Saturday, October 10, 2009

"Head of State"?

. Saturday, October 10, 2009


The head of Her Majesty's Canadian government reminds the Governor General of who really is the boss:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has sent a clear message to Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean that she should not call herself Canada's head of state.

"Queen Elizabeth II is Queen of Canada and Head of State," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement issued to Canwest News Service on Thursday. "The Governor General represents the Crown in Canada."

The extraordinary reminder from the country's head of government to its top viceregal representative follows an uproar over Jean's use of the phrase "head of state" when referring to herself during a speech in Paris on Monday.

Twice during the Governor General's address at an executive meeting of UNESCO — the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — she called herself Canada's head of state.

I was rather surprised by the comment myself, the current Canadian GG has generally done a good job. A more correct description is that the Governor General carries out most of the tasks of the Head of State, without actually being Head of State.

A Rideau Hall spokesperson had stated Wednesday that Jean's reference to being head of state was justified: "As the representative of the Crown in Canada, the Governor General carries out the duties of head of state, and therefore is de facto head of state."

Rideau Hall had also said the "head of state" reference was acceptable because of a 1947 agreement in which the "letters patent of King George VI" — Queen Elizabeth's father — "transferred all the duties of head of state of Canada to the Governor General."

But the assertion that the Governor General can be correctly described as Canada's head of state directly contradicts some of the federal government's own published references to the position.

In A Crown of Maples, an online guide to Canada's constitutional monarchy published by the Department of Canadian Heritage, a section titled "The Queen as head of state: Personifying the Country" states: "As Queen of Canada, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is our head of state and a powerful symbol of Canada and Canadian sovereignty."

The link to A Crown of Maples can be found here.


Beaverbrook said...

Technically speaking, I have never accepted the modern notion that the Queen is "head of" the state. Legally she is the state, the sovereign embodiment of the people - for example, there are no treaties signed between Canada/Britain (i.e., the state) and First Nations, they are all with the Crown. Similarly, Canada or Britain did not declare war on Germany in 1939, His Majesty did in his own name.

Perhaps the Constitution of 1982 does codify the Queen as "head of state" now (I'd have to check), but historically this has not been the case. I'm a little off topic, I know, but an interesting discussion nonetheless.

Piddingworth said...

The literal entrenchment of the monarchy in the Constitution Act, 1982 was, along with the 'notwithstanding clause' one of the deal-breakers that the Premiers insisted from Trudeau whose 'social contract' was seen to weaken the authority of the Crown in Parliament and give an overriding place to the Supreme Court.

Trudeau had little use for the monarchy and knew that in the passing of time it would have little effect on his greater project 'The Charter of Rights & Freedoms' that would engineer his vision.

Since then, and with the active transformation of the Canadian government that conforms to a new identity, i.e., one that is preferentially French with its own mythological fantasy and historical biases, the anti-monarchists have become the norm in large parts of the civil service; ironically including Rideau Hall.

When the Conservative party became the government a few years ago the question was asked:'Where are the portraits of the Queen?' The civil servants replied: 'They were removed and are in storage'. They were immediately found and return to their places on Parliament Hill. It was further discovered that the Queen had been removed from the official government website. Indeed, in Paul Martin's brief regime, it was he who was presented to the cyberworld as the embodiment of the 'State'. This too was corrected and lasted for a while but the staff at Rideau Hall continue to hope that no one will notice or care of Her Majesty's recent gradual disappearance. Indeed, the whole notion that the Governor-General is the representative of the Queen is put in small print while the emphasis is very much on the office as that of 'Head of State'.

Madame Jean has little or nothing to do with this presentation and likely has simply absorbed the mythology from those 'experts' around her.

Of course, it is all silly nonsense but then so much of 'official' Canada has become the same where the country's history has been altered to serve the new mythology.

It would appear that the Ottawa gang, knowing that the Queen cannot go away without an enormous constitutional tussle, hope that she will just disappear in time with their active co-operation and the deepening indifference of the Canadian population. Hence, fewer Royal Visits.

