When was the last time you felt the relevancy of our sovereign mother in your daily life?
Our connection to the British crown is as flimsy and wholly traditional as the ceremonies with which we glorify it. Why then do we still look to the monarch for stability and safety in the event of a national catastrophe?
The growing crisis in the EU has forced me to examine the relationship Canada shares with the union it is a part of, the Commonwealth of Nations; a collective of 54 independent countries and states (one of which is suspended) that “unite” under the banner of the British empire that at one point or another ruled over 52 of them.
Membership in the association is said to promote peace, equality and free trade, and member countries are encouraged to fight against poverty and ignorance. I say encouraged because the Commonwealth does not often do more than point a stern finger at violators of human rights, and in the present day acts more as a private club for heads of state.
If you would like to be painted a picture of just how inactive the congregation is in matters of combating injustice, 41 of the 54 Commonwealth member states have laws against openly practising homosexuality. The single suspended member mentioned earlier was Fiji, and the suspension came after a particularily ugly coup d’état on the government, not for some “trivial” human rights shenanigans.
Heading this ragtag group of do-nothings is the Head of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II, the very same Queen we call Mum and for whom we clear the streets when she graces us with her presence. Most of the actual responsibilities fall to the Commonwealth’s Secretary General, who at this moment is the illustrious Kamalesh Sharma, a man elected and re-elected from India, and seconded by Pakistan, two countries that, while fighting homophobia on a daily basis, are still very much in the dark about global acceptable of LGBT culture and homosexual rights as a whole. When his greatest accomplishments are mostly business-oriented in nature, how can we count on him to make the key cultural and social decisions that are so very needed within the Commonwealth?
Earlier this year a panel proposed a slew of changes that the Commonwealth should adopt, including the organization adopting a rigid charter outlining its goals and appointing a commissioner to track human rights violations within member nations. These changes were considered and promptly “kicked into the long grass,” as one panel member put it, when the heads of the Commonwealth deferred the issues to further research by study groups.
Why do we exist within such a disorganized, disingenuous organization that serves us little to no purpose other than a feeling of belonging to something larger than ourselves. An ironic statement, given that only one other country is actually larger than ours, going by land mass alone. When we celebrate the Commonwealth games, we play side by side with countries that accept the homophobia and gender inequality that litters their nation.
We talk a big game when we call out China for hosting the Olympics despite having severe human rights abuses within their borders, but then we turn a blind eye to the same abuses occurring within nations that we play rugby with every four years in a grand tribute to “world peace values.”
So is the crown relevant in our daily lives? Do we really need these thin traditionalist ties to a force that does nothing to fight for the values that we are so very lucky to enjoy each and every day?
It may be sensationalist to think that association with the crown is tantamount to supporting human rights abuses, but in this day and age we are expected to be disgusted with ignorance, and that very same crown is the symbol of an organization that sweeps it under the rug.
A member of the Commonwealth may voluntarily withdraw from the association at any time for any reason, and it may be time for Canada to re-evaluate the costs of such a membership, and whether we can afford it moving on into the majority of the 21st century.
It might just be a figurehead of our past, a symbol of our roots, but those roots have grown into something gruesome. We’ve been a part of the Commonwealth for 80 years, are we prepared for another 80?
There is a sort of tinge of inconsequentiality to the issue, but much more is at stake when matters of the state are concerned. How we define ourselves as part of a larger union will shape global opinion of our country for decades to come.
We promise on a daily basis to stand on guard for thee, Canada, and it’s about time we got started on that, because the anthem does not ask me to guard the crown.