Policy

An Argument Against Naming Gore after the Queen

By Ryan McGreal
Published March 27, 2012

The national and local chairs of the Monarchist League of Canada have proposed that the City of Hamilton rename the planned Gore Park pedestrian plaza as the "Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Promenade".

The letter is dated February 17, 2012 and I first heard about it on March 9. I haven't written about it until now because I've been struggling to articulate why I don't like it.

I have no great love of the crown, but I recognize and accept that Canada is a democratic constitutional monarchy. I don't mind that the city's central crossroads is at King and James, I'm happy to sit in Gore Park under the watchful gaze of Queen Victoria ("A Model Wife And Mother"), and I generally esteem our cultural heritage - it's one of the reasons I live in an older neighbourhood in the lower city.

Canada is a Commonwealth country and we have inherited Britain's political system - monarchy included. So why does the idea of renaming the Gore Park Promenade after Queen Elizabeth II bother me?

Two Traditions

At the risk of oversimplifying a thousand years of political history, I would argue that we have actually inherited two distinct political traditions from Britain, including the dynamic tension that runs between them.

The first political tradition is the monarchy, characterized by the family inheritance of absolute power and a perceived divine right to rule a country's subjects and govern their lives.

The second tradition is the parliamentary tradition: the long process of setting limits and constraints on the arbitrary power of the crown over the general public, and of displacing that arbitrary authority with broader individual liberty and expanded democratic self-governance.

For centuries, dating back to the signing of the Magna Carta in 1225, citizens have sought to protect themselves against the abuses of power that naturally inhere in monarchs who would claim arbitrary authority over their subjects.

At its core, the Magna Carta asserted the idea that the power of the crown is not absolute: the king's will could be overturned by a committee of nobles, and subjects had a right of due process against arbitrary detention.

This helped to articulate the common law right of habeas corpus, which preceded the Magna Carta in Anglo-Saxon tradition and serves to this day as a foundation of the rule of law.

Shifting Power

Since that time, through an innumerable succession of legal and political decisions, power has gradually shifted from the king's edict to the body of common law, the writs and decisions of judges, and the passing of statutes by parliament.

The latter started out as a council of advisers to the crown but evolved into a law-making body of its own as the nobles came to recognize that the king could not govern effectively without the consent of those who had the power to collect taxes and maintain order.

Starting in the 1300s, the Parliament has been composed of two Houses that gradually took the shape of the appointed House of Lords and the elected House of Commons.

Today, the House of Commons proposes, debates and passes new bills, and the House of Lords (called the Senate in Canada) serves to review and reconsider those bills before they receive royal assent and become law.

Britain is not special in its political history of a long struggle between monarchy and liberty; but unlike many other countries, the British conflict was resolved through a gradual roll-back of the crown's power to its current ceremonial role, rather than the more dramatic overturning of "L'État, c'est moi" via revolution.

The British monarchy was disrupted and interrupted at times by revolutionary jostling - including the English Civil War, in which the matter of divine right came to a head, and the Glorious Revolution, in which it was finally broken - and the restoration of the monarchy after each of these episodes was generally accompanied by further concessions of privilege.

Crown or Commonwealth

So the political tradition we inherit from Britain is a long conflict between Roundheads and Cavaliers, between parliamentarians and royalists, between the commonwealth and the crown, between democracy and divine right.

All the things I love about our political traditions come from the parliamentary strand: the enshrinement of individual liberties, the expansion of democracy, the nuanced, battle-tested rules, customs and traditions of the Westminster system.

All of these have served to close a box around the crown - a steadily shrinking box as the monarch's authority, power and relevance is reduced to mere ceremony.

Frankly, the proposal to name the Gore Park Promenade after the Queen's jubilee reminds me of the Federal Government renaming Canada's Maritime Command and Air Command as the Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force, respectively, 43 years after "Royal" was dropped from their names.

It's the worst kind of pandering: the same government that is systematically undermining and subverting our Parliamentary traditions has the audacity to drape regal symbolism over the country's institutions.

If we needed another reminder of the Crown's irrelevance to Canadian governance, we need only recall former Governor General Michaelle Jean - the Queen's representative in Canada - meekly granting Prime Minister Stephen Harper permission to shut down a two-week-old legislative session rather than face a vote of no confidence in the House of Commons.

So much for the reserve powers of the head of state to forestall a constitutional crisis.

The monarchy is no longer a going concern. It is an historical artifact of the long struggle between the broad public interest and the narrow interest of the privileged few. I don't mind the things we already have that are named after the crown, but I don't see what purpose is served to name new things after it.

When picking traditions to commemorate, we should emphasize the traditions and movements that have expanded our civil liberty, not the forces that have historically worked to restrict it.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted March 27, 2012 at 14:40:14

Anyone know anything about the historical origins of the name "Gore Park"? Might be another good reason to keep the name perhaps?

