to popular belief, republicanism is not new to Canada. This
country has historically led the former British colonies in
legislating independence and democratic reform, incrementally
keeping us on the path to a republic since well before
here are some of the more important historical events that have been significant in
1390-1450 – The Iroquois Confederacy of the Five Nations
(later to include a sixth nation), was founded by Dekanawida,
who was born near the Bay of Quinte in southeastern Ontario.
Although archeological evidence indicates that many
pre-Columbian North American peoples, particularly the
Mississippian nations, had democratic
forms of government, it was the Iroquois of the Great Lakes area
who are best known for perfecting it. Not only was its
government directly responsible to the people (and not to a
confederacy's elaborate and formal Haudenosaunee constitution
shows close parallels to the executive, legislative and
judiciary branches of government as described in the
Constitution of the United States of America three centuries
Today, in Canada,
regional First Nations chiefs, as well as the National
Chief to the Assembly of
First Nations, are elected by
British order the deportation of about 11,000 Acadians, the
French inhabitants of what is now New Brunswick and Nova
Scotia’s Bay of Fundy area and Prince Edward Island, for refusing to make an
unconditional oath of allegiance to the British crown. Britain, which had been ceded Acadia in the Treaty of
Utrecht in 1713, saw the mostly peaceful farmers and fishermen
as a threat to its security. In an act
that today is referred to as "ethnic cleansing",
families are uprooted and deported to the other British colonies,
France and Britain, with many ultimately migrating to Louisiana and the French West
Indies. Although their rich farmland was later granted to
Loyalist refugees from the American Revolution, many Acadians
found their way back to the Maritimes to re-establish their
people and culture throughout Eastern Canada.
contentiousness surrounding the Oath of Allegiance survives
today and is one issue that fuels the modern Canadian republican
thousand Loyalists flee the American Revolution in the lower
Thirteen Colonies and resettle in British controlled Nova Scotia
(now Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island) and
Canada (now Ontario and Quebec). As British sympathizers, many
had their property and possessions expropriated by the new
American government and faced persecution from their former neighbours. The hardship experienced by
these early Canadian settlers as a result of their ordeal would
later help mold Canada’s national psyche and assist in
perpetuating the monarchy as an institution for over two
landing in Nova Scotia Loyalists
landing in Nova Scotia
1837- 38 –
Republican uprisings known as the
1837 Rebellions occur in Upper and Lower Canada. Louis-Joseph
Papineau and his Patriotes lead the rebellion against the Château Clique in Lower
Canada while William Lyon Mackenzie and his Reform Movement
battle the Family Compact in Upper Canada. Both uprisings are crushed by
British troops assisted by Canadian militias. MacKenzie even
continues his fight with private American support for some time,
eventually declaring a short-lived Republic of Canada on Navy
Island in the middle of the Niagara River separating Canada and
USA. Papineau's Robert Nelson and Cyrille-Hector-Octave Côté
also proclaim a bilingual republic in Lower Canada. Papineau and
MacKenzie flee to the U.S. but are later pardoned and
return to Canada.
Battle of St. Eustache, 1837, between British troops and
French-Canadian Patriotes, was the largest clash during the
Lower Canada Rebellion of 1837.v
1838 – The
revolt of 1837 prompts the Durham Report by John George Lambton,
Earl of Durham. In his Report on the Affairs of British North
America, in which he relies strongly on the advice of reformer
Robert Baldwin, he argues that if the colonies were given as
much freedom to govern themselves as the people of Britain, they
would become more loyal.
As a counter to the violence in Upper and Lower Canada, Joseph Howe, a Nova Scotia newspaper publisher,
pioneer in establishing press freedom and legislative
reform, presents his twelve resolutions
for responsible government, the practice
of having the
British-appointed colonial governor take advice from those who have the confidence
of (or can win a majority in) the Assembly.
