Pierre Elliott Trudeau:
The Queen and Charles are otherwise occupied
The Globe and Mail
Tuesday, October 3, 2000
To judge by Buckingham Palace's latest schedule of royal appearances, today will be a busy day for the Royal Family.
The Queen will open the new divisional headquarters of Grampian Police at Blackhall Road, Inverurie, Aberdeenshire. Princess Anne will visit Mannesmann Rexroth Limited, Rexroth, Scotland, to present the Queen's Award for Enterprise. Prince Charles will no doubt be resting up for tomorrow's attendance at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors Awards 2000 at the Chain Store in London's Docklands district, to be followed by launching Loud Tie Day on behalf of the Beating Bowel Cancer charity at the London Television Studios.
Which leaves Prince Andrew. Since the Duke of York happened to be in Canada anyway for a conference at Ontario's Appleby College, he will attend Pierre Trudeau's funeral today, though not as an official representative of the Royal Family. Not worth bothering the Queen, who memorably transferred the Constitution to Canada from Britain in 1982 at Mr. Trudeau's request. Not worth bothering the heir to the throne, who might have come in his mother's stead to acknowledge the death of the man who led Canada for 16 years and influenced it for far longer.
Anyway, the Governor-General will be there, with several past governors-general. And the current Prime Minister, with several past prime ministers. And -- but why go on? The place will be packed. Even Fidel Castro may be there. Hardly worth troubling the Queen of Canada or the sovereign-in-waiting.
In a way, their absence will be fitting, given Mr. Trudeau's disdain for protocol. To express that disdain in May, 1977, he planned and executed a pirouette behind the Queen's back as she and Commonwealth leaders headed off to dinner. He performed another pirouette on the tarmac in 1982 after the Queen, having signed the Constitution, left for England.
Mr. Trudeau even ran afoul of The Daily Mirror in 1978 for holidaying in Morocco while the Queen visited Canada. Buckingham Palace was quick to issue a statement that "no offence has been taken by the Queen." (Apparently not; in 1984 she made him an honorary member of Britain's Order of the Companions of Honour.) And the Canadian government will be quick to say no offence has been taken that Andrew, who has his own Canadian connections, will supply the only royal presence.
And yet, if distance and other business mean that neither Canada's head of state nor potential head of state is in a position to appear on so momentous an occasion, it invites a question. Should Canada not have a domestic head of state (rather than a domestic representative), one who lives in this country and whose first order of business is to attend the funeral of a giant such as Pierre Trudeau rather than open a divisional headquarters?
This is not a new proposal. Today's absence did not trigger it; it merely jogged our memory. And we would not suggest replacing the current Queen, who is much loved. We would, however, suggest breaking the news to her successor that the job of head of state can be filled at home.