When the Republic debate was running hot in Australia a decade ago, the flames didn’t leap across the Pacific and get Canadians excited. But ten years on, it’s fair to say that Canadians are as republican as Australians, if not more so.
The British monarchy was always popular in Canada, as much because the French-speaking Quebeckers didn’t care for Canada’s links to the British Empire, and because having a queen or king enabled Canadians to tell the world they were not Americans.
But a poll released by national daily the Globe and Mail for Canada Day, 1 July, shows that 65% of Canadians want a republic after the current Queen is gone. The survey’s results have caught some observers by surprise, including seasoned political watcher Peter Donolo, who was for six years chief of communications for Prime Minister Jean Chretien. Donolo’s company, Strategic Counsel conducted the nationwide poll. Support for bringing to a close Canada’s constitutional monarchy status is spread across all ages and regions, Donolo says.
“What’s interesting is that the desire to end the connection with the Monarchy after Queen Elizabeth is even across all age groups. And it’s really nearing the area of consensus, when you’ve got 60% nationally,” Donolo said yesterday.
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The republican sentiment in Canada is now as strong as Australia’s it seems. So why? When former Finance Minister John Manley raised the issue of a Canadian republic a few years ago he got little support from the media, political colleagues or the Canadian public.
Perhaps it is because of the brilliance of Canada’s Haitian born Governor-General Michaelle Jean. Jean is the very model of what a non-executive president could be in a republic. She is the Mary Robinson or Mary McAleese – two outstanding Irish presidents of the past fifteen years — of Canada. Jean and her husband hail from Quebec and as one of Canada’s leading columnists Jeffrey Simpson wrote in the Globe and Mail yesterday, when Charles, the man who would be Australia and Canada’s next Head of State visits the latter on the occasion of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canadians will have probably have reinforced their view that they don’t need the monarchy any more.
“The contrast between the very Canadian, contemporary, bilingual, multicultural, modern, worldly Ms. Jean and the stodgy British prince and king-to-be (with Camilla) will be startling. Ms. Jean also will be an excellent host, and showcase for Canada, when she greets the many heads of state attending the Winter Olympics in British Columbia in February,” Simpson wrote.
For surge in support for the end of the British monarchy in Canada is highly significant for republicans in Australia. Canada was one of the last developed world strongholds of the monarchy outside of the UK. But now it has joined Australia and New Zealand in yearning for one of its own to not merely be the representative of a British monarch, but the head of state of their country. The tide of the future is running firmly against the British monarchy.