God Save our gracious Queen,
long live our Noble Queen,
God Save the Queen.
Send her victorious, happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us!
God Save the Queen
See, I know it. At least the verse that my grandparents used to sing at school every morning (as their youth predated the officialdom of O’Canada just a bit). I know it because I am familiar with Canadian history, and government protocol. Further I have no qualms in admitting that I am a Monarchist. In 2011 I woke early, baked scones and made tea, going late to school so I could watch the Royal Wedding on TV. As my ancestors were loyalists I feel that beyond the symbolism I have a duty to support our ties to the monarchy; while always making certain that it is remembered as the Canadian Monarchy. Canada, must always come first.
In the dust of another Victoria Day (depressing due to the Montreal Canadians performance against New York) I sit and yet again reflect upon our ties to this monarchy which I and at least 33% of other Canadians are in favour of retaining. It should be retained, yet there is a limit. Just as we no longer sing God Save the Queen before school or a hockey game, just as for over 60 years it has been Canadians who are appointed our Governors General should we really retain a holiday which celebrates a Queen who has been dead for 112 years?
Granted, Victoria was the monarch under whom Canada achieved responsible government and Confederation. She’s an important historical figure. But Canada is the only country in the Commonwealth that continues official celebrations for Victoria’s birthday. Although it is meant to recognize the birthday of the current monarch as well, in practice that is never the case. Probably more Canadians simply think of this long weekend as the May 2-4 weekend-the kick off of the summer season; the first 2-4 outside on the porch. In Quebec it isn’t even recognized as Victoria Day, rather it’s Journee Nationale des Patriots. This honours the Patriots of Lower Canada during the rebellions in the 1830’s. These rebellions helped bring Canada responsible government, and yes they happened in both Upper and Lower Canada. Of course remembering that noble cause is rather somber is it not? To hold said holiday is almost a repeat of Remembrance Day.
Last year some public figures tried to convince Mr. Harper to rename Victoria Day, Victoria and First Peoples Day. Now the contribution of the First People is something to remember and celebrate, not so much their suffering at the hands of the government. Needless to say this request fell on deaf ears-the Conservative Party not even acknowledging the request let alone giving Canadians a proper debate on the subject.
Now, I love the May 2-4 weekend. I think that we should have a national holiday this time of year. But I think it should be held for something of more consequence to Canadians than a long dead Queen. It should be a day that everyone can celebrate universally. That celebration must be on something that all Canadians can be proud of. Quite simply there is only one answer for what we should celebrate at this time of year. It occurred 32 years ago, around this time. Even if we don’t host it on the same date-we can still celebrate it now. After all this is something that has defined Canada and Canadians for over 30 years.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
We have Canada Day on July 1st, which celebrates confederation, and we should retain that just as the Americans have the 4th of July. However if we’re going to celebrate this time of yar, why not have a day honouring The Charter- one of the most important events in Canadian History and one of the staples of Canadian identity. The Charter has even turned Quebec nationalists back into the Federalist Fold. It’s protected the rights of minorities and those previously discriminated and oppressed and any transgression is dealt with swiftly and efficiently. Canadians of all political affiliations raise hell when someone tries to remove the Charter’s influence.
This is a unifying element of Canadian identity. Above all the dead monarchs, above just the Native People’s, above any one group; a day to honour the Charter of Rights and Freedoms would be a day for all of us. I think we need that. Certainly it will be on my short list of national initiatives once I get to the House of Commons, even if Mr. Harper can’t be bothered.