Prior to this, the opposite was the norm in all the British
colonies. These early
principles of government form the cornerstone of Canada's current
1848 – In
January, 1848, Joseph Howe's reforms are passed in the Nova
Scotia Legislature and it becomes the first British colony
in the empire to achieve responsible government. The United
Province of Canada
follows in March, New Brunswick in May.
1849 – Responsible government is put to the test in the Province of
Canada with the introduction of the Rebellion Losses Bill, an
act to compensate those who lost property during the
rebellions in 1837. A majority of the elected assembly favour
the bill but the governor, Lord Elgin, does not. Rather than
disallowing it, as is possible under the powers granted to him,
he is advised by his executive, which have the confidence of the
Assembly, to sign the bill.
1867 – New
Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec accept the terms of
the British North America Act to unify and enter into confederation as
the partially self-governing Dominion of Canada.
Australia and New Zealand would follow Canada's
lead and ratify similar legislations later.
River Rebellion, led by Métis republican Louis Riel, results in
the temporary formation of the Republic of Canada. Bilingual
stamps (shown at right) labeled "République Canadienne -
Canadian Republic" are even issued but never go into circulation. The
Provisional Government later agrees to enter into confederation
as a province under the Manitoba Act.
1870 - 1871 –
The British garrison is withdrawn from Canada. Although a small
number of soldiers and personnel remain until 1901, the job of
national defense is now up to Canada.
Sir Alexander Galt is appointed as Canada's High Commissioner in
London, the first diplomatic mission abroad. The title
"High Commissioner" will later be used refer to all
diplomatic missions between Commonwealth countries. An
indication that there still exists a premise of a functional
British Empire, Commonwealth nations still use the term over the
more accepted international title of ambassador.
1887 – The first
Colonial Conference takes place, which would later evolve to
become the British Commonwealth.
1901 – Under Wilfrid Laurier’s Defense Minister Frederick William,
British troops are withdrawn from Canada. At the same time, the practice of
appointing a British general to command the Canadian militia is
ended and Canada assumes control from Great Britain of the last
naval bases of Halifax and Esquimalt.
1905 - The
Militia Act and Letters Patent Constituting the Office of the
Governor General designates the title of Commander-in-Chief to
the Governor General, over the previous policy of filling the
post with a British aristocrat.
1909 – Canada
creates its own Department of External Affairs under Prime
Minister Wilfrid Laurier.
1914-18 – World
War I - Although no debate took place, Canada's parliament is the
only one in the British Empire to approve entry into the war.
All others entered the war automatically without parliamentary
consent. Of a country of only 8 million people, Canada sends
425,000 military personal to Europe - fuelling nationalism at
home and the front.
Britain is promoted by Prime Minister Robert Borden when he insists that
Canadian troops be kept in their own regiments and not be put
under British command.
the Somme in 1916adians
at the Somme
1917 – At the
Imperial War Conference of 1917, Borden is the key author of
Resolution IX, affirming "the right of the Dominions to an
adequate voice in foreign policy and foreign relations."
According to McGill University's Desmond Morton, one of Canada's leading
historians, "The emergence of Canadian
sovereignty was the one great Canadian victory of the war."
1917 – Prime
Minister Borden appoints industrialist Lloyd Harris to head a
temporary Canadian diplomatic mission attached to the British
High Commission in Washington - solely to handle Canadian issues
and act on instruction from Canada . In 1918, Harris is
appointed chair of Canada’s wartime mission at the same
location. This position would pave the way for Canada’s first
official diplomatic mission outside of the British Empire nine years later.
1919 – At the end
of World War I, Canada wins its own representation at the
Versailles conference and joins the League of Nations, marking
its first attempt to be represented as an independent nation diplomatically separate from
at the League of Nations.
The Canadian House of Commons passes the Nickel Resolution barring Canadians from
receiving royal titles, including knighthoods or seats in the
British House of Lords. As a result, Sir. Robert Borden
(1911-1920) is the last Canadian Prime Minister to be knighted.
