The Constitution of Canada makes it extremely difficult for the country to end its ties with the monarchy.
“I think it would be very difficult,” Allan Hutchinson, a legal theorist and professor of law at York University, told CTVNews.ca. “Any change in the arrangements around the Crown would require unanimity from all the provinces and the federal government. The chances of getting 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 about formalities,” Hutchinson said. “King Charles has no power in Canada.”
Countries without a monarchy, such as the United States and France, are called republics. For Canada to sever its long-standing ties with the monarchy and become a republic would require an agreement between the House of Commons, the Senate and the 10 provinces. Known as the “unanimous consent amendment,” the rule is described in section 41 of the Constitution Act, 1982, which was signed into law by the government of then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. The opinion of the territories or a referendum is not required.
“In 1982 they needed British approval to repatriate the Constitution,” explained Hutchinson, who has written extensively on the Constitution. “I think at the time, if they had made monarchy kind of an optional feature, that might have been a problem.”
Constitutional law expert David Schneiderman says it would be “virtually impossible” to get unanimous consent on the issue today.
“You should have an overwhelming consensus in Canadian public opinion that would justify prime ministers passing resolutions in their legislatures calling for the abolition of the monarchy,” said Schneiderman, a law and political science professor at the University. of Toronto at CTVNews.ca. “I don’t see that happening anytime soon.”
Most other constitutional amendments require the agreement of two-thirds of the provinces, if they represent at least 50% of the country’s population. Previous major attempts to change the Constitution have failed, such as the Meech Lake Accord in 1987 and the Charlottetown Accord in 1992.
“We know from our own history that changing the Constitution is a bit of a mad dash,” 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 that would lead us down a path strewn with pitfalls.”
THE COMMONWEALTH KINGDOMS
King Charles III is now head of state of 15 Commonwealth realms, which include the United Kingdom and former British colonies like Australia, Belize, Canada, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea . Many, especially those in the Caribbean, are reassessing their ties.
In November 2021, Barbados became a republic and deposed the Queen as head of state, the first country to do so in nearly 30 years. Its constitution simply required a decision of parliament.
Jamaica is also studying the possibility of becoming a republic, although experts say the process will take years and require a referendum. The government of Antigua and Barbuda has meanwhile announced its intention to hold a referendum on the monarchy within the next three years, and the Prime Minister of the Bahamas has also signaled its openness to a referendum.
Such a referendum failed to end Australia’s monarchy in 1999. Known for his republican leanings, Australia’s prime minister recently said a referendum was not a priority during his government’s first term.
While Queen Elizabeth’s death has sparked an outpouring of admiration for the monarch herself, recent scandals at the Windsor house, such as Prince Andrew’s relationship with disgraced financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, and the accusations of racism from Meghan Markle, have tarnished the reputation of the institution. for some people.
For many indigenous peoples in Canada and those who suffered from harsh colonial rule in republics like Kenya and Cyprus, the legacy of monarchy can also be painful and complicated.
An Angus Reid Institute poll in April 2022 found that 51% of Canadian respondents supported abolishing the monarchy for future generations, compared to 26% who favored keeping it and 24% who were not. not sure. About half of those polled felt the royal family represented outdated values and was “no longer relevant at all”. The poll also revealed that 65% of respondents opposed recognizing Charles as King and Head of State of Canada.
Similar polls from 2021 and 2020 show Canadians increasingly questioning our ties to the British throne. According to a report by the Monarchist League of Canada, these ties cost Canada $58.7 million in the 2019-20 fiscal year.
Despite constitutional challenges, Schneiderman believes Canadians could “imagine an alternative.”
“I think we should have thought about our ties to the monarchy even before Queen Elizabeth died,” Schneiderman said. “This is a time to reflect on who we have had as head of state, and if we want to continue with a hereditary head of state, from a particular family who begets leaders to serve in that role; or if in a modern, democratic and multicultural society, we would perhaps want a head of state a little more representative of the people that the head of state serves.
Hutchinson, who grew up and studied in the UK, agrees.
“The idea that we have a hereditary head of state is pretty pitiful in 2022 in a so-called democracy,” he said. “I don’t know what we lose by calling the Governor General something else and then cutting ties with the monarchy.”
Peter McNally is a retired professor of information science from McGill University and a self-proclaimed “Palace Keeper”.
McNally also thinks changing 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 historically is because of the 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