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Monarchy in Canada
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Monarchy in Canada

Canada is a constitutional monarchy and a Commonwealth Realm with Queen Elizabeth II as its reigning monarch and head of state.

) can be found in most Canadian government buildings]]

In Canada, Her Majesty's official title is Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom, Canada and Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith. Such capacity is Her Majesty The Queen in Right of Canada. In common practice Queen Elizabeth II is referred to simply as "The Queen" or "The Queen of Canada" when in Canada.

Table of contents
1 Constitutional monarchy in Canada
2 History
3 Republicanism debate
4 Recent polls on the monarchy in Canada
5 See also
6 External links

Constitutional monarchy in Canada

The most notable features of the Canadian constitutional monarchy are:


Since the creation of New France, there has not been a time when Canada was not a monarchy. In fact, Canada is one of the oldest continuing monarchies in the world, first under the kings of France in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries and then under the British crown in the 18th and 19th centuries. Following
Confederation, the "Canadianization" of the crown began.

The Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act, 1927 replaced the concept of a singular crown throughout the British Empire with multiple crowns with each dominion as a separate kingdom, all worn by the common monarch. The Statute of Westminster 1931 granted the dominions of the Commonwealth autonomy from the British parliament and equality with the United Kingdom. However, the title "Queen of Canada" was not created until 1953. Canada's constitution was patriated under Prime Minister Trudeau in 1982, becoming a Canadian law rather than an act of the British parliament which required amendment in both jurisdictions. See Canada Act 1982.

The Constitution Act of 1982 also entrenched the monarchy in Canada, though some have disputed this. Any change to the position of the monarch or the monarch's representatives in Canada now requires the consent of the Senate, the House of Commons, and the legislative assemblies of all the provinces. However, the rules of succession are still laid down in British law, not Canadian law, though the British Parliament cannot change the succession laws without the consent of the Commonwealth Realms.

and the  Governor General, in the Canadian Senate, Ottawa. (The front chair is used by the Speaker of the Senate).]]

Today, virtually all of the Queen's Canadian duties are performed by her representatives in Canada, the Governor General and the Lieutenant Governors of the provinces, though occasionally the Queen's authority is appealed to by Canada's partisan political leaders. In 1990, Brian Mulroney, then Prime Minister of Canada, appealed to the Queen (under Section 26 of The Constitution Act, 1867) to temporarily add eight seats to the Senate (a right reserved for the Queen). Senators are appointed until the age of 75 in Canada. Mulroney made this move to secure passage of the controversial Goods and Services Tax, which faced widespread opposition in Canada and would not have passed without the votes of the newly appointed Senators.

This was an occasion on which the Queen played a significant role in Canadian government, though as the monarch's advisors made clear, the monarch felt bound to do as advised by Her Prime Minister, who was answerable to cabinet, parliament and the Canadian electorate for whatever advice he gave. They argued that to in effect overrule prime ministerial advice would have involved the Queen directly in controversy; by automatically accepting advice she placed the responsibility on the person giving the advice.

It is also possible that if the Governor General decides to go against the Prime Minister's or the government's adive, the Prime Minister could appeal directly to the Queen or even recommend to the Queen to dimiss the Governor General.

Republicanism debate

In contrast to Australian republicanism, there is not widespread support for a republic, partly because few Canadians understand the present monarchical system of government. However, throughout the late 20th century there has been increased discussion, mostly academic, of the need for a "Canadian Monarchy." Some small republican groups, such as Citizens for a Canadian Republic, have formed and some politicians, such as former Deputy Prime Minister John Manley, have expressed interest in ending the monarchy.

Monarchists have responded by arguing that having a monarchy, with a Queen of Canada and a governor-general, is one of the key identity differences between the United States and Canada and thus is important to maintain the country's independence from its southern neighbour. They point to the fact that a republican president might be seen just another president on the American continent where the most prominent president is the President of the United States. A recent Ispos-Reid poll found that 62% of Canadians found that the monarchy helps to define Canada's identity.

The Monarchist League of Canada exists as a lobby group advocating and promoting the monarchy in Canada.

Quebec, however, is the only region in Canada with overwhelming support for a republic. This became pronounced in the 1960s due to the growing Quebec separatist movement. A key moment was the Queen's visit to Quebec City in 1964 when she was greeted by anti-monarchist demonstrations and the route of her procession was lined with Quebecers showing their backs to the monarch. On Samedi de la matraque (truncheon Saturday) police violently dispersed anti-monarchist demonstrators and arrested 36. The Queen did not visit Quebec City again until 1987.

Since the mid-20th century there has been, however, a downplaying of the role of the Crown in Canada. During the centennial year of Canadian confederation, in 1967, some Canadian opinion leaders, including the editorial board of the Toronto Star began to advocate the creation of a republic as a mark of the country's independence. God Save the Queen was replaced as Canada's national anthem and is now only sung at extremely formal state services. From the early 1970s, all references to the monarch and the monarchy were slowly removed from the public eye (e.g., the Queen's portrait began to be taken down in public buildings and schools, and the Royal Mail was changed to Canada Post). In recent years there have been some attempts at removing references of the Queen from the Oath of Allegiance. Many point out that this process of downplaying the monarchy has led to widespread misunderstandings about the institution and how Canada is governed. In fact in a recent survey it was found that only 5% of Canadians knew that Queen Elizabeth II was Queen of Canada.