Those close to Rideau Hall have referred to the development of a stronger identity for the Governor-General as 'de facto Head of State' as 'evolution'. What it really is and has been for four decades is a 'quiet revolution' with a view to rid Canada of any association, de facto, de jure, or otherwise in our history, with the United Kingdom.

It's all being airbrushed quietly from the 'official' Canadian landscape.

Lord Best said...

I find the head of state debate specious. The monarchy predates common usage of the term head of state, which only came into vogue following WWII.
Either we have no head of state (we being Canada and Australia) or we have two, the GG and HM The Queen (according to the law faculty at Melbourne university, we have two, if its of interest. It was on their website about the constitution)

ACMW said...

Apologies if I am being thick but the Letters Patent of 1947 did not "transfer" powers as such but simply enabled the Governor General of the day to exercise them. "Transfer" implies that the Sovereign is no longer able to exercise them, which is clearly false as otherwise, presumably, the Constitution Act would have had to be signed by the Gov. Gen. and Her Majesty would not have been empowered so to do.

Indeed, if I remember correctly a "transfer" of powers was what was contemplated as a solution to the problem of Nehru wanting India to be a republic within the Commonwealth, the idea being that the "President" would be the G-G re-named and the King would by means of letters patent empower the President to act on his behalf (although whether the President then became the sole person exercising those powers, I am not sure). At any rate, this Rideau Hall doublespeak is quite erroneous.

Beaverbrook said...

Padre Benton, good to hear from you again!

A friend of mine had this to say about the notion that we have a head of state.

"This is in fact and of course an error. In a monarchy, there is no notion of “head of” state. The Sovereign is just that … personally the state. As Louis XIV famously said, “l’Etat, c’est moi”. It is personal embodiment of a country.

Prompting this mail, I happened to dig up just now this. The British (Imperial) formal declaration of war in 1939 read as follows:

It is notified that a State of War exists between His Majesty and Germany as from 11 o’clock A.M. to-day the 3rd September, 1939. — King George VI

In Canada as in HM’s other realms, this fact/interpretation is written into the fabric of all law and state power execution; and most particularly in Canada, all native treaties and all provincial and territorial (as well as federal) empowerments are reflected formally in law as personal agreements between the entity in question and the monarch of the time of signature, carried to lawful heirs and successors. This fact, coupled to the written-constitution enshrining of the monarch as Canadian sovereign, makes any “dropping” of the monarchy in Canada an effectively impossible disentanglement short of revolution. And we aren’t a very revolutionary crowd."

No we're not, hence the sly incrementalism summarized by Piddingworth. And the reason why this sly incrementalism has been allowed to persist for the better part of four decades is because - to use the immortal words of Peter Brimelov - "the attitude of successive governments towards the monarchy is that of the urchin, secretly urinating on some shrub in the hope that it will die."

That was the case, in any event, until yesterday when Prime Minister Harper put a stop to it. Too bad the slap down had to happen to our current GG (she has been an excellent representative), rather hoped it would have come down harder on "Queen Adrienne".

Piddingworth said...

Cheers Beaverbrook!
I agree that Madame Jean has proved to be a very worthy servant of the Crown who has not assumed for herself the kind of nauseating self-aggrandisment promoted by her predecessor.
The problem is, of course, deeper than the one who lives at Government House and it is sad that, for obvious political (read Quebec) reasons the bureaucracy is staffed with ideologues from fantasyland.
Perhaps a majority Conservative government would more actively support the presence of the monarchy and the Royal Family in Canadian life but I wouldn't hold my breath.
The notion of 'head of state' is used here to reinforce an identity apart from the Sovereign. Whatever juice the law faculty in Melbourne was drawing to conclude two heads of state must come from a tree in the outback. Commonwealth realms (realms!)are not siamese twins. There can be only one Sovereign and that is, by law and in fact, Elizabeth II. She is the fount of all authority including the sharing of that authority with her citizens, including the Governors-General and Lieutenant-Governors and indeed, judges, lawyers, police and commissioned officers.
There are many who think that it is ridiculous for a 'mature' country to have a 'head' who is the 'head' of another country. This is a convenient denial of imperial and constitutional history. Surely, the Queen as Sovereign of many independent nations is one of the most delightful and ingenious 'accidents' of history.
Her Majesty isn't just the 'head' of state...she IS the whole body of state; the fantasies and illusions of privileged bureaucrats notwithstanding.

