Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sucking Up to Royalty Again

Peter MacKay, Canada's Defence Minister, is renaming Canada's air force and navy.

They will now revert to their pre-1968 names, the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Canadian Navy.

Licking the boots of royalty is, regrettably, still popular in Canada. Many Canadians still prefer to be subjects of the ruler of a foreign country instead of standing up on their own feet.

You can express your opinion about this silly move.


Eamon Knight said...

I'm pretty apathetic about the monarchy, either way, so I don't much care what they call the military. But I have to see this as just more conservatism for conservatism's sake, from our basically reactionary governing party.

Takis Konstantopoulos said...

Unfortunately, many people likes father-figures and big brothers. Even though the role of British monarchy is decorative and touristic (it attracts money and tourists--see, e.g., the so-called royal wedding), for may it is a must. They cannot stand on their own. They need a boss, even a symbolic one. Isn't it almost the same with religion?

Alex said...


Usually I enjoy all of your musings, even when we disagree, but this bit just strikes me as an outright lie:

"Many Canadians still prefer to be subjects of the ruler of a foreign country instead of standing up on their own feet"

You do realize, don't you, that the link between Canada and the UK is purely symbolic? That, even within the UK, the monarchy has very little real power?

I'm not sure that our government should be supporting such an outdated tradition, even if it does make things a little more interesting, but to suggest that people actually want to be ruled by a foreign monarchy is simply ridiculous. Why would you write that? Are you just going for the shock value?

Jeffrey Shallit said...


Who, exactly, do you think is the head of state in Canada?

James Cranch said...

(I'm writing from the UK, but maybe what I say is relevant anyway.)

I don't approve of the monarchy. But I think I approve still less of the idea that there has to be a head of state at all. The widely-varying duties and powers of heads of state around the world seem to me to suggest that it's just an anachronistic convention. I think it's also a barrier to understanding who really does hold the power.

miohippus said...

I wonder what the cost of this move will be...change stationary, insignias, uniforms, etc. Hardly what one would expect from the fiscally conservative. What a waste of money.

Alex said...

I know who the head of state is - I'm not sure what part of the word "symbolic" you don't get.

In the military, every unit has an "Honorary Colonel" who theoretically has an official rank within the military. That doesn't mean they get to boss soldiers around or lead men into battle.

If the "royal family" actually decided to intervene in Canadian politics, what do you imagine the response from parliament and the PM would be?

Takis Konstantopoulos said...

"That, even within the UK, the monarchy has very little real power?"

This is not true. Although they have no political power, monarchy has the power to numb people's brains. Just like religion.

The statement that [some] Canadians cannot stand on their own feet is absolutely true. I bet that if there was a way to officially introduce the British queen to the American public, many Americans would fall for it too.

Jeffrey Shallit said...


The idea of the Queen "interven[ing] in Canadian politics" is not so farfetched as you seem to think.

After all, it happened in Australia.

Anonymous said...

Monarchy at its worst gives us blood thirsty tyrants. But at its best it represents a certain inviolable stability, and deference to popular will, that no elected head of state and/or government can ever replace. As keepers of the national spirit (and often as outsiders as in hte case of the German family that rules over UK, or the Greek family that rules Spain, or the Rajput family that once ruled Nepal, or the Khmer family that rules Thailand) the best monarchs have stood by their land and people through the best of times and the worst of times. I come from India a country that was at the time of Indpendence a motley collection of over 500 princely states.These consisted of humane and progressive monarhs like the Holkars, Scindias, Gaikwads, Mysore, the many Rajputs, and Travancore; as well as capricious spendthrifts like the Nizam of Hyderabad. Even today the only planned cities with dignified architecture remain hte cities of the former princely state, while the republican government of India, that we citizens have given ourselves has defaced the landscape with some of the ugliest buildings you can find.

The British Royals have been at the forefront in serving their people, be it in war - I am sure you know of the many royals who have shed blood for their land during the many wars Britain has fought - or in peace.

When the War Cabinet in the days of the Blitz suggested that Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret be sent away to Canada for their own safety, the Queen Mother tartly responded, "The children could not go without me. I could not possibly leave the King; and the King would never go."

That's the royals for you.


Alex said...

Thanks, Jeffrey; I was not familiar with the Australian case. However, after a bit of research, I've learned that:

1. The Monarchy was not involved in that situation. The Governor General acted independently of the Crown, and the Governor General is, as in Canada, selected by the Prime Minister and rubber-stamped by the royalty.

2. The intended (and resultant) effect of the GG's intervention was to dissolve a non-functional government and bring about a new election. Hardly a horrible abuse of power.

Moreover, the reason that the case is so notable is precisely because it's so rare. Kerr carried out his plan without warning the Prime Minister because he was worried that the PM would call up Buckingham Palace and get them to fire Kerr.

So what we see in this case is an Australian citizen appointed to a government position by the Prime Minister of Australia, acting on his own convictions in order to force a dysfunctional government to seek approval from it's people. It's a bit of a stretch to go from that to "The Royals Interfere in Australian Politics".

Of course, that brings about the question of whether the GG's office - or an office like it - should exist in the first place. In the case you brought up, it was arguably a good thing that Kerr intervened, and the office of the GG acted as an extra check on the government. As long as the Royals continue to rubber-stamp whoever is "suggested" for the position, I don't have a problem with it. I'm quite sure that the Queen is aware of the ceremonial nature of her role; I can't see any of the Royals risking their status by actually trying to use their so-called "powers".

Alex said...

miohippus: The cost will be minimal. The money wasted in this game of musical-chairs was wasted back in the late 70's to late 80's. The "unification" happened in 1975, at which point all members of the CF switched to wearing a green uniform, and a lot of the old traditions and branch-distinctions were thrown out. A lot of senior personnel left the military at that point because they were unhappy with the change. The old uniforms were brought back a decade later, and in the time since then the branches have regained most of their distinctiveness. The current reality is that the branches are once again distinct entities within a large organization, even though we're technically still "unified" as a single force. As such, this move by the government is more of an official recognition of what has already happened - I can't see much in the way of new costs resulting from it.

crf said...

I think this is just an attempt at distraction from the coming budget cuts all over government, including the military.

They'll cut your budget, but give you a nice "royal" designation, just to show that they care.