November 22 – A Canadian Revolutionary War?

Posted on November 22, 2015

Quick, who's the Head of State of Canada?

If you're scratching your head, trying to decide if you have ever even heard the name of Canada's Prime Minister, don't bother – because he's not the official Head of State. (The current PM is Justin Trudeau, by the way. He just took over from former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.)

If you are thinking that the title “Governor General of Canada” sounds like a Head-of-State kind of job – especially since the Governor General is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian military! – and you're wondering who has that title right now, don't bother, because he is not the official Head of State, either. (The current Governor General is David Lloyd Johnston.)

So, who is the Head of State of Canada?

Good old Queen Elizabeth II, who also of course serves as Queen and Head of State of the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and twelve other, smaller nations, and who is Head of the Commonwealth.


Did you know that, on this date in 1837, a Scottish-born journalist named William Lyon Mackenzie published an article calling for a rebellion against the British?

Soon the planned rebellion broke out – but it didn't turn out the same way as the earlier, similar rebellion of 13 colonies against the British. The latter resulted in the American Revolutionary War and the wholly independent nation of the United States of America.

Canada's rebellion resulted in defeat for the rebels. And the result of that defeat was continued union with Britain and her other colonies. 

Of course, Canada is independent now – mostly. It is still one of the Commonwealth Realms, and the Governor General still represents the Queen in the Canadian government, and (as I said) Queen Elizabeth II is still considered the reigning monarch and the official Head of State.

Note that the blue nations are Commonwealth Realms, and the red nations are FORMER Commonwealth Realms. You can see from this that, despite the fact that Canada is now an independent nation, it's still not quite as independent as India, the Republic of Ireland, and several other nations are...

Why rebel?

The Upper Canada Rebellion that Mackenzie fomented was partly a rebellion against an oligarchy. The word oligarchy means “command by the few.” The Canadian colonies were being ruled by a small group of men called the Family Compact. They dominated the government AND the financial institutions of “Upper Canada” (which is now Ontario) AND the religious institutions of the region. And, yes, this sort of domination was as corrupt as it sounds -- apparently the Family Compact ruled the government so that they themselves became richer.

Of course, there were other reasons that Mackenzie and other revolutionary leaders wanted to break away. Certainly part of it was the revolutionary fever sweeping the world – with the U.S., France, Haiti, Ireland, and the colonies of “Spanish America” (Mexico and Argentina and all nations in between) all breaking ties with their colonizers, or kicking out their kings and queens in favor of people-power and republicanism!

I wonder...

What do you suppose would be different in the world if Canadian nationalists had succeeded in their 1937 rebellion?

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