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Political Science Constitutions

Royal Progress

Canada's Monarchy in the Age of Disruption

edited by D. Michael Jackson

foreword by Margaret McCain

Dundurn Press
Initial publish date
Feb 2020
Constitutions, Essays, Post-Confederation (1867-)
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As Queen Elizabeth II’s record-breaking reign draws to a close, experts on the Crown explore the future of the monarchy in Canada.

Queen Elizabeth II is approaching a record-breaking seven decades as sovereign of the United Kingdom, Canada, and fourteen other Commonwealth realms. In anticipation of the next reign, the essays in this book examine how the monarchy may evolve in Canada.

Topics include the historic relationship between Indigenous Peoples and the Crown; the offices of the governor general and lieutenant governors; the succession to the throne; the likely shape of the reign of King Charles III; and the Crown’s role in the federal and provincial governments, reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, and civil society.

How will the institution of constitutional monarchy adapt to changing circumstances? The contributors to this volume offer informed and challenging opinions on the place of the Crown in Canada’s political and social culture.

With contributors National Chief Perry Bellegarde, Brian Lee Crowley, Hon, Judith Guichon, Andrew Heard, Rick W. Hill, David Johnson, Senator Serge Joyal, Warren J. Newman, Dale Smith, and Nathan Tidridge.

About the authors

D. Michael Jackson was chief of protocol for the Government of Saskatchewan from 1980 to 2005, coordinated ten royal tours for the province, and established the provincial honours program. He is the vice-president of the Institute for the Study of the Crown in Canada and the author of The Crown and Canadian Federalism. Appointed Commander of the Royal Victorian Order by Queen Elizabeth II in 2005, he is a Member of the Saskatchewan Order of Merit and lives in Regina.

D. Michael Jackson's profile page

Margaret McCain, CC, ONB, is a former lieutenant governor of New Brunswick and patron of the Institute for the Study of the Crown in Canada at Massey College.

Margaret McCain's profile page

Excerpt: Royal Progress: Canada's Monarchy in the Age of Disruption (edited by D. Michael Jackson; foreword by Margaret McCain)

Introduction: The Crown in a Time of Transition
D. Michael Jackson

Queen Elizabeth II is approaching a record-breaking seven decades as sovereign of Canada, the United Kingdom, and fourteen other Commonwealth realms. This book considers how the monarchy may evolve in Canada when her reign eventually comes to an end. Our contributors look at the historic relationship between the Indigenous Peoples and the Crown, the offices of the governor general and the lieutenant governors, the succession to the throne, and the likely shape of the reign of the next monarch. How will the venerable institution of constitutional monarchy adapt to changing circumstances in twenty-first-century Canada?

Royal Progress: Canada’s Monarchy in the Age of Disruption is a deliberately paradoxical title. Can progress and disruption coexist? Certainly the third decade of the twenty-first century may be termed an age of disruption. Yet a theme running through the essays in this book is the continuity of the monarchical institution — its sheer staying power and adaptability, which have earned it the sobriquets of “shapeshifting Crown” and “chameleon Crown.” The authors of some of the essays recognize republican objections to the British-based constitutional monarchy in Canada. They respond by emphasizing two cardinal points: (1) the Canadian monarchy is here to stay for the foreseeable future because it is entrenched in the Constitution; and (2) the Canadian version of the Crown, if properly understood, supported, and adapted, is a distinct asset to Canada’s political and social culture.

On this basis, the authors explore the positive roles the Canadian Crown can, does, and should fulfill, and changes that would facilitate the “progress” of the institution. These range from deepening and extending the link between the Crown and the Indigenous Peoples to thoroughly reforming the way viceregal representatives are chosen. Along the way, the authors offer specific proposals for strengthening the provincial dimension of the Crown, enhancing the relationship with the sovereign, and understanding the basic philosophy of constitutional monarchy. The final chapter, “Heritage and Innovation,” neatly sums up the thrust of the book.

The Indigenous Dimension
In part one, “The Crown and Indigenous Peoples,” four authors, two of them Indigenous, explore the meaning and potential of this centuries-old relationship. For them, it involves not just political and constitutional arrangements, but a profound, almost mystical, rapport with the sovereign, and with the principles and ideals she represents.

