Canada loved its queen but no longer really the monarchy

“Canada is a monarchist exception in the middle of a rather republican continent,” recalls Marc Chevrier, professor of political science at the University of Quebec in Montreal.

In a few weeks, after the period of mourning, “the debates will resurface around the relevance of remaining a monarchy, Pandora’s box is open”, adds the latter.

To honor the one who was his “queen for almost half of Canada’s existence”, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recalled, the country entered a ten-day period of mourning on Thursday.

All flags have been lowered across the country and a national ceremony of remembrance is planned in the capital Ottawa on the day of the funeral in London.

But behind the official pomp, the country has an increasingly ambivalent relationship with the monarchy. “Even in English-speaking Canada, respect for the monarchy diminishes over the years,” explains Philippe Lagassé, a professor at Carleton University in Ottawa and an expert on the role of the monarchy in Canada.

According to a poll last April, a small majority of citizens – a percentage that reached 71% in Quebec – would even like to put an end to royalty, whose role today is largely ceremonial.

And they were 67% of Canadians to say they were opposed to Charles becoming king of Canada. His visit to the country last May went almost unnoticed.

As head of state, the monarch has less authority in Canada than he does in Britain. It is the governor general, representative of the sovereign in the country, who holds the powers.

But he is appointed by the Prime Minister – Mary Simon, an Inuk from northern Quebec currently holds the position. She is Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General.

Erasing links with the monarchy

However, to follow the example of Barbados, which in 2021 chose to secede from the British Crown to become a republic, Canada should consider a major reform of institutions and constitutional law.

Founding argument at the birth of Canada, in 1867, “the monarchy is the keystone of all constitutional law” emphasizes Marc Chevrier. For example, he continues, “the office of Prime Minister does not even exist in the Canadian Constitution, which only mentions the monarch”.

Amending the Constitution and abolishing the monarchy represents a titanic effort and potentially years of political negotiations since it requires the unanimous approval of Parliament and the governments of the ten Canadian provinces.

And the debate could be heated in an increasingly politically divided Canada.

All the symbolism attached to royalty will be discussed and probably reviewed as and when to continue to erase the links with the British monarchy, believes Philippe Lagassé.

Like the presence of the monarch’s effigy on the currency. Today, Queen Elizabeth II is featured on 20 dollar coins and notes.

Certain ceremonials could also evolve: in particular the oath of citizenship. Any new Canadian citizen had until now, during a ceremony, to lend “sincere allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, to her heirs and successors”.

A provision of the citizenship law already challenged in court by permanent residents a few years ago.

In an increasingly diverse and multicultural Canadian population, in full reflection on the role of colonization, the link with the monarchy seems less and less relevant.

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