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In front of Harper, Jamaica’s PM tactfully ditches the Queen

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is embraced by Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson after holding a joint news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Monday, October 22, 2012.

FRED CHARTRAND/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller couldn't have found a more gentle way to talk about dumping the Queen in front of a Canadian host who likes to promote royal links.

Ms. Miller's official visit to Ottawa on Monday came not only as Jamaica celebrates its 50th year of independence, but also as Ms. Miller – and other Jamaican leaders – consider becoming a republic, ditching the Queen as head of state.

Her host, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, could hardly be expected to agree. His government has promoted Canada's links to royalty, including renaming the Canadian Forces and Air Force with "Royal" labels, posting portraits of Her Majesty, and adding pomp to jubilee celebrations.

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But at a joint press conference in Ottawa, Ms. Simpson Miller went to great pains not to give royal offence.

"I do not believe in Jamaica you can find anyone that is a greater fan or admirer of the Queen than I am," she said. "But we came through from slavery to colonialism, from colonialism to adult suffrage, from adult suffrage to our independence. And we feel that the time is really right for us to be able to determine our form of government."

"But, the Queen will still be with us. We will never leave the Commonwealth. We will always be members of the Commonwealth. We love the Queen, we respect the Queen, and we honour the Queen. Long live the Queen."

The Commonwealth, an international organization of 54 nations that were mostly former parts of the British empire, counts the Queen as its ceremonial head, but includes many republics. Only 16 Commonwealth members still count the Queen as their monarch.

Mr. Harper, however, preferred not to get intertwined with Jamaica's discussion about changing the head of state, as he instead spoke mostly of Canada-Jamaica economic relations.

"In terms of the other question," Mr. Harper said, smiling as he plainly dodged the issue, "this is strictly a question for Jamaicans."

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About the Author
Chief political writer

Campbell Clark has been a political writer in The Globe and Mail’s Ottawa bureau since 2000. Before that he worked for The Montreal Gazette and the National Post. He writes about Canadian politics and foreign policy. More

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