As a footnote to the business of Brimelow's 'secretly urinating on the shrub', not that many years ago whilst watching the Remembrance observance at the Cenotaph in Ottawa, I noticed that then PM Chrétien had laid a wreath whose ribbon stated 'The People of Canada' (see Louis XIV above, i.e., 'I am da Peoples and da Peoples har moi'!) The PM's wreath traditionaly was 'The Government of Canada' and the Governor-General's wreath stated, as usual, 'The Governor-General'.

I enquired of this breach of protocol with Rideau Hall and was most fortunate to have had a very professional and thoughtful response from a gentleman there. Given that in this constitutional monarchy, the Sovereign is the State and therefore the one who personalizes and embodies 'The People of Canada', I thought that this was a vulgar attempt by the Grits to supplant the monarchy. The gentleman at Rideau Hall did not disagree that the term used by a member of Parliament who is the Head of Government was entirely inappropriate.

A long story shortened, after several communications with Dominion Command of the Legion whose responsibility it is to oversee all things at the Cenotaph, and at first denied, it was later admitted that the instruction to change the wreath came directly from the PMO and the legion complied. They did acknowledge that the term was inappropriate for the Government to assume within Canadian protocol and in the next year it was changed back to 'Government of Canada' but they chose to change the Governor-General's wreath to 'The People of Canada'.

Unfortunately in that next year, people got confused and so the Governor-General laid the wreath for 'The Government of Canada', Chrétien laid the wreath for the 'Parliament of Canada', and the Speaker laid the wreath for the 'People of Canada'

Thus, whilst the Grit attempt to politicise the Remembrance ceremony did backfire, any reverence for the Crown itself remains hidden.

Kipling said...

What I love about this blog are the comments. Like an education.

Yes, the Queen is the state is better than Head of State. I suppose you need some sort of classification system that applies across countries, thus the term head of state would be appropriate in that context.

Diefenbaker said...

Cheers Beaverbook. Thank you for mentioning Former G.G. Adrienne Clarkson.

I find it would be most beneficial if The Monarchist wrote more on the 1947 Letters Patent - many misconceptions seem to arise over them, including from Rideau Hall itself.

Adrienne Clarkson wrote, rather erroneously in her autobiography that the Letters Patent did transfer all the powers of the Monarch to the GG, such as opening and dissolving Parliament. Too bad she conveniently forgot that HM gave the speech from the throne twice, once when Diefenbaker was PM, and the other when Trudeau was PM.

The Letters Patent could use a lot of clarification. It says plainly in them that the Sovereign reserves the right to rescind all rights granted in it, yet 60 years later our reigning GG claims its justification for her being Canada's head of state. A terrible misconception indeed.

Piddingworth said...

Quite right, John George.
The transfer of the responsibilities of the monarch to the Governor-General is not a transfer of the King or Queen's Sovereignty. The current website from Rideau Hall speaks of the 'Crown' as if it were a mere 'concept' when it is obviously a 'person'. The Governor-General cannot put St. Edward's crown on her head. She is not sovereign. She is neither consecrated nor universally acknowledged to be the fount of all law and authority in this realm or any other. She did not inherit her office and duties, she was appointed to the job by the only one with the power to do so; even if the choice is made by the Prime Minister.

We rightly ought to be outraged at this recent behaviour coming from the Governor-General and her staff. Contrary to their oath of loyalty, it is a deliberate attempt to dismiss both the monarchy and especially the Monarch. Again, they have repeatedly behaved this way and usually with impunity during periods of governments that have encouraged and fostered the same nonsense.

That they have removed all images and links to the Queen and the Royal Family, including that portion of the Queen's own site about Canada is beyond contempt. This impertinent rudeness alone justifies the direct oversight and intervention by the Prime Minister and the Privy Council.

There needs to be a cleaning out of the people in Government House and a restoration of reliable, loyal civil servants whose ambition is to serve and not overthrow either the Queen or the Canadian Constitution.

