Tuesday, February 6, 2007

There hasn't been much interesting head of state news recently. The main thrust of this blog is keeping track of who's coming to power and winning elections around the world, but there hasn't been any developments of that sort over the last few days. A couple of interesting elections are just around the corner, however, so things should start to pick up.

Canada continues slow march to independence

When I was in Texas this summer, people would ask me why my country (Canada) still had the Queen's face on our money. I explained to my American friends that it was because we Canadians had an evolution not a revolution, which is some trite phrase I picked up somewhere. The idea is that while the United States made a "clean break" with its colonial power Canada did not, and instead had to slowly evolve from a colony into a sovereign country through a series of piecemental constitutional reforms.

And that gradual process continues to this day. Like a cluttered attic, the Canadian state still contains many colonial-era relics which need to be thrown out at some point in the future, as we continue to build an indepedent national identity. Most of these relics relate to the British monarchy, and British monarch, a woman who will remember still serves as Canada's legal head of state.

As head of state, Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, is also the supreme commander of the Canadian armed forces. The Canadian military remains very much tied to a culture of monarchism and royal servitude, a fact which is well reflected in many of the names, symbols, and traditions of the armed forces. Like most militaries, the Canadian forces are divided into many different regiments, and traditionally one of the Queen's uninteresting children or cousins have always served as symbolic "Colonel-in-Chief" of each one. They don't do much, maybe just visit "their" troops once every decade or so. But they do serve as an important symbolic link of subservience between British royalty and the Canadian soldiers.

But not anymore! The Minister of Defense has now appointed the first-ever Canadian colonel-in-chief to head Canada's second-oldest military regiment, the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. To ease the royal transition, the new colonel will be Adrienne Clarskon, a woman who served as governor-general of Canada from 1999 to 2005. As the Queen's personal envoy in Canada (though appointed by the Canadian prime minister) the governor-general of Canada serves as the nation's symbolic commander-in-chief, the highest military rank behind the Queen herself. When she was in power, Ms. Clarkson took her C-in-C duties more seriously than most of her predecessors, traveling overseas to visit army camps in Afghanistan and elsewhere. For this, she apparently "endeared" herself to the armed forces, or so the Minister says.

Clarkson will be replacing Lady Patricia Brabourne, a British aristocrat who is the eldest daughter of the late Lord Louis Mountbatten. Her father was most famous for being the last Viceroy of India, before being killed by the IRA.

Clarkson herself was born a British subject in the colony of Hong Kong. She was the first governor-general born outside of Canada or Britain.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

How strong is support for the monarchy in Canada? Feel free to correct me but the impression I get is that most Canadians don't care one way or the other. I get the impression most Canadians simply have a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude towards the monarchy.

J.J. said...

I don't think anyone in Canada would realistically consider our political system to not be "broke." It's a very broken system in so many ways. I just think we tend to be pre-occupied with a lot more pressing political/constitutional problems such as Quebec and the Senate, so the monarchy takes a back seat.

Dylan said...

I'm both a Canadian and American citizen (currently living in Canada, probably only for a year or so more though), and I am totally opposed to the monarchy and any of their presence. Unfortunately (at least I think so) us Republicans are rather numbered, as the major, as anonymous said, don't really care.

Anonymous said...

Of course what we should remember Mountbatten for most of all was as Commander in Chief of the Burma-China-India Front

Anonymous said...

God Save the Queen of Canada!

Lewis said...

"God Save the Queen of Canada!"

Ah, typically to the point while lacking any reasoned backing. Other than God of course...

Patrick said...

If only it was as easy as the transition to the Irish Free State to the Republic of Ireland, all that did was require a quick constitution change.

Dylan said...

yes, Ireland had the balls to kick England right out. Canada doesn't quite have them. I guess a century of liberal complacency imposed on a nation can do that.

Anonymous said...

J.J., are average Canadians pre-occupied with ither things or do they enjoy the Queen as in a feeling of nostalgia?

Donson said...

The attitude is really indifference. It's not a feeling of inferiority or "lack of balls," it's just not a real issue for people. Nobody really cares too much...the last time I heard anything approaching Canadian monarchical support/opposition was when Lizzie dropped the puck at the Canucks game and Manley spoke up about it. I remember a university PoliSci class, when the prof gave the full Canadian structure, and corrected a student on who the "head of state" was, and everyone either shrugged or just went, "weird."

Quite simply, we have far more important things to worry about...like everyone complaining their region gets ignored. Actually, a monarchy debate would be a good deal more interesting then that broken record...

Donson said...

Oh, and J.J., minor correction for the timeline: It was St. Laurent's government that refused to aid Britain in Suez, even though Pearson probably had the most influence in the decision.

Interesting parallel, too...aging Liberal PM makes relations-deteriorating decision not to go to war that ultimately looks like the best move possible.

Love your work, J.J.

Anonymous said...

Well I don't live in Canada but I'm sure it's similar to America...I imagine the mentality is who really cares about some obscure titles and stuff when there's yardwork and bread-winning to be done?