Although never officially ratified, since it did not advance to
the Senate for approval, it established a precedent that has
resulted in it being accepted as official Canadian policy.
1922 – Eager to
assert its new-found status as an independent member of the
international community, Canada refuses to support Britain's
over-aggressive stance on Turkey, the failure of which is
largely responsible for the fall of British Prime Minister Lloyd George's government.
Canada signs the Halibut Treaty (with the U.S), the first international treaty
negotiated by a Canadian representative without British
involvement. However, the treaty was still signed by the King as Emperor.
1926 – Governor
General Lord Byng refuses the request by Prime Minister McKenzie
King to dissolve parliament and call a new election, an act which was
considered a flagrant abuse of his reserve power. Byng was later
recalled to London as a result, with King, having won the
election, following through on his vow to take steps to prevent
any future governor general from refusing to dissolve
parliament. Since then, no governor general has challenged the authourity of parliament.
Conference (later to become the Commonwealth of Nations) issues
the Balfour Report, which formally defines the 'Dominion' as;
"autonomous communities within the British Empire",
which were "equal
in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of
their domestic or external affairs, though united by common
allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the
British Commonwealth of Nations".
1926 – Canada no
longer relies on Britain for diplomatic representation abroad.
The diplomatic mission in Washington is upgraded to legation
status with the appointment of Vincent Massey as the first
Canadian minister in 1927. At the time, this position was
considered one notch below that of ambassador. (The distinction
between ‘legation’ and ‘embassy’ would be eliminated in
1947). Following this appointment, the office in Paris was raised
to legation status in 1928 and a legation was opened Tokyo in
Canada attains "legislative" independence from
Britain with the enactment by the
British parliament of the Statute of Westminster. The act legally
recognizes the terms recommended in the 1926 Balfour Report. At Canada's request, the British
parliament retains the exclusive right to amend the British
North America Act, Canada's constitution. Canada immediately
implements the Statute of Westminster. Australia and New Zealand
pass the legislation in the 1940's.
1939 – Canada's
debates entry into World War II for one week before finally
approving a declaration of war on Germany. This contrasts with World War
I when parliament approved entry into the war without debate.
social democratic CCF (Cooperative Commonwealth Federation)
government greatly diminishes the role of the lieutenant
governor by closing Government House and auctioning off the
contents. A three-bedroom apartment is then provided as the
official residence. Refurbished in 1981, Government House is
today a museum.
1947 – The
Commonwealth of Nations is forced to revise the phrase requiring
members to have "a common allegiance to the
Crown" when India becomes its first republic. Today, over
half of the members of the Commonwealth are republics.
1947 – Canada’s
first diplomatic mission abroad outside of Britain, the Washington legation,
becomes its first embassy when both Canada and the U.S.A agree
to remove the traditional distinction between the two posts.
Canada’s first ambassador to the U.S. becomes Leighton
Inspired by a visit to the Dieppe military cemetery and his
over the status of those interred, Liberal Cabinet Minister Paul Martin Sr.
enacts the Canadian
Citizenship Act. No longer simply "British subjects
ordinarily resident in Canada," Canadians
are now ‘citizens' with Prime Minister Mackenzie King
the first citizenship certificate on January 3, 1947. With the enactment of this
legislation, Canada becomes the first Commonwealth country to create its own class of citizenship separate from that of Great Britain.
Australia and New Zealand follow the same year.
was not without flaws, however. Canada's first inhabitants,
Status Indians and Inuit, were omitted from the Act altogether,
and had to wait for an amendment in 1956 to be able to call
themselves citizens of Canada.
1947 – King
George VI issues the Letters Patent, which permanently delegates
the monarch's effective powers to the Governor General. Even the
presence of the Sovereign in the country does not supercede the
authority of the Governor General. It is this legislation more
than any other that has resulted in the widely-held theory that
Canada can be correctly described as a
1949 – The
Supreme Court of Canada is formed, replacing the Judicial
Committee of the Privy Council in London. Some Commonwealth
countries are still subservient to the highest court in the UK.
