Monarchy in Canada

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Template:Canadian politics

Canada is a constitutional monarchy and a Commonwealth Realm with Queen Elizabeth II as its reigning monarch. Traditionally, she is also regarded as head of state though the Governor General is now referred to as the de facto head of state.[1] (

In Canada, Her Majesty's official title is (in English) Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom, Canada and Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith. In French, Her Majesty's title is: Elizabeth Deux, par la grâce de Dieu, Reine du Royaume-Uni, du Canada et de ses autres royaumes et territoires, Chef du Commonwealth, Défenseur de la Foi. Such capacity is Her Majesty The Queen in Right of Canada. In common practice, Queen Elizabeth II is referred to simply as "The Queen" or "The Queen of Canada" when in Canada, or when abroad and acting on the advice of her Canadian ministers (such as when she was present at the Canadian 60th anniversary of D-Day ceremony in France, in 2004).


Constitutional monarchy in Canada

The most notable features of the Canadian constitutional monarchy are:

  • Although Queen Elizabeth II is also monarch of the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom does not have any sovereignty over Canada; nor does Canada have any sovereignty over the United Kingdom.
  • In all matters of state, the monarch is advised exclusively by the governments in Canada. See also Queen's Privy Council for Canada. No British government can advise the monarch on Canadian matters.¹
  • All executive power is theoretically reposed in the Queen, who is represented in Canada by the Governor General of Canada and the Lieutenant Governors of the provinces. Royal Assent is required for all acts of Parliament and the legislatures, which sit at her pleasure. Persons swearing allegiance to Canada, such as immigrants, soldiers, and parliamentarians, swear allegiance to the monarch as the legal embodiment of Canadian sovereignty. Like Lieutenant Governors, the Commissioners of Canada's territories of Nunavut, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories are appointed by Governor-General-in-Council, that is the federal government. However commissioners are not formal representatives of the Crown, and receive instructions from the federal Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs. However, as the role of commissioner has become analogous to that of Lieutenant Governor, the position has developed an informal role of representing the Crown.
  • The legal personality of Canada is referred to as "Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada", and likewise for the provinces and territories. For example, if a lawsuit is filed against the federal government, the respondent is formally described as Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada.
  • As in the UK, the Queen's role is nearly entirely symbolic and cultural, and the powers that are constitutionally hers are exercised wholly upon the advice of the elected government. In exceptional circumstances, however, the Queen may act against such advice based upon her reserve powers. In practice, the monarchy functions much like a rubber stamp and a symbol of executive authority. It is often explained that the Queen "reigns" but does not "rule". For more explanation of the Queen's role, see Governor General of Canada.
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Queen Elizabeth II, The Queen of Canada, reads the Speech from the Throne
  • Queen Elizabeth II, as is common for all her other non-UK realms, usually assumes the role of "Queen of Canada" only when she is either present in Canada or (occasionally) when she performs certain ceremonies relevant to Canada (such as conferring Canadian honours) in the UK. The majority of the Queen's duties are now performed by the Governor General, although she could technically override any of the Governor General's decisions. However, this convention has been excepted during certain visits to the United States, since it has become traditional for the Queen to incorporate such visits into some of her longer Canadian tours. In 1959, for example, the return dinner for the President of the United States was held at the Canadian, not the British, embassy.
  • The Queen's visible role in Canada has diminished greatly throughout the late 20th century; however, she is still featured on all Canadian coinage, the twenty-dollar bill, and some postage stamps. Her portrait can usually be found in all government buildings, military installations, some schools, and all of Canada's embassies abroad.
  • The Queen is head of the Canadian honours system. As such, only she can approve the creation of an honour, based on the recommendation of the government of Canada. The Governor General administers all responsibilities relating to Canadian honours on the Queen's behalf. See Canadian honours system.
  • Unlike in the United Kingdom, where the Sovereign is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, the Monarch has no official religious role in Canada.

Queen Elizabeth II has stated: "The role of a constitutional monarch is to personify the democratic state, to legitimate authority, to assure the legality of its measures and to guarantee the execution of its popular will."


Since the creation of New France, there has not been a time when Canada was not a monarchy. Canada is one of the oldest continuing monarchies in the world, first under the kings of France in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries and then under the British crown in the 18th and 19th centuries. Following Confederation, the "Canadianization" of the Crown began.

The Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927, initiated the gradual replacement of the concept of a singular crown throughout the British Empire with that of multiple crowns, making each dominion a separate kingdom with the Crown worn by the common monarch. This idea was further enhanced by the Statute of Westminster 1931, which granted the dominions of the Commonwealth autonomy from the British parliament and equality with the United Kingdom. However, when a new Royal Titles Act was passed at the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's reign, it gave primacy to the monarch's status as Queen of the United Kingdom. Although other Commonwealth Realms have since removed any reference to the United Kingdom in their versions of Elizabeth II's title, Canada retains the original 1953 Act.

Canada gained full independence as an autonomous kingdom when the constitution was patriated under Prime Minister Trudeau in 1982, making it Canadian law rather than an act of the British parliament that required amendment in both jurisdictions. See Canada Act 1982.

The Constitution Act of 1982 also entrenched the monarchy in Canada. Any change to the position of the monarch or the monarch's representatives in Canada now requires the consent of the Senate, the House of Commons, and the legislative assemblies of all the provinces.

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The Throne of Canada

Throne Chairs for the Queen of Canada, and the Duke of Edinburgh and the Governor General, in the Canadian Senate, Ottawa. (The front chair is used by the Speaker of the Senate.)

Today, virtually all of the Queen's Canadian duties are performed by her representatives in Canada, the Governor General and the Lieutenant Governors of the provinces. Even State Visits have been undertaken by the Governor General, on the Queen's behalf, since 1927 and more recently the Governor General has represented Canada abroad even at occasions where the Queen is also present. Canada's political leaders have, on occasion, appealed to the Queen's authority. In 1990, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney appealed to the Queen (under Section 26 of The Constitution Act, 1867) to temporarily add eight seats to the Senate, a right reserved for the Queen. (The Senate is an appointed body.) Mulroney made this move to secure passage of the controversial Goods and Services Tax, which faced widespread opposition in Canada and would not have passed without the votes of the newly-appointed senators.

This was an occasion on which the Queen played a significant role in Canadian government, although as the monarch's advisers made clear, she felt bound to follow the advice of the Prime Minister, who was answerable to cabinet, parliament, and the Canadian electorate. They argued that to overrule prime ministerial advice would have involved the Queen directly in controversy; by automatically accepting advice, she placed the responsibility on the person giving the advice. It is also possible that if the Governor General decided to go against the Prime Minister's or the government's advice, the Prime Minister could appeal directly to the Queen or even recommend that the Queen dismiss the Governor General.

Beginning January 1, 2005, the Letters of Credence that foreign diplomats present when beginning an assignment in Canada are addressed to the Governor General of Canada without making any reference to the Queen. This is also the case with Letters of Recall presented when a diplomat finishes a sojourn in Canada. This change in protocol has been criticized by Canadian monarchists as an example of the government reducing the Queen's role, and has been welcomed by republicans for the same reason.

Some monarchists contend that since Paul Martin was elected Prime Minister, his government seems to be attempting to further distance Canada from the Queen and elevating the Governor General to more of a presidential figure. On her 2005 trip to Alberta, the provincial government wished to have the Queen sign a bill into law. This was not done as it is constitutionally impossible, however Rideau Hall also stated it would conflict with the "Canadianization" of Canada's institutions. Some Monarchists feel that the federal government is attempting to make Canada a republic in all but name.

Royal visits

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Queen Elizabeth II, as Princess Elizabeth, square dancing in the ballroom of Rideau Hall during her 1951 tour

The first tour of Canada by a reigning monarch was that of King George VI and his consort in 1939.

Queen Elizabeth II has travelled to Canada 22 times, more than any other Canadian monarch, and has visited every province and region of the country. When in the nation's capital, Ottawa, the Queen resides at her official Canadian residence – Rideau Hall – and from time to time will stay at the provincial Government Houses in various provincial capital.

She has travelled to Canada in the following years: 1951 - as The Princess Elizabeth, undertook the trip in place of her ailing father; 1957; 1959; 1964; 1967; 1970; 1971; 1973; 1976; 1977; 1978; 1982; 1983; 1984; 1987; 1990; 1992; 1994; 1997; 1999; 2002; 2005

In her fifty-three years on the throne, Elizabeth II has spent a total of 222 days (or just over 1% of her reign) in Canada. Many other members of the Royal Family have undertaken royal duties and engagements in Canada in the Queen's place so that a member of the Royal Family has been in Canada on official business for an accumulated total of just over 2 years of her 53 year reign or between 3 and 4% of her reign.