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By Arch100 (anonymous) | Posted March 27, 2012 at 17:26:40 in reply to Comment 75469

Gore is just a term for a triangular piece of land. There are gores all over, but only one Gore Park. If you say Gore enough times, it starts to sound really strange to the point where you start to wonder if that really is the name of our central town square, er, triangle. gore gore gore gore gore gore gore gore gore gore gore...see!

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted March 27, 2012 at 15:29:42 in reply to Comment 75469

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Askin

http://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/A0ED...

The history isn't so easy to find. It's another example of how our city homepage fails us in conneciting us to our past. Or better yet, an example of how we can help that site link to our history better.

Gore Park

1 Hughson Street South. Gore Park consists of two somewhat triangular parcels of land in the city's downtown core. The section between James and Hughson has benches, flower beds, a statue of Queen Victoria, and an ornamental fountain -- a replica of the park's original Victorian fountain. The portion between Hughson and John has a cenotaph, a statue of Sir John A. Macdonald, and a raised grass area with a concrete perimeter for seating. The south side of both sections has stops for buses running between the Mountain and the lower city.

A link here to a full detailed history would be great. For all our parks. They have name beneficiaries. What's the history? These are the histories we should be feeding our kids.

Ah ha! Here it is.

I'd like to know in general, how our community feels about our ties to the Monarch. Just saying.

I'll tell you though that I have no connection to the Monarch and perhaps the Gore is a negative way to refer to this central gathering, greeen, symbolic space.

From my standpoint from the story linked to above, a name such as The Hamilton Peoples Square would be more appropriate to celebrate and be a constant reminder of, the power of peoples voices.

I also realized that I wasn't too sure I knew a heck of a lot about Mr. Hamilton himself - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Hami...

Comment edited by lawrence on 2012-03-27 16:05:47

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By MattM (registered) | Posted March 27, 2012 at 15:51:35

Another page about the history of Gore Park:

http://epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/205/301/ic/...

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted March 27, 2012 at 15:56:35 in reply to Comment 75471

This is great. The background is unforunate but did you know to search this site or did it pop up through your search engine search?

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By MattM (registered) | Posted March 27, 2012 at 21:24:00 in reply to Comment 75474

I've had that site bookmarked for years. It has a wonderful directory on many buildings downtown. You can spend hours on there learning all tons of cool facts. It's kind of hidden as well, it doesn't really come up easily in a google search.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted March 27, 2012 at 16:41:17

"The Hamilton Peoples Square"?

I'm just fine with Gore Park, thanks: it's short, unambiguous, has the comfortable heft of tradition and doesn't sound like something out Mao's China or Stalin's Russia or the Marxist Banana Republic of your choice.

As for "Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Promenade"? Well, I don't share Ryan's queasiness regarding of royal side of our constitutional-monarchial tradition. Both the heel-dragging traditionalism of the Royal side and the progress-as-we-define-it-at-any-cost parliamentary side (to simply rather grossly) have led to excess and injustice and bloodshed.

We are the heirs to the fruits of the creative tension between the two strands. The monarchy is now, obviously, primarily symbolic. But that symbolism must be exercised if it is to have any impact - and one way is to use the epithet Royal for institutions; another is to have important things named after the head of state.

So I'm not at all opposed to having something named after the Queen on the occasion of her diamond jubilee. I just don't think that it's a good idea to replace the eight letters and two syllables of "Gore Park" with the 24 characters and sixteen syllables of that mouthful of proposal.

Comment edited by moylek on 2012-03-27 16:52:37

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By theOther (registered) | Posted March 27, 2012 at 18:57:38 in reply to Comment 75475

Down with the crown; maintain Gore at the fore. If I were to walk through tomorrow and notice the absence of the metal icon of a certain English person who made a career out of widowhood, I'd be none the worse for the experience. Thanks, for catching this pathetic little move, Ryan. And for the record: that thousand years of history you cite is not mine.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted March 27, 2012 at 21:00:29 in reply to Comment 75479

And for the record: that thousand years of history you cite is not mine.

Are you not Canadian, then? If you are Canadian - or American - and enjoy our notion of order and our ordered markets, our ideals of the rule of law and of personal liberty and corporate charity, then it most certainly is your history.

How is it not (if you are, as one imagines, Canadian)?

