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Revising the Twenty Dollar Banknote

 

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Joyal, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator Banks:

Whereas the $5, $10 and $50 Canadian banknotes represent Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Sir John A. Macdonald and W.L. Mackenzie King respectively, and whereas each of these bills clearly mention in printed form their name, title and dates of function;

Whereas the 20$ banknotes represent a portrait of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II but without her name or title;

The Senate recommends that the Bank of Canada add in printed form, under the portrait of Her Majesty, the name and title of H.M. Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, to the next series of $20 Canadian banknotes to be printed.

 

Hon. Michael L. MacDonald: Honourable senators, I am delighted to participate today in the debate on Senator Joyal's motion to revise the next series of $20 banknotes produced by the Bank of Canada. Senator Joyal is an informed student of our country's history, is appreciative of Canada's governmental institutions and is quite knowledgeable about the role these institutions play in our nation's evolution. I thank him for his perseverance in raising issues of this nature and applaud his initiative in bringing this matter to the attention of the Senate.

As Senator Joyal points out, all former prime ministers depicted on our paper currency have their name, office and their dates of service in addition to their portraits. Yet, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who has been the Queen of Canada since 1952, does not receive similar treatment on the $20 banknote. Rather, she looks out from her most highly circulated currency as a semi-anonymous entity, certainly recognizable to most people because of station and longevity but undefined as to her exact institutional relationship to Canada. One would think there was some uncertainty as to how Her Majesty should be described.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Queen Elizabeth II is the Queen of Canada and Her Majesty's title is not some foreign imposition or colonial anachronism; it is a directive of the Parliament of Canada. Canada is an integral member of the Commonwealth realms as established at the 1953 Commonwealth Conference. Then Prime Minister St. Laurent stated at that conference:

It must be emphasized that the Queen is Queen of Canada, regardless of her sovereignty over other Commonwealth countries.

This position was clearly articulated in an act of the Canadian Parliament in 1953. It is the law, and we are a country with the rule of law. I stress this because it is important to remind honourable senators that Canada's relationship to the Crown is direct. It does not run through the Parliament at Westminster as it did when Canada was a collection of colonies evolving politically throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Canada has been legally independent since the Statute of Westminster was proclaimed in 1931. We are a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy and, I would suggest, a highly successful example of this form of government.

However, the inherent lesson is not merely about how the Crown is defined in Canadian law. Senator Joyal's motion serves to highlight how our history and political inheritance, in particular over the past half century, is being modified and rewritten as those in positions to influence such matters, whether elected or non-elected, either through indifference, subtle intent or outright revisionism engage in an exercise of airbrushing away those things that run counter to their own view of what Canada is or should be. The Crown in particular has been subjected to this treatment and the circumstance identified by Senator Joyal with the $20 banknote is but one of many examples of this practice.

Admittedly, there is a wide spectrum of opinion in respect of the continuing presence of the Crown in Canada. Many Canadians today would be described best as being benignly ambivalent about the Crown and not overly enthusiastic, but not particularly hostile. I suggest that this is not necessarily a modern or post-modern phenomenon but, in fact, has long been the case in Canada. Canadians have a long-established system of government that works well. We are inherently conservative as it relates to our governance and we fundamentally understand that the Crown is part of that governance structure.

There are some in this country who would like us to become a republic. People who believe this have every right to promote their agenda and to endeavour to convince the country that it would be the right course of action. Although this is not a sentiment that I share, this is a legitimate point of view and worthy of debate. Republicans would prefer to remove Her Majesty from our currency altogether and they would alter completely our institutional structures. Although it is not broken, they would still fix it. Republicans believe that our system of government is inherently colonial and that our relationship to the Crown is one of dependence and subservience.

This is faulty reasoning in my opinion. Whatever advantages might accrue to Canada becoming a republic, independence is certainly not one of them; our independence has long been established. Fortunately for the republicans, there is a formula in place with which they can pursue their goal. It was inserted into the Constitution Act, 1982. They have only to get every provincial legislature in the country, the House of Commons and the Senate to agree to abolish the Crown. In short, complete unanimity across the country on the issue is all they require. Perhaps over time the republicans can accomplish this feat. Realistically, our constitutional requirements make such a development a remote possibility at best. At the very least, it would appear to be a mathematical improbability.

In fairness, I should point out that republicans are not the only ones who wish to alter Canada's constitutional relationship with the Crown. There are others who would keep our institutions primarily intact but make the Governor General Canada's head of state. This is theoretically achievable but, again, is subject to the aforementioned conditions laid out in the Constitution Act, 1982.

