Keith Beardsley’s Royal View From the Hill – August 20, 2011

CFN – I must admit I am enjoying all the debate that Harper’s addition of the word “Royal” to our navy and air force has created. One would have thought that the debate would have centered on whether this was a throw back to our monarchist ties or simply a reminder to Canadians and our serving members of the proud history of our armed forces. Instead it has spun off into a much larger debate that reminds me of the old hidden agenda attacks that the Liberals used to throw at us.

I am not a monarchist, but I can appreciate the addition of the word “Royal.” My former regiment had “Royal” in its name. Such a designation was earned, usually based on a regiment’s performance in a campaign and it was something to be proud of and part of a regiment’s history. The addition of the word “Royal” doesn’t disturb me, nor do I see some Conservative plot in adding it to our navy and air force.

Some suggest that Harper is trying to recast our history so that it is seen from a conservative slant. Others wonder if we are behaving like colonials. Still others see these moves as part of a larger attempt to play down key Liberal initiatives like the Charter, peace-keeping and multiculturalism. I have even seen speculation that this is all about boxing in the NDP in Quebec, even though many of Harper’s initiatives pre-dated the last election.

There is nothing wrong with knowing and understanding our history and that includes our symbols and traditions. We need to promote them so that we have a better understanding of where we have come from and who we are today. But if we are going to promote our history, let’s look at it openly warts and all. Only then will we get a true sense of where we come from and who we are.

Any promotion of our military must include our actions in the First and Second World Wars. But we can not forget Korea, nor gloss over our sacrifices in Bosnia or what happened in Somalia. Our peace-keeping role in the Suez crisis and our resulting peace-keeping efforts around the world can not be glossed over. They are part of the foundation that makes us who we are on the world stage today.

If we want to promote our Canadian connection to the Arctic we need to know more about its original inhabitants, their culture and way of life. We need to know who explored that region- English, French, Danes, Americans and Norwegians to name a few. If we are to focus on the North West Passage, perhaps Canadians should know about the achievements of the RCMP’s vessel the St Roch. And we need to know about the darker side of our Arctic history as well- residential schools, the slaughter of the sled dogs etc.

With the number of court decisions that come down every year I doubt any Canadian will forget that the Charter exists, there is nothing that Harper can do about that. Love it or hate it, it is a fact of Canadian history and our daily life. It needs to be taught and understood. We need to come to grips with whether or not it is the Charter that many of us disagree with or is it the judicial interpretation of the Charter? While we are at it, how about teaching new Canadians and our school age children about the original Bill of Rights that was brought in by John Diefenbaker in 1960.

And while we focus on present day rights, let us not ignore our past. We need to look at the internment of Japanese Canadians, Ukrainians, Italians and others. We need to look at racism in Canada and know that it is not just an American issue. I would suggest that most Canadians know more about racism in the United States than they do about what happened in our own country. Most Canadians know about the American Klu Klux Klan, but do they have any idea that it existed up here?

I also doubt the Conservatives are trying to bury multiculturalism. It has enriched this country, made us much more cosmopolitan and opened our eyes to many different cultures. All positives in a world that gets smaller with every new advance in technology. But when we accept multiculturalism we should not forget who we are. There is no need to bury our history, our symbols or downplay our special cultural and religious days such as Christmas and Easter. If I were to move to another country I would not expect them to change the way they celebrate their festivals or religious holidays. Anyone wishing to move here and eventually become a Canadian needs to know who we are historically, and who we are now, at home and on the world stage and accept what days we view as important… be they religious or historical in nature. We have become far too politically correct.

Promoting multiculturalism and our European heritage should not mean that we ignore other rich cultures that existed here long before Europeans had a clue that North America existed. Our First Nations have a rich history that all of us, including prospective immigrants should know more about. If we know more about our historical relationship with the First Nations, we will have a better understanding of the ongoing land claims process, their grievances and some of their objectives. And we can not ignore the events and broken promises that have led to the current impasse and difficulties that exist between the First Nations and any Canadian government, be it Liberal or Conservative.

Good for Harper if he wants to promote our history and symbols and give Canadians and new Canadians a better understanding of who we are and how we got here. I don’t see a plot or hidden agenda, but I do say it is up to us to learn from the past, change what we don’t like and move forward.

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails.



  1. Not being a monarchist, I think this re-naming is a little silly. Wasn’t the Canadian Constitution “repatriated” in 1982? It’s going to cost a pile to re-label everything just to appease some older farts who hate everything that Trudeau ever did. Harper rules, and he’ll do whatever he wants for the next four years.

  2. U SED IT!

  3. Our 5 and 10 dollar bills do not have the Queen on them anymore, possibly others but that is all I get for an allowance…..on alternate weeks!

