The Crown and Canadian Federalism by D. Michael Jackson (Review)

In recent years, there has been a revival of interest in Queen Elizabeth II as Queen of Canada. The Canada Day celebrations led by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on Parliament Hill in 2010, the choice of Canada for the first overseas visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011 and the success of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, including a Canadian tour by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall for Victoria Day weekend in 2012, have all contributed to public support for the monarchy as a Canadian institution after decades of comparative indifference.

At the same time, a wave of recent publications, including The Secret Of The Crown: Canada’s Affair With Royalty by John Fraser, Canada’s Constitutional Monarchy: An Introduction to Our Form of Government by Nathan Tidridge and The Evolving Canadian Crown edited by Jennifer Smith and D. Michael Jackson have presented a sound case that the Crown is not an archaic institution left over from Canada’s history as British North America but an evolving, vital component of the modern Canadian political system.

In The Crown and Canadian Federalism, D. Michael Jackson, chief of protocol for the government of Saskatchewan from 1980-2005 and co-ordinator of ten royal tours of the province, restores the provincial Lieutenant Governors to their rightful place in Canadian history and politics. The compound monarchy consisting of a Governor General representing the Queen at the federal level and ten Lieutenant Governors at the provincial level emerges as a key component of Canadian federalism, safeguarding the rights of communities and minority groups as well as the individual.

Jackson focuses his study on his home province of Saskatchewan, which brings a fresh perspective to the study of the Canadian Crown. In many works regarding the history and function of the Crown in Canada, the province of Quebec takes centre stage because the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s led to a profound change in French-Canadian attitudes toward the monarchy, from protector of minority rights to symbol of British oppression.

By drawing examples from Western Canada, Jackson highlights the long relationship between the First Nations and the federal Crown as well as lesser known aspects of the relationship between the provinces and Canada’s constitutional monarchy. For example Governor General Jeanne Sauvé’s attempts to present herself to the Canadian public as “Head of State” was not well received in Western Canada, where the public expected Governors General to present themselves as representatives of the monarch.

For readers interested in personalities as well as politics, Jackson provides plenty of fascinating anecdotes about how Lieutenant Governors and Governors General engaged with their governments and the public over the past few centuries. Despite the importance of political impartiality for representatives of the Crown, several Lieutenant Governors found themselves in conflict with the governments elected during their tenure.

Examples include Lieutenant Governor John Bowen of Alberta, who was turned out of Government House in Edmonton by Premier William Aberhart in 1938 for reserving royal assent to legislation and Lieutenant Governor Frank Bastedo of Saskatchewan, a former counsel for the oil industry accused of conflict of interest when he reserved royal assent on Bill 56, The Alteration of Certain Mineral Contracts, in 1961. In contrast to these contentious figures, Jackson describes Bastedo’s successor as Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan, my great granduncle Robert Leith “Dinny” Hanbidge as “informal, low-key and non-controversial” during his seven year term from 1963 to 1970.

Jackson concludes The Crown and Canadian Federalism with a study of the various republican options for Canada’s government, presenting a strong case for the continued viability of the constitutional monarchy. He also looks at current perceptions of the monarchy – including my Diamond Jubilee Series of articles about the Queen in Canada – assessing whether the current interest in the Canadian monarchy is a short term phenomenon or a long term trend. The Crown and Canadian Federalism is essential reading for anyone interested in Canadian history and politics as well the evolving constitutional monarchy in Canada.


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