of Commons in 1988

Vladimir Putin’s brazen war of conquest against Ukraine has conjured a visceral response from many Canadians. But obscured among our support for Ukrainians’ plight stirs a more sinister force: Russophobia. Numerous incidents of harassment against Canadians of Russian descent have been reported over the past fortnight. If the war continues to intensify, so too will torment against Russian Canadians. Keeping in mind the historical injustice of the internment of Japanese Canadians, we must not allow Putin’s despicable war to sow xenophobic division here in Canada, and should take proactive actions to halt such trends.

As a megalomaniac intent on empire-building, Putin has illustrated wanton disregard for national sovereignty and international law. But far worse is his callous indifference to human life, indiscriminately bombing Ukrainian residences simply to propagate terror among the population, an action that undoubtedly constitutes a war crime.

No surprise, then, that Canadians and much of the international community are expressing empathy for Ukrainians, along with outrage at the Russian state for such heinous atrocities.

Unfortunately, anger at Russia’s despot-led government often manifests itself abroad as harassment of the Russian diaspora. Here in Canada, Russian churches have been vandalized, while Russian businesses such as restaurants are targeted with threatening phone calls or adverse online reviews. A teenage hockey player was also allegedly the victim of a racial slur from an opposing player.

It’s worth emphasizing that many Canadians of Russian descent were born here. Of those who emigrated, plenty of them fled repression – either Soviet or Putin’s modern variety. Russo-Canadians are much more likely to have been victims of the Russian state rather than its overseas cheerleaders. The thought of re-victimizing these people is repugnant. And numerous Russian-themed businesses here in Canada have gone out of their way to express support for Ukraine – including actively fundraising – while denouncing Putin.

Attempting to categorize Canadian immigrants and their descendants as having either a “Ukrainian” or “Russian” identity – as if it were a simplistic binary – is often a futile task, as many Canadians share ancestry from both countries. Several of the “Russians” in Canada who have been targeted for abuse are also of Ukrainian lineage. How is harassing them meant to help war-torn families in Kyiv? When we seek convenient scapegoats, we quickly appreciate the world is a complex tapestry. Only one person deserves our scorn for the war, and he certainly doesn’t live in Canada.

Thus far, most incidents of harassment against Russo-Canadians have been typically Canadian: that is, passive-aggressive. Thankfully there have not yet been any reported physical assaults. But if the war escalates – and it almost certainly will – it’s likely that violence will become a weapon brandished by xenophobic Canadians. We may even witness demagogic politicians attempt to exploit the division for their selfish ends.

The Russophobia fomenting over the past two weeks serves as a disturbing reminder of a dark chapter from Canada’s history: the forcible internment of British Columbians of Japanese descent during the Second World War. 22,000 such people – most of whom were born in Canada and thus Canadian citizens – were detained and relocated to British Columbia’s Interior, accused of being a threat to national security. In Vancouver, 8,000 women and children were temporarily sent to live in livestock pens – among animal feces and bugs, and without toilets – before being relocated away from the Pacific coast. Men were compelled to labour in road camps. Property and possessions of these Japanese Canadians were sold without their consent, purportedly to pay for the costs of internment.

War brings out the worst in human beings. Our nature is instinctively tribal, and during difficult times, good-versus-evil caricatures of “others” are often readily accepted without adequate scrutiny or critical thinking. This, of course, plays into Putin’s attempts to sow social division in the West, every bit as effective as his army of Twitter bots and trolls that aim to ruffle political feathers.

As citizens of a country that has formally embraced multiculturalism, It’s important that Canadians are regularly reminded that an entire ethnicity cannot be “bad” or “good”, as well as of the consequences of demonizing groups of people, especially during wartime. Education is perhaps the best long-term solution, ideally beginning at a young age. British Columbia and Ontario include Japanese Canadian internment in their elementary school curricula, but unfortunately many other provinces – including Alberta – do not.

With a war unfolding abroad and xenophobia against Russian Canadians currently increasing, we also need immediate remedies.

Just as Canada possesses a moral obligation to assist Ukrainians being attacked by a baleful dictator, so too must we protect our fellow Canadians from any harm arising from wartime xenophobia. We shouldn’t merely scold and tut after incidents come to light – instead, we must proactively remind Canadians of the harm caused by racism. The Canadian government should run advertisements stressing the need to be extra kind to Russo-Canadians during this conflict, and that if we turn against each other, Putin ultimately wins.

