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.