Welcome delegates and guests to Winnipeg
2016, the Liberal Liberal Party of Canada Biennial
►What is a republic?
A republic is a form of government without a monarch as head of
state and which political power is explicitly vested in the people
who elect representatives.
Obviously, the latter part of this definition has
already been attained by Canada, although in an indirect way.
Technically, as a monarchy constrained by a constitution, Canadian
executive power resides with and is exercised in the name of the
Queen by the Governor General, Prime Minister, Cabinet and the
legislature. Thus, the monarch has a symbolic presence, with no
power to exert without direction by the elected government.
Constitutional experts therefore, often refer to the function of a
constitutional monarchy as a "crowned republic" or "veiled
So in the Canadian context, a parliamentary
republic wouldn't be that different in function from what we have
already, except our official head of state would be the
person we now refer to as the governor general.
In contrast, the USA has a presidential
republican system, where one person, the president, is both
the head of state and head of government. No republican
movement in the Commonwealth thinks this is a good model to
Traditionally, the choice when peacefully evolving away from
monarchies has been the parliamentary republic model, where either the
link between the monarch and the governor general is removed or a
new redefined office is created to replace it.
Contrary to popular belief, this position need
not be political or popularly elected.
►What is a republican?
A republican is someone who wants a government without
monarchy. Yes, our neighbour to the south has a Republican
Party, but while the name was inspired by their
revolutionary republican ideals two hundred years ago, it
has since evolved to be just the name of a party, with no
reference to anything to do with monarchy.
In countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica or
Barbados, where discussion of ending the monarchy is
prevalent, republicans come from all political backgrounds
and are not identified as left or right wing.
Also, when not referring to the name of a
political party, the word 'republican' is not capitalized.
►Why go to the trouble
of changing things?
On the world stage, we just plain deserve better. These
aren't colonial times, it's the Twenty-First Century. Canada
has matured as a nation and is well beyond sharing its head
of state with any country, much less one that used to
colonize us. How will the world ever take us seriously as a
nation if we send the impression that we're not quite grown
We've evolved as a people, as well. But if we're
to allow our unique identity and sense of national self to
flourish, our head of state must not just be one of us, they
must be chosen by us.
And above all, every Canadian child should be able to grow up knowing that
position is not off limits because he or she was born into the wrong
family. Canadians are increasingly realizing that a country like
ours, that 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.
►Wouldn't we have to give up our royal patronages and remove
symbols of the crown from our institutions?
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 royal institutions - as do other
republics with British colonial history - including India,
Sri Lanka, South Africa, even Hong Kong in China.
Likewise, royal symbols such as crowns would
not have to go either. The national flags of the republics
Serbia and Croatia, as well as the coats of arms of Russia,
Hungary and the Czech Republic all include crowns from their
previous monarchies in the designs. Poland hasn't
had a monarchy in nearly a hundred years, yet has historical
kings on all its bank notes.
►I like being
part of the Commonwealth. Wouldn't we have to give up our
That requirement was changed in 1949.
Today, most member states of the Commonwealth are republics.
►The monarchy provides protection
of our democracy in case of abuse by governments.
The democratic values we have today are, in fact, 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, not the Queen - although many would agree the position
is 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 identical. And making
Canada more Canadian would enhance our distinctive culture, not harm
►Instead of the
monarchy, shouldn't our government spend time on the economy or
Of course those issues are important, but 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.
leading up to the end of the Queen's reign, we have a
perfect opportunity to stimulate a healthy debate over how
to proceed with our next step on the path to Canadian
monarchy provide unity and stability?
On the contrary, 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.
Under the monarchy, Britain itself 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 had an independence vote in 2014 and may have
►"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
This is a view supported by former
Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, who believed the governor
general to be the
direct representative of "the Crown", and not of the monarch. In addition,
the late Jack Layton stated that he too understood
“the Crown” to be “the concept of our collective statehood” and not
simply an expression of the monarchy.
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 even 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.
Although the Queen, or her
successors, may have a symbolic or cultural connection with
indigenous people, the legal relationship is not with the family of
those in whose name their treaties were signed, it's with the
contemporary Canadian Crown, a distinct legal entity that inherited
the application of royal prerogative from King George VI in the
Letters Patent 1947.
