Why abolishing the Canadian monarchy is easier said than done
If you haven’t heard from the landslide of articles, memes, and just general chatter on the streets, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry had a long interview with Oprah Winfrey on March 7, where they revealed all the juiciest gossip about the royal family.
Possibly one of the biggest bombshells that was dropped by Markle was the shocking revelation that her husband’s family is… racist.
You would think a family whose entire history is based on marriage with other rich, white royals and whose mandate for centuries was to conquer the lands of non-white people would be accepting and open to other cultures, right?
The other huge revelation was Markle admitting to having had suicidal thoughts because of the anxiety and pressures of royal life. No royal title had been discussed for her when she joined the royal family, her personal belongings were taken away, and her aides were forcing her to stay indoors at all costs — it’s no wonder she and Harry broke away from the family in early 2020.
This interview contributed to a massive decline in the Canadian public’s trust and loyalty to the British Crown. According to an online poll conducted right after the interview aired, 53 per cent of Canadians don’t think the royal family belongs in the makeup of Canadian politics.
That being said, a third of respondents said they think the monarchy should retain its symbolic place, and 26 per cent of Canadians sided with the Crown after hearing about the interview.
Over time, the British monarchy has become more a source of entertainment than a figure of authority in Canada, even though their place in our federal government is still very imposing. Although they’re only really there symbolically, the Governor General and Lieutenant Governors still constitutionally have the power to decide who our next Prime Minister or Premier is going to be, since they represent the Queen, our head of state.
But let’s talk numbers: our contributions to the royal family itself are minimal — it costs about $1.68 per Canadian annually to sustain the monarchy. However, the Privy Council Office, whose councillors are appointed by the Governor General, has a budget of over $140 million. Though its members advise the Prime Minister and help him make decisions, they aren’t democratically elected, and they are meant to represent the Queen in Canada.
The royal family is useless. It takes up a good chunk of our taxes that could go towards other severely underfunded federal activities, like Indigenous affairs or education; it represents an antiquated, classist system; and it doesn’t really have much political power except for its ceremonial roles.
But… the royal family is a whole industry of its own. It’s entertainment, and it generates a lot of revenue: in 2017 alone, it contributed over 1.8 billion pounds to the British economy.
Despite the increasing resentment towards the position the monarchy holds in our government, the truth is that it would be extremely difficult and costly for us to get rid of them. Almost everything in our constitution is tied to the monarchy, and abolishing it would require the Senate, House of Commons, and the governments of each province to vote unanimously on this decision.
Not to mention, it would require us to change our entire government system: instead of a constitutional monarchy, Canada would most likely transition to a republic like in the U.S.
I don’t know about you, but one of the few things I consider less compatible with modern Canadian culture than the monarchy is the implementation of an American political system.
We shouldn’t be constrained to keeping an antiquated and out-of-touch institution like the British monarchy simply because the politics of it would be too difficult. But we also need to be realistic about what can be passed and implemented successfully in a democratic way.
Abolishing the monarchy seems like a dream to many, but it’s a goal that stands so far away from us, even in 2021, that the most we can really wish for is to minimize its presence in our country.
Graphic by Taylor Reddam.