Canada has had a closely linked history with the British monarchy, which by law oversaw the colony’s administration throughout much of its history — even though de facto rule had been assumed by the British government.
The 1931 Statute of Westminster granted Canada considerable autonomy, but the British Parliament still retained the power to make fundamental changes to the Canadian constitution — a power it held onto until 1982.
Nevertheless, a large proportion of Canadians, especially Anglophone Canadians with ancestry from the British Isles, supported Canada maintaining the British monarch as the head of state. This is due to several factors, including cultural affinity, Britain fostering a culture of loyalty towards the Crown and Canadian government efforts. But now with the Queen’s passing ending a crucial chapter in relations between Canada and the Crown, a changing Canada is seeking to re-examine this relationship.
Queen Elizabeth’s passing can rightfully be regarded as the end of an era, signalling the end of the 20th Century for some. It has also resulted in a large outpouring of grief from some sections of Canadian society, while indifference from others. The Queen’s popularity was one of the major factors contributing to the monarchy’s fame among the countries of the Commonwealth Realm.
This perhaps explains why more Canadians want the monarchy gone for the first time than ever before, which has called into question the way the government decided to declare Sept. 19 a federal holiday as “an opportunity for Canadians to mourn.”
This decision did not take into account the cost involved with having another holiday, which may amount to millions of dollars. Many businesses likely struggled given that the economy has not fully recovered from the pandemic lockdowns, with the possibility of a recession floating around. Hence, many provincial governments chose not to follow the federal government’s lead and have either scrapped the holiday entirely or limited it to certain public businesses. Nonetheless, the cost involved would be substantial.
A haphazard and uneven application of the holiday has taken away people’s right of choosing to mourn or not. Federal employees must take a day off even if they do not agree with this method of mourning, and other workers must work, even if the Queen’s passing affected them deeply. This does not do justice to either the people who oppose the monarchy or to those who support it.
And an extra holiday, especially in September when we already have two holidays, negatively impacts many sectors. Students and teachers need to adjust their academic schedules to make up for the time lost, which is not easy to manage given that there’s still a pandemic to contend with.
More importantly, when schools closed, people that worked in the private sector had to scramble to find child-care at the eleventh hour or risk losing a day’s pay if they stayed home. Low-income families were the most likely to be affected.
An increasingly disaffected attitude towards the monarchy among the general public in Canada is a sign that it’s perhaps time for the federal government to introspect and redefine the role of the British monarchy in a Canadian context or, as is growingly evident, willing to forego it completely.
It is high time that like-minded Canadians come together, voice their disagreements and trigger a conversation about vestiges of Canada’s colonial past in the Parliament to pave the way for a Canadian republic — something that Canada’s politicians have repeatedly eschewed.