What the British Monarchy Means for Latin American Canadians?

Monarquia Británica para Canadienses Latinoamericanos

Once Mexico achieved its independence in 1821, the constitutional monarchy was adopted as its form of government. Agustín de Iturbide was named emperor of the Mexican Empire, a position he held for 9 months. In 1864 the Austrian Archduke Maximilian of Habsburg became the second emperor of Mexico. This second experiment with the monarchy lasted three years.

Brazil, like Mexico, established the constitutional monarchy when it became independent from Portugal in 1822. This would be its form of government until 1889.

Independent Argentina has not yet had an empire; however, today it has a queen. Máxima Zorreguieta is, since April 2013, the queen consort of the Netherlands by her marriage to King William Alexander.

Although the system of government or institution that today is known as monarchy is not unknown. In Latin America, we do not have the tradition of the understanding of what it means to live under the influence of the crown. Understanding life in a different climate, food and cultures is a process that takes several years. On this path we bring to Canada our culture and traditions and we also adopt and adapt the traditions of Canada; at least those that give meaning to our new realities. In this process of adaptation I ask myself what our attitude should be towards the monarchy. It should be remembered that one of the requirements to become a Canadian citizen is to swear allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and their successors. For this reason the Monarchy ceases to be something that we see as spectators and becomes something that, in theory, we live every day.

I wonder how true this is about living the monarchy every day. Canada’s system of government is a constitutional monarchy. That is, the Queen is the head of the state and the Prime Minister is the head of the government. What happens in practice is that talks about the monarchy are rarely seen. It seems that it is only spoken of as a soap opera: when someone is born, someone dies or when a member of the royal family decides to stop belonging and wants to be treated as a common citizen.

According to an article by Éric Grenier for CBC News, a recent poll tells us that only 33% of Canadians think that the monarchy is something that should be preserved as it is part of Canadian history. Despite the little support shown in poll after poll, there is not much interest in changing. The conclusion he reaches is that most prefer that things remain as they are or it is not a topic that interests them.

My opinion is that the British Monarchy in Canada will remain for many more years. Their influence will be minimized with the passage of time and with the inevitable generational change in the crown. Despite this, I think the desire to maintain tradition will prevail and, as it is not a subject of great importance in the collective imagination, there will not be many politicians willing to expose their capital and make a change of such historical significance.

As Canadians of Latin American origin, the issue of the monarchy does not come naturally to us. It doesn’t help that too little is explained in schools or that most of the information is scandalous in nature. However, I believe that our position should be to understand the role that the institution plays today and decide whether or not it makes sense. The British Monarchy has existed for almost 1000 years. In a global environment where the perception of the political class is generally quite negative, the monarchy could be seen as an example of continuity and a political counterweight. The role of the queen is to advise the Prime Minister and be aware of the decisions that occur in the countries of which she is sovereign. I admit that it is naive to think that this happens in practice; however, the Queen’s speech has always been about dedicating her life to the service of others. It is worth questioning whether Canada has good governance and whether its results have been positively influenced by the British Crown.

For a different view than the one presented here, I recommend reading Sally Ann Martin article  published by the Globe and Mail: “Canexit? It’s time for Canada to divorce the Queen”

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