Anonymous said...

That some of you are surprised by Mme. Jean simply tells me you are not paying attention. Jean must go.

How I wish the Duke of York would be the GG.

The Young Fogey: Rafal H-M said...

A jolly decent thread with some sound views expressed. I am delighted that after many years of wilfully misrepresenting the role of Governor General as Canada's "Head of State", Government House has finally been forced to acknowledge the supremacy of Our Sovereign Lady -- and in a gloriously embarrassing manner. The web site was amended yesterday.

The term "Head of State" is thoroughly republican and, as has been stated, incompatible with the traditional view that as the Monarch IS the state she cannot therefore be head of herself.

The Sovereign reigns over her kingdom/dominion. the GG, as a servant of Our Sovereign Lady, represents the Crown and exercises certain delegated duties. End of story.

Alas, certain elements within Rideau Hall are so committed to their agenda that I suspect it will not be long before references to HM are again removed from the web site.

'99 Referendum Veteran said...

Speaking of Governors-General, this is the most republican home page for a Queen's representative I have EVER seen. Not a single crown or Royal Cipher to be seen. There isn't even a full NZ flag - presumably because he didn't want to see a Union flag. What a joke.

If the GG wanted one on his page I am sure he could have one. I bet if he wasn't GG when the knighthoods came back, he would have declined. Disgraceful.

Beaverbrook said...

I really appreciate the comments on this thread. It is especially nice to see our arguments validated by the return of the Young Fogey, no slouch when it comes to heraldry and monarchy!

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Unhappy Kingdom: Why Liberal Democracy is Failing Us
Knightless Realm: The world yawns as John Howard is made an AC
Scots Tory: Bring Back the Stiff Upper Lip, says Gerald Warner
HMY Britannia: Let's lay the keel for a new royal yacht
For Queen, Country and Low Pay: PM pledges to do better
Maple Leaf republic? Roger Kimball's sleight of hand (since corrected!)
Queen's Birthday: New Zealand unveils new Vice-Regal Standard
Prince Charming: Quebec author calls Canadian G-G a "negro queen"
The Senior Service: Sub-Lieutenant Wales to take on Pirates of the Caribbean
Crown of Disenchantment: What does it require to withhold royal assent?
Colonial Mentality: Key republican thinks Victoria Cross is a colonial relic
The Red Baron: Billy Bishop, not Mannock, was the British Empire's top ace
Which Scots conservatism: Unionist or Nationalist?
Loyal Subject: After all she has done, we owe the Queen our oath
Victoria Day – Fête de la Reine: Official B'day of the Queen of Canada
Renaming the Victoria Day Weekend: Let's get rid of Heritage Day Bob
Pro Valore: Canada mints its own Victoria Cross in time for Victoria Day
State Visit to Turkey: Mustafa Akyol says God Save the Queen, Indeed
Norn Iron Unites: What issue is uniting all parties of Northern Ireland?
Extreme Loyalist: Michael Stone attempted to slit the throats of Adams and McGuinness because he just "can't handle" republicans being in government.
Canada's Vice-Regal dubbed an elegant mix between Lady Di and Nelson Mandela
Queen of Australia: Support for Australian republic hits new low
A Heroes Welcome: The Windsor Castle Royal Tattoo, 8-10 May 2008
Fat, Vile and Impudent: Alan Fotheringham is back on the bottle
The Devine Right of Bling: Our Royals have become hereditary celebrities
Battle of the Atlantic: Canadians remember the longest battle of WW2
Old Etonian Toff: Boris Johnson installed as Tory Mayor of London
Britain needs a Patron Saint: Cry God for Harry, Britain and St. Aiden?
Anglos in Mont-Royal: Rooting for the Montreal Canadiens
Daniel Hannan: Borders of the Anglosphere and the British Empire was a mistake
Australia 2020: One Big Fat Republican Con Job
Bye bye Tommy: O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy go away"
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
Carpetbaggers Down Under: Kevin 'Mugabe' Rudd wins 98.5% support for republic
Kipling: The Jeremiah of Empire and the Poet Laureate of Civilisation
Duke of Edinburgh: Behind the gaffes is a man of real sincerity
Lord Rutherford: The Father of the Atom lives on in great great grandson
Queen of Australia: Royalty Protects us from Tyranny, David Barnett
Long Live the Broadsheet! Norumbega, more traditionalist than the Pope.
A Tale of Two Countries: Soldiers of Britain and Canada serve the same Queen but...
Loyal Subject: Polishing the Royal Crown, Matt Bondy & Brendon Bedford
Devoted to the End: Obituary of Sir Phillip Bridges
The Monarchist does not recognize the Republic of Kosova
Loyal Subject: MPs Ruse Defeated; God Save the Queen!
St. Paddy's Day: Edmund Burke, the greatest Irishman who ever lived
Not Amused: The Bunkum of Timothy Garton Ash
Hero Harry: Rave Reviews across the Commonwealth
Patriot Prince: Prince Harry fought for us all, Charles Moore
William F. Buckley, RIP: He had a Tory gratitude for the pleasures of life
Their Lordships' Duty: The House of Lords can influence the Lisbon Treaty debate
Knights of Oz: Revive Sirs or I'll have your guts for garters
Peter Hitchens: People love the Queen...and the BBC hates us for it
Our Greatest Monarch: Paul Johnson says Henry V was our greatest monarch
Princess Diana Inquest: A Dirty Raincoat Show for the World
Malcom Turnbull: 'Queen's death will spark republican vote'
Duke of York: The Royals are not "stuffed dummies". They should have their say
Peers of the Realm: The decline and fall of the House of Lords - Charles A. Coulombe
Peter Hitchens: Get rid of the monarchy and you will get rid of a guardian of liberty
Honouring Sir Edmund Hillary
The Queen versus an E.U. President
Going Solo: Prince William earns his Wings
James C. Bennett: The Third Anglosphere Century
Knights of Oz: Revive Sirs or I'll have your guts for garters
Princess Diana Inquest: A Dirty Raincoat Show for the World
Malcom Turnbull: 'Queen's death will spark republican vote'
Future Peer: The life and times of Lady Victoria Beckham
Peers of the Realm: The decline and fall of the House of Lords - Charles A. Coulombe
Peter Hitchens: Get rid of the monarchy and you will get rid of a guardian of liberty