Respected Six Nations scholar Rick W. Hill Sr. and Nathan Tidridge, a perceptive observer of First Nations–Crown matters, hearken as far back as the seventeenth-century encounters of French and Dutch settlers with the First Nations in eastern North America. Negotiated through “wampum diplomacy,” peace agreements between Indigenous nations and European monarchs allowed “radically different cultures to be incorporated into the complex networks and relationships that already existed between the various Indigenous nations.” English, then British, settlers quickly picked up on the practice, which evolved into the rich and complex Crown-Indigenous rapport that continues to this day in Canada. For Hill and Tidridge, it is symbolized by the “Silver Covenant Chain of Peace,” representing mutual respect and self-rule. This covenant chain protocol, they say, is not simply a colourful relic of the past: it is equally relevant today as an instrument to foster reconciliation. Of this, the historic gathering of Canadian viceregal representatives with Indigenous leaders in 2019 at the Chapel Royal of Massey College, Toronto, was a poignant illustration.

The leader who gave the keynote address at this gathering, National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations, contributes the next chapter. He focuses on the history and intent of the treaties between the Crown and the First Nations. These constitute the “fundamental relationship, the foundation for this country called Canada. And that relationship was built on peaceful coexistence and mutual respect — to mutually share and benefit from these lands.” Bellegarde emphasizes the essential role of the sovereign in the treaty process. While elected politicians come and go, the Crown is always there to symbolize and embody the principles and ideals of Canada’s relationship with the Indigenous Peoples.

That relationship is not just one of governance or even peaceful coexistence, however. For Perry Bellegarde, the treaties are more than negotiated agreements: they are sacred covenants. “Our treaties are covenants with God, Creator, and all of creation.” As Canadians face major challenges such as climate change and biodiversity, the First Nations can contribute the wisdom and experience of their world view to their non-Indigenous partners, developing with them a holistic vision of environmental stewardship. The national chief concludes that as “the direct representatives of the Queen and therefore the holders of a sacred trust on behalf of the Crown,” the viceregal persons “are the caretakers and witnesses to this immutable relationship.”

Appropriately, the third chapter in this part of the book is written by a former viceregal representative. Judith Guichon has spent much of her life close to the land: “I am at the core a farmer and an environmentalist.” Perry Bellegarde’s notion of the treaties as sacred covenants with the natural world therefore strikes a strong chord, and she notes that this view is shared by the Prince of Wales, heir to the throne. During her time as lieutenant governor of British Columbia, Guichon gave high priority to the provincial Crown’s interaction with the First Nations, which, she affirms, needs to be characterized by “respect, relationships, and responsibility.” She concurs with the authors of the preceding essays that the monarchy is key to the treaty relationship.

Indeed, Judith Guichon sees a parallel between monarchy and Indigenous culture: “Monarchs have a role somewhat like hereditary chiefs and elders in the First Nations communities. The monarch in our constitutional monarchy represents sober second thought and wisdom, not the next political cycle but rather enduring truths and the historical evolution of our nation through generations.”

Reviewing and Reinvigorating the Viceregal Offices
The provincial manifestation of the Crown comes to the fore in the opening chapter of part two, “The Evolving Viceregal Offices.” Fortuitously, its author is Andrew Heard, a prominent political scientist from Judith Guichon’s home province, who has written about her use of the reserve power to refuse dissolution of the legislature in British Columbia in 2017. This was in itself an illustration that viceregal powers are by no means obsolete: the lieutenant governors continue to fulfill the role of “guardians of the constitution, who may at times refuse to act on unconstitutional advice from their first ministers and cabinets.”

The path of Canadian lieutenant governors toward the status of full representatives of the monarch, provincial equivalents of the governor general, has been long and circuitous and, in Heard’s view, is still incomplete. At the time of Confederation the lieutenant governors were deemed not to be representatives of the Queen but merely federal officers appointed by and reporting officially to the governor general, but in reality reporting to the prime minister. Now they have come to embody a coordinate provincial Crown. But only to a point: Heard enumerates a number of instances, both symbolic and constitutional, where the lieutenant governors remain subordinate to the governor general. He offers some intriguing suggestions of how these anomalies could be overcome.

Regardless of their nominal status, the lieutenant governors are key figures in their jurisdictions, and not only in constitutional matters. “Viceregal officers are supposed to personify the provincial society and polity as figures who are above politics and who can appeal to all in their community,” says Heard. 3 He calls for a more effective way of selecting lieutenant governors, who must be politically neutral while in office. For better or worse, the appointment is entirely in the hands for the federal prime minister. When Conservative Stephen Harper occupied that position, he established a committee to advise on viceregal appointments. Despite its positive track record, his Liberal successor, Justin Trudeau, scrapped the process. For Andrew Heard, this reversion to political, sometimes overtly partisan, appointments, is regrettable.

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