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Yukonomist: Our fake fur Queen

The Queen says she won’t be using anymore real fur

Troubling news from our former imperial capital: Queen Elizabeth has stopped wearing real fur, according to her official dresser. Buckingham Palace told the Daily Telegraph that, “As new outfits are designed for the Queen, any fur used will be fake.”

This is a real wave of the disdainful royal hand towards the First Nations and non-indigenous Yukoners who are both subjects of Her Majesty and also stewards of the Yukon’s sustainable and community-based fur industry. As all those Yukoners who enjoyed last year’s Fur Ball know, we’ve been working hard for years to revitalize this critical part of our culture and economy.

So I have a modest counter-proposal: “Any new heads of state should not be real royals.”

We can continue to pay our respects to Queen Elizabeth while she reigns, but then politely decline to continue the monarchy when the prospect of King Charles III looms.

The Queen has earned our respect since her accession in 1952. She has celebrated her 93rd birthday and, sadly, no monarch reigns forever.

The biggest argument in favour of swearing allegiance to Charles III is that it is hard to think of an alternative that we could agree on.

There are a few options. One is to pretend that Queen Elizabeth never died. She visits infrequently and, in reality, the Governor General hasn’t taken orders from the monarch in a very long time. This could go on forever.

Option 2 is to pick a new royal dynasty for Canada. Perhaps we could invite the Gretzkys to come home. Or maybe one of the lesser members of the royal family who haven’t disgraced themselves too publicly.

Option 3 is some kind of republic where the president has about as much power as the Queen or our Governor General. Essentially this is the fake-fur version of a monarchy. Germany and Ireland are examples where this works pretty well.

Making our government officials and citizenship applicants swear allegiance to Queen Elizabeth is becoming increasingly embarrassing. One new Canadian once told me that she had steeled herself to swear allegiance to the Queen, but started in alarm when they were reading the text and she heard the words “and her heirs and successors.”

The Charles III problem again. The first two models of King Charles did not go well. Charles I was beheaded after provoking a civil war. Charles II managed not to cause a revolution, but left the kingdom to his brother who did.

The Queen’s fur slight is especially sharp because of the royal family’s historic connection to Canada and its colonial history. Charles II is the monarch who granted a monopoly over the Hudson’s Bay watershed to the Hudson’s Bay Company. The Company eventually stretched its claims west over what they called the North-Western Territory, which includes today’s Yukon, before selling it to the Dominion of Canada in 1870.

The company even had to pay the monarch in fur. Here’s one clause of the 1670 royal charter: “Yielding and paying yearly to us and our heirs and successors for the same two Elks and two Black beavers whensoever and as often as We, our heirs and successors shall happen to enter into the said Countries, Territories and Regions hereby granted.”

I suppose we could just shrug it off. The monarchy today is part of our celebrity culture, and we don’t really care when some Hollywood star tweets about fur.

We can put it down to the monarchy trying to maintain its popularity in fur-averse Britain, where royal pollsters must be worried about support for Charles III in the dynasty’s core market.

It’s just too bad they picked fur for their media announcement. I’d take their commitment to the environment more seriously if they hosted vegan state dinners and stopped flying around in private jets.

And the Queen will still be wearing fur sometimes. According to the Telegraph, she will still wear fur “in instances where it is required as part of her royal duties, such as state events where she wears ceremonial robes made of fur.”

But given the monarchy’s official status, and the damage their blithe virtue signalling is likely to do to real families in northern Canada, I think we should do something.

Perhaps a small revolution would be just the thing.

You don’t often get to quote the Sex Pistols in an economics and business column, but perhaps Johnny Rotten summed it up best in the last stanza of God Save the Queen : “No future, no future, no future for you.”

Keith Halliday is a Yukon economist and author of the MacBride Museum’s Aurore of the Yukon series of historical children’s adventure novels. He is a Ma Murray award-winner for best columnist and received the bronze for Outstanding Columnist in the 2019 Canadian Community Newspaper Awards.