610 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 76 PART 4 JULY 2018
MUSINGS FROM MUDGE ISLAND
QUEEN AND COUNTRY*
By the Honourable Judge Phillip Collings
This is the story of three discussions—arguments might be a better
word—that I have had over the last 30 years.
The first was with John Fraser, who went on to fame (if not
fortune) as the Speaker of the House of Commons in Ottawa.
It was so long ago that he wasn’t even an MP. He and I were just junior
lawyers, and sat beside one another at a bar gathering held at UBC. I guess
it must have been in the late ’50s or early ’60s. At any rate I was fairly
recently off the boat from England. Now John was an ardent—I might even
say a romantic—monarchist as befits a good conservative. He maintained
that the Queen was in some way mystically central to Canadian nationhood.
I objected that (1) Canada is an egalitarian society, the essence of royalty
is that it sits at the apex of a class pyramid, and having a queen is pretty
inconsistent of us; and (2) the Queen (this Queen) is so quintessentially an
Englishwoman (twinsets, pearls, Corgi dogs, children in boarding schools)
that we look pretty funny enshrining her at the centre of Canadian nationhood.
Now, although John prevailed, that was through greater debating
skills rather more than better arguments, I thought. The only counterargument
he made that I remember was that, although the Queen was English,
when she put on her crown and sat on the throne she became, in a
deeper and more mystical way, Canadian (also, I suppose, Australian,
Jamaican, Fijian, etc.). To which I replied that every time she opened her
mouth she went back to being English. I wish I could remember John’s
arguments better. They were really sonorous.
The second incident arose indirectly from the first. For reasons totally
unconnected with John Fraser, I joined the Liberal party, and although I
never had the energy to run for office I did go to rallies, policy meetings,
etc. during the Trudeau years. Which puts this second incident about 1970,
I suppose, when le Grand Pierre, with his participatory democracy scheme,
was actively trawling for new political ideas. This particular policy meeting
happened in a convention hotel in Winnipeg, and I have to say there were
* Reprinted from (1994) 52 Advocate 709.