Keep the Brits in BC? – Haida Gwaii Observer
Last weekend, British Columbians enthusiastically welcomed the Victoria Day long weekend, after weathering windstorms that knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of residents, and despite unusually cold spring weather.
Whatever the weather, Victoria Day marks the informal start of summer in Canada, but as the name suggests, it’s also a celebration of our historic connection to the British Empire. The holiday was officially established in 1901 to commemorate Queen Victoria, whose birthday, May 24, had been celebrated as early as 1845. During the first Victoria Day weekend celebrated in the colony of British Columbia 177 years ago, the tiny British colonies of Vancouver and Fort Victoria stood on the road to American expansion, before the Oregon Treaty was signed in 1846, formalizing the border that now exists, mostly along the 49th parallel. Ties to distant Britain kept the region from being overwhelmed by American settlers.
Our history, our flag and even our name denote our British connection, but what awaits British Columbia if, as the polls suggest, the royal connection loses its luster?
The Angus Reid Institute conducted a thorough examination of Canadians’ attitudes towards the monarchy in April this year, and for dedicated royalists like the Monarchist League of Canada, the trends are not encouraging. The vote was carried out in the wake of the departure of Barbados and soon of Jamaica, from the group of constitutional monarchies which recognize the Queen as official head of state. If the polls are correct, Canada may not be far behind in rejecting the monarchy.
On whether Canada should continue as a constitutional monarchy, opinions shifted from somewhat pro-monarchy in 2016 (42% yes and 20% unsure) to a slight majority in favor of change. More than half of Canadians in April 2022, or 51%, would choose to end our official relationship with the British Crown. Even in British Columbia, the proportion of anti-monarchists is almost half (45%).
Yet there are too many factors in favor of maintaining our ties with British traditions to conclude that Canada will follow the example of Jamaica and Barbados.
The very nature of our political system is deeply intertwined with the British system, from our elections and parliamentary procedures to our courts. Our connection to the crown is not just political, however. It is also a powerful cultural and economic link. Culturally, it could be argued that Canadians fall on the cultural continuum somewhere between Britain and America when it comes to education, spelling, grammar, and even humor. This may actually explain why so many Canadian comics are popular in America; that wry, self-deprecating sense of humor. Check out Ryan Reynolds as the latest example of quintessentially Canadian contributions to popular comedy.
Economically, the case for maintaining our ties to the monarchy is strongest in the most British of Canadian provinces, British Columbia. Double-decker buses, high tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel, and a slew of “old country” place names that draw millions of tourists each year. These millions of tourists bring in billions of dollars.
The complex historical relationship between First Nations and the Crown should also give pro-Republican Canadians pause. Many of the treaties created when the first waves of colonizers settled in North America were established and remain between the Queen/King and each Indigenous nation, not the relatively new nation we know as Canada.
Finally, there is a platinum lining in the Angus Reid poll: the “platinum jubilee” celebrated by Queen Elizabeth II this summer. Opinions on Queen Elizabeth are rather favorable (63% positive). However, if the crown passes to Prince Charles, two-thirds of Canadians will oppose recognizing him as our king and head of state. The fate of the monarchy in Canada may hinge on the rise of Charles’s son, Prince William, who is twice as admired as his father among his Canadian “subjects.”
Bruce Cameron has been a pollster and strategist for over 35 years, initially working for Gallup Polls, Decima Research and the Angus Reid Group before founding his own consulting firm, Return On Insight.
British Columbia Politics