Public opinion polls have clearly shown Canadians' mixed feelings towards the monarchy. However, it is clear that the prevailing attitude is one of indifference. At the same time, a recent poll found that the majority of respondents support Queen Elizabeth II as Queen of Canada.


Opponents of the monarchy claim that its abolition would be a blow for democracy and remove an unnecessary expense for the Canadian taxpayer. Many Canadian republicans also say it would remove Canada's last political connection to her colonial past, and thus improve her image as a sovereign nation. At the same time, monarchists argue that Canadians would spend more money on a presidential head of state. Monarchists also argue that a nation's history and past are the building blocks of a national identity.

Prominent critics of the monarchy such as Citizens for a Canadian Republic point out that the Act of Settlement explicitly excludes Roman Catholics from the throne and the Queen is Supreme Governor of the Church of England, requiring her to be an Anglican. This, they argue, discriminates against non-Anglicans, including Catholics who are the largest faith group in Canada. Former Toronto city councillor Tony O'Donohue launched a court action in 2002 arguing that the Act of Settlement violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in that it discriminates against Catholics. His case was dismissed by the court, which found that the Act of Settlement is part of the Canadian constitution and thus the Charter of Rights does not have supremacy over it.

It is also noted that whereas Canada currently has a female head of state and a female governor-general and has had a female prime minister, no woman has ever been president or vice-president in the United States. They also argue that a republican head of state would cost more, not less, than the current monarchy, due to additional costs involved in updating the governor-general's residences to full head of state presidential palace level, the costs of state visits, political advisors, increased ceremonial functions, etc - functions that in many cases do not exist for a governor-general, given that they are not a full head of state, but which would be required for a Canadian president.

Monarchists claim that since unanimity by all Canadian provinces is required to replace the monarchy, a republic will never be attained. To counter this argument, Citizens for a Canadian Republic in March 2004 proposed measures to avoid constitutional deadlock by advocating a parliamentary reform of the office of the governor general, an office generally expected to be transformed into a presidency should the monarchy end. The group claims their proposal will address divisive aspects such as the duties and selection process of the new head of state without constitutional amendment, leaving the remaining issue of who should occupy the position to be decided in a referendum. On April 2, 2004, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates] endorsed this formula, but no government action was taken because even minor changes to the roles and duties of the Governor General’s office would still require a constitutional amendment that would need the consent of all the provincial legislative assemblies and the senate as per the Constitution Act, 1982.

There is also, in large part because of previous long disputes over constitutional issues and reforms, a reluctance to enter into the extensive constitutional renegotiation that would be required to establish a new political system in Canada. Unlike Australia, where constitutional reform is confined largely to the future of the monarchy, in Canada, there are comparatively more pressing constitutional issues. Consequently, the 2004 election platforms of the main political parties focused far more upon the reform or abolition of the Senate appointment of Supreme Court judges, and the powers of provincial governments, than on the future of the monarchy.

At any rate, at this time this issue is not at all high on people's minds and it is widely predicted that there will no real debate on the future of the monarchy in Canada until the death of the present Queen. Even then, the future of the monarchy in Canada could depend on the Queen's successor. While Prince Charles is still unpopular in Canada, his son, Prince William, remains extremely popular, especially among the younger generation of Canadians (polls have noted that popular support for the monarchy amongst 18 to 30 year olds has been rising in recent years).

Recent polls on the monarchy in Canada

Support for the monarchy in Canada dropped to record lows in the late 1990s. However with the new century, support for the monarchy has rose to include the majority of Canadians.

1997 Pollara - Only 18% oppose replacing Queen Elizabeth with a Canadian head of state when she dies. 32% favour scrapping the monarchy, 45% don't care and only 21% support it. In Quebec, 70 per cent favoured the abolition of the monarchy. Arthur Bousfield, vice-chairman of the Monarchist League of Canada, said the survey "probably" shows the lowest support for the monarchy ever recorded in a poll in Canada.

Jubilee polls

In the year 2002, the year of the Queen's golden jubilee, polls were taken by Canada's three biggest polling forms on Canadian views of the monarchy.

2002 Ekos - The poll found that support for abolition of the monarchy is declining, yet also highlighted many contradictions in public opinion. 48% agreed and 35% disagree with the statement, "Instead of a British monarch we should have a Canadian citizen as our head of state". Yet at the same time only 43% disagreed and 41% agreed to the same question, worded slightly differently- "it's time to abolish the monarchy in Canada."

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. 55% agree that the monarchy keeps Canada distinct from the United States, while 33% disagree.

This survey has often been cited as evidence of the confusion that many Canadians have for the role of the monarchy in Canada.


2002 Ipsos-Reid - The poll found that 79% of Canadians support the monarchy as Canada's form of government and 62% believe that the monarchy helps to define Canada's identity. At the same time, 48% would prefer a republican system of government with an elected head of state and two-thirds (65%) believe the royals are merely celebrities and should not have any formal role in Canada.

The same poll also found that 58% don't think the monarchy is an issue important enough to go through the "fuss of changing something that works".


2002 Leger Marketing - 50% said "yes" to the statement, "Elizabeth II is currently the Queen of Canada. Do you (yes or no) want Canada to maintain the monarchy?" Only 43% said "no". There was majority support for the monarchy in all areas except Quebec.


See also

Alberta - British Columbia - Manitoba - New Brunswick - Newfoundland and Labrador - Nova Scotia - Ontario - Prince Edward Island - Quebec - Saskatchewan - Northwest Territories

Northwest Territories - Yukon - Nunavut

External links