New Zealand only abolished appeals to the Privy Council in 2003.
Vincent Massey is appointed Canada's first Governor General born
in Canada, setting the trend for all future appointees to be Canadian
1956 – The
seeds of Canada's evolution toward a distinct national flag are
planted in the events of the Suez Crisis, of which then
Secretary of State for External Affairs Lester Pearson played a
Nobel Prize winning part. Despite negotiating a ceasefire,
Canada's objective role in providing peacekeeping troops is
questioned by Egypt's President Nasser, who suspects Canada's
British-looking flag connotes a bias toward Britain: one of
participants in the war. As Prime Minister during the Flag Debate,
Pearson cites this example as a huge motivation for replacing the
old Red Ensign.
First Nations people receive the right to vote in federal
elections. By comparison, Native Americans in the United States
were granted that right in the 1920s.
Samedi de la matraque (Truncheon Saturday). The Queen's visit to
Québec City incites anti-monarchist demonstrations and riots by
protesters who see the Queen as a symbol of British colonialism.
The police are condemned for using excessive force. To this day,
there have been few visits to that province by members of the
British royal family; and when they do occur, they are brief.
constitution committee examines the possibility of adopting a
presidential regime, modeled on the 1937
Constitution of Ireland. The Canadian State of Québec could
have at its head an elected president who would be
the head of State in fields pertaining to Québec’s internal
sovereignty, while the sovereign of the United Kingdom would
continue to be the head of the Canadian
Against vicious opposition by Conservative leader John
adopts the Maple Leaf as its new official national flag. The old
Red Ensign, a variation of the flag of the British merchant
marine, is retired. When the bill is passed in parliament, the
majority celebrate by singing O Canada, while Diefenbaker leads
his followers with "God Save the Queen." Upon his death in 1979,
Diefenbaker's wishes that the Maple Leaf flag not be draped on
his coffin are implemented.
visit to London, Prime Minister Lester Pearson makes known his
intention to eventually terminate the monarchy. In the
book, 'Right Honourable
Men', author Michael Bliss speculates that this
declaration was never acted upon due to Pearson’s failure to
gain a majority of seats in the House
of Commons when his government sought re-election in 1965. to
gain a majority of seats in the House
of Commons when his government
1968 – The
Department of National Defence merges land, sea and air forces
into the Canadian Armed forces and the 'Royal' warrant
disappears from use.
The Québec government of Daniel Johnson calls for making Canada a federal union and a republic and that the
Constitution of Canada, whether monarchical or republican,
should allow Québec to become a republic and a State within
Canada instead of a province. The concept was not pursued.
1970 – The
Queen's portrait is gradually replaced by Canadian Prime
Ministers on paper bank notes. As of this date, only coinage and
dollar bill feature the reigning sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II.
1973 – The United
Kingdom becomes a member of the European Economic Community, now
the European Union, leading to a reduction in economic ties
between Canada and the UK.
1977 – Prime
Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau performs his famous pirouette
behind the Queen at Buckingham Palace. The now famous photo by
photographer Doug Ball appears everywhere in Canada's press.
The Queen later remarks
that she was worried the monarchy "had little meaning for
For the first time, the
Governor General is permitted to sign Letters of Credence and
Commission for Canadian diplomats on The Queen’s behalf.
1977 – The
responsibility to sign Declarations of War or other
international documents is transferred from the Queen to the
1977 – The Canadian
Citizenship Act is revised. Prior to this, British subjects (or
former residents of the Commonwealth) were given preferential treatment for attaining Canadian citizenship. The revision
removes that provision and also declares that Canadian citizens
may no longer be British subjects as well.
1977 – A
national poll reveals that 42 percent of Canadians believe the
Prime Minister is the head of state while 37 percent correctly
named the Queen as the formal executive.