Queen Elizabeth II has participated in thousands of ceremonial events in Canada since before the beginning of her reign, ranging from large events in big cities attended by tens of thousands of people, to lesser engagements in towns and other small communities.

The Queen's first major ceremonial duty was in 1959 when she opened the St. Lawrence Seaway with U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Her Majesty has also celebrated numerous birthday and anniversary occasions. In 1964, she helped celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Confederation Conferences in Quebec City and Charlottetown. In 1967, she travelled to Ottawa to participate in Canada's 100th birthday celebrations on Parliament Hill, where she cut a 30-foot-high birthday cake. In 1973, the Queen celebrated the centennial of Prince Edward Island and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. In 1977, she toured to mark her Silver Jubilee, and in 1984 she participated in the bicentennials of New Brunswick and Ontario. The Queen visited Ottawa to celebrate Canada's 125th birthday in 1992. In 2002, she visited four regions of Canada, and the territory of Nunavut, to commemorate her Golden Jubilee. Her most recent visit was in 2005 for the 100th anniversaries of the entries of Saskatchewan and Alberta into Canadian Confederation.

In 1967, she journeyed to Montreal, with Prince Philip and Princess Margaret, to view Expo '67.

Elizabeth II has been present at many sporting events as well. In 1976, as Queen of Canada, she opened the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. She was accompanied by Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Princess Anne (who competed in the Olympic games that year), Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward. This marked the first time the entire Royal Family had been in Canada. In 1978, she opened the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Alberta, and in 1994 performed the same task in Victoria, British Columbia. In 2002, at Vancouver's GM Place, the Queen performed a ceremonial dropping of the puck, before an National Hockey League game between the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks.

On several of her visits, the Queen has performed duties of state. In 1957, she opened the 1st session of the 23rd Parliament of Canada, reading the Speech from the Throne becoming the first reigning monarch to do so. Two years later, in 1959, she undertook her first, and only, foreign visit as Queen of Canada when she met with United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington, D.C.. At the conclusion of that trip, she hosted a return dinner for the President at the Canadian Embassy, not at the British Embassy, to clearly point out that she was in the United States as a representative of Canada.

In 1982, Elizabeth II travelled to Ottawa to sign Canada's new Constitution Act, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Elizabeth II participated in the opening session of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia in 1987, and the opening of the Nunavut legislature in 2002, when she read a speech from the throne. In 2005, she also read a speech to Albertans in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, becoming the first reigning monarch to do so.

There was some talk during her 2005 tour, that this could be the Queen's final visit to Canada. Buckingham Palace has confirmed that she and Prince Philip are cutting back on their international travel, particularly within the Commonwealth, and having Prince Charles take her place. However, the Palace did say that the Queen still intended to go overseas, but not on long and very busy tours as in the past. It is believed that if the Queen visits in the future, her tour will be confined to one region of the country instead of multiple provinces as has been the tradition in her most recent tours of Canada.

In the last several years, junior members of the Royal Family have begun to take part in unofficial, working tours of Canada. In this method, provinces, municipalities and others personally invite members of the Royal Family to attend events which they fund without assistance from the Federal Government. Prince Edward and the Princess Royal have taken several tours under this method.

See also List of Commonwealth visits made by Queen Elizabeth II

The Crown and the First Nations

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Her Majesty the Queen of Canada presents a tablet of Balmoral granite with the ciphers of both herself and her great-grandmother Queen Victoria, at the First Nations University of Canada, May 17, 2005.

As with the Maori and the Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand, Canada's First Nations view their treaties as being agreements directly between them and the Crown, not with the ever-changing government. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 made clear that the First Nations were autonomous political units, and affirmed their title to lands. It remains an important document, mentioned in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, outlining the Canadian Crown's responsibility to protect First Nations' territories and maintain the bilateral "nation-to-nation" relationship[2] (|1) [3] (|2).

