Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Monarchy in Canada
In Canada, Her Majesty's official title is (in English) 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. In French, Her Majesty's title is: Elizabeth Deux, par la grâce de Dieu, Reine du Royaume-Uni, du Canada et de ses autres royaumes et territoires, Chef du Commonwealth, Défendeur de la Foi. 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, or when abroad and acting on the advice of her Canadian ministers (such as when she was present at the Canadian 60th anniversary of D-Day ceremony in France, in 2004).
Constitutional monarchy in Canada
The most notable features of the Canadian constitutional monarchy are:
- Although Queen Elizabeth II is also monarch of the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom does not have any sovereignty over Canada (nor does Canada have any sovereignty over the United Kingdom).
- In all matters of state, the monarch is advised exclusively by the governments in Canada. See also Queen's Privy Council for Canada. No British government can advise the monarch on Canadian matters.¹
- All executive power is theoretically reposed in the Queen, who is represented in Canada by the Governor General of Canada and the Lieutenant Governors of the provinces. Royal Assent is required for all acts of Parliament and the legislatures, which sit at her pleasure. Persons swearing allegiance to Canada, such as immigrants, soldiers, and parliamentarians, swear allegiance to the monarch as the legal embodiment of Canadian sovereignty. Like Lieutenant Governors the Commissioners of Canada's territories of Nunavut, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories are appointed by Governor-General-in-Council, that is the federal government. However commissioners are not formal representatives of the Crown, and receive instructions from the federal Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs. However, as the role of commissioner has become analogous to that of Lieutenant Governor, the position has developed an informal role of representing the Crown.
- The legal personality of Canada is referred to as "Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada," and likewise for the provinces and territories. For example, if a lawsuit is filed against the federal government, the respondent is formally described as Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada.
- As in the UK, the Queen's role is nearly entirely symbolic and cultural, and the powers that are constitutionally hers are exercised wholly upon the advice of the elected government. In exceptional circumstances, however, the Queen may act against such advice based upon her reserve powers. In practice, the monarchy functions much like a rubber stamp and a symbol of executive authority. It is often explained that the Queen reigns but does not rule. For more explanation of the Queen's role, see Governor General of Canada.
- Queen Elizabeth II, as is common for all her other non-UK realms, usually assumes the role of "Queen of Canada" only when she is either present in Canada or (occasionally) when she performs certain ceremonies relevant to Canada (such as conferring Canadian honours) in the UK. The majority of the Queen's duties are now performed by the Governor General, although she could technically override any of the Governor General's decisions. However, this convention has been excepted during certain visits to the United States, since it has become traditional for the Queen to incorporate such visits into some of her longer Canadian tours. In 1959, for example, the return dinner for the President of the United States was held at the Canadian, not the British, embassy.
- The Queen's visible role in Canada has diminished greatly throughout the late 20th century, however, she is still featured on all Canadian coinage, the twenty-dollar bill, and some postage stamps. Her portrait can usually be found in all government buildings, military installations, some schools, and all of Canada's embassies abroad.
- The Queen is head of the Canadian honours system. As such, only she can approve the creation of an honour, based on the recommendation of the government of Canada. The Governor General administers all responsibilities relating to Canadian honours on the Queen's behalf.
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, initiated the gradual replacement of the concept of a singular crown throughout the British Empire with that of multiple crowns, making each dominion a separate kingdom with the Crown worn by the common monarch. This idea was futher enhanced by the Statute of Westminster 1931, which granted the dominions of the Commonwealth autonomy from the British parliament and equality with the United Kingdom. However, when a new Royal Titles Act was passed at the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's reign, it gave primacy to the monarch's status as Queen of the United Kingdom. Though other Commonwealth Realms have since removed any reference to the United Kingdom in their versions of Elizabeth II's title, Canada retains the original 1953 Act.
Canada gained full independence as an autonomous kingdom when the constitution was patriated under Prime Minister Trudeau in 1982, making it 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. 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.
