Canada Day, Big Ben and the Rights of Women

There is no reason why Canadian patriotism should be incompatible with good feelings about the monarchy, especially in the year of the Queen’s Jubilee. There are at least as many people in Canada as there are in the U.K. who will not easily get used to calling Big Ben Elizabeth Tower, as was decreed in London last week.

And it would be churlish to reflect, on this of all days, that allegedly fifty-two percent of Canadians want “to retire the British monarchy as the head of our governments.” This is, of course, a meaningless statistic. In Quebec, the figure would be astronomical, not so in the Maritimes and B.C. You don’t need any pollsters to tell you what everybody already knows, that whoever succeeds Queen Elizabeth may have to rule without Canada.

Instead of the prime minister of Canada recommending to the monarch who is to be the nominal head of state for the next six years or so, he or she may make the recommendation to the Privy Council? – to a committee of the Senate? – to selected members of the Order of Canada? – to the Royal Society? – to the Board of the Couchiching Institute?

But let no one think that the after-effects of imperial rule were all bad. In the 1920s, five women demanded the right to hold a seat in the Senate. The British North America Act, 1867 stated that only “qualified persons” could hold office, which had previously been interpreted to mean only men. In 1928, the Supreme Court ruled that women were not “persons,” but this was overturned by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The women involved were Emily Murphy, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, and Irene Parlby.

Long Live the Queen!

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3 responses to “Canada Day, Big Ben and the Rights of Women

  1. Steve Paulsen

    Big Bess is more likely.

  2. Horace Krever

    I interpreted the report of the change to say that Big Ben is still Big Ben but that the tower that holds Big Ben is now to be called Elizabeth Tower. Did I misunderstand?

    It seems to me that one can be in favour of ending monarchy and still be patriotic and loyal. In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Mark Twain said it best: “My kind of loyalty was loyalty to one’s country, not to its institutions or its office-holders.”