Cardus is not the monarchist league, nor is it primarily a political think tank. As such we tend to stay away from the hurly-burly of discussions about the monarchy and its place in Canadian politics (well, except for the occasional swoon by a director of research). In general we're content to let the Monarchist league and the Citizens for a Canadian Republic duke it out in the public square on that issue, while we go about our work of renewing the social infrastructure of our country.
But occasionally the news will conspire to move the discussion into the realm of what we do talk about. This week is one of those occasions. The Canadian air command and the Canadian naval command were "re-branded" this week under the decidedly monarchist monikers of Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Canadian Navy.
This event is less notable for the change than for the discussion it spawned, and what that discussion says about Canadian public discourse and the sorry state of civic education among those responsible for providing the public with educated thoughts.
Two columns in particular, one by Bob Hepburn in the Star, and another by the otherwise estimable Don Newman via Ipolitics, are found lacking.
Hepburn's article is embarrassing in its lack of knowledge of Canada's constitution. By renaming the forces, the "government is taking us back to a time that has long since ended, a time when Canada was part of the 'British Empire' and when all parts of the country except Quebec was dominated by Anglo society."
Newman doesn't do much better. He suggests that the move could be the first stumble down the slippery slope back to full-fledged colonialism, saying that it places us in a position where Canada would "respond to a British request [with] 'Ready Aye Ready.'"
To which I say: go back to school you two, and stop corrupting the youth! Anyone with basic Canadian history knows that we ceased being a colony some time ago. Canada became a constitutional monarchy in its own right in 1867. Our Queen and her heirs do not place us in a position to respond to the British government at all. Canadians discussions with the U.K. take place in the same way discussions with the U.S. take place—through embassies or through dialogue between elected representatives.
Queen Elizabeth is Canadian, she just happens to share a shadow with the Queen of Great Britain. That this basic point is either not known, or ignored by these Canadian columnists, is cause for despair. Why? Because it's not as if republican arguments have no place in Canadian public dialogue. Advocating intelligently for a Canadian republic is a legitimate position to take. But, that discussion should revolve around the question of monarchy vs. republicanism straight up; not republicanism vs. colonialism.
So, Don, Bob: feel free to debate the merits of the Crown, but do so in such a way that shows you're not completely ignorant of our history and constitution. Do so with honour and good arguments, or, if you're not willing to do that, bring guns like the Americans did.