The Queen, during a visit to the First Nations University of Saskatchewan in May of 2005, presented a piece of Balmoral granite engraved with the ciphers of Queen Victoria and herself. The gesture behind the gift was outlined in the Queen's words:

"This stone was taken from the grounds of Balmoral Castle in the Highlands of Scotland - a place dear to my great great grandmother, Queen Victoria. It symbolises the foundation of the rights of First Nations peoples reflected in treaties signed with the Crown during her reign.
"Bearing the cipher of Queen Victoria as well as my own, this stone is presented to the First Nations University of Canada in the hope that it will serve as a reminder of the special relationship between the Sovereign and all First Nations peoples."[4] (|3)

Nevertheless, First Nations groups complained that their role during the Queen's visit was a purely symbolic one, and were disappointed that neither the provincial nor federal governments granted them a private audience with the Queen to express concerns about treaty violations. [5] (

The Crown and the military

The Queen retains a strong link to the Canadian military. The Constitution Act, 1867 states that the Queen is Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces, but the Letters Patent of 1947 specify that the title and its duties are held and performed by the Governor General of Canada (], on behalf of the Sovereign. The Queen's postition and role in the military is reflected by Canadian naval vessels bearing the prefix Her Majesty's Canadian Ship (H.M.C.S), and all members of the armed forces must swear allegiance to the Queen and her heirs and successors.

She has presided over many military ceremonies, including Trooping of the Colours, inspections of the troops, and anniversaries of key battles. Whenever Her Majesty is in Ottawa she lays a wreath at the National War Memorial. As well, two other examples of Elizabeth II acting as Queen of Canada abroad were associated with the Canadian military; one in 1996 when she dedicated the Canadian War Memorial in Green Park, London, and the other in 2003 when she attended the Canadian 60th anniversary of D-Day ceremonies in Normandie, France.

She is Colonel-in-Chief of many Canadian regiments, including: le Regiment de la Chaudière; the 48th Highlanders of Canada; the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise's); the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery; the Governor-General's Horse Guards; the King's Own Calgary Regiment; le Royal 22e Regiment; the Governor-General's Foot Guards; the Canadian Grenadier Guards; the Regiment of Canadian Guards; the Royal New Brunswick Regiment; the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps; the Canadian Forces Military Engineers Branch; and the Calgary Highlanders.

She is also the Honorary Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.[6] (|1)

Debate on the monarchy

In contrast to Australian republicanism, there has been little national debate about ending the monarchy in Canada. This may be because Canadians have historically been more focused on more immediate political concerns such as the issue of the role of Quebec within Canada (see Quebec sovereignty movement) and the division of powers between the federal government and the provinces. Historically, many Canadians have seen the monarchy as a traditional institution that forms a key part of the nation's raison d'être and justifies Canada's sovereignty from the United States. One of Canada's national myths is the story of the United Empire Loyalists, a group of British-North American settlers who migrated from the United States to Canada after the American Revolutionary War. A key justification for this migration was supposedly their Tory, monarchist beliefs which they felt the US revolution was betraying.

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Portraits of the Queen (here with the Duke of Edinburgh) can be found in most Canadian government buildings

In recent years some, Canadian republican groups have been formed and some politicians, such as former Deputy Prime Minister John Manley, have expressed interest in ending the monarchy. In 2002, Canada's first nationally-organized republican movement, the Citizens for a Canadian Republic, was established to bring the debate into the mainstream. The CCR promotes eliminating the Queen's role as Canada's head of state, and replacing her with an elected president of some form. The monarchist side is represented by the Monarchist League of Canada. This national group was formed in 1970, and currently exists as a lobby group to advocate for, educate about, and promote the monarchy in Canada.

Public opinion polls have clearly shown Canadians' mixed feelings towards the monarchy. Some polls show a majority of Canadians support the creation of a republic, others show a majority favour retaining the current system. Generally however, the prevailing mood towards the monarchy suggested by most polls is one of indifference or apathy.

Quebec, however, is one province that overwhelmingly supports a republic. This sentiment became pronounced during the Queen's visit to Quebec City in 1964 when she was greeted by anti-monarchist demonstrations. The route of her procession was lined with Quebecers showing their backs to the monarch. On Samedi de la matraque (Truncheon Saturday), police violently dispersed anti-monarchist demonstrators and arrested 36. The Queen did not visit Quebec City again until 1987, and has rarely visited Quebec with the exception of Hull, which is across the river from Ottawa and within Canada's National Capital Region.[7] (|2).