New York Times: Ever Backwards into the Royal Future
Peter Hitchens: People love the Queen...and the BBC hates us for it
Christopher Hitchens: An Anglosphere Future
Andrew Cusack: Republicanism is a traitor's game
Courageous Patrician: Rt Hon Ian Douglas Smith (1919-2007)
The Last Rhodesian: What began with Rhodes and ended with Ian?
Gentleman Journalist: The Lord Baron W.F. Deedes, 1913-2007
Not Amused: Blair's sinister campaign to undermine the Queen
Loyal Subject: Queen Elizabeth: A stranger in her own country
Reverence Deference: Bowing and Scraping Back in Tradition
Rex Murphy: Kennedy, Churchill, Lincoln - The rousing bon mot is no more
Gerald Warner: Don't shed a tear for Diana cult in its death throes
The End of Grandeur: Rich, chincy Canada puts Strathmore on the blocks
Confessions of a Republican Leftie: "The Queen charmed the pants off me"
The King's Own Calgary Regiment: Cpl. Nathan Hornburg is laid to rest
The Royal Gurkha Rifles: Prince William grieves the death of Major Roberts
Queensland Mounted Rifles: Trooper David Pearce, 41, killed in Afghanistan
The Order of Canada: 100 investitures later, Canada's highest honour turns 40
Prince Edward on Prince Edward Island: Troop's link to monarchy important
HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN: Unveils the UK Armed Forces Memorial
Great Britain: "A rotten borough with a banana monarchy" - by Europhile
Peers of the Realm: The decline and fall of the House of Lords - Charles A. Coulombe
Remembering 'Smithy': An obituary tour de force by Andrew Cusack here, here and here.
NOT AMUSED: Her Majesty The Queen in Right of Quebec not invited to Quebec's tercentenary