Frequently Asked Questions

(Updated May 26, 2012)

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If Canada ends its constitutional connection to the British monarchy, doesn't that mean we'd become a republic?

Yes, but because the monarch has purely ceremonial duties, even leading monarchists refer to the function of a constitutional monarchy as a "crowned republic"[1] or "veiled republic."[2] So cutting the constitutional link will simply be making official what is already functional reality. 

Wouldn't we end up being a republic like the United States?

There's no evidence that republic-minded Canadians, or even Australians, New Zealanders or Jamaicans, desire that. Traditionally, the choice when peacefully evolving away from monarchies has been the parliamentary republic model, where only the link between the monarch and the governor general is removed, creating a largely ceremonial parliamentary president with emergency constitutional powers. Contrary to popular belief, the position need not be political or popularly elected. The prime minister remains the head of government.  

Is it true that if we end the monarchy we'd have to rename the Mounties and lose all our other royal patronages?

Absolutely not. The Criteria for the title "Royal" includes no reference to removing it if a country transitions from monarchy to republic. Ireland has been a republic for over sixty years and has many institutions with royal patronages. 

I like Canada being a member of the Commonwealth. Becoming a republic means we'd have to give that up, right?

Incorrect. That requirement was changed in 1949. Today, most member states of the Commonwealth are republics. 

The Monarchy provides protection to our democratic institutions. If it ain't broke, why fix it?

The democratic values we have today are republican in principle and historically, were won at the expense of monarchs. In Canada, the true constitutional referee is the governor general, our de-facto head of state, although most would agree the position is vastly under-performing in that regard. Canada's democratic evolution away from our colonial link to the monarchy can only improve that protection, not deter it. 

Wouldn't ending the monarchy also cut ties to our history, traditions and culture?

The monarchy is only one part of our history and it can still be celebrated without a connection to our constitution. Parliamentary traditions can remain virtually identical. And making Canada more Canadian would enhance our distinctive culture, not harm it. 

In these times of economic hardship, aren't there better things to discuss than the monarchy?

Many of the defining moments of Canadian history have been born from debates that took place during difficult times. The Statute of Westminster (1931), The Citizenship Act (1947), the National Flag of Canada Act (1964), The Canada Act and Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982) are among those historic changes.  

Doesn't the monarchy provide unity and stability?

Under the monarchy, Britain has had a multitude of secessionist revolts, plots, revolutions and three civil wars. Queen Victoria barely escaped being overthrown in 1857. Northern Ireland's problems are well-known and not fully dealt with yet. Scotland has an independence vote in 2014 and Wales now has a growing secessionist movement. In Canada, we witnessed the near breakup of our country as a monarchy. The colonialism it represents is still a major irritant to the gradual healing of those wounds.  

"The Crown" is expressed everywhere in Canadian government and law. How do we replace that?

You don't. "The Crown" is not the physical crown, nor is "Queen Elizabeth II in Right of Canada" the Queen "the person." Both have evolved to become synonymous with "The Canadian State."

This is a view supported by constitutional experts as well as at least one former governor general. Madame Adrienne Clarkson said as much in a 2006 CBC Newsworld interview with Don Newman, that the position of Governor General of Canada was now the direct representative of "the Crown", and not of the monarch, therefore making the viceroy Canada's actual head of state.

Therefore, if we choose not to have a monarch at the pinnacle of the Canadian State, nothing happens to it. The state still goes on. It's quite possible it could continue to be referred to as "The Crown" after we become a republic. 

What about our First Nations' treaties that were negotiated before Confederation? Some believe they are only guaranteed by the monarch.

Sections 25 and 35 of the Constitution Act 1982 already guarantee the “existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada.” Therefore, treaty rights are guaranteed by Canada, not the monarch. 

The Queen is famous the world over. How could a Canadian president represent Canada abroad and get the kind of attention she does?

The Queen is universally known as the Queen of England or Queen of the UK and is never referred to as the Queen of Canada, except on Canadian soil, and even then, only rarely. What kind of international representative is that? The rest of the world will continue to view Canada as a colonial outpost of Britain as long as our head of state is a British monarch. 

