A brilliant piece by Andrew Coyne. Senator Serge Joyal has helped bring portraits of all of Canada's Monarchs French and English to grace the Rotunda of the Senate. I heard him speak at a Canadian Royal Heritage trust event on just this subject.
But if the history of Canada is an unbroken chain of sovereignty, Francis to Elizabeth, Champlain to Johnston; if what is important about it is not the change from French to British rule but the continuity between them—if we are not a British monarchy, or even a French monarchy and then a British one, but simply a monarchy, throughout—then the Conquest is not the pivotal event in our history: it is just an event. The effect, in turn, is to deracinate the British inheritance. What is valuable is the inheritance—Crown, Parliament, the common law, the Constitution—not its Britishness.
If that sounds like a lot to load onto a few words, it certainly didn’t strike Quebec nationalists that way. When Harper first started talking about Quebec City as the birthplace of Canada, around the time of the 400th anniversary, the nationalists were fairly purple with rage, accusing him in the most acrid terms of rewriting history for political ends.
But then, they should know. The nationalist project, notably in the use of the neologism “Québécois” in place of “French-Canadian,” was a conscious attempt to shunt the history of Quebec off onto a siding, separate and apart from the history of Canada, whose logical terminus was a separate Quebec. The logic of Harper’s language is to wrench it back on to the same track as the rest of us: while Champlain could hardly have known he was founding Canada, it is certainly true that the history of present-day Canada leads inexorably back to him.