Canadian symbols: THE CROWN

Canadian symbols: THE CROWN © David Watts, April 2003


The Crown, Canada’s most misunderstood symbol, is seen by critics as a vestige of colonialism, a sign of subservience, a foreign influence in a now independent state. They are missing the point.

The Crown of Canada is a Canadian institution. For the past century it has been shaped by needs and experience of the first state in the world to call itself a Dominion. Look at the words we use:

Canada’s Parliament opens with the “Speech from the Throne”. Britain calls it something else.

Canadians celebrate the birthday of Queen Victoria, who chose the site of our capital. Britain celebrates the Queen’s Birthday in June. The Crown is a symbol that serves Canada in four ways:

The Crown is a symbol of continuity—from the first meetings of Europeans and First Nations, from Henry Tudor, who sponsored John Cabot and Francis I who commissioned Jacques Cartier

and the Spanish and Russian empires, whose traders built trading posts on our west coast—

Canada has had Kings and Queens and representatives who have acted in their name.

Administrators and governments have changed but the Crown has gone on

The Crown is a symbol of humanity. Because the members of the Royal Family serve for life, they reflect all the stages of the human journey: birth, infancy, youth, adulthood and elder-hood.

Some people complain about scandals in the Royal Family. These are a mirror of our humanness—a mirror that does not focus on an ideal, but gives us a realistic picture of life.

The Crown is a symbol of balance: of generations and nationalities. The men and women who have worn the British Crown have included Scots, Frenchmen, Dutch and Germans. Some could not even speak English. The Crown is therefore one of the earliest multi-cultural institutions.

In the past half century, the Canadians who served as the Queen’s Representative, the Governor General, our resident Head of State, have been equally diverse.

The Crown has given us gender balance. More than half the years since Confederation, Canada’s sovereign has been a woman. Our Queens have had a civilizing influence on the Canadian psyche

The Great White Mother whose redcoats patrolled north of the Medicine Line became a trusted figure for first nations who fled from the cavalry of the Great Father in Washington. This has led to a less militaristic society than one whose leader was expected to show his prowess in battle.

Finally the Crown is a symbol of transcendence pointing beyond our borders to Earth as a Whole

Some Canadians argue it is time to end our ties with an overseas monarchy to adopt a homegrown head of state. They may be overlooking one of our greatest strengths: our international focus.

Canada has had a broad view since its beginnings, having a Head of State who is a world figure.

Canadians have adopted a number of national symbols because our life is too complex and diverse for a single one. The beaver and maple leaf represent the fauna and flora of our part of the biosphere. The Mountie and Peace Tower represent our national government and institutions.

The Crown represents our international side: our transcendent bond to a wider human community.

The Crown as an institution—the Crown of Canada, of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and the 75 countries that make it up is a sign of the immense diversity of the human experiment.

It is a sign of our evolutionary potential: the possibilities for differentiation in a context of inter-connectedness, of allegiance to a transcendent figure and the spiritual values s/he professes.

Long may this connective spirit guide the Canadian journey.