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, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney 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, she felt bound to follow the advice of the prime minister, who was answerable to cabinet, parliament, and the Canadian electorate. They argued that to 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 advice, the Prime Minister could appeal directly to the Queen or even recommend that the Queen dismiss the Governor General.
Beginning January 1, 2005, the Letters of Credence foreign diplomats present when beginning an assignment in Canada are addressed to the Governor General of Canada without making any reference to the Queen. This is also the case with Letters of Recall presented when a diplomat finishes a sojurn in Canada. This change in protocol has been criticised by Canadian monarchists as an example of the government reducing the Queen's role and has been welcomed by republicans for the same reason.
Some monarchists contend that since Paul Martin was elected Prime Minister, his government seems to be attempting to furthur distance Canada from the Queen and elevating the Governor General to more of a presidential figure.
Debate on the monarchy
In contrast to Australian republicanism, there has been little national debate about ending the monarchy in Canada. This may be because Canadians have been more focused on the issue of the role of Quebec within Canada (see Quebec sovereignty movement) and the division of powers between the federal government and the provinces.
Some republican groups have been formed and some politicians, such as former Deputy Prime Minister John Manley, have expressed interest in ending the monarchy. In 2002, Canada's first nationally organized republican movement, the Citizens for a Canadian Republic, was established to promote the issue of making Canada's head of state a president, and bring the issue into the mainstream.
The monarchist side is represented by the Monarchist League of Canada. This national group was formed in 1970, and currently exists as a lobby group to advocate for, educate about, and promote the monarchy in Canada.
Public opinion polls have clearly shown Canadians' mixed feelings towards the monarchy. Some polls show a majority of Canadians support the creation of a republic, others show a majority favour retaining the current system. Generally however, the prevailing mood towards the monarchy suggested by most polls is one of indifference or apathy.
Quebec, however, is one province that overwhelmingly supports a republic. This sentiment became pronounced during 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 a downplaying of the role of the crown in Canada. During the centennial year of Canadian confederation, in 1967, some Canadian newspapers, including the Toronto Star advocated the creation of a republic as a mark of the country's independence. While the Toronto Star is no longer officially pro-republic, The Globe and Mail printed similar editorials through the 1990s. "God Save the Queen" was replaced with "O Canada" as Canada's national anthem, and is now sung only at certain official functions. From the early 1970s, references to the monarch and the monarchy were slowly removed from the public eye (e.g., the Queen's portrait from public buildings and schools, and the Royal Mail became a crown corporation, Canada Post). In recent years there have been some attempts at removing references of the Queen from the Oath of Allegiance. So far, only the oath taken by federal public servants has been altered; new citizens, members of the armed forces and police forces, and members of parliament continue to give their allegiance to the Queen.
Some monarchists argue that the process of downplaying the monarchy has led to widespread misunderstandings about the institution and how Canada is governed.
- see also Canadian republicanism
Support and opposition
Monarchists argue that Canada's crown is an unbiased entity whose apolitical nature enables the sovereign to be non-partisan between levels of government and political parties, an indispensable feature of the federal system. As the ten provincial premiers said in Regina in 1978: "Provinces agree that the system of democratic parliamentary government requires an ultimate authority to ensure its responsible nature and to safeguard against abuses of power. That ultimate power must not be an instrument of the federal Cabinet." It's argued that monarchy makes the provinces in their fields of jurisdiction as potent as the federal authority, thus allowing for a flexible federalism. Also, the sovereign holds no favouritism towards any specific political party, group of voters, donors, etc., allowing them to be an unbiased referee during any potential governmental crisis.
Republicans counter that it is entirely possible to have an apolitical, elected head of state. Perhaps it's even inevitable, given the current trend in government to make institutions more transparent, accountable and democratic. One example of this type of head of state in a Westminster-style parliamentary republic is the President of Ireland.
Monarchists say that it is impossible that any elected position can remain apolitical and unbiased, and that having both an elected president and prime minister could lead to the two coming to odds over who holds more authority; each could claim to be 'elected by the people'.