My issue with the republicans and others is not with them having certain principles they espouse; they have every right to advocate their position in a free and democratic society. However, I have a serious problem with the subjective mindset of these groups and I will highlight two of their more egregious practices. When they argue against the presence of the Crown, they seem to know so little about it both in terms of its actual evolution as an institution and in particular its influence in the development of Canada. Their viewpoint is consistently narrow and predictable, often drawn through some ethnic prism that presupposes they are obliged to have some preordained disposition towards the Crown according to their family background or the circumstances of their birth. One of their repetitive mantras is that we should not have to put up with an English Monarch as our head of state.

In principle, I have sympathy for this position, but since the last truly English Monarch was Harold II, the last Wessex King of England who was defeated and killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 by the Norman French under William the Conquerer, this would not appear to be much of a contemporary concern. The Norman Conquest fundamentally changed the Crown and Great Britain, establishing French, under the Normans and the Plantagenets, as the language of the court and the law for almost three centuries and giving Norman nobles titles, land and unparalleled influence throughout the British Isles. Their reach was enormous and their influence was lasting. What we refer to today as Parliament, began during this era.

The Normans remade the English Crown into a European Crown that has endured in one incarnation or another since that time. The most notable royal houses of Scotland, the Bruces and the Stuarts, were descended from Norman ancestors, with the Stuarts creating the throne of the United Kingdom in the early 17th century when James VI of Scotland became James I of England. Before the 17th century was out, there occurred the so-called Glorious Revolution, which was neither glorious nor a revolution but a power grab designed to exclude Catholics from the throne. Westminster stripped the Crown of most of its remaining powers and, after jumping 52 places in the succession to find a Protestant successor, it placed the Hanoverians on the throne. It was believed universally that the Hanovers were German, although the line was originally Italian. The argument then that the Canadian Crown is an English throne is erroneous, a misplaced sentiment and the product of uninformed opinion and inadequate educational instruction.

I can forgive republicans and opponents of the Crown for lacking in knowledge, but I will hold them to account for the practice of subterfuge and of attempting to accomplish by stealth those things they cannot accomplish by law. They assume they can ignore the law, they are above the law or can alter its interpretation to whatever suits themselves. This is a particularly offensive conceit and this subversion has become far too commonplace within certain offices in the Government of Canada.

The examples of this are everywhere. It is not acceptable for officials in Heritage Canada and Government House to be actively involved in removing all references to the Crown from the Governor General's website. It is not acceptable that a Governor General can declare that office to be the head of state while the officials responsible for managing and advising this office remain mute and complicit in the face of these misrepresentations. We are a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy by law. Until such time as the law is changed, all Canadians should expect and indeed require that the law be respected by all with regard to the position and the role of the Crown.

The other historical aspect that the republicans ignored is the role that the Crown played in the establishment of Canada. When the American Revolution began, there were 15 British colonies in the eastern mainland of North America, but 2 of them, Nova Scotia and Quebec, refused to participate. The die had been cast and when nearly 80,000 Loyalists came north in 1783-84, it resulted in the creation of the Province of New Brunswick and later the establishment of Lower and Upper Canada as the loyal colonies marched on to achieve responsible government.

Canada's political development is an integral part of our identity and the Crown has always been present in that identity and that of our political institutions. This inheritance still exists today. Last June I was present when Her Majesty cut the ribbon in Halifax to rededicate the restoration of Government House in Nova Scotia. The American ambassador to Canada and his wife were attending. They were both quite animated and excited about the event, mentioning how interesting it was that Canada had retained the Crown, how different it made us from the U.S. and that it was something distinctive to Canada in North America.

A few days later, I attended the July 1 celebrations on Parliament Hill. My efforts to watch the proceedings from my office were thwarted by the crush of people attending the event. Full of anticipation but not necessarily patience, the crowd surrounding me was composed of those of every age and background, fully representative of modern Canada and quite excited about the arrival of Her Majesty to the country's birthday celebrations. It was the largest attendance ever for a Canada Day celebration in Ottawa.

The Crown and our system of government is the one thing that has always distinguished us and separated us from the Americans. That distinction came through loud and clear at both of these events.

However, although I support the Crown as an institution, I do not consider it above criticism or beyond improvement — far from it. I previously mentioned the anti-Catholic sentiment that was so pervasive and enshrined in law a few centuries ago. At present there is a debate in Westminster over the provisions of the Act of Settlement of 1701.

