Select Committee on Public Administration Written Evidence

Memorandum by Revd J Lee Potter (HON 37)

  I am writing in regard to proposals made by your committee regarding Royal Honours.

  By way of introduction, I am a Canadian from New Brunswick with Lancashire grandparents who has been in this country since September 1978. I was compiler of the Canadian Honours List in the Canadian Almanac & Directory from 1973 to 1979 and have assisted those who have succeeded me. The List includes Canadian peers (20), baronets (46) and knights (12) as well as holders of companionages and commanderships (CMGs, CVOs, CBEs).

  The Order of Canada, known jocularly as the Order of Trudeau although it was established when L B Pearson was Prime Minister, is a yawn-inducing order likely to be mentioned on page 52 of the Toronto Globe & Mail. In the third volume of his memoirs, published posthumously, Pearson, a political termite who came to power in April 1963 thanks to the gross interference of J F Kennedy in Canadian domestic politics, revealed himself to be a crypts-republican. The man who hauled down the historic Canadian Red Ensign, dating from 1868, and replaced it with a maple leaf pennant with a Peruvian design and a dying symbol (a red maple leaf means that winter is coming), showed contempt for the old flag under which 2 million Canadians fought and 110,000 died.

  There is no law preventing Canadians receiving titles in Canada or elsewhere in the Commonwealth. The infamous Nickle Resolution of 1919 was the work of a disgruntled Tory backbencher, W F Nickle of Kingston, Ontario, who was angry that his father-in-law, the Principal of Queen's University, had not received a knighthood. The Resolution never went to the Senate where it would have been defeated. It was passed when Prime Minister Sir Robert Bordon, a major architect of the Commonwealth was at the Versailles Peace Conference. The Resolution referred specifically to Hi Majesty's subjects "ordinarily resident in Canada".

  When R B Bennett (who was made Viscount Bennett in 1941) was Prime Minister from 1930 to 1935, Canadians were knighted in Canada. Since 1935, no Canadians have been knighted in Canada but they have been knighted in Great Britain and Australia.

  The abolition of knighthoods in this country would not further equality. The U.S.A. confers no titles and is no model of egalitarianism. There is the absurd spectacle of millionaires seeking the Democratic nomination by claiming to be men of the people. Knighthoods should continue but be removed from political interference. Other Commonwealth countries, from the Bahamas to Tuvalu, have knighthoods.

  The Order of the British Empire cannot be abolished for those Commonwealth countries who wish to retain it. The Order looks beyond Little England.

  An Order of Britain could be as boring as the Order of Canada and an exercise in political correctness. It is better to keep what you have and honour those who excel in their field. But the awarding of honours to millionaire pop stars and athletes demeans the honours system.

  Some press reports have mentioned parliamentary awards. That would be a new development. The Leader of the Opposition could be rewarded for being an oily opportunist, Mr Kennedy for his opposition to the war, and Mr Hoon for proficiency in war supplies.

  The Crown is the fount of honour. Any attempt to weaken or remove that by those who would like to see a British version of the Weimar Republic must be resisted by all legal means. Decreasing the visibility of the Crown is a prime republican tactic. In Canada republicans are like termites whereas in Australia they are out in the open.

  Royal Honours should promote allegiance to the Crown and not be manipulated by politicians. As a former Governor of Tasmania (Sir Stanley Burbury) said: "Allegiance to the Queen is a tie of freedom".

February 2004

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