Republicans point out that in the current system, the prime minister is elected by their party, not by popular election. Canadians therefore, do not vote for a prime minister, they vote for the party that the prime minister leads. Also, there are other methods for electing a president, with popular election being only one option of many. India's republican system is a model many Canadian republicans see as a one that could be applied at least in part in Canada.
Monarchists 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.²
Republicans say that cost estimates between the two are hypothetical and based on many assumptions. Although it's unlikely that a republican head of state would be less costly, it's important to note that the present Governor General is now considered by the government to be the de facto head of state, and already engages in all roles and protocols expected of one.
On the symbolic side, monarchists argue that breaking with the monarchy would end more than 500 years of Canada having a crown, and would remove an important symbol of Canada. Also, some say 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. This is an important way to maintain the country's cultural independence from its southern neighbour, an ongoing theme in Canadian culture and politics, especially with the loss of many other Canadian heritage symbols. They point to the fact that a republican president in Canada might be seen just another president on the American continent where the most prominent president is the President of the United States. Some Canadians point to their government of constitutional monarchy as a point of pride, setting them apart from an American-styled republic. For example, former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said "It's a system that works pretty well" in an interview with Global News.
Republicans in Canada generally reject the comparisons with the American congressional-styled republican model. The Westminster-style parliamentary republican model, which is advocated by other Commonwealth republican movements, has also been embraced by Citizens for a Canadian Republic as the preferred model for Canada.
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.
Opponents of the monarchy claim that its abolition would promote democracy and remove Canada's last political connection to her colonial past, and thus improve her image as a sovereign nation.
At the same time, monarchists point out that Canada has had no status as a colony since 1867, and since 1982 has been an independent nation with no political ties to the United Kingdom. They also maintain that a nation's history and past are the building blocks of a national identity and argue that the Crown is the foundation and guarantor of Canada's democracy.
Prominent critics of the monarchy point out that the Act of Settlement 1701 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. Also, the court pointed out that while Canada has the power to amend the line of succession to the Canadian Throne, the Statute of Westminster stipulates that the agreement of the governments of the fifteen other realms which share the Crown would first have to be sought. His appeal will be taking place in 2005.
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, republicans 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. However, monarchists point out that this proposal does not address the provinces, especially concerning the importance of the Crown in their relationship with the federal government, and the positions and powers of the Lieutenant Governors; both issues which would weigh heavily in any constitutional debate on the Crown, regardless of the selection process of the Governor General.
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.
Some republicans have proposed that there be a national debate on the monarchy before the next sovereign is proclaimed, and one constitutional scholar, Ted McWhinney, has argued that Canada can become a republic upon the demise of the current Queen by not proclaiming a successor. However, McWhinney's proposal remains unstudied, and thus publicly unsupported, by either the Canadian government or other constitutional experts. Monarchists have also pointed out that his proposal, like that put forward by republicans, assumes no input from the provinces regarding this attempt to manipulate the Crown, and ignores certain prescriptive clauses of the Constitution Act, such as Sections 9 and 17.
The republican objectives of fellow Commonwealth Realms Australia, Jamaica and Barbados could possibly factor into the Canadian debate. The Prime Minister of Barbados is setting a goal for the end of 2005 for his country becoming a republic, and the Prime Minister of Jamaica has proposed same for his nation by 2007. However, both need only a majority vote in Parliament to implement while Canada requires a much more difficult process to attain provincial consensus.
While the issue may or may not achieve a level of prominence when the end of the current Queen's reign draws near, Canadians, in general, currently rate the issue far below others in national importance.
Support for the monarchy in Canada dropped to record lows in the late 1990s. In the first half of the new century support for the monarchy has risen to include the majority of Canadians. However, the fact that many Canadians continue to not completely understand exactly what a "Head of State" is, or the exact nature of the Queen's current role in Canada can cause some problems in drawing concrete conclusions from poll results.
In the year 2002, the year of the Queen's golden jubilee, polls were taken by Canada's three biggest polling firms on Canadian views of the monarchy.