I believe it is high time that we discuss the Act of Settlement in this country. Among other things, this act not only requires that the monarch be the head of the Church of England but states that anybody in line for the throne who marries a Catholic forfeits his or her place in the line of succession. Apparently, they can marry a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Confucian, a Quaker, a Jew, a Christian Scientist, a Wiccan, a druid, an agnostic or an atheist and give up nothing. However, they cannot be, nor can they marry, a Catholic.

This is a remnant of the religious intolerance that ran wild throughout Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. At that time, Catholics throughout Britain and the empire were subjected to a series of penal laws, commonly known as the Test Acts. These acts deliberately marginalized, impoverished and persecuted Catholics, making it almost impossible for them to own land or hold public office.

The anti-Catholic provision in the Act of Settlement is the only remaining example of these disgraceful pieces of legislation. It is essential to remember that this religious test is not a creation of the Crown but an act of Parliament imposed on the Crown.

This brings to mind a public debate that received some attention not long ago in the city of Ottawa, a discussion that reveals once again how sloppy people can be with our history, even with the noblest of intentions. Honourable senators will recall suggestions that Wellington Street should be renamed in honour of Sir John A. Macdonald. It was argued that it was a more appropriate name than that of someone who had no connection to Canada.

It is interesting that while the many colonial figures have had their names commemorated multiple times across the country, the only thing named after the Duke of Wellington in Canada is the street that fronts Parliament Hill. As a Canadian, a Conservative and, yes, a MacDonald, I have no issue with giving Sir John A. the credit he so richly deserves. His role in the establishment of Canada eclipses all others of his generation.

However, those who see the Duke of Wellington as nothing more than a soldier miss his significance to Canada. Yes, he was a great military leader, having fought in over 60 military campaigns, culminating in his victory at Waterloo over Napoleon in 1815. Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, was also a parliamentarian, an Anglo-Irishman who sat in the Irish House of Commons as a young man and, following his magnificent military career, was elected to the British House of Commons, serving twice as prime minister beginning first in 1828.

During his first term as prime minister and over the objections and strenuous opposition of the House of Lords, King George IV and some in his own party, he passed the Catholic Relief Act of 1829. Thankfully, Wellington threatened to quit if the old establishment blocked his legislation and his reputation was so unassailable that they did not dare challenge him. This act removed all remaining legal impediments against Catholics throughout the British Empire, including the right to be elected to a legislature without taking an oath in which they would have to essentially renounce their religion.

It should be noted that until that time, the first and only place in the British Empire where Catholics have been free to practice their religion without penalty was in the British colony of Quebec, since all Catholics domiciled in Quebec — the overwhelming majority of the people — had, since 1774, received the full protection of the laws contained in the Quebec Act.

This was not the case in Nova Scotia or the rest of the empire. Lawrence Kavanagh of St. Peters, Cape Breton, was elected to the Nova Scotia legislature in 1823, becoming the first Catholic to be elected throughout the old empire at that time. However, he could and did not take his seat until 1829, when Wellington passed the Catholic Relief Act.

Wellington's leadership emancipated Catholics and for that reason alone he deserves the small recognition in Canada he receives with the existence of that one street. Those who would casually remove his name do not do so out of malice, but because they are unfamiliar of the role he played during his day and unappreciative of the true significance of his contribution to Canada.

It is this ignorance of our history that Senator Joyal holds up against the light with his motion on the $20 bill. That is why it is so important to support Senator Joyal's efforts in this matter. If anything, not only should we reaffirm the role of the Crown on the $20 bill, we should firmly embrace the institution and make it clear that Canadians have a say in its evolution.

I trust that in the near future we can assert this commitment with a thorough debate on the Act of Settlement in our Parliament and make it clear to the other Commonwealth realms that the anti-Catholic legacy explicit in its provisions should be addressed and eliminated.

To those who think the act is of little consequence, I point out that in 2007 Her Majesty's oldest grandchild Peter Phillips married Autumn Kelly of Montreal. They now have a daughter with dual citizenship, the Queen's first great-grandchild, the closest Canadian ever to the line of succession. However, Ms. Kelly, a Catholic, was required to abandon her religion in order for her husband to keep his place in the line of succession. Surely, this is completely unacceptable in 2011, and is another area in which we can provide the leadership necessary to address and correct old wrongs that need to be righted.

The Senate has an important role to play in protecting the political inheritance of our country, and Senator Joyal's intervention provides all of us with the opportunity to do just that. When all honourable senators first enter this chamber, we swear an oath to the Crown. If we sit silent while others undermine the Crown, we undermine ourselves.

I support Senator Joyal's motion to instruct the Bank of Canada to include Her Majesty's title with the next series of $20 notes, and I sincerely urge all honourable senators to support it as well.