'It shouldn't come out of vice-regal lips,' royalist says of Mary Simon's comments
Canadian monarchists have sent a strongly worded letter to Gov. Gen. Mary Simon chastising the vice-regal for suggesting recently that there may need to be "conversations" about a future without the royals — and taking note of King Charles's unpopularity.
In a May 10 letter, Robert Finch, the dominion chairman of the Monarchist League of Canada, said it was "unbelievable" that Simon, the King's representative in Canada, would question the future of the institution and the likability of the sovereign on the eve of his coronation.
"Do you have any idea how much your remarks on the Canadian Crown and our King have deeply hurt many in the land to which you are supposed to bring unity and common purpose, rather than division and discord?" Finch said.
"How would you feel if your installation as Governor General had been clouded by someone on the government payroll whose comments would garner the attention that yours did?"
Finch also asked Simon to consider how Charles, "as a human being," might feel about seeing less-than-positive remarks in the press from someone hand-picked to be his eyes and ears on the ground in Canada.
In an interview with the Globe and Mail published last week, Simon said Canadians readily embraced Charles's mother, the late Queen Elizabeth. But she said the jury is still out on whether the new King can ever match her popularity, given his current polling numbers.
"While Canadians may never have felt great affection for Charles, they did embrace his mother right up until the end of her life, so I think King Charles needs to develop his relationship further with Canada," Simon said.
While stressing that now is not the time to discuss scrapping the Crown, Simon seemed to entertain the idea of a Canadian republic in the future.
"I think Canada first of all has to have a plan and an alternative as to what it is we want as a country," she said.
"It has to be a very big conversation about how we would do it and what kind of government we're looking for. And all those things take time, and sometimes they take years."
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Reached by phone Thursday, Finch said he's been "a big Mary Simon fan" and, under his leadership, the Monarchist League has a "track record of going out of our way to promote her work and defend her, quite frankly, when others weren't."
But he said Simon's pre-coronation comments were "disturbing" and raised the possibility that Simon might be a closet republican.
"Whenever a vice-regal talks about the structure of government we have, I just cringe. It's just not something that a vice-regal, in my view, should be talking about. It undermines her whole office and her whole authority," Finch told CBC News.
"Imagine the minister of fisheries questioning whether we should have a fishing industry."
The GG should never discuss a future without the Crown, Finch said, because it's her job to promote the institution in Canada.
If the King's popularity is low, he said, it's Simon's job to boost it — and if Simon isn't all that enthusiastic about the monarchy, she shouldn't have taken the job.
"My wife and daughter are vegetarians and they would never go work at A&W or McDonald's," he said.
"Mary Simon is not a republican as far as I know. But to raise doubts about our system of governance — it crossed the line."
Finch said he understands Charles appears to be less popular than his mother. Simon's comments added fuel to the fire, he said.
"There's an element of truth to her statement. But it shouldn't come out of vice-regal lips. It's bad form for a vice-regal to point that out. That's for pundits, PR people," he said.
"Imagine somebody questioning her popularity compared to previous GGs. How would she feel?"
Asked to comment on the Monarchist League's concerns, a spokesperson for the Governor General said "a statement is not possible at this time."
The spokesperson pointed to Simon's message on the day of Charles's coronation.
In that statement, Simon said the Crown "continues to be an anchor for our robust and stable democracy and our diverse country."
Pointing to the King's interest in climate change, Indigenous reconciliation and youth issues, Simon said the King "has great admiration and affection for Canada, having conducted a number of royal tours and visits many times over the years. And I have seen first-hand his dedication to walking the path of reconciliation."
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Finch said that statement was "bang on" and "a complete contrast in terms of what was published in the Globe."
While he's critical of Simon, Finch said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been a champion of the Crown.
Finch praised Trudeau's decision to mark the coronation in Canada, establish a coronation medals program to reward deserving Canadians and put Charles on the $20 bill and on the back of coins.
Asked about Simon's remarks, the prime minister said Charles is "deeply aligned" with Canadian priorities.
"The work that he has done in reaching out to Indigenous leaders over the past number of years, including again this week, I think shows that he is deeply aligned with some of the really fundamental priorities of Canadians," Trudeau said.
"The prime minister — he's an honorary member of the Monarchist League at this point, I think," Finch said.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
J.P. Tasker is a journalist in CBC's parliamentary bureau who reports for digital, radio and television. He is also a regular panellist on CBC News Network's Power & Politics. He covers the Conservative Party, Canada-U.S. relations, Crown-Indigenous affairs, climate change, health policy and the Senate. You can send story ideas and tips to J.P. at email@example.com.
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