In 1976, many Quebec nationalists and sovereigntists complained about her role in officially opening the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

During the 1995 Quebec referendum campaign on independence, the Queen was tricked into revealing her personal opinions on Canadian unity when a radio DJ, impersonating then Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, managed to reach her by telephone at Buckingham Palace. When told the current number of votes was showing a victory for the Yes side, she was reported to have said that it was then not "going very well." Today, many Quebec politicians, especially separatists in parties such as the Bloc Quebecois, often actively ignore the political role of monarchy, on the grounds that it is an institution of "English Canada" with no relevance to Quebec. However, for the same reason, they have not generally advocated republican reforms be taken, as they do not consider reforming Canadian institutions to be their responsibility. Quebec's former separatist premier Bernard Landry has said that if Quebec separates, the new nation would become a republic.

Since the mid-20th century, there has been a downplaying of the role of the Crown in Canada. During the centennial year of Canadian confederation, in 1967, some Canadian newspapers, including the Toronto Star advocated the creation of a republic as a mark of the country's independence. While the Toronto Star is no longer officially pro-republic, through the 1990s, The Globe and Mail advocated making the Governor General head of state in place of the monarch. God Save the Queen was replaced by O Canada as Canada's national anthem, and is now sung only at certain official functions. From the early 1970s, references to the monarch and the monarchy were slowly removed from the public eye (e.g., the Queen's portrait from public buildings and schools, and the Royal Mail became a crown corporation, Canada Post). In recent years, there have been some attempts at removing references of the Queen from the Oath of Allegiance. So far, only the oath taken by federal public servants has been altered; new citizens, members of the armed forces and police forces, and Members of Parliament continue to give their allegiance to the Queen.

Some monarchists argue that the process of downplaying the monarchy has led to widespread misunderstandings about the institution and how Canada is governed.

Support and opposition

Monarchist arguments

Canadian monarchists have historically celebrated the monarchy as a link to the United Kingdom, and thus a tie to Canada's British heritage. However, in recent generations, Canada has become a nation in which only a minority of immigrants can now claim British roots. As such, while monarchists will still celebrate the monarchy as a historically significant institution, contemporary arguments will also often centre around the perceived political advantage of a constitutional monarchy system of governance, as well as the distinct Canadian aspects of the Crown.

Monarchists argue that the monarchy is a fundamentally unbiased institution, and the apolitical nature of the Crown enables the Queen to be a non-partisan figure who can act as an effective intermediary between Canada's various levels of government and political parties -- an indispensable feature in a federal system. It is argued that the monarchy makes the provinces in their fields of jurisdiction as potent as the federal authority, thus allowing for a flexible federalism. Also, the Queen holds no favouritism towards any specific political party, group of voters, donors, etc., allowing them to be an unbiased referee during any potential governmental crisis.

Monarchists thus say that it is impossible to imagine that any elected head of state can remain as apolitical and unbiased as the Queen currently is. They argue that having both an elected president and prime minister could lead to the two coming to odds over who holds more authority; each could claim to be "elected by the people".

Monarchists also argue that a republican head of state would cost more, not less, than the current monarchy, due to additional costs involved in updating the Governor General's residences to full head of state presidential palace level, the costs of state visits, political advisers, increased ceremonial functions, etc.; functions that in many cases do not exist for a Governor General, given that he or she is not a full head of state, but which would be required for a Canadian president.²

Republican arguments

Republicans have traditionally argued against the monarchy on the basis that it is a historic relic, or a colonial holdover with little relevance in modern Canada. Members of both the political left and right have also argued that it is an institution of elitism that undermines democracy. Like monarchists, however, the majority of contemporary republican arguments tend to centre around political justifications of such a change.

In response to monarchist claims of neutrality, republicans will argue that it is entirely possible to have an apolitical, elected head of state. Perhaps it is even inevitable, given the current trend in government to make institutions more transparent, accountable and democratic. One example of this type of head of state in a Westminster-style parliamentary republic is the President of Ireland.

