On the Queen: Observing as an Outsider

By Henry Luo, ’24

God Save the King

That is the cry of unwavering loyalty towards the British monarchy, and a cry that symbolizes the end of an era. 

For many people, Queen Elizabeth II’s passing came unexpectedly. She spent her last evening at Balmoral Castle in Scotland which sat on a leafy green field overlooking a densely packed forest. The tranquility and eloquence of the residence was similar to the Queen herself who was described as charming, majestic, and hard-working. 

Queen Elizabeth II saw & guided many remarkable things during her 70 years in power. She saw World War II, the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the shift in global powers, the rise of technology, and the recent trend of globalization. But she also guided the transformation of the Commonwealth, the modernization of the monarchy, and the increase of racial justice in the Commonwealth. She had worked with 15 British prime ministers starting from Winston Churchill; And for Canada, she worked with 12 prime ministers starting from Louis St. Laurent. However the Queen was more than what she saw and done, she was the embodiment of our progress from the 20th to the 21st century. 

But now that the Queen has passed, she leaves a vacuum in our understanding. I have never thought the Queen was going to die, at least not on that day. As a Chinese-Canadian and an immigrant, I have really only known the Queen as long as I have been in Canada – which is a brief 6 years. Nevertheless, the Queen’s passing rattled me and left a question in my mind: what happens next? 

I want to provide some insights to this question through a lens that is less tinted by mainstream Canadian perception of the monarch. To me, the monarch is nothing more than what it is on paper: a relic of the past. In essence, the monarch does nothing. It doesn’t help with the government, influence voter turnout, create policies or help alleviate poverty. What is worse, ties with the monarchy cost Canadians $58.7 million in the 2019-20 fiscal year. So other than signing laws, which they have to pass, the monarch essentially just sits there, represents a colonial past and drains our money. 

But that does not mean we have to abolish the monarchy in Canada. 

On one hand, in so far as I think the monarch is useless and to a certain sense harmful, completely changing the Canadian government to stop believing in the monarch takes far too much time and effort. The shift to a republic system is just too risky and exposes political hurdles that we are not ready for. For starters, the majority of Canadian consensus still believes that the monarchy is quintessentially for the country. Furthermore, the monarchy is the living embodiment of Canada’s parliament and government, and a bulwark against American cultural imperialism. 

On the other hand, I think a degree of altercation of the relationship between Canada and the monarch is needed. We need to stop seeing ourselves as a “subject” of the British monarchy and have a greater sense of independence in our culture and identity. Not only does this help alleviate the tensions the monarchy caused in the past, it sets us in the right direction in becoming a world power. 

Each passing day, Canada sits on the fence of whether to accept the monarchy & the rule of King Charles III, or take a step back and cut ties. As I thought back to the world the Queen was transforming and compared that world to the one currently, Canada has come to a crossroad between conforming to a monarchy which left troubling problems, or establishing cultural independence that truly represents the diversity of the Canadian population. And for me, as someone who sits on the peripheral, the latter choice prevails. 

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