- The 2002 [Ekos 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 43% disagreed and 41% agreed to the same question, worded slightly differently: "it's time to abolish the monarchy in Canada." Again, monarchists suggest the confusion may arise from the skewed question which refers to the "British monarch" as Canada's head of state. (As the distinct Queen of Canada, sovereign of the Canadian Crown, many argue the monarchy is, in part, Canadian.) 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 lack of knowledge that many Canadians have of their government's institutions and functions. (Poll results—PDF document)
- The 2002 Ipsos-Reid poll found that 79% of Canadians support "the constitutional monarchy as Canada's form of government where we elect governments whose leader becomes Prime Minister." However, republicans suggest the result may have been skewed by the inclusion of "where we elect governments whose leader becomes Prime Minister." Also, 62% believe the monarchy helps to define Canada's identity. At the same time, 48% of Canadians say that "the constitutional monarchy is outmoded and 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% believe that "the issue of the monarchy and the form of Canada’s government isn’t important to them and if the system is working okay why go through all the fuss to change it." (Poll results—PDF document)
- The 2002 Leger Marketing poll found 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?" 43% said "no". Also, a majority (56%) said "yes" to: "In your opinion, should we replace the head of Queen Elizabeth II on the Canadian dollar by those of people who have influenced Canadian history?" 39% said "no". (Poll results—PDF document)
- A March 2005 poll prepared by Pollara Inc. for Rogers Media Inc. and Maclean's indicated that 46% supported, while 37% opposed the statement: "Do you support or oppose Canada replacing the British Monarch as Canadian Head of State?" (Source: Maclean's magazine, March 21, 2005, p.15). This survey was deemed by monarchists as skewed for two reasons: It mentioned the "British Monarch" rather than the "Queen of Canada", and it was taken at after the announcement of Prince Charles's marriage to Camilla Parker Bowles — an announcement that was seen as unpopular even by some monarchists.
- A March 2005 Decima Research Poll found some interesting support levels for members of the Royal Family. 71% of Canadians had a favourable impression of the Royal Family. Only 20% had an unfavourable impression of the Royal Family. The poll found that 28% of Canadians saw the Queen as their favourite member of the Royal Family, Prince William was second with 26%, Prince Harry was third with 9%, Prince Charles was fourth with 6% and Prince Philip last with 2% support.
- An opinion poll conducted by Environics Research Group Ltd. for the CBC taken on the eve of Prince Charles' wedding to the Duchess of Cornwall found that 65% of Canadians support Charles as King. Only 27% of Canadians did not support him as King. (Poll results)
- In 1997, British Prime Minister Tony Blair intended to offer a Life Peerage to Canadian businessman Conrad Black. Citing the 1919 Nickle Resolution, the Canadian government advised the Queen that they have objected to such honours for many years. If Blair had not backed down, the Queen would have been in the situation of having to grant an honour on the advice of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and to object to the same as Queen of Canada on the advice of then Prime Minister of Canada Jean Chrétien. The problem was resolved when Black renounced his Canadian citizenship. Canada raised no further objections and he was granted his peerage, becoming Lord Black of Crossharbour.
- Refer to the Constantian Society's detailed comparison of the costs of monarchies versus republics. The Constantian Society
- Commonwealth Realm
- L'Anse-Saint-Jean, Quebec
- Australian Constitutional History describes the parallel history of the monarchy in another former British dominion.
- List of Governors General of Canada
- Lists of Lieutenant Governors of: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories
- Lists of Commissioners of: Northwest Territories, Yukon, Nunavut
- Official site of the Canadian Monarchy
- Canadian Monarchist ONLINE, a Canadian website promoting Canada's constitutional monarchy
- Canadian Monarchist League
- Canada: A Constitutional Monarchy from the Government of Canada
- Golden Jubilee Celebrations in Canada
- Citizens for a Canadian Republic Canada's republican movement
- Monarchy-Free Canada Canadian republican and anti-monarchy news site
- Res Publica International anti-monarchy database: Canada
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