Shawn Atleo, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations,
confirmed this in a newspaper article in 2013, when he referred to
the "relationship between First Nations and the Crown (now Canada)."
Therefore, all legal matters relating to the Royal Proclamation of
1763, or other pre-Confederation treaties, are between indigenous
people and the Government of Canada, and will not change for the
worse if we choose to have a non-monarchical head of state.
The Queen herself has confirmed that legal relationship, for example
in 1973, when she reassured Chiefs in Alberta that the Government of
Canada now recognized "compliance with the spirit of your Treaties."
Consequently, all grievance letters to the Queen regarding treaty
rights are politely accepted and then forwarded back to Canada. Even
letters personally accepted by members of the royal family during
visits to Canada, are promptly handed over to a representative of
the Canadian government, as was documented by the media in 1994 and
And very importantly, since 1982, all indigenous rights, including
those as expressed in the Royal Proclamation, are further protected
in Section 35 of the Constitution Act, and Section 25 of the Charter
of Rights and Freedoms.
Finally, in 2016 Canada has committed to endorsing the principles of
the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,
which includes "nation-to-nation relationship based on recognition
of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership."
Sadly, despite all of these protections, one doesn't have to be a
constitutional expert to realize that legal interpretation of
historic treaties has differed from that of the indigenous
community, in virtually all cases, to their detriment. This needs to
be addressed, not just for the welfare of indigenous people, but for
Canada as a whole.
►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 known as the Queen of the UK and is
never referred to as the Queen of Canada - except on Canadian soil.
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 while promoting Canadian interests; the Queen
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
When Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge left Canada in
July, 2011, they headed to Hollywood to promote the British film industry,
►Discussing cutting 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: Section 41(a) of the constitution actually refers to amendments
to "the office of the Queen," not the institution of the monarchy.
So it may be possible to keep the integrity of "the office of the
Queen" unchanged, with an elected Canadian as the office holder.
It's not certain that provincial approval would be needed to
do this anyway. With only parliamentary approval, the
Succession To The Throne Act, 2013 (Bill C-53) appears to
have already changed who can occupy the Office of the Queen
- without the province's approval. Cementing its legitimacy,
and possibly creating an ironclad precedent, the act was
upheld in Ontario and Quebec courts.
Even if the provinces do have to agree in unison, the degree
of difficulty in obtaining that approval is overrated. What
if the selection process for a future Canadian head of state
was delegated to the provinces? If the vast majority of
Canadians desired an end to the monarchy, the provinces
could find this a very attractive option.
Constitutional scholar Edward McWhinney also theorizes that a future government of Canada could, after the Queen
ends her reign, cut 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
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 Prime Minister Pierre 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.
has been a monarchy for 150 years. Is it even possible to
change to a republic?
No need to reinvent the wheel. What we
propose; replacing the absentee British monarch with a
domestic head of state, has been done many times, both
within and outside the Commonwealth, by countries with a
much longer history as a monarchy than Canada.
Successful examples of parliamentary republics that used to
have a British monarch as head of state include Ireland,
India, Malta, and Trinidad and Tobago. Outside the British
sphere, many European countries are also parliamentary
republics that evolved out of their monarchies. Austria,
Germany, Finland and Italy are among them. Iceland replaced
their Danish monarchy with their own parliamentary
republican system as well.
►I don't see people
demonstrating in the streets 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
In 2010, only 32% of Canadians opposed opening the constitution to
address the monarchy.
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.
you for reading this far. (Yes, it's long!) If you have a
question about republicanism that isn't addressed here,
Bryce, James (1921). Modern democracies.
Bagehot, Walter (1919). The Works and Life of Walter
Bagehot, vol. 9. Longmans, Green & Co.
McWhinney, Edward (2005). The Governor
General and the Prime Ministers. Ronsdale Press.
New York Times Feb. 14, 1981. Canada's Tangle
- and Ours, Canadian Monarchist News, 2001
October 2005 - Centre for Research and
Information on Canada (CRIC)
May 26, 2010 - Angus Reid Public Opinion
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