Minister Kenney on the Crown in Canada

The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the indefatigable and earnest Jason Kenney, spoke to a small audience at an event organized by the Monarchist League – University of Ottawa Branch on 7 February 2012.

Minister Kenney emphasized the Crown as the progenitor of “an ancient system of ordered liberty” whose first democratic inklings stretch back to the Great Charter of King John at Runnymede in 1215. He rejected the standard republican identity politics that the Crown represents only Canadians of British origin and asserted that in his capacity as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, he has observed that New Canadians of all backgrounds have demonstrated genuine enthusiasm and affection toward the Crown. Kenney cited Kevin MacLeod’s Crown of Maples and the new guide on citizenship as part of this “responsibility to correct.” He took particular pride in the new guide on citizenship and its role in promoting civic literacy.

With a clever play on words, Minister Kenney argued that “we have a responsibility to correct” historical misconceptions on the Crown in Canada. To that end, he sees the Diamond Jubilee as “a teaching opportunity” that will underscore “the organic development” of the Crown. This year also marks the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, and as part of the celebrations, modern Army regiments that can trace their origins back to battles in the War of 1812 will now qualify for historic recognition and honours that the British and Americans have long since accorded their regiments involved in that war. Minister Kenney lauded the restoration of the Royal designation to the Air Force and Navy; with respect to the other Royal command of summer 2011, he suggested that the omission of the Queen’s portrait at our embassy in Paris prompted the public reminder that all Canadian embassies and consulates must display the portrait of the Queen of Canada. While Kenney portrayed these decisions as non-partisan acknowledgements of the Crown’s primacy, the Conservatives run the risk of politicizing the Crown if they do not tread more carefully, and they must resist the tempetation to turn the Crown into a wedge issue.

Minister Kenney also paid homage to the historic and official name of this country, the Dominion of Canada. Contrary to republican belief, the use of “Dominion” to describe a polity originated here. “The Dominion of Canada” had lapsed into obsolescence by the 1960s on most government and parliamentary letterheads in favour of the more pedestrian “Canada”. The media would likely portray an effort to reassert the long-form “Dominion of Canada” as a monarchical retrogression; however, contrary to republican belief, the use of “Dominion” to describe a polity originated here, and British colonial officials subsequently applied it to the other self-governing colonies in the 19th century. Australia calls itself officially “The Commonwealth of Australia” without monarchical pretension.  Perhaps if the Conservatives win the next election in 2015, Canada could officially restore its old name in honour of our sesquicentennial in 2017. I know of at least one Minister of the Crown who would support such a restoration.


About J.W.J. Bowden

My area of academic expertise lies in Canadian political institutions, especially the Crown, political executive, and conventions of Responsible Government; since 2011, I have made a valuable contribution to the scholarship by having been published and cited extensively. I’m also a contributing editor to the Dorchester Review and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law.
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8 Responses to Minister Kenney on the Crown in Canada

  1. Mr. Terry Mester says:

    I don’t like to be pedantic, but I do nonetheless desire to spread fact and truth. Without getting into the debate of from where the Fathers of Confederation obtained the term “Dominion”, it did originate as early as the Bill of Rights in 1688, and the Colony / State of Virginia was and is called “the old Dominion”. I would imagine that Sir John A. Macdonald, having been an absolutely brilliant lawyer, had read the Bill of Rights. Here is a quote therefrom:

    Bill of Rights (1688)
    “That William and Mary Prince and Princesse of Orange be and be declared King and Queene of England France and Ireland and the Dominions thereunto belonging to hold the Crowne and Royall Dignity of the said Kingdomes and Dominions to them the said Prince and Princesse dureing their Lives and the Life of the Survivour of them And that the sole and full Exercise of the Regall Power be onely in and executed by the said Prince of Orange in the Names of the said Prince and Princesse dureing their joynt Lives And after their Deceases the said Crowne and Royall Dignitie of the said Kingdoms and Dominions to be to the Heires of the Body of the said Princesse”


  2. Pingback: From Dominion Day to Canada Day: From Historical Significance To Banality | James W.J. Bowden's Blog

  3. Do you truly not understand my argument that because the 19th-century Fathers of Confederation didn’t know about the Dominion of New England from the 17th century and these other usages of the word “Dominion” that these past usages are therefore irrelevant to this discussion?

    I acknowledge that the British expropriated the word and used it for their own devices. But the fact remains that Canadians first applied this term to a self-governing Crown colony. You’ve missed the point of my overall argument with this obsession over my one argument on the Dominion of Canada.


  4. B. Thomas Hall says:

    Just a few comments on “dominion”. You say, “Contrary to republican belief, the use of ‘Dominion’ to describe a polity originated here.” I’m not a republican, but I have to disagree with you. The linguistic evidence proves that “dominion” was used in the same sense in which it is used in the British North American Act of 1867 prior to that date (e.g. “Dominion of New England”). It did not acquire a new sense until many years later when it came to be used to designate independent member states of the British Commonwealth. We would like to believe that Canadians gave a new meaning to “dominion”, but that’s just not true linguistically. Furthermore, the sense of “dominion” in the often quoted Bible verse (… dominion from sea to sea…) is not the same as the sense in which the word is used in the BNA Act. See for example the unabridged Oxford English Dictionary to see how the word evolved and its various senses.


    • I disagree with your disagreement! Nothing in the historical record indicates that the Fathers of Confederation were aware of this obscure reference to the short-lived polity in 17th-century New England.

      Like I said, we created “Dominion”, and the British exported the term to the rest of the Commonwealth in the 19th century in order to describe other self-governing Crown colonies.


      • B. Thomas Hall says:

        With respect, you can’t invent something that already exists. What you might say is that the Fathers of Confederation revived the term or gave it new life. Their adoption of the term certainly created a precedent followed by other British colonies that achieved some form self-government. Moreover, even if the Fathers had forgotten about the Dominion of New England, the term “dominion” to refer to a territory under the sovereignity of a ruler was certainly not unknown to them. These are linguistic facts whether you agree or not. I don’t know why it’s so important to create this mythology around the word “dominion”.


        • What I’m saying is that if the Fathers of Confederation did not know about the short-lived 17th-century Dominion of New England (which they didn’t), then it is by coincidence alone, and not by design, that they came up with the same word to describe the new polity and federal Crown colony that they created in 1867.

          You can’t accuse them of emulating the Dominion of New England when they didn’t even know about it! Eugene Forsey clearly stated that the modern use of Dominion originated in Canada in the late 19th century.


          • B. Thomas Hall says:

            Forsey would be wrong. It happens. I didn’t say, by the way, that the Fathers of Confed were “emulating” the Dominion of New England. I said the usage of the term was not new. Ergo, they didn’t invent that usage. By the way, it’s not just the Dominion of New England. I can send you several sources where “dominion” was used to refer to various British colonies. The use of “dominion” in the Constitution Act, 1867, is an exact match for those other uses. The word didn’t acquire a new meaning in 1867 but only many years later (Balfour Convention, Statute of Westminster record the new meaning). You still haven’t said why it’s important that the Fathers of Confed be the first to use the word in a new way. Why is “dominion” so essential to being a Canadian monarchist?


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