The Commons: Pledging allegiance

Canada may lack the romanticism of revolution. But 144 years into our national experiment, we get to lay some claim to Will and Kate.

by Aaron Wherry

The royal couple, newish icons of the iconic notion of nobility, descended upon the escalator of the grandly named Museum of Civilization. Behind them came the Governor General and his wife and behind them Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. Below sat 25 candidates for citizenship, waiting to partake of the final formality before they can officially take patriotic pride in Ryan Reynolds’ present reign as the Sexiest Man Alive.

The Duke wore navy blue. The Duchess wore white, with red heels and a reasonably elaborate red hat featuring maple leaves. He looked serious and charming and upstanding. She looked the same, but with fabulous hair as well.

American may have a great “sticking it to the man” story to recall fondly. Canada may lack the romanticism of revolution. But 144 years into our national experiment, we get to lay some claim to Will and Kate. And in return they ask only that we make a show pledging our allegiance to them. Or at least that we make a show of making newcomers pledge as much.

Outside the museum, the royals had drawn a few hundred admirers, as well as a dozen protesters and one individual from PETA who was forced to wear a bearsuit on a warm, summer day (Does People for the Ethical Treatment of the Animal-Costumed exist yet and if not, why not?). The dozen protesters managed one Canadian flag and three signs (Loyalty To Canada Not Offshore Monarchy, Monarchy Oaths Violate Charter Freedoms, etc) between them. The admirers carried flowers and signs and magazines (including one copy of the official Maclean’s Royal Tour commemorative issue, on newsstands now).

On the occasion of Canada Day, and before making their way over to Parliament Hill for the annual festivities (this year’s theme: “A Large Peaceful Gathering to Reassure Us that the Vancouver Unpleasantness was an Anomaly”), the couple had slipped across the river to Gatineau for a quieter celebration of this great nation. Once done with their escalator ride, the dignitaries made their way to the stage in the museum’s grand hall and after a rendition of God Save the Queen, they took their seats. They sat flanked by Mounties and totem poles. Before them sat soon-to-be Canadians from Belarus, China, Cuba, Haiti, Madagascar, Venezuela and various points in between. Each wore a flower on their chest. All were dressed up and seemed duly excited and reverent. Most of the rest of us should probably take in one of these ceremonies every year, if only to be humbled about what we otherwise take for granted.

Mr. Kenney, wearing a giddy smile, chatted a bit with Ms. Middleton as the Governor General began the proceedings. Mr. Johnston explained that the newcomers would be swearing allegiance to Canada in the Queen’s name. Mr. Kenney, once called to the lectern, enthused about the Magna Carta and the “ongoing and everlasting vitality of the crown.” Back at the microphone, Mr. Johnston quoted from John McCrae’s war memorial cum hockey rallying cry, “To you from failing hands, we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high.”

The Governor General then called on the 25 to stand and, taking in hand their preferred holy book should they so desire, repeat after him in both official languages: “I swear, or affirm, that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.”

As Mr. Kenney had noted, this was apparently the first time any heir or successor had been present to hear new Canadians pledge as much. Hopefully Will and Kate won’t take it personally if one-third of these 25 soon join their fellow citizens in rejecting the monarchy.

Mr. Johnston, our grandpa-in-chief, proudly welcomed them to the family and then the newest Canadians were called up on stage on-by-one to get their official certificates and receive souvenir flags from the Duke and Duchess, who appeared to greet their loyal subjects graciously. Everyone then stood in their spot for O Canada, the singing led, of course, by a Mountie.

After posing for a group photo, William and Kate took their leave. On their way to the impressively long motorcade, they paused to greet the throng kept behind metal barricades outside. The throng cheered and screamed and clamoured and called their names, a pledge of allegiance of a different sort.

The Commons: Pledging allegiance

  1. ‘Loyalty To Canada Not Offshore Monarchy’….LOL I love it!

    The world’s latest celebrities serve as a distraction to the fact we’ll actually get Chuck and Cam…not nearly as ‘glamourous’.  More ‘stodgy Edwardian’ in fact.

    The hat btw is called a ‘fascinator’….a British fashion I’m sure we’ll see more of.

    Oh, and now we’re going to have a ‘military presence’ at our citizenship ceremonies…

    “This is a way to show that the military is at the core of the meaning of citizenship.’

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-pumps-up-military-role-in-citizenship-ceremonies/article2083103/

    We’re going backwards…….good little colonials that we are.

  2. Well I’ll be honest with you, I’m usually a pretty hard-core republican. This was re-enforced recently when my wife, born in Co. Dublin, took the oath. I know the sacrifice she made in swearing allegiance to the Queen. Her family was very understanding though and accepted and supported her 100%. May 3rd would have been her first election too had Canada Post not delivered our ballots 3 weeks late. 

    Funny thing is now that I’m away from home, I am starting to really see and appreciate how and why the Crown functions in representing the Laws of Canada, which is what it is supposed to do. No one, even John Baird, is above the Crown. Still, my heart really wants to remove the Allegiance to the Queen from the oath of citizenship, and just swear (affirm) allegiance to the Constitution and remove Her Majesty from the money. This drives me nuts- it used to be so easy for me to call myself a republican until I left the country. 