The late Hon. Mitchell Sharp remarked in his memoirs that he often crossed paths with the Queen in his travels as Minister of State: He promoting Canadian interests; she promoting Britain’s in direct competition. He also encountered foreign dignitaries who believed "when they saw our governor general in their midst, that Canada had not yet achieved independence from Britain."[3]

When Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge left Canada in July, 2011, they headed to Hollywood to promote the British film industry, not Canada's. 

Discussing cutting constitutional ties to the monarchy is futile anyway. Doesn't it require all provinces plus both federal assemblies to approve?

That's the conventional thinking. However, there are many areas of contention that a parliamentary committee could help clarify. For one:  it's not entirely clear whether the "the Office of the Queen," in Section 41 (a) of the amending formula of our constitution, applies to a king. Section 44 also says, subject to the clause, "Parliament may exclusively make laws amending the Constitution of Canada in relation to executive government." Does this mean Parliament could exclusively define the Canadian head of state once the Office of the Queen has been vacated by her abdication or death? Also, nowhere in the constitution does it fully define the role of the governor general, our "president in waiting." 

Constitutional scholar Edward McWhinney theorizes that a future government of Canada could, after the Queen ends her reign, cut constitutional ties to the monarchy "quietly and without fanfare by simply failing legally to proclaim any successor to the Queen in relation to Canada," leaving the position of sovereign vacant.[4] 

The degree of difficulty in obtaining provincial approval is overrated as well. What if the selection process for a future Canadian head of state was delegated to the provinces? If the vast majority of Canadians desired ending the monarchy, the provinces could find this a very attractive option. 

There are even questions about the legitimacy of the present 1982 amending formula. In a blatant example of foreign interference in Canada's internal affairs, British High Commissioner Sir John Ford lobbied the premiers extensively to insist that they block approval of Trudeau's repatriation unless they insisted on a tougher amending formula relating to the monarchy. His term in Canada was cut short due to this meddling.[5]

I don't see people clamoring in the street for this change. Do Canadians even want to break with the monarchy?

With rare exception, Canadians have never been the type to take to the streets for any of the pivotal moments in Canada's evolution. However, when asked, they do have strong views on the monarchy. 

In a 2005 national public opinion poll, only 23% of Canadians believed the monarchy was important enough for Canada to keep.[6] In 2010, only 32% of Canadians opposed opening the constitution to address the monarchy.[7]  Between 2001 and 2011, the majority preferred ending the monarchy either now or at the end of the Queen's reign, or couldn't care less, in twelve out of fourteen national public opinion polls.  

The one aberration was mid to late, 2011, when most would agree that opinion was skewed by the tabloid celebrity status of the royal newlyweds. Asked whether it's time for a resident Canadian to be our head of state over the next royal in line: Prince Charles, and the result is quite different.   

The monarchy seems harmless. Why bother?

Because no nation should neglect its evolution because there’s some degree of effort. Admittedly, for as long as there's been monarchy, there have been those who oppose it for its inegalitarian and undemocratic nature. But now, Canadians are increasingly realizing that a country that has rejected titles and aristocracy many decades ago, and which triumphs merit over bloodline, deserves to have the same values mirrored in the highest office of the land.  

Our head of state should be a resident citizen and every Canadian child should be able to grow up knowing that the position is not off limits because he or she was born into the wrong family. Also, Canada has matured as a nation and is well beyond sharing its head of state with any country, much less the one that used to call us a colony. We will never fully achieve a unique identity, a sense of national self, until our head of state is not just one of us, but chosen by us. 


[1] Bryce, James (1921). Modern democracies. Kessinger Publishing.

[2] Bagehot, Walter (1919).  The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 9. Longmans, Green & Co. 

[3] Sharp, Mitchell (1994). Which reminds me ... External affairs and the monarchy. University of Toronto Press 

[4] McWhinney, Edward (2005). The Governor General and the Prime Ministers. Ronsdale Press. 

[5] New York Times Feb. 14, 1981. Canada's Tangle - and Ours, Canadian Monarchist News, 2001 

[6] October 2005 - Centre for Research and Information on Canada (CRIC) 

[7] May 26, 2010 - Angus Reid Public Opinion

 

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