The Ottawa Citizen: Thursday, April 11, 2002
New bid for a 'monarchy-free' Canada
A new organization that says the monarchy stands for 'racial and economic discrimination' argues it’s time for Canada to cut its ties to the Crown.
Randy Boswell reports
Twenty-four hours after the burial of the Queen Mother, a new national organization was launched yesterday as part of the most ainbitious campaign yet to sever Canada's formal ties to the monarchy.
Citizens for a Canadian Republic founder Tom Freda says he and other supporters of the cause - including the well known Canadian actor Sean McCann - are linked with similar groups in New Zealand and Australia and are aiming to gradually build public support for a referendum on the issue.
"For over 30 years, this debate has been dominated by one side, the Monarchist League of Canada, a group established to strengthen Canada's ties to the monarchy," Mr. Freda, a Toronto writer and businessman, said in a statement. "Supporters of the concept of a Canadian head of state are now prepared to even the playing field with an organization of their own."
The organization has set up its own Web site - www.canadian-republic.ca - and is hosting a public forum at the University of Toronto on May 23.
The group was launched in the year of Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee "in an effort to provide balance in the debate over whether or not Canada should remain a constitutional monarchy."
The move is sure to stir more debate on an issue that has flared several times over the past few years, particularly after comments by federal cabinet minister John Manley, now deputy prime minister, that the Queen should no longer be Canada's head of state.
The CCR's official birth two years in the making but delayed by a week in deference to the late Queen Mother - also follows speculation in Canada and Britain about the impact the Queen Mother's death could have on the monarchy's future.
Her enormous popularity has been seen as a major asset for monarchists; polls conducted in Britain after her death have shown a surge in support for the Crown. "We're a little apprensive about our timing ", said Mr.Freda.
Asked about the state of the monarchy in Canada following a memorial service in Ottawa on Tuesday, Heritage Minister Sheila Copps turned upside down Mr. Manley's frequent claim that scrapping the monarchy would represent Canada's maturing as a country. "I've always believed" countered Ms. Copps, "that Canada is a mature enough country to resist the temptation to sever our links with our past.'
But Mr. Freda insists that moving to a republican state could be accomplished without heaping scorn on the Royal Family, rejecting the Commonwealth or forgetting Canada's history as a constitutional monarchy.
"Even I have fond childhood memories of the Queen," he says. "We could still have our proud monarchist past, but we’d also have our proud republican future to look forward to."
Mr. Freda says he understands why some people feel the debate over the monarchy is a largely academic one and doesn't deserve attention at a time when more pressing concerns abound. But he says the country's constitutional status "affects our pride" and prolongs a sense that Canada "is a colony " and is "subservient to Britain. "
He also argues that although the monarchy is widely viewed as a "benign" institution with some sentimental value, it also stands for racial and economic discrimination because of who it excludes from being Canada’s head of state.
He describes Mr. McCann as "an active member" who will help promote the organization. The Windsor-born actor is best known for his portrayal of MacKenzie King, a prime minister whose devotion to the monarchy was cemented during the wildly successful 1939 royal visit of King GeorgeVI and Queen Elizabeth, the future Queen Mother.
John Aimers, dominion chairman and founder of the Monarchist League of Canada, said recent polls place Canadian support for a constitutional monarchy at 68 per cent.
"Canadians have no appetite for a wrenching debate on the subject" he said yesterday, after returning from the Queen Mother's funeral.
Mr. Freda says he personally prefers a 'minimalist" solution to the constitutional challenges that confront republican reformers. He suggests redefining the Governor General's role as a head of state rather than having him or her serve as the Queen’s representative in Canada.
That, he says, would allow Canadians to retain the symbolism, pomp and ceremony for which they have shown an appetite. He adds that royal visits could continue to occur because of Canada's historical connections with Britain.
Mr. Freda says reformers must avoid the error Australian republicans made, when their movement to scrap the monarchy failed because of a split over what the replacement political structure should look like.