Trudeau bucks protocol by vacationing in Morocco during the
Queen's visit to Canada.
Bill C-60 is proposed to strengthen the role of the governor
general and transfer powers exercised by the Queen. It
dies quietly amid controversy about the implications to the monarchy's
role. Trudeau remarks, "If I were an anti-monarchist, I
should leave the post alone and let it become obsolescent, let
the governor-general do nothing but attend Boy Scout
1978 - The
Federal government declines funding an official celebration of
the 25th anniversary of the Queen's coronation.
1978 - To
no one's surprise, the new PQ government in Québec begins
downsizing the lieutenant governor's office, cutting the budget
by 37%, firing 10 staff members and selling one limousine. Premier
René Lévesque admits to having "great respect' for the
Queen but sees only "folkloric" value for the monarchy
in both Québec and Canada.
Although sung for generations, 'O Canada', officially replaces
God Save the Queen as the national anthem.
Leading up to negotiations to repatriate the constitution,
British High Commissioner Sir John Ford retires suddenly when
it's uncovered that he is trying to enlist such pro-monarchist
politicians as New Brunswick Premier Richard Hatfield and
William Davis of Ontario in
organizing a coup to stop Trudeau and his republicanist
reforms. The initiative is successful in one respect:
Hatfield and Davis end up being the authors of the revision of
the constitution amending formula from 7 out of 10 provinces
representing 50% of the population to the now unanimous consent
of all provinces.
1982 – The
Canada Act, passed by the British Parliament, ends any further
British legislative authority over Canada. It includes the
Constitution Act of 1982, enacting the republican-inspired Canadian Charter of
Rights and Freedoms. The British parliament no longer
has a role in amending the Canadian constitution.
1982 – Dominion Day
is renamed Canada Day.
British Columbia native Ed Press, falls victim to the provincial
government's employment policy of requiring an Oath of
Allegiance to the Queen. His refusal to abide by the order to
recite it costs him his job but gains the BC government a royal
pain. He makes a cause out of protesting at royal visits and
attracting media attention to the absurdity of the monarchy.
Under the Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney,
Citizenship and Immigration Minister David Crombie releases a
position paper titled “Citizenship 87: Proud to be Canadian” as
national unity initiative. One major issue was the nature of the
citizenship oath; with the government indicating it was prepared
to consider whether the citizenship oath should be amended to
either give allegiance to Canada precedence over allegiance to
the Queen, or to completely eliminate any reference to the
monarchy. The reforms were never legislated, however, possibly
due to preoccupation with the Charlottetown Accord
Signaling the changing attachment to Britain, which had grown
more interested in its relationship with the European Economic
Community than the Commonwealth, Canada is accepted into the
Organization of American States. The OAS was originally founded
as league of American republics.
Ontario's NDP government under Premier Bob Rae removes the
obligation for new police constables to take an oath of
allegiance to the Queen.
Inspired by his legal battle to attain Canadian Citizenship
without having to recite the Oath of Allegiance to the Queen,
Toronto lawyer Charles Roach forms the group Alliance for a Canadian
Republic. Their activities peak in 1996 with Toronto
demonstrations and media events during the royal visit and
The Toronto Star publishes an editorial calling for the
establishment of a national commission to look into the feasibility
of a republican form of government.
The Quebec legislature passes a resolution requesting that the
office of lieutenant governor of Quebec (the queen's
representative in Quebec) be either abolished or chosen by
Quebecers. Lieutenant governors are currently appointed by the
governor general on the advice of the prime minister of Canada.
Showing the lowest support for the monarchy ever recorded in a
poll in Canada, Pollara
releases results that indicate only 18 per cent oppose replacing
Queen Elizabeth with a Canadian head of state when she dies.
Significantly, this is attained without
the aid of any organized republican movement or lobbying group.
The now defunct Party for Commonwealth Republic runs candidates
in the general election but fails to draw enough republican
supporters away from the other parties to win any seats.
