It’s time for Canada to let royalty go

The British royalty is no longer central to Canada’s identity but symbolizes the most macabre parts of its history

(Flickr/Adam Gasson/Commonwealth Secretariat)

(Flickr/Adam Gasson/Commonwealth Secretariat)

On Nov. 30, 1966, the British colony of Barbados became the sovereign state that exists today as a constitutional monarchy led by Queen Elizabeth II. 

However, more than five decades later, they have decided to part ways with the British monarchy, and it’s time for Canada to do the same.

Before being reduced to ceremonial governing roles and tabloid talking points, the British Royal family once oversaw the running of one of the largest colonial empires in the world. 

Unfortunately for many across the British empire, the grandeur of its size also translated into increased tyranny and atrocities inflicted upon the subjugated peoples. As someone born in India, I can attest to the wrongdoings of the empire as something that is ingrained in the minds of every citizen, young and old alike. 

Two distinct incidents of colonial brutality come to mind. First, the Bengal famine of 1943, drought-like conditions created hardship that was exacerbated by British apathy, denial, and continual export of Indian rice. Up to three million people died as a result of colonial neglect and disdain.

Then there was the Jallianwala Bagh incident, much smaller but equally vile. Colonial troops opened fire on a peaceful gathering protesting against the recently introduced oppressive colonial laws, and higher estimates suggest that nearly 1,000 people, including children, died as a result. Mind you, this is just one region of the empire, and this barely scratches the surface.

From the Irish famine to suppression of the Mau Mau Rebellion in Kenya, subjugation of Indigenous Peoples from North America, Africa, and Oceania, the empire’s actions always either had the tacit approval of, or active participation of the Crown. 

As someone with South Asian heritage, I can’t picture myself pledging allegiance during the citizenship oath to the same Crown that for many, is the literal incarnation of oppression and subjugation.

But we must understand the peculiar relationship and nostalgia that some Canadians, especially English Canadians, have for the Crown. Canadian identity has been shaped as something in opposition to the United States and its ideals. Therefore, British authorities made strenuous efforts to safeguard the Crown’s (and hence Britain’s) stronghold in its remaining North American colonies which was further strengthened by the influx of Loyalist refugees from the U.S.

Today, as a vibrant modern nation, we must question if these historical ties are enough to absolve the British Crown of its past, and whether we should continue to regard Britain as the symbolic mother country. Canada’s association with the Crown should no longer be a matter of national unity as now it is much more profound than allegiance to the British throne.

In the wake of increased awareness of historical Indigenous oppression after remains were found at so-called Indian residential schools, it is appropriate to forego Canada’s association with the Crown, which could serve as a symbolic measure of an official “breakup” with these crimes by rejecting their symbolic incarnation.

From a political and international affairs point of view, what does Canada as a sovereign nation stand to lose? Not much. 

Canada is already independent in almost every sense of the word and its economy is deeply intertwined with that of its southern neighbour. Moreover, it would still remain a middle power on the world stage. The constitutional monarchy is merely an arrangement that has been kept in place due to a mix of colonial policies, insecurities among sections of the populace, and a lack of political will.

The move would serve as a determined symbolic gesture for Canadian society to move away from its colonial past and solidify a national identity centered around the land and its people, not as some colonial hangover of a nation nearly 6,000 miles away.

Breaking ties with the monarchy would be an imperative step for Canada to shun its colonial baggage and move forward as an inclusive and proud republic.