Republicans point out that in the current system, the prime minister is elected by his or her party, not by popular election. Canadians therefore, do not vote for a prime minister, they vote for the party that the prime minister leads. Also, there are other methods for electing a president, with popular election being only one option of many. India's republican system is a model many Canadian republicans see as a one that could be applied at least in part in Canada. Other republicans argue that an elected president could serve as an effective check on the power of the prime minister, and help encourage a greater separation of power within the nation's political culture. The current powers of the Prime Minister of Canada are often criticized as being excessive, so the creation of a revised, independent executive branch may be a solution to this. The fact that these different arguments are often contradictory highlights the fact that in many cases Canadian republicans are not yet fully united on what sort of republican form of government they believe the nation should adopt. The Westminster-style parliamentary republican model, which is advocated by other Commonwealth republican movements, has been embraced by Citizens for a Canadian Republic as the preferred model for Canada.

Prominent critics of the monarchy point out that the Act of Settlement 1701 explicitly excludes Roman Catholics from the throne and the Queen is Supreme Governor of the Church of England, requiring her to be an Anglican. This, they argue, discriminates against non-Anglicans, including Catholics who are the largest faith group in Canada. Former Toronto city councillor Tony O'Donohue launched a court action in 2002 arguing that the Act of Settlement violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in that it discriminates against Catholics. His case was dismissed by the court, which found that the Act of Settlement is part of the Canadian constitution and thus the Charter of Rights does not have supremacy over it. Also, the court pointed out that while Canada has the power to amend the line of succession to the Canadian Throne, the Statute of Westminster stipulates that the agreement of the governments of the fifteen other realms that share the Crown would first have to be sought. His appeal will be taking place in 2005. (see Tony O'Donohue v. Her Majesty The Queen).

In the matter of costs, Canadian republicans say that cost estimates between the two are at best hypothetical and based on many assumptions. Although it is unlikely that a republican head of state would be less costly, it is important to note that the present Governor General is now considered by the government to be the de facto head of state, and already engages in all roles and protocols expected of one.

On the symbolic side, monarchists argue that breaking with the monarchy would end more than 500 years of Canada having a crown, and would remove an important symbol of Canada. Also, some say having a monarchy, with a Queen of Canada and a Governor General, is one of the key identity differences between the United States and Canada. This is an important way to maintain the country's cultural independence from its southern neighbour, an ongoing theme in Canadian culture and politics, especially with the loss of many other Canadian heritage symbols. They point to the fact that a republican president in Canada might be seen just another president on the American continent where the most prominent president is the President of the United States. Some Canadians point to their government of constitutional monarchy as a point of pride, setting them apart from an American-styled republic. For example, former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said "It's a system that works pretty well" in an interview with Global News.

It is also noted that whereas Canada currently has a female head of state and a female governor general and has had a female prime minister, no woman has ever been president or vice-president in the United States.

Proponents of a Canadian republic counter by citing Westminster-style republics Ireland and India as examples where both female prime ministers and/or presidents have been accepted as the norm.

Queen Elizabeth II wearing the Sovereign's insignia of the  and the
Queen Elizabeth II wearing the Sovereign's insignia of the Order of Canada and the Order of Military Merit

Opponents of the monarchy claim that its abolition would promote democracy and remove Canada's last political connection to her colonial past, and thus improve her image as a sovereign nation.

At the same time, monarchists point out that Canada has had no status as a colony since 1867, and since 1982 has been an independent nation with no political ties to the United Kingdom. They also maintain that a nation's history and past are the building blocks of a national identity and argue that the Crown is the foundation and guarantor of Canada's democracy.

In his ruling on the matter, Justice Rouleau included the following comments:

[36] The impugned positions of the Act of Settlement are an integral part of the rules of succession that govern the selection of the monarch of Great Britain. By virtue of our constitutional structure whereby Canada is united under the Crown of Great Britain, the same rules of succession must apply for the selection of the King or Queen of Canada and the King or Queen of Great Britain. As stated by Prime Minister St. Laurent to the House of Commons during the debate on the bill altering the royal title:
"Her Majesty is now Queen of Canada but she is the Queen of Canada because she is Queen of the United Kingdom. . . It is not a separate office, . . .it is the sovereign who is recognized as the sovereign of the United Kingdom who is our Sovereign. . ." Hansard February 3, 1953, page 1566.