Comment edited by moylek on 2012-03-27 21:03:35

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By theOther (registered) | Posted March 29, 2012 at 19:17:08 in reply to Comment 75482

Hi, haven't checked in for some time. Seems like you're a hard man with whom to agree. My take on 'history' is that it represents an ever-changing version of previous events as told by the victors/survivors and their successors and apologists. In the past week, Iv'e heard an astro-physicist declare that the most significant event of the 1960's (for everyone on Earth) was the first moon landing, and an historian posit without irony that we owe a debt to the Fenians for their part in the glorious 'war' of 1812. Both absolutely subjective positions that I decline to accept as my own, along with much of the received wisdom concerning how this concept called 'Canada' came about and continues to pertain. [But let there be no doubt that my family and I are among the luckiest primates ever to have been born here]. I should have known that concluding remark would draw (friendly ...?) fire, but the issue is only tangential to the topic. Good luck sir and play on.

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By cotton mather (anonymous) | Posted March 27, 2012 at 23:16:21 in reply to Comment 75482

how about the thousand years of actual Canadian history, that is including the 500 years prior to John Cabot, and thereby not only rethinking your misplaced dawn of liberty argument, but recognizing that our rule of law for most of the time was the rule of law for landed gentry, and that in the process of this 'our' ancestors displaced, enslaved, and eradicated entire civilizations many of which were far more liberal than them.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted March 28, 2012 at 07:38:12 in reply to Comment 75491

the 500 years prior to John Cabot

To say that our history is the history of the land we live on more so than that of the culture we inherit and are developing is naive - or more likely disingenuous. We do not carry on the cultural traditions of the Neutral or Tobacco tribes who used to live here. Our history is that of the ideas and the values and the laws of the Greeks and the Romans, of Europeans and British and Americans. For good and for ill.

our rule of law for most of the time was the rule of law for landed gentry

That's a skewed view, but sure, let's agree. But, as you say, "was". Ours is an evolving tradition. It gets better, for the most part. The rights and responsibilities of the few have become the rights and responsibilities of all of us. It might stop getting better, of course. Look at Rome. Or the Neutral Indians.

eradicated entire civilizations many of which were far more liberal than them.

You don't perhaps a) over state the case? and b) speak whereof we cannot know, for if we eradicated these civilizations, how do we know about their liberality?

I know it's still terribly the thing to engage in unqualified cultural self-castigation - but it's no less jingoistic and unconvincing than"my country right or wrong" patriotism.

We have a tradition and culture which have produced ... us ... this. It's great and has unleashed horrors and we need to know where we've been and and to get somewhere better. I'm not saying that what is is right, but I am saying that there's no point in going on like a morose teenager who hates everything because it's all stupid, including the family which made them who they are.

Comment edited by moylek on 2012-03-28 07:38:36

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By cm (anonymous) | Posted March 28, 2012 at 09:31:11 in reply to Comment 75498

naive or disingenuous: who are you to tell me what my history is? Your argument of the dawn of civilization is no longer taught in schools. It is a remnant of the same period in which 'our' forefathers were busy justifying their past and present actions on premises of terra nullius and/ or racial superiority. The idea of a Greek and Roman heritage skipping over the dark ages before it was reborn in the Renaissance is a fiction, that two generations of historians have been busy debunking. You'll still find these arguments in a few books lamenting multiculturalism.

Tell me how my rule of law for landed gentry is skewed. Your counter is that the traditions 'evolved' but it retained its essential western kernal of genius. I'll suggest instead that it was forced to change by concerted efforts on the part of the excluded group, bit by bit. Take Native enfranchisement. Was that the umbrella of modern western liberty spreading its wings over the previously disenfranchised? Or was it the product of the group in question claiming their rights?

Finally as to eradication, you make the logical point that if they are eradicated how can we know if they were liberal, and you say I overstate the case. Tell me how I overstate the case. Do you need examples of eradication and displacement? Or do you need examples of liberality? Both points are uncontroversial. The British colonies were a far more autocratic society than any indigenous people they interacted with. They may have been slightly less offensive in present day Canada only because of the distraction of competing with the French and the requirements of the fur trade, but wherever British settlement occurred it was accompanied by depredation, whether that was Indians, Metis, or Acadians. And the point of logic is ridiculous: we can know of eradicated societies because we have records.

Finally you accuse me of 'unqualified cultural self-castigation'. You've got a lot of nerve. I don't identify with the culture you champion and I think you're telling the story wrong and trying to fit me into it.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted March 28, 2012 at 09:40:34 in reply to Comment 75505

'unqualified cultural self-castigation'.

A small point: i think that you misunderstood my use of 'unqualified.' I didn't mean that you lack qualifications; I mean that you seem not to qualify your venom towards this your culture (you speak English; you live here; you use a computer; you engage in public debate - it's your culture whether you like it or not, and no matter that you identify with another subculture or alternative culture or native culture as well).

Comment edited by moylek on 2012-03-28 09:56:02

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted March 27, 2012 at 22:06:26 in reply to Comment 75476

I always thought the park was named for the district.

