Canada’s constitution makes ending ties with the Monarchy extremely challenging for the country.
Allan Hutchinson, a legal theorist and professor of law at York University, told CTVNews.ca: “I think it’s going to be very difficult. “Any change to the arrangements around the Crown will need the unanimous consent of all the provinces and the federal government. The chances of achieving that are not good.”
Canada is a constitutional monarchy, which means that the British sovereign is our ceremonial head of state, represented by the Governor-General. After the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Charles III ascended the British throne and also became King of Canada.
“It’s really all about the procedure,” says Hutchinson. “King Charles has no power in Canada.”
Countries that do not have a monarchy, such as the United States and France, are called republics. For Canada to sever its longstanding ties with the Monarchy and become a republic, it needs consent between the House of Commons, the Senate, and all 10 provinces. Called “amendment by unanimous consent,” the rule was outlined in Section 41 of the Constitutional Act 1982, enacted by the government of then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Input from territories or a referendum is not required.
“In 1982, they needed British approval to bring the Constitution back home,” explains Hutchinson, who has written extensively on the Constitution. “I think at the time, if they made the monarchy some kind of optional trait, that could be a problem.”
Constitutional law expert David Schneiderman believes it will be “virtually impossible” to reach a consensus on the issue today.
Schneiderman, a professor of law and political science at the University of Toronto, told CTVNews.ca: “You’re going to have to get a high degree of consensus in Canadian public opinion to make sure the prime ministers pass resolutions in the legislative body. Their legislation called for the abolition of the Monarchy. “I don’t see that happening anytime soon.”
Most other constitutional changes require the consent of two-thirds of the provinces, if they represent at least 50% of the country’s population. Previous major attempts to amend the Constitution have failed, such as the 1987 Mandal Lake Treaty and the 1992 Charlottetown Treaty.
“We know from our own history that changing the Constitution is a fool’s chore,” Hutchinson said. “Once you start opening it, people will say, ‘Well, if we’re going to change the Constitution, what about this? What about that?’ I think it will lead us down a challenging path.”
King Charles III is currently head of state of 15 Commonwealth kingdoms, including Great Britain and former British colonies such as Australia, Belize, Canada, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. Some – especially those in the Caribbean – are reevaluating their relationship.
In November 2021, Barbados became a republic and removed the Queen as head of state, the first country to do so in nearly 30 years. Its constitution simply requires a congressional decision.
Jamaica is also exploring the possibility of becoming a republic, although experts say the process will take years and require a referendum. Meanwhile, the government of Antigua and Barbuda has announced plans to hold a referendum on the Monarchy within the next three years, and the prime minister of the Bahamas has also signaled openness to a referendum. idea.
One such referendum failed to end the Monarchy in Australia in 1999. Famous for his republican leanings, the Australian prime minister recently said the referendum was not a priority. during the first term of his government.
While Queen Elizabeth’s death led to admiration for the king, recent scandals in the House of Commons of Windsor, such as Prince Andrew’s relationship with disgraced financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein , and accusations of racism from Meghan Markle, have tarnished the organization’s reputation. for some.
For many natives in Canada and those who have endured harsh colonial rule in republics like Kenya and Cyprus, the legacy of the Monarchy can also be painful and complicated.
A poll from the Angus Reid Institute in April 2022 found that 51% of Canadians polled supported the abolition of the Monarchy in the next generations, compared with 26% in favor of keeping it and 24% not. sure. Around half of respondents believe the Royal Family represents values that are outdated and “no longer relevant.” The poll also found that 65% of respondents opposed recognizing Charles as King and head of state of Canada.
Similar surveys from 2021 and 2020 show that Canadians are increasingly questioning our relationship to the British throne. These relationships cost Canada $58.7 million in the 2019-20 financial year, according to a report from Canada’s Monarchist League.
Despite the constitutional challenges, Schneiderman believes Canadians can “imagine an alternative.”
“I think we should consider our relationship with the Monarchy even before Queen Elizabeth died,” said Schneiderman. “This is a moment to think about who we used to have as head of state, and whether we want to continue with a hereditary head of state, from a single family. specifically nurturing leaders to serve in this role; or whether in a modern, democratic, and multicultural society, we might want a head of state a little more representative of those that the head of state serves.”
Hutchinson, who grew up and studied in England, agrees with this view.
“The idea that we have several hereditary heads of state is quite unfortunate in 2022 in a democracy,” he said. “I don’t know what we lose by calling the Governor-General something else, and then severing ties with the Monarchy.”
Peter McNally is a retired McGill University professor of information studies and self-proclaimed “palace watchman”.
McNally also believes that amending the Constitution would be “extremely difficult,” but when it comes to the Monarchy, he doesn’t want to see Canada try.
“The reason Canada exists in history is because of its 18th century loyalty to the Monarchy,” he told CTVNews.ca. “Today, the Monarchy is the living embodiment of Canada’s parliamentary tradition. It is also a bulwark against American cultural imperialism.”
With files from the Associated Press