It was Canada’s 142nd birthday on 1 July, 2009. A reader, Colin Elliott, reminded me of this recently. So to all the people of that beautiful and wonderful country, which has contributed so much to the world, we say a belated Happy Birthday and Bonne Fête.
Canada became the first of the dominions of the British Empire on 1 July 1867 under the terms of the British North America Act.
Australians who want Australia to be a politicians’ republic, should study Canada. A proud independent country which sits on the top tables of the world as both a G8 and NATO power, Canada is a constitutional monarchy or crowned republic.
In recent years two "passionately" republican Australian senators have gone on the public record to announce that Canadians is a politicians’ republic.
Although Britain retained supervisory powers over Canada until independence, these were rarely used, and to all intents and purposes, Canada was fully self governing in all internal affairs, while playing a growing role in international affairs. Canada for example was a signatory to the Treaty of Versailles of 1919 and an original member of the precursor of the UN, the League of Nations. So were Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
It was in the eighteenth century during the Seven Years' War, that Great Britain finalised her acquisition of what would become Canada. She took control of Quebec City after the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759, where sadly the brave generals on both sides were mortally wounded. In 1760, she took Montreal.
Although the Battle of the Plains of Abraham is seen as symbolic of the British acquisition, it was not until the Treaty of Paris of 1763, that France finally ceded most of its territories in North America to Britain.
The British granted responsible self government to all of their Canadian territories in 1848, and federated these in 1867.
According to the eminent Canadian authority , Eugene Forsey, the Canadian founders wanted to call the new nation the Kingdom of Canada. The British Government feared this would offend the Americans. After the stresses of the Civil War, the British were anxious not to antagonizem them.
So they insisted on another name. Canadian Sir Leonard Tilley suggested the word "dominion", inspired by these words in the Bible:
"He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth" (Psalm 72:8).
The Fathers of Confederation said the words " Dominion of Canada" were intended to give dignity to the federation, and as a tribute to the monarchical principle. The word came to be applied to the federal government and Parliament, and under the Constitution Act , 1982, "Dominion" remains Canada's official title. And the Canadian national motto is appropriately "A Mari Usque Ad Mare".
If we put aside the threat of secession, by any other measure, the Canadian federation is one of the most successful in the world. And since the Supreme Court and Parliament have decreed a fair open and proper process for seccession, the chances of this being achieved have been significanlty reduced.
Indeed seccession is now probably unachievable because the underhand use of spin doctored blank cheque plebisctes is no longer available.
Those in Australia who are "passionate " about turning the country into a politicians' republic through such a plebiscite should take note.
Canada is otherwise an extremely successful federation. It is, for example, more decentralised than the Australian Commonwealth. The Canadian provinces are more financially independent than the Australian States, and this leads to better government, a recipe prescribed by the American Founding Fathers.
If we wish to improve the standards of State government in Australia, we should look no further than Canada. The people of one province even enjoy a right to recall their non-performing politicians. Instead of republican moves to increase vastly the power of the politicians, we should look at this.
Along with the other dominions, Canada’s independence was acknowledged in the Balfour Declaration of 1926, and confirmed in the Statute of Westminster, 1931. Until 1982, it suited the Canadians to have constitutional change effected at Westminster, as it suited the Australian States to rely on the British Crown until 1986. This did not mean either country was not independent; this was a matter of constiutional convenience where they both continued to use the good offices of a power and institution they trusted.