Frequently Asked Questions

► 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. Technically, as a monarchy constrained by a constitution, Canadian executive power resides with and is exercised in the name of the Queen (now recognized as The Canadian State) by the Governor General, Prime Minister, Cabinet and the legislature. Thus, the monarch has a symbolic presence, with no power to exert without explicit direction by the elected government. Constitutional experts therefore often refer to the function of a constitutional monarchy as a "crowned republic" [1] or "veiled republic." [2]

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, with the prime minister continuing to be the head of government.

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 emulate.

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 and nearly identical office is created to replace it.

Contrary to popular belief, this position need not be political. To argue otherwise, would be to admit that our governors general are also political. 

Many parliamentary republics elect their heads of state - who, like our governor general, come from all walks of life - by indirect election through an electoral committee or by parliament. Germany is one such country. Their equivalent of our federal and provincial legislatures select an equal number of representatives to attend a convention, and the president is selected by secret ballot.

Even in countries that select their head of state by popular vote, such as Iceland, the current President Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson has no affiliation with any political party. 

Interestingly, Iceland's first lady, Eliza Reid, is Canadian.

 ► 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 nearly 250 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 or Jamaica, 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 21st century. Canada has matured as a nation and is well beyond sharing its head of state with any country, much less one that colonized us. How will the world ever take us seriously as a nation if we send the impression that we're not quite grown up yet?

We've evolved as a people, as well. But if we're to allow our unique identity and sense of national self to fully 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 a 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 75 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.

It's not mandatory that royal symbols such as crowns would have to go either. The national flags of the republics of Montenegro, Serbia and Croatia, as well as the coats of arms of Russia, Hungary and the Czech Republic all include crowns and royal symbols 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 Zloty bank notes.

The point being, they're peripheral issues that are only partially connected to who our head of state is. All those symbolisms are not present today in Canada out of any constitutional requirement, so they could be eliminated now, if there was the political will. Likewise, if the demand was high enough post-monarchy to keep them, then they could also stay.

►I like being part of the Commonwealth. Wouldn't we have to give up our membership?

That requirement was only in effect from the 1926 Balfour Declaration, to 1949, when it was revised by the London Declaration to allow India, which had just become a republic, to remain in the Commonwealth.

The name of the organization also dropped "British," shortening it to  "The Commonwealth of Nations," or more commonly, "The Commonwealth."

Today, 34 of the 54 member states 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, who intentionally is not personally involved in any way with Canada's day-to-day political functions. That distance isn't just by choice, its actually by legislation through the Letters Patent in 1947, which gave Canada's governor general virtual autonomy from the monarchy to perform the duties.

Therefore, it's more accurate to predict that Canada's democratic evolution away from our colonial link to the monarchy can only improve the protection of our democracy, 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 will remain nearly identical. And making Canada more Canadian would enhance our distinctive culture, not harm it. 

Instead of the monarchy, shouldn't our government spend time on the economy or environment?

Of course those issues are important, but many of the defining moments of Canadian history were born from debates that took place during difficult times. The Statute of Westminster (1931), The Citizenship Act (1947), the Letters Patent (1947), the National Flag of Canada Act (1964), The Constitution Act (1982) are among those historic changes.  

And 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 independence.

Doesn't the 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 another.

When I think of republics, I think of the Third World. Aren't monarchies more prosperous?

The most recent Legatum World Prosperity Index (2019) proves there's little difference between constitutional monarchies and parliamentary republics.

Of the top 20 most prosperous nations, 10 are republics and 10 are monarchies. 

On the 2022 Index of Economic Freedom top 20, 12 are republics, 8 are monarchies.

The Freedom House index on political freedom and civil rights top 20 reveals 8 are republics, 12 are monarchies.

In other words; a statistical tie. Meaning, whether republic or constitutional monarchy, it has zero effect on a country's economic performance, standard of living, or political stability.

"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 - legally - "the person." Since the Letters Patent 1947, both have evolved to become synonymous with "The Canadian State."

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. [3] 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. [4] 

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.

This issue is so important, we have a separate page of its own dedicated to it. Click here to read more.

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, when on a state visit to the Benelux countries with the governor general in the 1970s, he encountered foreign dignitaries who believed "when they saw our governor general in their midst, that Canada had not yet achieved independence from Britain."[5]

He often crossed paths with the Queen in his travels as Minister of State: He while promoting Canadian interests; the Queen while promoting Britain’s - in direct competition. 

The problem with this kind of situation was made vividly clear in 1959, when Canada was hosting the Queen and Prince Philip. While in Ontario, the royal couple crossed the border into the US to visit the Chicago International Trade Fair. Why? To promote British cars at the British Automobile Manufacturers Association exhibit. 

The fact that they left the heart of Canada's automobile manufacturing in Ontario to go to the US to promote British cars, just exemplifies the sheer ridiculousness of sharing a head of state with other countries.

More recently; when Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge left Canada after a royal tour in July, 2011, they headed to Hollywood to promote the British film industry, not Canada's.

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. Yes, according to article 41(a) of the Constitution Act, 1982, amendments to "the office of the Queen, the Governor General and the Lieutenant Governor of a province" require the unanimous consent of "the Senate and House of Commons and of the legislative assembly of each province".

But even so, the degree of difficulty in obtaining that approval is vastly overrated. As of May 2021, two consecutive opinion polls put support for keeping the monarchy at between 21% and 26%. Would it not make sense that our elected politicians in charge of approving of a constitutional change have similar views?

And what if the selection process for a future Canadian head of state was delegated to the provinces? If the majority of Canadians desired an end to the monarchy, the provinces could find this a very attractive option. 

In addition, there are many legal 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. 

Here's where it gets interesting. The federal government got a Supreme Court ruling in 2013 to declare that the reference in the constitution refers only to the powers of the office, not the identity of the office-holder. 

Could this mean Canada could assign a Canadian to be our head of state while keeping the integrity and powers of the "Office of the Queen" intact?

We've delved into the academic legalities of that ruling, as well as other recent legal actions, that may hold the secret to bypassing the strict amending formula of unanimous provincial legislature approval of changes to our head of state. You can check it out here. (Coming soon)

Canada has been a monarchy since it was first colonized. 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, and by countries with a much longer history as a monarchy than Canada. 

Barbados is one example of how seamlessly the change can be made. Prince Charles was even in attendance at the swearing-in ceremony of the new Barbadian parliamentary president (the former governor general). Other 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 keep. 

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.

Newer data showing as few as 21% of Canadians wishing to keep the monarchy at the end of the Queen's reign, can be viewed on our Opinion Poll page.


[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] Clarkson, Adrienne (2006) CBC Newsworld interview with Don Newman 

[4] Layton, Jack (2006) interview in Other Press by J.J. McCullough 

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


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