1997 – Federal
Industry Minister John Manley calls for the abolition of the
1998 – The
Canadian government discusses the possibility of abolishing the
monarchy as part of Canada’s millennium celebrations but backs
after opposition-led objections.
1998 - Citizenship
and Immigration Minister Lucienne
Robillard tables Bill C-63, The Citizenship of Canada
Act. Amendments to the Oath of Allegiance are
proposed, one of which retains reference to the Queen, but also includes "a pledge
of loyalty and allegiance to Canada, in accordance with the
wishes expressed by the vast majority of Canadians."
updated Oath "a modernized version that better reflects the
values of Canadians," Robillard cited an Angus Reid poll
and other polling data suggesting that Canadians "have
confirmed the need for an oath that reflects contemporary values
and clearly expresses loyalty toward Canada."
1999 – The
book, The Republican Option in Canada, Past and Present by
University of Saskatchewan political scientist David E. Smith is
published and, although balanced and unbiased, quickly becomes the bible of the budding
republican movement in Canada.
1999 – The
New Democratic Party of Canada
releases the 'Report of the Social Democratic Forum on the
Future of Canada' which states that "Canada should begin to
explore the possibility of Canadianizing the head of
state". By doing so, it becomes the first major Canadian
political party to officially endorse discussing Canada becoming
The Citizenship Act is revised. The oath of citizenship is
broadened so that new citizens will swear allegiance to Canada
as well as the Queen. Since it's still mandatory to swear
allegiance to the Queen, many would-be Canadians who take
offence to this clause refuse to take the oath and become
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien cites the 1919 Nickel Resolution
(see above) as reason for blocking the Queen's appointment of
Canadian newspaper baron Conrad Black to the British House of
Lords. Black mounts an unsuccessful lawsuit against Chrétien
claiming a personal vendetta was the reason for the decision. He
later renounces his Canadian citizenship to circumvent the
ruling, taking his seat as Lord Black of Crossharbour.
1999 - In
an indication of the evolving role of the governor general, and
how republican it has become, Governor General Romeo LeBlanc
begins a speech by stating: "It is for me a signal honour to be
the first Canadian head of state invited to the Kingdom of
Morocco .." The use of "head of state" to describe his role,
1999 – The Internet
fulfills its growing reputation as an incubator for
pro-democracy movements when Canadian republican groups begin to
appear online. Discussion group Republi-Canada and website
Republic of Canada Online (later renamed Monarchy-Free Canada)
would later merge their support base with Citizens for a
2000 – The
book, Is Canada Trapped in a Time Warp - Political Symbols in
the Age of the Internet, by political scientist Randall
White is published. The publication examines the monarchy and
whether a republican system of government in Canada is long
2000 – The
government of Ontario, decides not to force school students to
make a pledge of allegiance to the Queen. The provincial
government backs down after opposition from young people,
teachers and republicans. Under a new code of conduct students
will have to stand for the Canadian national anthem.
2001 – John
Manley, now Foreign Affairs Minister, again calls for a republic
saying, " the monarchy is out of date and Canadians
would do better with an elected head of state instead".
He’s joined by Industry Minister Brian Tobin and Fisheries
Minister Herb Dhaliwal with statements of support.
2001 – Nova
Scotia Opposition Leader Darrell Dexter thwarts the ruling
Progressive Conservative Party's attempts to reinstate the singing of 'God
save the Queen' on the opening of the Provincial Legislature.
Legislators with Acadian ancestors who were persecuted by
British colonialists also say they would refuse to participate
when called to do so. The Conservatives later retreat from the
controversy and rescind the proposal.
2001 – Since
revising its requirement that members have "a common
allegiance to the Crown" in 1947, thirty-three of the
Commonwealth of Nations’ fifty-four members are now republics.