Regardless of whether it was named for its shape or the historical sector of the province, "Gore" it should remain and so should its associated parts.

Comment edited by ScreamingViking on 2012-03-27 22:19:17

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted March 27, 2012 at 22:23:42

IF this is actually being considered, why not rename one of the trails on the harbourfront for the Queen? Or even one of the parks - Bayfront or Pier 4 are not especially historical or noteworthy names.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted March 27, 2012 at 23:19:56

Are we really so in love with the legacy of British imperialism that we're going to rename our main public square (err...triangle) in honour of the Queen in the 21st century?

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By Phil the Greek (anonymous) | Posted March 28, 2012 at 19:33:45 in reply to Comment 75492

The intensely international demographic downtown is another intriguing contrast. Immigrants from former British colonies or Brit-occupied regions can be excused for having a different kind of hard-on for HRH.

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By monarchist (anonymous) | Posted March 27, 2012 at 23:24:40 in reply to Comment 75492

yes actually.

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By simonge (registered) | Posted March 27, 2012 at 23:52:20

When the Magna Carta was first signed in 1215, King John was on the throne. He is widely considered one of the worst monarchs in British history. He inherited an empty treasury from his brother, Richard the Lionheart, who was absent for most of his reign on crusade and being held hostage. John was an efficient administrator who alienated the nobility by being very good at collecting taxes. The irony, is that by today standards he would be seen as an effective leader and could easily be Minister of Finance in our government of the day. Maybe we could name the promenade after him?

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted March 28, 2012 at 07:17:31

I like our history and am in favour of keeping the monarchy a part of life in Canada. It's a tie to our roots. I don't really care one way or the other over the name of a small patch of grass in the core (although I will say this - I despise the name "Hamilton Peoples Square" - sounds far to '60s era Soviet for my taste).

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 28, 2012 at 09:39:32 in reply to Comment 75496

I despise the name "Hamilton Peoples Square"

Anything like that feels forced and inauthentic.

How about we just call it the Gore Park Promenade?

Better yet: Gore Park.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 28, 2012 at 13:26:06 in reply to Comment 75507

By george man. I think you've come up with a great idea.

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By Jacobim Mugatu (anonymous) | Posted March 28, 2012 at 09:22:22

This proposal reminds me of the Derek Zoolander Center For Children Who Can't Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 28, 2012 at 09:41:52

I like our history and ties with the Queen etc.... but I'm sorry, that new name idea is just a dog's breakfast.
Trust me, they can name it whatever they want. People will still call it Gore Park.

I realize politicians can get quite removed from real life, and I'm guessing few of them ever hang out in Gore Park, but for those of us who do, let's imagine the real life scenario of setting up a coffee with a friend in the park (which some of us do regularly):

"Hey, do you want to meet for coffee in the Queen Elizabeth the second Diamond Jubilee Promenade tomorrow at, say 1pm?" Friend - "you mean Gore Park??" "Yea, that's right. See you there".

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 28, 2012 at 09:49:54 in reply to Comment 75509

I don't know. If the name takes hold, we could always shorten it:

"Hey, do you want to get a coffee tomorrow afternoon? We could meet at the Jube."

"The Jube?"

"Yeah. You know, the Queen Elizabeth the Second Diamond Jubilee Promenade. The Jube."

"Oh, you mean the Nad."

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2012-03-28 09:50:18

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By Phil the Greek (anonymous) | Posted March 28, 2012 at 19:22:48 in reply to Comment 75511

Given the triangular shape, some may opt for "The Queen's Bits"

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted March 31, 2012 at 19:32:24 in reply to Comment 75527

" The Regina Triangle"

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By sigfile (anonymous) | Posted March 28, 2012 at 11:29:43 in reply to Comment 75511

OMG that's so funny!

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By TDR (registered) - website | Posted March 28, 2012 at 13:56:59

Down with the crown. Your example of the GG's toothlessness is right on point. I'm for effective Canadian government -elected Senate being a good place to start. Elected GG (or dare I say President?) and no more monarchy. I appreciate this is an important history, but it is history. History.

Gore Park it will remain.

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By James (registered) | Posted March 29, 2012 at 22:35:43

I think that renaming Gore Park will take about as much root in people's minds as renaming the Eaton Centre to Hamilton City Centre. Practically no-one calls it Hamilton City Centre.

Of course, I also have great difficulty anyone doing anything in Gore Park as it seems to be pretty desolate now that the buses are gone. But hey, now there's more surface parking where that fancy promenade is supposed to be!

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By Bigger (anonymous) | Posted March 30, 2012 at 10:21:26

Is the point being missed here: are we actually getting a promenade in this spot?

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