Further, he wrote:

[38] In the present case the court is being asked to apply the Charter not to rule on the validity of acts or decisions of the Crown, one of the branches of our government, but rather to disrupt the core of how the monarchy functions, namely the rules by which succession is determined. To do this would make the constitutional principle of Union under the British Crown together with other Commonwealth countries unworkable, would defeat a manifest intention expressed in the preamble of our Constitution, and would have the courts overstep their role in our democratic structure.[8] (

A few republicans claim that the wording of this ruling, including Prime Minister St. Laurent's quote, implies that the Crown in Right of Canada is a British institution. They enhance this argument by stating that the Royal Style and Titles Act, 1953, gives the Queen's title as "Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom, Canada and Her other Realms," thus seemingly giving the Queen's role as sovereign of the U.K. primacy over her role as sovereign of Canada.

Monarchists counter this with the prevailing ideology which states that the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927, the Statute of Westminster, and the patriation of each of the Realm constitutions, has created the situation where one Crown over all the Commonwealth Realms, including the United Kingdom, operates equally yet seperately in each country. Therefore the Crown in Canada is a unique Canadian branch of the Crown, fully equal yet distinct from the Crown in the United Kingdom. They also state that the full text of Justice Rouleau's ruling, as opposed to clipped quotes, supports the 'one Crown equally shared' view.

O'Donohue's case was dismissed by the court, which found that the Act of Settlement is part of the Canadian constitution and thus the Charter of Rights does not have supremacy over it. Also, the court pointed out that while Canada has the power to amend the line of succession to the Canadian Throne, the Statute of Westminster stipulates that the agreement of the governments of the fifteen other realms that share the Crown would first have to be sought. O'Donohue's appeal will be taking place in 2005.

See also: O'Donohue v. Her Majesty the Queen, 2003

Monarchists claim that since unanimity by all Canadian provinces is required to replace the monarchy, a republic will never be attained. To counter this argument, republicans in March 2004 proposed measures to avoid constitutional deadlock by advocating a parliamentary reform of the office of the Governor General, an office generally expected to be transformed into a presidency should the monarchy end. The group claims their proposal will address divisive aspects such as the duties and selection process of the new head of state without constitutional amendment, leaving the remaining issue of who should occupy the position to be decided in a referendum. However, monarchists point out that this proposal does not address the provinces, especially concerning the importance of the Crown in their relationship with the federal government, and the positions and powers of the Lieutenant Governors; both issues which would weigh heavily in any constitutional debate on the Crown, regardless of the selection process of the Governor General.

There is also, in large part because of previous long disputes over constitutional issues and reforms, a reluctance to enter into the extensive constitutional renegotiation that would be required to establish a new political system in Canada. Unlike Australia, where constitutional reform is confined largely to the future of the monarchy, in Canada, there are comparatively more pressing constitutional issues. Consequently, the 2004 election platforms of the main political parties focused far more upon the reform or abolition of the Senate, appointment of Supreme Court judges, and the powers of provincial governments, than on the future of the monarchy.

Some republicans have proposed that there be a national debate on the monarchy before the next sovereign is proclaimed. One constitutional scholar, Ted McWhinney, has argued that Canada can become a republic upon the demise of the current Queen by not proclaiming a successor. However, McWhinney's proposal remains unstudied, and thus publicly unsupported, by either the Canadian government or other constitutional experts. Monarchists have also pointed out that his proposal, like that put forward by republicans, assumes no input from the provinces regarding this attempt to change the status of the Crown, and ignores certain prescriptive clauses of the Constitution Act, such as Sections 9 and 17.

The republican objectives of fellow Commonwealth Realms Australia, Jamaica and Barbados could possibly factor into the Canadian debate. The Prime Minister of Barbados is setting a goal for the end of 2005 ( for his country becoming a republic, and the Prime Minister of Jamaica has proposed same for his nation by 2007 ( However, both need only a majority vote in Parliament to implement, while Canada requires a much more difficult process to attain provincial consensus.

While the issue may or may not achieve a level of prominence when the end of the current Queen's reign draws near, Canadians, in general, currently rate the issue far below others in national importance.

Recent polls

Support for the monarchy in Canada dropped to record lows in the late 1990s. In the first half of the new century, support for the monarchy has risen to include the majority of Canadians. However, the fact that many Canadians continue to not completely understand exactly what a "Head of State" is, or the exact nature of the Queen's current role in Canada can cause some problems in drawing concrete conclusions from poll results.