The Nickel Resolution is news again when entrepreneur Terry
Matthews and George Bain, head of Queen's University in Belfast,
both Canadian citizens but British residents, are awarded
knighthoods by the Queen. The Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs
Minister John Manley send diplomatic protests to London citing
interference in Canadian affairs.
2001 – Pierre
Vincent, a federal civil servant, saves his job
and makes headlines by winning a two year battle to refuse the
Oath of Allegiance to the Queen.
2001 – The
Globe and Mail, Canada's national newspaper, calls
for an end to the monarchy in an editorial.
2002 – Citizens
for a Canadian Republic is formed, a national, non-partisan and
non-profit organization advocating modifying
the Constitution to replace the Queen with a Canadian as head of
state. Tom Freda, the founder of the website Monarchy-Free
Canada, and Oath of Allegiance to the Queen reform activist
Pierre Vincent, become directors of the new not-for-profit
organization. The resulting media attention garners CCR more press
coverage for Canadian republicanism than in all the previous 165
years since the 1837 Rebellions. According to the National
Post, CCR's formation "represents the first attempt to pull
together anti-monarchist sentiment in Canada" while the
Ottawa Citizen declares it "the most ambitious campaign yet
to sever Canada's formal ties to the monarchy."
The separatist government of Québec announces that it's considering
democratic reforms that would give the province a
republic-style government within Canada as a prelude to independence. Québec's support for ending the monarchy is at
its highest in Canada at roughly 70 per cent.
2002 – A
Leger Marketing poll reveals that 56 per cent of Canadians want the
portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on the Canadian dollar replaced
by people who have influenced Canadian history. Thirty-nine
percent say no change is necessary.
2002 – Ipsos-Reid/Globe
and Mail/CTV poll results in February determine that two-thirds (65%)
believe the royals are merely celebrities and should not have
any formal role in Canada.
In a May Ekos public opinion
poll commissioned by CBC/SRC, Toronto Star and LaPress, 48% agree
with the statement, "Instead of
a British monarch we should have a Canadian citizen as our head
of state." Thirty-five percent disagree. Shockingly, the poll revealed
that 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.
Monarchists cry foul when the controversial and
precedent-setting decision is made to have the Speech from the
Throne of Canada's second session of the thirty-seventh
parliament given by the Governor General and not the Queen,
whose visit coincides with the ceremony.
2002 – Citizens
for a Canadian Republic seeks to help challenge
the legitimacy of the monarchy in Canada by filing an
application to intervene in former Toronto councillor Tony O'Donohue's legal case to contest the Act of
Settlement. The British legislation, enacted in 1701 to
restrict the British throne to Protestants, was inherited by
Canada in 1867 and specifically singles out Roman Catholics
from eligibility in the Royal line of succession. Section 15(1) of The Charter of Rights and
Freedoms expressly forbids discrimination on the basis of
"race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex,
age or mental or physical disability".
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Denis
Coderre tables Bill
C-18 in October 31, 2002. Among other revisions, the Bill seeks
to replace “I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her
Heirs and Successors” with the same phrase, with Her Heirs and
Successors deleted. On November 8, 2002 it went through second reading
but was later dropped
from the order paper.
C-203 is introduced October 2, 2003 by MP John Bryden. It
attempts to amend the act of citizenship to better define the
responsibilities of Canadian citizenship and delete reference to
Queen Elizabeth II and her heirs and successors. On December 2,
2002 it went through second readingbut
dropped from the order
2003 - Calling
the current system "cumbersome and outdated," Lucienne
Robillard, President of the Treasury Board of Canada introduces
The Public Service Modernization Act in parliament to
modernize human resources management in the federal public
Despite objections of monarchists,
as of December 31,
2005, federal civil servants will no longer be required to swear
an oath to the Queen. Credit for the reform goes to CCR
co-founder, Pierre Vincent, whose precedent-setting win to
exclude him from the requirement to take the oath, is cited in
subsequent legal challenges to the requirement.
