by Katherine Wagner/Special to The News
I’ve rarely had an interest in queuing up to catch a glimpse of a celebrity, but in downtown Edmonton on Canada Day in 1983 I happily waited for hours to see Princess Diana.
Almost 40 years later, her sons and their wives attract much positive attention, but also the same relentless harassment that led to their mother’s death.
In particular, Prince Harry’s wife, Meghan, has been bombarded with nasty speculation and negative media coverage.
The news that Prince Harry and Meghan sought at least a partial split from royal duties wasn’t surprising.
Their decision to live part-time in our country has quickly become a hot topic across Canada.
Right now, the biggest concern seems to be whether taxpayer dollars will pay security costs for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and their son. The discussion is also rekindling long-standing debates.
How do you feel about the monarchy’s role in Canada?
For most of us, it’s not a question we generally spend much, if any, time thinking about.
Outside of the relatively-ambivalent, vast majority, there are two main Canadian organizations representing strong opinions for and against the monarchy: The Monarchist League of Canada and Citizens for a Canadian Republic.
I have my biases. My mother was born in England and my grandmother was a war bride. I’ve never felt hostile toward the monarchy, but I haven’t held a strong opinion either.
These last few weeks, have me examining the role and ramifications of our constitutional monarchy.
In July of 1867, three British colonies came together to form Canada as a constitutional monarchy. In part this was to prevent American assimilation. Four years later, in 1871, threatened annexation by the U.S. was a driving factor for British Columbia to join Canada.
We are politically independent from England and the role of Queen Elizabeth II as our monarch is separate from her role in the United Kingdom and the other 14 commonwealth realms.
The Crown’s power is delegated to parliament through the constitution.
Any change would require reopening the constitution and likely unanimous consent from the provinces and territories.
Simply to save a few tax dollars, I doubt many have the stomach for the divisions, and other unintended consequences, that would result.
The role of the Queen’s representatives in Canada—the federal Governor General and provincial Lieutenant Governors (all Canadians appointed by our governments)—is largely to advise, encourage, and warn.
However, they also have reserve powers for extraordinary circumstances.
For example, Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon had the constitutional power to make a decision about how to proceed following the impasse after the 2017 British Columbia provincial election.
In a world where authoritarianism is on the rise, this additional protection against abuse of power has value.
Watching the nightly news, I would definitely vote to retain it.
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to extricate one monarchy-related issue from all the others.
Citizen Ink Column: "We need to elevate more politicians with personal histories of integrity and ethics. Jody Wilson-Raybould is a good example." #Cdnidentity #newdecade ##bcpoli #cdnpoli #mrpoli #BritishColumbia #Canada @BradWestPoCo https://t.co/hkCcN4mUuR pic.twitter.com/aQ1t4Slzi0
— KT Wagner (@KT_Wagner) January 11, 2020
The situation with the Duke and Duchess will become clearer over the next year as they sort out their new role with Queen Elizabeth II.
Right now, it’s not even certain if they will choose British Columbia as their part-time Canadian home, though the odds seem in our favour. They currently rent a home in Saanich, the city of Victoria has a British flavour, and the weather is similar to parts of England.
Whatever you may think of the monarchy and the Royal family, the Sussex’s have a demonstrated commitment to positive charitable works including the Invictus Games, the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy, and Sentebale.
On the Sussex Royal website, Meghan’s focus on “women’s empowerment and gender equality” is highlighted. Recently, she publicly shared pictures of her visits to two Vancouver women’s centres.
There is also an aspect of who we are as Canadians threaded through this issue.
Harry explained a desire “for a more peaceful life” as the impetus for their move.
Reading online articles about the harassment they’ve endured, especially Meghan, I was shocked.
I did not realize the extent of the racism and vitriol directed toward her.
I hope that, as Canadians we can offer them a respite and that we will live up to our reputation as a kind, tolerant and generally respectful nation.
– Katherine Wagner is a member of the Citizens’ Task Force on Transparency, a former school trustee and member of Golden Ears Writers