In 2002, the year of the Queen's golden jubilee, polls were taken by Canada's three biggest polling firms on Canadian views of the monarchy.

  • The 2002 [Ekos poll (] found that support for abolition of the monarchy is declining, yet also highlighted many contradictions in public opinion. 48% agreed and 35% disagree with the statement, "Instead of a British monarch, we should have a Canadian citizen as our head of state." Yet at the same time 43% disagreed and 41% agreed to the same question, worded slightly differently: "it's time to abolish the monarchy in Canada." Again, monarchists suggest the confusion may arise from the skewed question which refers to the "British monarch" as Canada's head of state. (As the distinct Queen of Canada, sovereign of the Canadian Crown, many argue the monarchy is, in part, Canadian.) Only 5% were even aware that the Queen was in fact Canada's head of state, with 69% thinking it was the Prime Minister and 9% believing it was the Governor General. 55% agree that the monarchy keeps Canada distinct from the United States, while 33% disagree. This survey has often been cited as evidence of the lack of knowledge that many Canadians have of their government's institutions and functions. (Poll results (—PDF document)
  • The 2002 Ipsos-Reid poll found that 79% of Canadians support "the constitutional monarchy as Canada's form of government where we elect governments whose leader becomes Prime Minister." However, republicans suggest the result may have been skewed by the inclusion of "where we elect governments whose leader becomes Prime Minister." Also, 62% believe the monarchy helps to define Canada's identity. At the same time, 48% of Canadians say that "the constitutional monarchy is outmoded and would prefer a republican system of government with an elected head of state" and two-thirds (65%) believe the royals are merely celebrities and should not have any formal role in Canada. The same poll also found that 58% believe that "the issue of the monarchy and the form of Canada’s government isn’t important to them and if the system is working OK why go through all the fuss to change it." (Poll results (—PDF document)
  • The 2002 Leger Marketing poll found 50% said "yes" to the statement, "Elizabeth II is currently the Queen of Canada. Do you (yes or no) want Canada to maintain the monarchy?" 43% said "no". Also, a majority (56%) said "yes" to: "In your opinion, should we replace the head of Queen Elizabeth II on the Canadian dollar by those of people who have influenced Canadian history?" 39% said "no". (Poll results (—PDF document)
  • A March 2005 poll prepared by Pollara Inc. for Rogers Media Inc. and Maclean's indicated that 46% supported, while 37% opposed the statement: "Do you support or oppose Canada replacing the British Monarch as Canadian Head of State?" (Source: Maclean's magazine, March 21, 2005, p.15). This survey was deemed by monarchists as skewed for two reasons: It mentioned the "British Monarch" rather than the "Queen of Canada", and it was taken at after the announcement of Prince Charles's marriage to Camilla Parker Bowles — an announcement that was seen as unpopular even by some monarchists.
  • A March 2005 Decima Research Poll found some interesting support levels for members of the Royal Family. 71% of Canadians had a favourable impression of the Royal Family. Only 20% had an unfavourable impression of the Royal Family. The poll found that 28% of Canadians saw the Queen as their favourite member of the Royal Family, Prince William was second with 26%, Prince Harry was third with 9%, Prince Charles was fourth with 6% and Prince Philip last with 2% support.
  • An opinion poll conducted by Environics Research Group Ltd. for the CBC taken on the eve of Prince Charles' wedding to the Duchess of Cornwall found that 65% of Canadians support Charles as King. Only 27% of Canadians did not support him as King. (Poll results (


  1. In 1997, British Prime Minister Tony Blair intended to offer a Life Peerage to Canadian businessman Conrad Black. Citing the 1919 Nickle Resolution, the Canadian government advised the Queen that they have objected to such honours for many years. If Blair had not backed down, the Queen would have been in the situation of having to grant an honour on the advice of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and to object to the same as Queen of Canada on the advice of then Prime Minister of Canada Jean Chrétien. The problem was resolved when Black renounced his Canadian citizenship. Canada raised no further objections and he was granted his peerage, becoming Lord Black of Crossharbour.
  2. Refer to the Constantian Society's detailed comparison of the costs of monarchies versus republics. The Constantian Society (

See also

External links

Template:Commonwealth Realmses:Monarquía en Canadá pl:Monarcha Kanady fr:Monarchie canadienne


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