Canada admired its queen, but not so much the monarchy

Canada admired its queen, but not so much the monarchy

Parliament Hill Ottawa. — © Digital Magazine

Marion TIBO

Canadians have been tied to Queen Elizabeth II to the very end, but their relationship with the monarchy is becoming increasingly strained, and experts believe her death on Thursday will once again spark controversy about her future.

“Canada is a monarchical exception in the middle of a fairly republican continent,” said Marc Chevrier, professor of politics at the University of Quebec in Montreal.

In a few weeks, after a period of mourning, “the debate will resume, Pandora’s box will open,” he added.

The British monarch is the head of state in Canada, but his role is largely ceremonial, even more so than in the UK. Here the members of the royal family are represented by the governor-general, who is elected by the prime minister.

In this file photo taken in 2010, Queen Elizabeth II attends Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa, Ontario. Copyright AFP Juan BARRETO.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hailed Elizabeth’s reign, noting that she had been “queen for almost half of Canada’s existence” and declared 10 days of mourning.

All flags have been flown at half mast across the country, with a national commemoration ceremony scheduled in the capital city of Ottawa on the same day as her funeral in London.

But when it comes to pomposity, the country is becoming increasingly ambivalent about the monarchy.

“Even in English-speaking Canada, support for the monarchy has declined over the years,” said Philip Lagasse, 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 slim majority of Canadians – up to 71 percent in the French-speaking province of Quebec – would even like to abandon the monarchy, whose role today is largely ceremonial.

Sixty-seven percent said they were opposed to Charles succeeding his mother as king of the country. His visit to the country last May went almost unnoticed.

– Monarchy strengthened –

Follow the example of Barbados, which in 2021 decided to secede from the British crown and become

Canadians have been tied to Queen Elizabeth II to the very end, but their relationship with the monarchy is becoming increasingly strained, and experts believe her death on Thursday will once again spark controversy about her future.

“Canada is a monarchical exception in the middle of a fairly republican continent,” said Marc Chevrier, professor of politics at the University of Quebec in Montreal.

In a few weeks, after a period of mourning, “the debate will resume, Pandora’s box will open,” he added.

The British monarch is the head of state in Canada, but his role is largely ceremonial, even more so than in the UK. Here the members of the royal family are represented by the governor-general, who is elected by the prime minister.

If it were to become a republic, Canada would have to make major reforms to its institutions and constitutional laws.

The founding principle at the birth of Canada in 1867: “Monarchy is the cornerstone of all constitutional law,” explains Chevrier. For example, he noted that “the office of prime minister does not even appear in Canada’s constitution, where only the monarch is mentioned.”

Amending the constitution and abolishing the monarchy will require a herculean effort and possibly years of political negotiation, as it requires the unanimous approval of Parliament as well as the governments of all 10 Canadian provinces.

Such debates are likely to be heated in an increasingly politically divided Canada.

And then all the royal symbols can be aimed at further erasing ties with the British monarchy, Lagasse believes.

For example, the face of Queen Elizabeth appears on Canadian coins and $20 bills.

Some protocols also need to be changed, in particular the citizenship oath. New Canadian citizens must swear “allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors”.

The oath was unsuccessfully challenged in court in 2014 by three immigrants who claimed it violated their religious and religious beliefs.

For an increasingly diverse and multiethnic Canadian population that is in the process of paying off its colonial history, the connection to the monarchy seems less and less relevant.

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