The Queen recently awarded Jean Chrétien the Order of Merit and now Canadians are wasting their time debating his apparent ‘merit’. Aaaaargghh it is a QUEEN’S appointment after all… ‘Our Queen’. My disappointment in actuality does not lie within the fact this debate exists, but rather that we aren’t having another one. Why aren’t Canadians arguing about our, oh so odd attachment to British Royalty, and our un-abiding dedication to awarding our own heroes and mentors in an historically British fashion? Okay, so she remains our Queen but I’m not so sure that we are her people?? I mean she wasn’t choosing a Canadian to bestow this honour she was picking her buddy Jean.
BUT according to Christopher McCreery, expert on Canadian decorations, receiving the Order of Merit is an honour higher than being awarded the Order of Canada (which is at least … kind of Canadian …well … officially speaking).
I hadn’t ever felt the Queen’s presence in my life until arriving in Canada from the hot dry climate of Orapa, Botswana.
Specifically I remember the formality that pervaded my ceremonial signing in as a citizen of this country in February 1997 and how little it reflected my Canadian reality. It was a little stunt, an attempt to create a special memory to attach oneself to. It did create a memory, but a vague one. All I remember was that there were hands up, flags, honourable people and swearing allegiance to a Queen. There may have even been a picture of the Queen.
The Queen fit into the context of the daily media I had begun to consume and maybe in social studies class. When it came to the people that surrounded me, however, and the stories they told there was a definite disconnect. I’m not sure that the tough, outdoorsy northerners I went camping and fishing with or who I had drinks with at ‘the gravel pit’ would feel that comfortable sitting in a room with her majesty…Never mind that most Canadians can’t see themselves reflected through British tradition.
The colonial ancestry that our Canadian institutions continue to desperately cling to is a reminder of how much of our story we are willing to shut out (more on this A Fair Country, John Ralston Saul). Is this out of supposed politeness and respect for the current Queen?? I don’t know.
I do know that more often than not this attachment validates the holding up of multitude masks, which block from view immigrant and aboriginal histories and their complexities. They block from view the immense diversity and nuance found within various immigrant and aboriginal histories.
How often do we hear public figures publicly speak to the over 50 languages that originated in this grand land mass and that STILL exist today? Hellooooo, that’s incredible and damn exciting (a wealth of knowledge) and yet this is not what is presented on a world stage. It’s not what is presented because acknowledgement of another’s existence would mean dealing with and acknowledging problematic and divisive relationships that are so often ‘politely’ nudged into a not so roomy political corner.
Unfortunately these realities seem to be reflected in the fact that we do not yet live in a post-colonial world. Colonialism is rampant (but proper) and speedier than ever. Calling it Globalism doesn’t change this fact.
To acknowledge division within ones own country is a brave thing to do. It could also be the first step in beginning a genuine conversation. I say forget Royalty, we’ve got plenty culture to identify with and to draw from. It’s time Canada was represented by a few more voices and a whole lot more story. Why shouldn’t anyone be proud to yell “Hey, we have way more stories over here!!!”
Speaking of stories…check out The Truth About Stories by THOMAS KING
RICK MERCER rant from This Hour Has 22 Minutes days.