“We must make these people feel at home among us. We will secure their loyalty by fairness and kindness …”

—part of a speech by Angus MacInnis, Vancouver-Kingsway MP, to the House of Commons in 1941

 

Resources for learning about the historical internment of Japanese Canadians:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxVZtQULIMQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUGM7EfwwU8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8TQTuMqM9g

Obasan (by Joy Kogawa; Penguin Random House Canada, 2017 [originally published in 1981])

The Three Pleasures (by Terry Watada; Anvil Press, 2017)

Naomi’s Road (by Joy Kogawa, illustrated by Ruth Ohi; Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2005 [originally published in 1986])

On Being Yukiko (by Jeff Chiba Stearns and Lillian Michiko Blakey; Sandhill Book Marketing Ltd., 2021)

Stealing Home (by J. Torres, illustrated by David Namisato; Kids Can Press, 2021)

Toshiko (by Michael Kluckner; Midtown Press, 2015)

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.



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Dear Chairman Xi,

Or should I say “President for Life” or “the Great”? And congratulations on your promotion to the ranks of the materialist immortals and theoretical geniuses. I see on Amazon that “If one doesn’t understand The Thoughts of Xi Jinping, he cannot understand the future of China and the world.” But I wonder if I could ask you to hold off on doing anything rash for, say, 15 years. Or maybe 25.

It’s not entirely evident that you place great store by the Thoughts of Canada or even those of Little Potato. Perhaps once we truly understand the thoughts of Xi Jinping we’ll grasps that we wretched foreigners are to kowtow good and hard if we don’t want something to… happen to our businesspersons, our economy or who knows, our airspace as well. Oh, and our cybernetworks to which our power plants are linked. But here’s the thing.

We are a moral superpower. If you do mean nasty ugly things we will disapprove of you in ways that would wilt a hundred flowers. Eventually. Oh wait. Your lovely regime already did so, and pronto. But never mind. The point about our “eventually” is that we are building some submarines so if you do something nasty like attack Taiwan, or Japan, or Australia, or Europe, or North America, we can sink your battleship. Or aircraft carrier. Or immense fleet of same. It’s only fair.

OK. Not building. Thinking of maybe building. But if we ever get to it they will be very cool submarines. Not as cool as the Australian ones with nuclear power. But a whole lot better than the second-rate junk we got from Britain in 1998 after Pakistan said “No thanks”. Yes, the Victoria class that caught fire, fell over and sank into the sea. See, we were just kidding back then, confident that the mighty U.S. navy would protect us while we pranced around denouncing American imperialism.

We’re not so sure today. The decline of the American empire that our chattering classes longed for and gloated over appears to be arriving and product is not quite as advertised. So we’re going to retire those Victorian beauties in about two decades. After all, the Germans nearly won the Battle of the Atlantic in 1941 with subs launched in 1891 and the pace of technological change has obviously slowed since. And when we do, we’re going to build some first-rate submarines. Or second-rate. Nuclear power is just so yucky, don’t you think?

Oh wait. You don’t. You’re engaging in a massive buildup of your nuclear arsenal, nuclear-powered navy, hypersonic missiles, cyberwarfare and all that stuff with which you will finally restore the Mandate of Heaven or whatever it is that means you get to tell everyone what to do and kill them if they don’t. You think political power grows out of the barrel of a gun, not a flower. What a mean man. Still, in case you have a point, we need some subs.

Unfortunately it turns out we’re not very good at defence procurement. Probably you knew already. I suspect some grim people on your staff and in your gigantic private army including PLA Unit 61398 are probing with bayonets, so to speak, and finding us sort of mushy just now. But look, we’re Canada and nothing bad can happen to us, so back off now or we’ll send a protest note. A stern one. Not exactly wolf warrior diplomacy. More agitated house cat.

You laugh? You ask how either world war would have gone if we’d had the kind of complacent incompetence about defence procurement then that we have now? Well ha ha to you Mr. Great because we did. We entered World War One with coal-burning ships firing black powder shells. Admittedly only two. But one was called “Rainbow” so see how progressive we were even then? (The other ran aground but we got it off the shoal again.) And we started World War Two with only six tanks but it was OK because they were obsolete anyway. And our troops trained by pointing sticks and shouting bang which was very good for their lungs.

If you can spare a moment from being great and all, you might reflect that once provoked we rapidly armed ourselves, played a major role in both World Wars which our side did win, along with the Cold War. Despite, not because of, not having a “Great” ruler since Alfred of Wessex. We do the active self-reliant citizen thing not the insane grandiose dictator. But we do seem to have developed a bit of a paunch lately and need to work out for a bit.

So as noted, have fun being great but please don’t attack for at least 20 years.

Yours sincerely Canada the Moral Superpower.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.