Sixty Joyless De-Britished Uncrowned Commonpoor Years (1949-2009)

Elizabeth II Vice-Regal Saint: Remembering Paul Comtois (1895–1966), Lt.-Governor of Québec
Britannic Inheritance: Britain's proud legacy. What legacy will America leave?
English Debate: Daniel Hannan revels in making mince meat of Gordon Brown
Crazy Canucks: British MP banned from Canada on national security grounds
Happy St. Patrick's: Will Ireland ever return to the Commonwealth?
Voyage Through the Commonwealth: World cruise around the faded bits of pink.
No Queen for the Green: The Green Party of Canada votes to dispense with monarchy.
"Sir Edward Kennedy": The Queen has awarded the senator an honorary Knighthood.
President Obama: Hates Britain, but is keen to meet the Queen?
The Princess Royal: Princess Anne "outstanding" in Australia.
H.M.S. Victory: In 1744, 1000 sailors went down with a cargo of gold.
Queen's Commonwealth: Britain is letting the Commonwealth die.
Justice Kirby: His support for monarchy almost lost him appointment to High Court
Royal Military Academy: Sandhurst abolishes the Apostles' Creed.
Air Marshal Alec Maisner, R.I.P. Half Polish, half German and 100% British.
Cherie Blair: Not a vain, self regarding, shallow thinking viper after all.
Harry Potter: Celebrated rich kid thinks the Royals should not be celebrated
The Royal Jelly: A new king has been coronated, and his subjects are in a merry mood
Victoria Cross: Australian TROOPER MARK DONALDSON awarded the VC
Godless Buses: Royal Navy veteran, Ron Heather, refuses to drive his bus
Labour's Class War: To expunge those with the slightest pretensions to gentility
100 Top English Novels of All Time: The Essential Fictional Library
BIG BEN: Celebrating 150 Years of the Clock Tower

Thursday, 14 December 2006

Sovereign Independence

By Cyril Bagin

The Forgotten Milestone

This Monday, December 11 marks the 75th anniversary of the Statute of Westminster, a milestone that is significant and yet forgotten. This law was passed by the Imperial Parliament at Westminster in 1931, forever changing our Empire into the Commonwealth. This is the day that Canada and the other Dominions became fully independent countries.

Most of us are aware of the national importance of the battle at Vimy Ridge and the maturing of Canada’s self-identity during World War I. But few are aware of the developments that occurred following this Great War, including both Canada’s welcome at the diplomatic table and the Imperial discussions which took place in the 1920s. These Imperial Conferences led to an organic development in the British Empire that was legally enacted by this Statute of Westminster. Though it was necessarily an act of the Parliament in the United Kingdom, it was actually a consensus agreed upon by the governments of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions existing at that time.

These Dominions within the Empire included the Dominion of Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia, the Dominion of New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, the Irish Free State and Newfoundland . Each of these, beginning with Canada , achieved internal self-government within the Empire. However, until 1931, the key word was “within”. Each Dominion was more than a mere colony and yet was still connected to the mother country. After 1931, each Dominion legally became an equal to the United Kingdom and fully independent in every way. The best example of the meaning of this change is with the declaration of war. At the start of the First World War, when the United Kingdom declared war automatically the whole Empire was engaged. But at the beginning of the Second World War, Canada independently declared war a week later.

This organic change within the Empire effectively created The Commonwealth that Canada still remains a key member of. These seven countries are thus the founding members of this international organization, which at that time was known as The British Commonwealth of Nations. Though each country was now fully independent, each state chose to remain a constitutional monarchy and to keep the unifying role of the Crown. Political power no longer united these realms; now only common allegiance united these free peoples. When she became our Queen, Elizabeth II also became Head of the Commonwealth and recognized that “The Commonwealth bears no resemblance to the empires of the past. It is an entirely new conception built on the highest qualities of the spirit of man: friendship, loyalty, and the desire for freedom and peace.”

While recognizing the Crown, this Statute significantly changed the role of the monarch. Until 1931, King George V was Canada’s king because he was the King of the United Kingdom and he would take official advice in regard to Canada from both the Canadian and British governments. But, with this legislation, The King became our king independently and also became the first Canadian in international law. In other words, sixteen years before Canadian citizenship was created in 1947, the monarch was legally a Canadian and exercised a Canadian role independent of any other. At the next coronation in 1937, the Coronation Oath was changed and George VI swore to govern each realm according to our own laws and customs. He became King of Canada. This is why Canada would remain a monarchy now even if the United Kingdom ceased to be one.

The Statute of Westminster is one of Canada’s constitutional documents. It affected our parliamentary, governmental and foreign affairs. The Parliament of Canada’s powers were extended so that it had full power to make all laws necessary for state, including those that are extra-territorial. The powers of the British Parliament were limited, so that it could no longer affect the laws of a Dominion unless that Dominion requested and consented to that action. Therefore, because Canadian leaders could not agree on a new constitutional amendment formula, the British Parliament continued to pass amendments to Canada’s constitution until 1982, however only at the request of the Canadian government. This remained a formality, the real decision now being in Canadian hands.

As we prepare for the 140th anniversary of our confederation, all Canadians can pause to remember this 75th anniversary of the day we became fully independent. Hopefully this will also encourage us to further discover the history and identity of our country.

Cyril Bagin is a member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars and Canada’s National Historical Society resident in Windsor.


the monarchist said...

With permission from the author, who is correct on the assertion that this most important of constitutionally evolved milestones has been forgotten. I didn't see one mention of the 75th anniversary in the MSM.