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July 7, 2000 Halifax Herald

Is it time to ditch the Monarchy?

The following is a mock-up of a news item that I would dearly love to see Ottawa release someday: "The Prime Minister announced today that a process is to be set up that will have as its goal the birth of a political system that will rid Canada of the last vestiges of its colonial legacy, the Monarchy."

Ridding ourselves of this anachronism would probably do more for national unity than all the past unity initiatives combined. Such a conclusion is rooted in the fact that the Crown, with all due respect to the present wearer, is for many of Canada's multicultural and religious groups, a symbol of oppression and colonial degradation.

Further, I don't believe that there is anything more embarrassing for the citizens of a country of Canada's stature than to have a foreigner as head of State.

Before my Mi'kmaq heritage is blamed for my turnoff with the Crown, I'll rebut any such thought. My turnoff is the result of a wide variety of factors other than heritage. High among these is the knowledge acquired from reading about the less-than-glorious histories of European Crowns. Most, if not all, of these institutions, from St Petersburg to London, were born out of anti-democratic, brutal practices perpetrated by barbarians - whose heirs were designated future leaders because of birth. Thus, over the passage of centuries, the occupiers of these thrones have ranged from brutal madmen and madwomen to being blubbering idiots. The blood caused to be spilled by them would feed a small river.

Then there is the prime reason for my opinion: In a democracy, leaders are developed, not born. Rarely has imperialism produced a worthy leader. For example, if not for their birth, the dysfunctional behaviour of many of the Windsor clan would have all but eliminated most of them from ever holding a non-elected public office, let alone an elected one. In fact, their behaviour has been so off-beat over the last several years that it plays out like an ongoing soap opera -everything from scandalous divorces to wild sexual escapades. Next episodes: Will Fergie and Andrew reunite? Will Charles marry Camilla Parker-Bowles and make her Queen?

Then, there is the coldness of the institution. If the Queen's children, grandchildren and other close relatives wish to see her, they must make an appointment days in advance! The negatives are many.

However, none of the afore-mentioned reasons prompted me to write this column. The motivation was pity for Prince William, which was acquired by reading several news stories about his 18th birthday. Here we have an apparently decent young man who, by an act of unkind fate, has been thrust into a life he appears to detest, wishing for a normal life. Probably the fact that he faces a life filled with pomp and pageantry - cutting ribbons, being paraded around the world before the curious like a prize find, launching ships, etc. - is what turns him off the most. The thought of doing such things of little substance for a lifetime would try all but the most dedicated.

The news stories also relate that William hopes to attend university without the press hounding him. In an effort to accomplish this, he held a news conference and begged the media to permit him to do so. It probably won't happen; the copy his existence produces is to good.

Just imagine the scandal that would erupt, and the papers it would sell, if he did what many young men do in university - i.e., tie one on and get carried home drunk by classmates, or go streaking, or dance all night and wind up going home with a commoner, etc. I can't envision the news media not printing such juicy gems.

Life is about choices. A young man such as William has very few. Abdication would not release him completely from what birth has straddled him with. The example of the Duke of Windsor's life after he abdicated, where he was constantly under the microscope, is not much of an improvement over what lies ahead for Prince William. His only hope of a life with a semblance of normality is abolishment of the monarchy.

William's plight poses a moral question: In a modern world, do we have the right to straddle any human being, against their will, with such a burden? If one believes in democracy and freedom, the answer is no.

This is even more so when the main reason for the existence of the monarchy is that it is a major tourist attraction. This, when asked, is what most Britons view it to be. Thus, if not for its tourist value, the institution might be on the verge of being abolished. This is attested to by the fact that regard for the Crown in Britain, because of the bad behaviour of many of the Royals over the last decade, has dropped dramatically. Only 44 percent of those surveyed ed in a recent poll thought their country would be worse off if it were abolished. Not much of a vote of confidence.

Taking into consideration all the aforementioned negatives, its time Canada left behind the British Crown. Such an eventuality would also give Canadians an opportunity to get rid of an archaic political system, with its imperial politicians, that now maligns democracy by its existence.

The current Canadian Alliance membership recruitment fiasco highlights the fact that the present system is beyond fixing. It needs to be replaced with a political system enshrined with built-in checks and balances that strip politicians of powers equivalent to those enjoyed and exercised by despotic emperors!

Daniel N. Paul

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