    I would vote for this – “There is no need to bury our history, our symbols or downplay our special cultural and religious days such as Christmas and Easter. If I were to move to another country I would not expect them to change the way they celebrate their festivals or religious holidays.”

  4. “harper is just pandering to jingoistic wimps”

    Being jingoistic and a wimp, would that be center of the road?

  5. An excellent article on learning and remembering.

  6. There is much to be said for tradition and history. Those in the military derive from it strength, courage and pride. Military personnel were disappointed when the Pearson Liberal government washed it away they are happy Harper brings it back. The left has long shown disdain for our military and so perhaps normal they be out of touch. At the time removing the Royal designation had demoralizing effect and even to result in defection with some senior members.

    Interesting that the army remained with the Royal tag… the Royal 22nd(Van Doos), the Royal Canadian Regiment, the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps and the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry. The Royal remained in our Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I do not think resurrection of the ‘Royal’ tag has anything to do with Monarchists and believe it is with everything to do with historic pride, tradition and righting a politically correct wrong.

    Two world wars and the Korean war were fought wearing the Royal Insignia and for Pearson/Hellyer to tear them off in the guise of saving money was a slap in the face… a double slap in the face for those that gave their all and to have not returned. It conveyed the heritage of war meant nothing, when fact is it means so very much to those directly a part of it. This name change corrects a long standing slight and many Canadian servicemen and women welcome the change.

    It was no secret Trudeau was with disdain for both the military and the monarchy… anyone recall his pirouette behind the Queens back at Buckingham Palace! J.L. Granatstein, a pre-eminent Canadian historian wrote, “Trudeau had a low opinion of the military of which he believed to be populated by robots trained to kill… the generals and their soldiers were brutes and dolts, frittering away their time and the governments money.” Accordingly, Trudeau systematically dismantled Canada’s fighting forces, slashing defence budgets, reducing our Nato commitments and advocated a ‘flower power” foreign policy. Even in his passing away his anti-military attitudes remain entrenched with the left. Recall a photo/newsclipping I had but have since lost. It showed Chretien inspecting Canadian soldiers. What was most telling is our PM Chretien was wearing the blue UN helmet backwards! That nobody saw fit to correct this ‘doofus’ oversight spoke volumes as to the relationship between the military and the Liberal government of the day. Liberal government has basically shown disdain for our military which was continually gutted as they took our security for granted… until 9/11. I still remember the stunned, lost look on Chretien’s face as he addressed Canadian’s that fateful day… in total contrast exuded by Bush and Blair. I think it was a awakening for the left and the process of rebuilding our military slowly began. That is not to say they cared or understood it… only that they were forced to change direction and mindset.

    The name change is not a big expense certainly not compared to government initiative of past such as the useless, politically correct do nothing gun registry. Nor are Canadians upset at the name change. For most it is a non-issue and for our military it restores something lost, it corrects a slight from the past.

  7. You make a persuasive case, Garfield. What do you make of “pre-eminent historian” Granatstein’s comment that restoring Royal is a backward step to colonial times?

  8. PJR
    This Granatstein fellow is renowned for his offbeat opinions. Does his comment carry any merit or is it just opinion. He wanted to remove the display of Hitler’s armored Mercedes from the war museum and sell it for museum revenues.
    He also has opinions on Canadian knowledge and or lack there of (his words)

    “Mr. Granatstein says the exhibit is badly done, objectionable and conflicts with the war museum’s mandate, which allows the exhibition of enemy weaponry, such as tanks, used against Canadians, but not personal vehicles.

    Canadians’ ignorance of history makes matters worse, the prominent historian says. ”

    The display is one of the most popular in the museum. That sounds more like someone trying to hide or control history. If people control portions of Historical facts, they can write it anyway they see fit

  9. I do not see how a rename is a step backward to colonial times… how so? The Canadian Forces are our own entity with our own many accomplishments and firsts. We are with our own command structure and Canadian identity. The name change simply undoes a political correctness agenda of past(under the guise of saving money) and restores a identifiable sense of important tradition and history. Those of us outside the military can have our opinions, but to me that is of lesser significance compared to how military personnel past and current feel about restoring the ‘Royal’ designation. That aside, it appears the name change is indeed acceptable to majority of Canadians as it appears to be a non-issue.

    When this change was originally instituted it was rebuffed by the military, it was not requested nor desired. The Pearson/Trudeau crowd were social tinkering and wanted to reinvent Canada… Official Multiculturalism, Official Bilingualism and plundering our military were the foundation stones for the new Canada. We are with our Canadian identity that is strong and recognizing/respecting/honouring our past does not take away that identity, nor does it make us colonialists or monarchists.

Leave a Reply