So why should I care about the coronation?

Ian McKechnie head shot

By Ian McKechnie

Ian McKechnie is a graduate of Trent University and a lifelong resident of Lindsay. He presently works as a freelance writer and researcher, and has been writing for the The Advocate since 2017 on issues of cultural and historical significance.

King Charles. Licensed under the Creative Commons.

The coronation is fast approaching, and I’m already feeling queasy. As someone who finds income inequality abhorrent, I wince at the sight of a garish golden carriage parading through the streets. You won’t find my room decked out with porcelain cups commemorating royal weddings. Moreover, as someone with Scottish ancestry on both sides, I should be grievously offended by the Stone of Scone’s place in Westminster Abbey, shouldn’t I? The English stole it, after all.

You might assume, based on all of this, that I am a die-hard republican. Down with the Crown! Not My King! But I’m not, and on May 6 will eagerly watch the coronation of His Majesty King Charles III, King of Canada and his other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth.

Why should I care?

The answer can be found by turning on the TV news. Or scrolling through Twitter. Or watching Question Period. We have become increasingly polarized. Our representative, Westminster-style democracy is both good and necessary for making decisions in the short-term – but I can’t help but think that its inherently partisan, combative structure is undermining civic society.

What we need is apolitical leadership, at the highest levels – and it’s something I believe our King, Governor General, and Lieutenant Governors are uniquely equipped to offer.

And what does this apolitical leadership look like?

How about fostering dialogue between people from opposite ends of the political spectrum, business leaders, Indigenous leaders, social entrepreneurs, and ordinary citizens in neutral, nonpartisan spaces? The King and his Canadian representatives have collectively been doing just that for years – through conferences and roundtables, dinners and garden parties.

How about a gruelling schedule of visits to people, communities, and organizations whose contributions to civic society often go unnoticed in the 24-hour news cycle? How about recognizing those contributions through one of the world’s most respected honours and awards systems?

How about quietly and discreetly using “soft power” to dissuade a head of government from pursuing a dubious policy that may be detrimental to the greater good?

It is easy to dismiss all of this as trivial fluff, as ceremonial claptrap with no bearing on the “real world” of polarizing politics and ever-shifting opinion polls.

The more challenging task is to ask how these roles of the King and his representatives in Canada – which, on account of our bullet-proof constitutional amending formula, aren’t going anywhere anytime soon –can be leveraged to enhance public discourse. To make us better citizens and stewards of the natural world. To carry forward the work of true reconciliation.

There are, of course, alternatives.

Some have suggested that we could retain our Westminster-style democracy while doing away with the trappings of monarchy. They say we ought to emulate Germany or India, where an indirectly elected president holds a position scarcely different from that of our governor general.

But there is a catch here. In those countries, the president is invariably chosen by and from within the ranks of career politicians. Choosing a supposedly “apolitical” president through a partisan, political process seems counter-intuitive – particularly in Canada, increasingly fragmented along partisan, regional, and linguistic lines.

And how might this model affect the system in times of disunity, of political crisis? Under our current arrangements, the King’s representatives may, in exceptional circumstances, dissolve parliament or dismiss a prime minister, or premier. Their discharge of these responsibilities hinges on their inherent (and, in the King’s case, inherited!) neutrality.

The coronation, then, isn’t about humouring a lot of Anglophiles. So put away the fascinators and the Union Jack bunting, and herald the reign of our new King by doing something to better our body politic and our planet. Plant a tree. Make the coronation quiche and take it to a new neighbour.

Oh, and ask our decision-makers to invite the King to Kawartha Lakes. An avid watercolourist, he would undoubtedly enjoy immersing himself in this beautiful part of the maple realm.


  1. Wallace says:

    No one should care about any human that has done nothing, aside from being born, to acquire enormous amounts of property, money and fame. Its time to distance ourselves from that cousin marrying circus show.

  2. Joan Abernethy says:

    The idea that party politics are fast becoming irrelevant is in the air these days. But I doubt there is any way for King Charles III or Mary Simon to facilitate a return to some long lost civil society, especially locally. That is up to us, each and every one.

    In the path of escalating advances in AI, today’s thinkers are challenging our society’s core beliefs in freedom, equality, and democracy. Is anybody really free? And equal – does anyone believe we are? Or can ever be? If so, how exactly? Even truth changes. “It sounded like the truth but it’s not the truth today” (L. Cohen, It Seemed the Better Way). Thinkers argue that in the face of increasingly exponential change, the niceties (and not-so-niceties) of democracy are counter productive. They argue we need some expert – or perhaps a monarch – to set the rules. To set the tone. To insist on civility. To fix climate change “on a dime” (PM Trudeau referring to the Chinese Communist Party). But as we know, that sort of authoritarianism inevitably leads to revolution. “We all want to change the world” (John Lennon) which inevitably leads to hunger and deprivation (the fruits of “equality”?).

    If we want civility, we probably need to seek it first in our own lives and that is no small challenge, given all the raw emotion offered all of us daily as bait to bite on one another in our blood-sports social media debates. But even before we do that, we probably need to suspend our judgement and beliefs and seek more to understand than to be understood (St. Francis) and to listen to even the dull and the ignorant, as recommended by Max Ehrmann., who also have their stories. Instead of refusing to meet with those members of our community covered in tar and feathers from local condemnatory hearsay, walk right up, extend a hand, and lend an ear. Dare to lead the way.

    Tall order, I know.

  3. Stan Lake says:

    The Monarchy exists in Canada to administer the justice system( the Crown) and to allow the government ( the Queen) to expropriate your land from you. The rest of their actions are trivial and serve no useful purpose to the advancement of our country.

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