Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Remembering Monarchy, Forgetting Coloniality: The Elision of Race in Canadian Monarchy Abolition Debates

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Remembering Monarchy, Forgetting Coloniality: The Elision of Race in Canadian Monarchy Abolition Debates

Article excerpt


In recent years, calls to abolish the Canadian monarchy have resurged. Its defenders argue that the monarchy is important for parliamentary function, symbolism and Canadian identity. While critics challenge these claims, the mainstream debate on both sides is devoid of diverse perspectives.

The author argues that both of these narratives, though ostensibly opposed, accomplish a silencing, or perpetually re-inscribed forgetting, of Canadians of colour. To the extent that this mainstream debate considers historical and cultural contexts, it is limited to the experiences of "white" Canada. With the exception of the Quebecois, the meaning of the monarchy to "minorities" is ignored. What does the monarchy represent for Aboriginals? Black Canadians? Canadians of colour in general? These issues are absent from the dominant discourse.

Far beyond the monarchy's anti-meritocratic and archaic character, considering the concerns of Canadians of colour involves remembering the monarchy's role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade and its continued role in British, Canadian, and US-American coloniality. The monarchy's involvement in crimes against humanity are downplayed in mainstream discourse but well documented, from Queen Elizabeth I's first slave ship in 1592 to Queen Elizabeth M's Orders-in-Council overruling the British High Court's right-of-return ruling in favour of the dispossessed Chagos Islanders in 2004. The above are great reasons for abolishing the monarchy, yet doing so without reference to these realities escapes confrontation with the nation's problematic past and present. Thus abolition on the terms of the mainstream meritocrats provides the palimpsest for a new inscription of a coloniality-free Canada.


Au cours des dernieres annees, l'appel a l'abolition de la monarchie canadienne a resurgi. Ses tenants soutiennent que la monarchie est importante pour la fonction parlementaire, symbolisme de l'identite canadienne. Bien que les critiques remettent en question ces reclamations, le debat dominant est depourvu de perspectives diverses de deux cotes.

L'auteur postule que les deux recits, si ostensiblement opposes, accomplissent en silence, ou reinscrivent perpetuellement les Canadiens de couleur oublies. Dans la mesure oU ce debat dominant considere les contextes historiques et culturels, il est limite a l'experience du Canada "Blanc". A l'exception des Quebecois, le sens de la monarchie pour les "minorites" est ignore. Que represente la monarchie pour les aborigenes ? Noirs Canadiens ? Canadiens de couleur en general ? Ces questions sont absentes dans le discours dominant.

Bien au-dela du caractere anti-meritocratique et archaique de la monarchie, considerant le fait que les Canadien de couleur sont impliques a la commemoration du role de la monarchie dans l'esclavage transatlantique et son role indefectible dans la colonialite britannique, canadienne et des Etats-Unis d'Amerique. La participation de la monarchie dans les crimes contre l'humanite a minimise l'importance du discours dominant pourtant bien documente, du premier convoi d'esclave envoye en 1592 par la Reine Elizabeth I aux decrets en Conseil de la Reine Elizabeth II rejetant la decision de la Haute Cour Britannique en faveur des Cargos insulaires desherites en 2004. Ce sont la de bonnes raison pour l'abolition de la monarchie, qui se fait deja sans prendre en compte les realites qui s'echappent de la confrontation avec les problemes des nations dans le passe et le present. Ainsi l'abolition selon les meritocrates dominants fournit le palimpseste d'une nouvelle inscription d'un Canada libre de la colonialite.


With the turn of the 21st century, calls to abolish the Canadian monarchy have resurged and various polls indicate that a majority of Canadians would prefer a Canadian head of state (Spicer 2007; Hepburn 2012; Conacher 2013). Monarchy advocates argue for its continued relevance in parliamentary function and as a symbol of Canadian identity and values. …

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