I haven’t had time yet to deal with a piece of nonsense from last week on Canadian Atheist.
The arguments put forward by the Monarchist League of Canada are entirely secular. You might or might not find them more persuasive than the arguments put forward by republicans, but this is in no small part a matter of subjective values rather than scientific and philosophical rigour. In other words, there are good objective reasons why one should be an atheist, but no equivalent reasons why one should be a republican (or, admittedly, a monarchist). – The Lad Who’s Born to Be King by Corwin for Canadian Atheist
This makes about as much sense as those who argue that you can make entirely secular arguments against women’s reproductive freedoms. The quasi-secular arguments strain human reason to the limit, better to be a pro-choice, republican atheist than whatever confused mess Corwin is arguing for.
Let’s break down the supposedly secular arguments of the Monarchist League before establishing a more coherent and secular argument for a republican Canada (or even secular United Kingdom, where I will be moving and where my other citizenship lies). It’s quite easy to see that all of their arguments are based on irrational appeals to tradition and fear of change but I’ll still go through.
Force for national identity: A distinct independence
Apparently the thing that most distinguishes Canada from the USA is the monarchy. By this logic, Australia and New Zealand are the same country (since they are both Commonwealth nations) or even the twin republics of Mexico and the USA.
Canadians clearly reject this as a vast majority name anything but the Queen as a symbol of our identity. The following is a graph showing the relative importance of various symbols of Canadian identity as polled by Environics between 1997 and 2012 [source pdf].
Our health care system, the Charter, the flag, and our parks are make us different than the USA. Hell, even hockey and the CBC are ranked well ahead of the Queen. The monarchy is not part of the Canadian identity.
Of course the monarch comes from the British (rather than First Nations or French) part of our heritage, so that symbol of national identity already drives a wedge against an entire province of our country, which brings us to argument number two.
Unifying, not divisive: Head of state vs head of government
Having already identified that an entire province, representing over 20% of the population, is unrepresented by a British monarch, the Monarchists argues that “the Sovereign is a force of unity, who as head of state embodies all Canada and all Canadians.”
Again, the evidence defeats the argument. Secular republics like France, the USA, and Germany manage to host plenty of national events with partisan leaders that don’t devolve into bitterness.
Instead, the monarchists would have us bow down at National events to someone we’ve already established most Canadians don’t identify with. Better a Canadian prime minister that I don’t like than a foreign theocrat.
Parliamentary monarchy: Guarantor of freedom
With Michaëlle Jean’s decision to prorogue Parliament in 2008, despite Stephen Harper clearly facing defeat by a non-confidence motion, the precedent is essentially set that the Monarchy has little real power to protect the rule of law in Canada.
Meanwhile in Britain, new surfaced after much effort that the Queen and Prince Charles are vetoing and overturning democratically-passed laws. This demonstrates the danger of allowing unelected and unaccountable figureheads to rule supreme.
We already have a well-functioning Supreme Court and judicial system that is able to balance the power of the legislature, and new secular and accountable structures could be set in place to reduce the power of Parliament.
People have always had to fight the Monarchy for their freedom. It’s no different now.
Neutral referee of federalism: The unity of eleven Crowns
This is a rather contrived argument based on one statement from 1978. There is no reason a different arrangement couldn’t be made than currently exists. We’ve already established that the Monarchy isn’t neutral, given its interventions into UK law. Let’s at the very least have a Canadian head of state to unite the country.
Personal allegiance: Process, not partisanship
Pledge allegiance to the country, our institutions, and our ideals. It doesn’t need to be a person.
Individual allegiance: The equality of every Canadian
In the US they pledge allegiance to the flag and in the 1990s the federal government considered changing Canada’s oath to reflect what citizens should actually care about – the country in which they live, not a foreigner on a fancy chair.
Also never mind all of the people who earn their citizenship by birth and don’t have to swear allegiance. Are we just magically loyal?
World figure: Represented by her Canadian team of Governors
No one in the world thinks of the Monarchs as Canadian when they tour the world. They are British first and foremost and its embarrassing to make this argument. Canada is represented by the Prime Minister and Premiers far more frequently and effectively than the Queen.
Reflection of history: Aboriginal, Colonial, Canadian
I can’t for the life of me see how this is a positive thing. The argument made is borderline racist and utterly ignorant of history. Many First Nations were not effectively monarchies but consensus-based matriarchal democracies. Best to be rid of our colonialist past and start working toward reconciliation.
Link to today’s Canada: The Commonwealth mirrors our diversity
Hey, look at all the other races Britain conquered and enslaved! We can all laugh about it now as a happy family.
Give me a break.
There’s no reason Canada couldn’t remain part of the Commonwealth while ditching the monarchy, much like the majority (33) of members. Only 16 countries of the Commonwealth recognize the Queen.
Evolutionary society: Canada prospers under the Crown
This is irrelevant, there are many successful republics like the USA, Germany, and France. Show me the evidence that the monarchy directly (hell, even indirectly) lead to Canada’s rank on the UN Human Development Index.
Stability in a changing world
This is essentially the argument from “change is scary” and I will ignore it as silly as it is.
Community, volunteerism, honours
These can be replaced with secular and Canadian symbols. In fact we already have the Order of Canada.
Republicanism: Diversion, blow to nationhood and the institutionalization of partisanship
Their final argument is basically that they really like the monarchy and nothing else is like it. Better a Canadian politician than a foreign figurehead.
Argument for Atheist Republicanism
For an atheist to argue that the monarchy should be retained borders on the absurd.
If you reject all evidence for God and the supernatural, then you reject the very source of the monarch’s authority. This leaves tradition, which is a sure-fire way to enshrine privilege and impede progress.
It would be like an atheist arguing that while Jesus clearly wasn’t the son of God, and may not have even existed, and the Bible was written post-hoc, the Catholic Church has existed a long time and shouldn’t be challenged.
As a moral, critical thinking species (in general, if not always), we can and must build secular institutions that are accountable and capable of reformation.
Freedom is not protected by the monarchy, it is hoarded. Canada should be its own country, with its own head of state. Someone who earns the position (either through democratic means or appointment), not someone born into it by having magic blood.
We can remember our history (which includes far more than Great Britain) while abolishing an embarrassing relic of our more racist, Christian, and colonial past.