My visit to Quebec, Canada

“I swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second…”

“I swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second…”

No I am not in UK, I am in Canada. This is the oath an immigrant gives when becoming a Canadian citizen. The full oath reads: “I swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.”

During my recent visit to Quebec I had the pleasure in meeting a few Pro-republic persons and exchange information and views. They were interested in hearing about the Pro-republic movements in Sweden, and in Europe; for me it was very interesting to learn about the very different situation in Canada.

There is no Quebec-based organization promoting a Canadian republic as opinion polls there show that the vast majority (70-80%) already support an end to the monarchy. That is one big reason why the pro-republic efforts of CCR have been concentrated almost entirely on Anglophone Canada.

CCR, “Citizens for a Canadian Republic” (French: Citoyens et Citoyennes pour une République Canadienne) was registered as a Canadian not-for-profit corporation in 2002. It advocates the replacement of the Canadian monarchy with a Canadian republic and with a democratically-chosen Canadian citizen to serve as head of state. CCR officially “represents” the Canadian republican movement as they are the only organized national group there solely promoting a republic. The coordination is mainly done from Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver. In the various Provinces there are persons who have defined themselves as Pro-republic but who are not really organized.

In English-speaking Canada, CCR has been very active in presenting the republican viewpoint in the media. That has been their main objective since they began in 2002: counter the media presence of the largely Anglophone monarchist league. In that respect, they deem that they have been hugely successful. The national media now calls upon them regularly whenever the monarchy is in the news. In fact, during royal visits or other newsworthy events relating to the monarchy, the principle media spokespeople are extremely busy doing everything from TV, radio and newspaper interviews to televised debates and talk shows. (More detailed information can be found on the CCR website (www.canadian-republic.ca) under Media Exposure)

The Facebook presence was established to complement the CCR website and to promote more participation amongst the supporters.

I would however say, with regret, that the monarchy is lately being reinforced by the federal government as the queen’s photo is hung up in embassies, among other places, even at the cost of displacing art works by very famous Canadian artists, which has caused an outcry; and furthermore the word Royal has been added to certain institutions such as The Royal Marine Academy.

Personally I wonder… having given the Oath quoted above, can such a person become active member of a Pro-Republic Association in Canada? Can you swear true allegiance to the Queen and at the same time work for the abolition of monarchy?

In the various discussions I had in Quebec, I expressed my great astonishment about how Canadians could accept and not feel humiliated in having a foreign monarch as Head of State!? From the people I was talking to, which of course is a very limited part of the population, the replies were that, as mentioned above, the Quebecois are de facto to a very large extent already Pro-Republic at heart, but are dependent on their foreign policy by federal Canada. And second: in Anglophone Canada there is a part of the population, perhaps not a majority in numbers but fairly influential, who feel strongly that they are descendants from UK and therefore the Queen is also part of them and is not “foreign”. And also, this situation gives them a different identity as compared to their large and strong neighbor, the USA.

And many many replied that they feel all this is not a priority issue.

I want to dwell a bit on the issue of “priority” whether in Sweden or in Canada, or elsewhere.

In Quebec I heard almost everywhere that the issue of having a foreign monarch as Head of State is not a priority problem as there are so many other “more important” matters to deal with, and quoted a long list of issues which I agree are all very important.

In Sweden I constantly hear the same argument: how can you waste time on such an “unimportant” issue as replacing the present monarchy by a republic?

What is it that makes people feel that the head of state, the way we are represented, is unimportant? What is it that makes us think that we cannot fight on several fronts at the same time, “important” and “unimportant”? It is a bit similar to the argument people come with during election periods: culture is not as important as health and education issues and is therefore let down with very low budgets. And yet… do we really want to be part of a society without culture?

“Not a priority for the time being”… in Sweden after the Torekov Compromise in l974 when the monarch’s power was greatly reduced to being mainly representative, Olof Palme said that now it is only a stroke of the pen left. That was 40 years ago… and we still have a king and a queen and princesses and princes! And how long has Canada had the Queen of Canada / Queen of UK as the Head of State?

When do things become a priority? What makes things become a priority, or even just a matter to deal with among others and not left aside totally? What is the difference between non-priority and indifference? We get so comfortable in the thought that the issue is not a problem that we become indifferent.

Do we only deal with things when there is a major upheaval? Or when there is a catastrophe? Why are we not able to deal with things we believe are fundamentally and principally wrong but which do not really hurt in daily life? How important is it to have convictions and principles? What is the purpose of having principles and convictions if we just let them sleep within us instead of letting them guide us in our daily life?

Finally I want to say that I had a wonderful time in Quebec and that the Quebecois are so warm, friendly and interesting people.

Marianne Höök,
Stockholm Sweden
28 December 2011

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