July 12, 2020

Winnipeg
18° C, A few clouds

Full Forecast

Close this

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Opinion

Time to make the May-long Canadian

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/5/2010 (3704 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Did you know the May 24 holiday is a two-for-one deal?

Victoria Day is not only a memorial to the long-dead British monarch, it's also the official birthday of the current queen or king in England. Our big summer kick-off is a double-bill. Trouble is, it's a Canadian holiday with no Canadian to cheer for -- like watching an all-U.S.A. Stanley Cup final year after year after year. Some double-bill.

It's time we convert this holiday to honour someone or something that embraces the country as exuberantly as we greet this annual coming-out.

Let's get things straight. Queen Victoria was British. She never set foot in this country. She's credited with selecting Ottawa as capital of the Province of Canada (before there was a Dominion). But it was the Fathers of Confederation at Charlottetown who chose Ottawa as capital for the new union, not Queen Victoria.

Now there's a gang the holiday could be named for: Founders' Day! Even at their 1864 meetings, they knew the value of liquor as social lubricant, setting a fine precedent for the May long weekend.

May 24 also marks the official birthday of the sovereign reigning over Canada. Since 1952, that's been a lovely lady, Elizabeth. The problem is, it's an awfully long reach from the United Kingdom to the United Provinces.

And while there's affection on both sides for the other, her birth is no reason to create a national holiday here.

Like her predecessors, she wasn't born in this country, doesn't live here and doesn't share our citizenship. She drops in now and then, but she is foremost the Queen of the UK, according to her official Canadian title. Canada comes in second, and that's not good enough.

When she visits Parliament Hill on Canada Day in just over a month, federal rules dictate the Maple Leaf flag be lowered from the Peace Tower because her personal flag takes precedence. That's not good enough for this grand nation.

At the Vancouver Olympics, we battled hard to put our flag on top. In Ottawa, bureaucrats insist we take it down. It's an insult to demote the symbol of our country any time, much less on the First of July in the capital.

Another flag faux-pas: Federal buildings are reminded to fly the Union Jack on Monday. Pardon me, but if we're celebrating the birth of the queen of Canada, why are federal facilities flying the flag of a foreign country?

As the Monarchist League points out, the office of the sovereign of Canada is distinct from that of the United Kingdom. The UK marks her birth in June. Do they fly the Canadian flag that day? No, but it would make as much sense.

British monarchs have bumped Canadians off our coins for over 140 years. Incredibly, a Canadian has never graced the front of a Canadian coin. That's not good enough. This glorious country should be celebrating its own people on coins. Even tiny Jamaica, a monarchy under the same queen, manages to honour national heroes on its pocket change.

It's not Elizabeth's fault, it's Ottawa's, for forcing people to swear allegiance to her and her heirs if they want to become Canadian. With fingers crossed behind their backs, newcomers speak an oath that has their lips betray their hearts. On a day they ought to be proud of their allegiance to Canada and the Constitution, Ottawa deflects that to a person sitting in an English palace. That's not good enough.

Overseas monarchy has insinuated itself into Canadian life, in part because we've moved excruciatingly slowly in forging an independent country from a colony. We have gained legislative autonomy (1931), citizenship (1947), a flag (1965), and Constitution (1982).

We can now prepare for the next and ultimate step: ending our reliance on Buckingham Palace to supply us a head of state. Michael Ignatieff's recent suggestion the governor general be chosen with input from the people could move us in that direction.

The GG could well become our head of state, legitimized by a process we have yet to invent. It's a path openly supported by Citizens for a Canadian Republic, and quietly by others, to ensure Elizabeth II is the last British monarch to reign over Canada.

Indeed, if we don't begin charting the options, our May holiday will mark the birth of King Charles, by default. We can change that without stirring constitutional angst. A holiday to honour overseas royalty is a vestige of a 19th-century country we no longer recognize as our own.

Quebec is ahead on this score, having renamed it Patriots' Day in 2003 to honour those who fought for democracy in the 1837 Rebellion. Other provinces could follow suit and rechristen the day so that, when fireworks burst in the late Mays of the future, they won't be for a foreign queen or king. They'll be for us. And that will be good enough.

Wayne Adam is a Toronto writer.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.

The Free Press will close this commenting platform at noon on July 14.

We want to thank those who have shared their views over the years as part of this reader engagement initiative.

In the coming weeks, the Free Press will announce new opportunities for readers to share their thoughts and to engage with our staff and each other.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us