MANLEY’S COMMENTS FAIR, SAY CANADIAN REPUBLICANS

Toronto, ON - Oct. 9, 2002 - Citizens for a Canadian Republic, the organization that seeks to have a Canadian replace the Queen as Canada’s head of state, says Deputy Prime Minister John Manley is being unfairly chastised for doing what any other free society takes for granted, namely, speaking his mind about his country’s institutions without fear of persecution.

"The Queen is our head of state," says Tom Freda, National Director of CCR. "Why should anyone fear speaking out about that position and its relevance to Canada simply because she’s on Canadian soil?"

"If the Queen was solely the head of state of another country," Freda adds, "then perhaps there’s an argument for avoiding any comments that could possibly cause controversy. However, since she’s our own head of state, one could reasonably argue that she’s technically not really a ‘guest’, she’s just travelling to a different part of her realm, and as such, her position should be open to such comments without accusations of being insensitive to the Queen or disloyal to Canada."

"If she lived here year round like most nations' heads of state, would anyone really care about these remarks?" he questions. "I seriously doubt it."

"The British don’t wait until the Queen is traveling abroad to criticize the institution of the monarchy behind her back, they do it in her presence without the slightest hint of her being offended."

Freda cites two factors for the reaction; "One reason for this is the ‘take no prisoners’ attitude of a vocal minority of monarchists who fear encroaching republicanism and feel it must be stopped, even if it means limiting free speech. The other is the general difficulty many Canadians have differentiating between the personage of ‘The Queen’ and the institution of ‘The Monarchy’. They are separate entities", he points out, "and a comment about one should not necessarily mean that it applies to the other."

"Manley went out of his way to compliment the Queen personally,"  Freda says. "Unfortunately, all some people heard was the criticism of the institution and equated that with a personal attack on the Queen herself."

Freda is quick to point out that Mr. Manley’s comments have translated into a groundswell of requests for information about his organization - which is in the midst of a membership drive - from both the public and the media. "This is a subject that has long been neglected in Canada," he said. "It's extremely encouraging to see this kind of interest."

According to Greg Barns, Chair of the Australian Republican Movement from 2000 to 2002, this should come as no surprise, as they experienced the same phenomenon in 1992, when then Prime Minister Paul Keating made a similar pronouncement during a Royal tour.

"The events are amazingly similar," said Barns by telephone from Australia. "Canadians should know about the implications this kind of support will have. Keating’s promotion of the republic issue from 1992 onwards resulted in support for an Australian head of state rising from 35 percent to around 60 percent - where it is today."

During an Australian Royal tour in February 1992, Mr. Keating made a speech in which he indicated that the British monarchy held little relevance for most Australians, and that while the Queen was always welcome in Australia, the nation would one day become a republic.

In comparison, the latest poll results compiled in Canada between October 1 and 3, 2002 show 48 percent of Canadians prefer to have a Canadian head of state replace the Queen when her reign is over.

In another similar event earlier this year, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, a staunch republican, refused to return early from an overseas trip to greet the Queen on her arrival in New Zealand.

In a later interview, Clark is quoted as saying, "I think it's inevitable that New Zealand will become a republic. I mean, we're 12,000 miles away from where the head of state resides. How does any of that make sense? New Zealand should be looking at moving from a head of state based in London to something uniquely New Zealand."

She returned home in time to greet the Queen for the official part of the Royal visit and host a state dinner at parliament.

Although the incident and remarks were generally a non-issue for the average New Zealander, according to Dave Guerin, President of the Republican Movement of Aotearoa New Zealand, "The whole thing was a storm in a teacup – it only annoyed the sort of people who wanted to be offended, like the opposition leader."

 

 

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