    • You’re probably just a little homesick today…the ceremonies are deliberately pushing all the right buttons after all. LOL

      If we feel we MUST be part of somebody else’s Empire, rather than being Canadian….I’d prefer the UK to the US.  But it would help greatly if both those empires weren’t in decline. This is no time to hitch our wagons to a falling star.

    • Heh, I come at this from the opposite view, but I think I’ve arrived where you are.  As a former staunch Monarchist, I now realize that what’s important is our GG.  I get the difficulty of having a Governor-General governing in the stead of nobody, and a ‘crown’ without somebody underneath it is just a fancy bit of jewellery, but if we could have our GG “rule” in right of The Citizenry and have everything else stay the same, I think I could let the royals go.  On the other hand, when push comes to shove, would common sense and precedent, backed by The Citizenry be enough to keep us?  You know, more than just a populist sentiment, which so often turns out to be rethunk a few weeks later (Vancouver rioters 2011, the Montreal burning of the government buildings 1849, but two examples)  I don’t know the answer to that, but I think we could write something down that could probably do the Constitutional trick.

      • When I think of the rather interesting relationship we have with our constitutional monarchy, George Orwell’s remarks on the usefulness of such a monarchy in  Britain come to mind:

        “The function of the King in promoting stability and acting as a sort of keystone in a non-democratic society is, of course, obvious. But he also has, or can have, the function of acting as an escape-valve for dangerous emotions. A French journalist said to me once that the monarchy was one of the things that have saved Britain from Fascism. What he meant was that modern people can’t, apparently, get along without drums, flags and loyalty parades, and that it is better that they should tie their leader-worship onto some figure who has no real power. In a dictatorship the power and the glory belong to the same person. In England the real power belongs to unprepossessing men in bowler hats: the creature who rides in a gilded coach behind soldiers in steel breast-plates is really a waxwork. It is at any rate possible that while this division of function exists a Hitler or a Stalin cannot come to power. On the whole the European countries which have most successfully avoided Fascism have been constitutional monarchies. The conditions seemingly are that the Royal Family shall be long-established and taken for granted, shall understand its own position and shall not produce strong characters with political ambitions. These have been fulfilled in Britain, the Low Countries and Scandinavia, but not in, say, Spain or Rumania. If you point these facts out to the average left-winger he gets very angry, but only because he has not examined the nature of his own feelings towards Stalin. I do not defend the institution of monarchy in an absolute sense, but I think that in an age like our own it may have an inoculating effect, and certainly it does far less harm than the existence of our so-called aristocracy. I have often advocated that a Labour government, i.e. one that meant business, would abolish titles while retaining the Royal Family.”
        – from the Spring 1944 Partisan Review

        And Orwell was a republican.

        • Hajnal Line:

          The Hajnal line links Saint Petersburg, Russia and Trieste, Italy. In 1965, John Hajnal discovered it divides Europe into two areas characterized by a different levels of nuptiality.

          West of this line, the average age of women at first marriage was 24 or more, men 26, spouses were relatively close in age, and 10% or more of adults never married. 

          The region’s late marriage pattern has received considerable scholarly attention in part because it appears to be unique; it has not been found in any other part of the world prior to the Twentieth Century. The origins of the late marriage system are a matter of conjecture ….. 

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hajnal_line

          More than forty years ago, John Hajnal introduced the notion of an ‘European’ pattern of marriage/ household, characterized by high age at marriage, women and men working as servants before marriage and establishing their own households upon marriage. Interestingly enough, Hajnal’s line followed quite closely the Iron Curtain, then dividing Europe into capitalist and socialist societies.

          http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=171425

          • How is this relevent?

          • How are you relevant?

        • Orwell had a good point. I would far rather have some Royals visiting from time to time to get all the military 21 gun salutes and hoohaw, than have Harper accepting such events as tributes to himself, which he has done at least once I believe.

          And Harper and MacKay have both gone prancing around in military uniforms which they never earned the right to wear. What next? Was it Mussolini who kept designing ever fancier uniforms for himself to wear? But he and Hitler actually fought for their countries; Harper has never lifted a finger for Canada.

  3. The Ottawa Conservative establishment (includes Johnson) must be pretty happy they are free of that Jean woman.
    Any former PM’s invited to anything?

    • Yeah, Johnston practically screams ‘Con establishment’, while Jean definitely did not.

      He’ll never be loved like she was though.

  4. Queens U – Crown And Constitution:

    One indication of the uncertainty and unease that accompany the subject of the Canadian monarchy is the infrequency with which that phrase appears. 

    The reason for this deserves examination, although whatever the explanation it will embrace a rationale articulated more than sixty years ago by Gordon Robertson, then a member of the Cabinet Secretariat: ‘I don’t think Canadians will like the term “King of Canada,’ no matter how logical it may be. Whatever the legal facts are, most Canadians… have not thought of themselves as citizens of either a republic or a monarchy’ (LAC. Reid Papers, Gordon Robertson comment, 27 July 1949). 

    There is still much truth to that comment, and it goes far in explaining the ambivalence Canadians display when talking about the Crown and the constitution (and the lassitude they exhibit when discussing a republican alternative).

    http://www.queensu.ca/iigr/conf/Arch/2010/ConferenceOnTheCrown/CrownConferencePapers/The_Crown_and_the_Constitutio1.pdf

  5. Most of the rest of us should probably take in one of these ceremonies
    every year, if only to be humbled about what we otherwise take for
    granted.

    I’ll second that.

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