2004 - Citizens
for a Canadian Republic calls
for a special parliamentary committee to examine revamping the
role and selection process of the office of the Governor General
as a prelude to becoming a republic. In a March
18 press release, it suggests that since these changes do
not require constitutional amendment, parliament could codify
and democratize the office, leaving one remaining question for Canadians
to decide in a national referendum; whether or
not to continue with a British monarch or have an elected
Canadian assume that role.
On April 2, the Standing Committee on Government
Operations and Estimates issues this recommendation: That
the Parliament of Canada 1) take the necessary measures to
conduct a review and initiate a debate on the mandate,
constitutional role, responsibilities, and future evolution of
the Office of the Governor General of Canada (the Head of State)
in which all Canadians be included, and 2) conduct
a review of the process for selecting and appointing the
Governor General (Head of State) of Canada. CCR happily notes a
strong similarity to its March 18 proposal.
Also of note: the document,
approved by all members of the multi-party committee, clearly
refers to the Governor General as "The Head of State."
- A break
with protocol precedent is noted at the
in France when both the Queen and the Governor General appear
together, for the first time representing the United Kingdom and Canada
as separate heads of state.
International Canadian travelers begin to note the replacement
of the Queen's portrait at embassies and consulates with that
of the Governor General.
2005 - The
2005-06 annual report of the Governor General is released. The
government publication refers to the office in a very republican
way by describing "The Governor General’s responsibilities as
Head of State" and that the governor general "Represent Canada
abroad" during state visits.
Reference to the Queen is removed from Letters of Credence and
Recall, diplomatic letters sent by one head of state to another,
instead having them issued in the name of the Governor General.
In doing so, Canada becomes the only country that does not send
its Letters of Credence and Recall on behalf of its official
head of state.
2007 - A
class action lawsuit filed by Toronto lawyer Charles Roach, to
exempt new citizens from reciting a citizenship oath containing
the words "be faithful and bear true allegiance to her Majesty
Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her heirs and successors,"
clears a major step in the legal process. Roach argues the
government should not force people to swear to do things they
don't believe in to gain citizenship. Justice J. Belobaba of the
Ontario Superior Court agrees there was a "plausible argument
that this requirement violates the Charter of Rights and
Freedoms," and that the action "is neither frivolous nor
ultimately does not succeed but the publicity surrounding the
case draws media and public attention to the outdated
Citizenship Act and hardens the resolve of Roach to attempt a
similar action again.
Former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson is appointed
colonel-in-chief of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light
Infantry. In doing so, she becomes the first Canadian, and first
non-royal, to hold the position of colonel-in-chief of a
Citing an increased emphasis on Canada and less on the royal
family, newly appointed Governor General Michaëlle Jean replaces
royal portraits at Rideau Hall with contemporary Canadian art.
According to a spokesperson for the design firm, the portraits
were no longer relevant and "did not fit any more with the
current role of the Governor General."
Prime Minister Harper uses supposedly impartial Royal
Prerogative for what many believe is partisan purposes, by
convincing the governor general to suspend (prorogue)
parliament. Proroguing has many legitimate constitutional
applications, but when it appeared that Harper was using the
tactic to avoid losing power due to an impending vote of
non-confidence, both Canadian and international attention
focuses on Canada's outdated attachment to the monarchy. In the
US, MSNBC commentator Rachel Maddow quips: "In the 21st century,
in Canada, the way to fight for your political life, is
apparently to demand that the Queen banish your enemies! Oh,
Michaëlle Jean's delay in approval and subsequent conditions are
viewed as a slight strengthening of the role of the governor
general, over the previous convention of "rubber-stamping" the
prime minister's request.
Governor General Michaëlle Jean lands in hot water for referring
to herself as Canada's head of state which, when describing her
constitutional duties, is correct. Despite numerous instances of
other GGs, and even government documents making the same claim,
the Prime Minister issues a "correction."
April 23, 2011
courtesy of The
Canadian Heritage Gallery.