Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A few thoughts on the royal thing

I see that it's "Quebeckers, historians and anti-monarchists" who have been among the early opponents speaking out against the move to restore the Royal moniker to the Navy and Air Force. Well, they're not alone. Count this citizen, member of none of those categories, among the opposed as well.

For starters, I agree with Emily's point on the independence that's being lost, albeit in this symbolic move:
When Louis St. Laurent was acting as secretary of state for external affairs, he held a dinner party in honour of Ernest Bevin, then Great Britain's foreign secretary. At the end of the meal, Bevin got up and made a speech, praising Canada for standing beside Britain in her hour of need.
'His compatriots, he said, would never forget the way their cousins across the Atlantic had come to their assistance during the darkest days of World War 11.'

St Laurent was not impressed by the implication that Canada had entered the war out of loyalty to the mother country, rather than for reasons of principle. In his reply to Bevin he went out of his way to emphasize that Canada's declaration of war had been an independent decision made by the country's elected representatives, that it was prompted by the nation's determination to fight Nazism and had nothing whatever to do with helping Britain. (The Making of a Peacemonger: The Memoirs of George Ignatieff, By Sonja Sinclairp. 108)
That was an important stand, because Canada's foreign policy was based on what we felt was right at the time. And that same independence kept us out of Vietnam and Iraq, despite the fact that they were wars waged by our powerful neighbours to the South.
St Laurent believed that most Canadians wanted their country to contribute to world peace and better understanding among nations. (Sinclair)
The big news yesterday was that Canada will now be going back decades to "correct an historic mistake", fighting under the Royal Standard. Back to the time before we thought that we were no longer a British colony.
I also agree with much of what some others and have said on this move.

On the politics, this was likely done to sew up of the military aspect of the Harper coalition. For those vets who wanted it, for the pro-military crowd who like the emphasis on all things military, maybe even for those older (and not so old) voters who identify with the historical nod. A matter of cementing a long term Conservative voting coalition, something that can be tended to with little restraint during the new majority era.

Beyond the above, I'll just add that I've had a real feeling of sadness about this one. It's strange the way it's snuck up and you never know what's going to do it. The Harper crew are minimizing this change as just "a historic truth." It seems like more than that to me. We're losing something, there's a dilution of the Canadian identity here and I think that's what's doing it for me. It's like the beginning of some kind of creeping identity remake is now officially underway.

They really should have had the guts to run on this change in the election. I suspect it would have produced a very lively discussion.