John Fraser on the importance of the monarchy for Canada


Catherine Middleton and Prince William, the newly minted Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, wave to the crowd after their wedding on April 29, 2011 ( (Alastair Grant/Associated Press)

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First aired on On the Coast (7/3/12)

Sometime in the next 20 years or so, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth will die. If all goes according to plan, her eldest son, Prince Charles, will become the King of England, and the reigning monarch of Canada. That is, unless those who believe the monarchy is a elitist artifact of imperial evil have their way, and Canada becomes a republic rather than a constitutional monarchy. If this unlikely scenario occurs, at least one man will oppose them. John Fraser is a journalist and the author of The Secret of the Crown, and in his book he argues that the monarchy is not only relevant to Canada now, but will be important to Canadian society long into the future.

Fraser is quick to point out that it's not as easy to eliminate the monarchy as some may think. "We actually can't get rid of the monarchy, unless the monarchy itself dissolves," he said. Fraser points to Pierre Trudeau's constitution, which "pretty much assured that it's impossible to change it." Fraser admits that it's "technically" possible, but not realistic. Such a drastic governmental change would be bureaucratically complicated, politically messy and quite expensive, and Canada's new government would suffer growing pains for years to come.

However, Fraser senses that Canadians are more accepting of the monarchy than ever before, and we've developed a form of government that, for the most part, works for all Canadians. "We moved away from a period when we thought the monarchy was a symbol of disunity because the French Canadians didn't want it," Fraser said. "Most Canadians now understand that we really are two countries that somehow worked out a system that can work... the system of the evolved crown works really well in Canada."

Fraser also points out that the monarchy actually represents a counter-intuitive ideology within Canada. Queen Elizabeth has completely backed off from governing Canada and, according to Fraser "does nothing without Stephen Harper telling her to do it." For Fraser, this represents a people-first government. "It means that the people over the years have evolved to take control of their government," he pointed out. "It is through the permission of the people that the sovereign exists there."

Fraser also believes that Canada needs to respect its past and allow it to inform its future, and dismissing the monarchy would be a disservice to Canadians. "We have traditions that we follow, we have a definition of what we are," he said. "We're an evolved country."

He went on to explain: "To be a mature country means not necessarily jettisoning everything but carrying it with you, and understanding how it evolves, and making sure it evolves."

Do you think the monarchy has a role in the future of Canada? Have your say in our survey, and explain your answer in the comments below.

StampedeThe Secret of the Crown: Canada's Affair with Royalty
by John Fraser

From the publisher: 

"Award-winning journalist, author, and royal authority John Fraser explores the endurance and allure of the Crown in Canada. With his trademark wit and artful agility, Fraser looks at the Crown's evolution from the Age of Deference to the era of celebrity to the present popular revival. He examines the differences between tribal monarchy and constitutional monarchy, the key roles of the governor general and the lieutenant governor, and the media''s insatiable appetite for the Royal Family. Finally, he speculates on the future reign of Charles, Prince of Wales, and pays homage to Queen Elizabeth II on her Diamond Jubilee.Erudite and highly entertaining, The Secret of the Crown offers a captivating appraisal of Canada''s long-standing affair with royalty. This volume includes a lavish 32-page photo insert to create a spectacular visual history of the once and future crown."

Read more at House of Anansi Press.