A World of Republicans
A Canadian Hero
British Columbia, on the west coast of Canada, is over 4000 miles from Buckingham Palace and Balmoral Castle. But in 1987 Ed Press was sacked from his job with the provincial government there because he refused to swear allegiance to the British monarchy.
This is Ed's story.
You will find no palaces or castles in British Columbia. And no queens or princes, except when the British "royals" decide to take a break in one of their former colonies. You will find a lot of fairly ordinary and decent people. In 1987 Ed Press was one of those ordinary folk but one who was to prove himself quite extraordinary and with more character than a castle full of princes.
Third-generation Canadian Ed lived with his wife Bessie, who is Greek, in Chetwynd in the Pine Valley of north east British Columbia. He drove a truck and operated heavy equipment for the provincial government's highways ministry. Ed had done the job for six years and was regarded as a good worker. In 1985, however, the bureaucrats in the provincial government got around to a formality that they had neglected. As a result Ed was dumped from a job with decent pay into scratching a living doing what odd jobs he could find around town.
The problem was that British Columbia has a Public Service Act. And although British Columbia is a province of an independent country in which the people elect their own government, that Act requires that public servants swear allegiance to the British monarch. In 1985 Ed Press was asked by his boss to swear that:
"I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors."
Ed replaced the reference to the British "Queen" with "my country." For declaring that his loyalty was to his country and not to a family of foreign ne'er-do-wells he was threatened with the sack.
Ed Press was not intimidated. He took his story to the local press and embarrassed the government of British Columbia sufficiently that in 1987 they offered him the option of signing his allegiance to "the Crown" instead of to the "Queen" of England. That was not good enough for this republican, however. He told his tormentors that the "Crown" was a symbol of the British monarchy and so he could not sign. That's when they sacked Ed.
"It’s a ghastly institution. And the Windsors aren’t much better.
"The best that can be said of the Queen is that she has never done anything improper. One suspects she lacks the imagination for it. She likes corgis better than her children (who , unlike the corgis, must make appointments when they want to see her). In fact, she doesn’t care for people much at all.
"Her children suffer from the curse of inherited wealth and boundless sycophancy, which are nearly always fatal to the development of character. For the most part dim and plain, they are living proof of the perils of inbreeding."
Margaret Wente, Globe & Mail, February 2001
Ed has never stopped campaigning against this injustice. And not just against the personal injustice but against the place of monarchy in Canada. Because it is not just British Columbia but the government of all Canada that shows this crazy deference to the Windsor family. For example Canadian coins display the head of the British monarch.
At times Ed Press has been seen holding a sign that reads "Monarchy is not Democracy." Sounds obvious maybe. But like their counterparts in Britain, the authorities in Canada are pretty confused when it comes to monarchy and democracy. That was particularly so with the police. In 1982 Sgt R E Cunningham, in charge of the Chetwynd detachment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, had written to Ed to commend him for his action in preventing the escape of a suspected murderer. Ed was something of a local hero. In 1987 however the RCMP deployed three police patrol cars to keep watch on him. All because they anticipated that he might use his democratic right to protest when British "royals" came calling at Vancouver, hundreds of miles away. A local newspaper quoted police commissioner Robert Simmonds as saying that Canadians who expressed "intemperate views" about visiting VIPs must expect that sort of treatment.
If they thought that that would shut up Ed Press they were wrong, however. In 1988 Ed took a portrait of the British "Queen" from the local post office and put it in a more fitting place - the Chetwynd dump. And in 1998 he was detained by the police for three days after refusing to stop for a seat belt check by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Ed does not recognise "royal" police.
Will Ferguson, Why I Hate Canadians
Most of us would probably have looked for excuses for not standing up for our republican beliefs if we faced losing our jobs or being arrested. Not Ed Press, nor his wife Bessie who is not allowed to become a citizen of Canada if she will not swear her allegiance to the British queen! Ed Press just says that "I don't believe in the monarchy. I'm a democrat and I think people should be considered equal in society and under the law." He will not accept the second class status of "commoner," nor that his children are not as good as those of the "royal" family. And whatever the RCMP may think of such "intemperate views" it is admirable when somebody of character stands by them come what may. Ed says that despite the loss of his job and the intimidation his actions have been worth while. He told the Centre for Citizenship that all he had been trying to do was be himself, a Canadian and as good as anyone else.
Acknowledgements to the Chetwynd British Columbia Echo, British Columbia Report, The Province of Vancouver, Peace River Block News of Dawson Creek, The Vancouver Sun and the Prince George Citizen for material used in this report.