The Commons: Pledging allegiance

Canada may lack the romanticism of revolution. But 144 years into our national experiment, we get to lay some claim to Will and Kate.

The royal couple, newish icons of the iconic notion of nobility, descended upon the escalator of the grandly named Museum of Civilization. Behind them came the Governor General and his wife and behind them Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. Below sat 25 candidates for citizenship, waiting to partake of the final formality before they can officially take patriotic pride in Ryan Reynolds’ present reign as the Sexiest Man Alive.

The Duke wore navy blue. The Duchess wore white, with red heels and a reasonably elaborate red hat featuring maple leaves. He looked serious and charming and upstanding. She looked the same, but with fabulous hair as well.

American may have a great “sticking it to the man” story to recall fondly. Canada may lack the romanticism of revolution. But 144 years into our national experiment, we get to lay some claim to Will and Kate. And in return they ask only that we make a show pledging our allegiance to them. Or at least that we make a show of making newcomers pledge as much.

Outside the museum, the royals had drawn a few hundred admirers, as well as a dozen protesters and one individual from PETA who was forced to wear a bearsuit on a warm, summer day (Does People for the Ethical Treatment of the Animal-Costumed exist yet and if not, why not?). The dozen protesters managed one Canadian flag and three signs (Loyalty To Canada Not Offshore Monarchy, Monarchy Oaths Violate Charter Freedoms, etc) between them. The admirers carried flowers and signs and magazines (including one copy of the official Maclean’s Royal Tour commemorative issue, on newsstands now).

On the occasion of Canada Day, and before making their way over to Parliament Hill for the annual festivities (this year’s theme: “A Large Peaceful Gathering to Reassure Us that the Vancouver Unpleasantness was an Anomaly”), the couple had slipped across the river to Gatineau for a quieter celebration of this great nation. Once done with their escalator ride, the dignitaries made their way to the stage in the museum’s grand hall and after a rendition of God Save the Queen, they took their seats. They sat flanked by Mounties and totem poles. Before them sat soon-to-be Canadians from Belarus, China, Cuba, Haiti, Madagascar, Venezuela and various points in between. Each wore a flower on their chest. All were dressed up and seemed duly excited and reverent. Most of the rest of us should probably take in one of these ceremonies every year, if only to be humbled about what we otherwise take for granted.

Mr. Kenney, wearing a giddy smile, chatted a bit with Ms. Middleton as the Governor General began the proceedings. Mr. Johnston explained that the newcomers would be swearing allegiance to Canada in the Queen’s name. Mr. Kenney, once called to the lectern, enthused about the Magna Carta and the “ongoing and everlasting vitality of the crown.” Back at the microphone, Mr. Johnston quoted from John McCrae’s war memorial cum hockey rallying cry, “To you from failing hands, we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high.”

The Governor General then called on the 25 to stand and, taking in hand their preferred holy book should they so desire, repeat after him in both official languages: “I swear, or affirm, that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.”

As Mr. Kenney had noted, this was apparently the first time any heir or successor had been present to hear new Canadians pledge as much. Hopefully Will and Kate won’t take it personally if one-third of these 25 soon join their fellow citizens in rejecting the monarchy.

Mr. Johnston, our grandpa-in-chief, proudly welcomed them to the family and then the newest Canadians were called up on stage on-by-one to get their official certificates and receive souvenir flags from the Duke and Duchess, who appeared to greet their loyal subjects graciously. Everyone then stood in their spot for O Canada, the singing led, of course, by a Mountie.

After posing for a group photo, William and Kate took their leave. On their way to the impressively long motorcade, they paused to greet the throng kept behind metal barricades outside. The throng cheered and screamed and clamoured and called their names, a pledge of allegiance of a different sort.

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