Time to change?

There is an interesting story on the Global News website, headlined: “Majority of Canadians say ties to monarchy should be cut when Queen dies: poll.” “A majority 947639-queenelizabethiicopy-1440936850-778-640x480of Canadians now believe that when Queen Elizabeth II dies and Prince Charles ascends to the throne, Canada should cut ties with the monarchy,” the story says, and “A new poll, conducted by Ipsos on behalf of Global News, has revealed that 53 per cent of us think it may soon be time to bid farewell to the monarch as our head of state … [and, further] … That’s the highest number recorded since 2010, noted Sean Simpson, vice-president of Ipsos Public Affairs, and a 10-point jump since last September — when Prince William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, were visiting Canada with their children.

Calls to dump the monarchy were, as usual, loudest in Quebec,” the Global News report says, “where 73 per cent of respondents said the links to Britain should be severed upon the Queen’s death — compared to between 44 and 51 per cent in all the other provinces.

But,” the reports goes on, “Canadian monarchists concerned that there is now enough of a “critical mass” of people who oppose continuing under British rule to prompt changes to the Constitution can probably relax” … [because] … “the challenges of re-opening the Constitution and making fundamental changes to our system of government remain prohibitive.

Any proposal to amend the Constitution to change the system of government ~ several provinces “united into One Dominion under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, with a Constitution similar in Principle to that of the United Kingdom” ~ would, I believe, require a full blown, no-holds-barred, Constitutional Congress which would put everything, including the existence of some provinces themselves, on the table. Unless there was one, HUGE, compelling issues (and I don’t think the monarchy is it) any such Congress would, almost certainly, collapse into internecine wrangling.

But, suppose it could be done without reopening the Constitution …

The first step would be to find a way to shuffle the lawful heirs and successors to our gracious Queen Elizabeth aside while, still, not changing the essential form of our government. The solution to that is old, 800 years old in England, to the times, in the 13th century when William Marshal rules during the minority of King Henry III, even older in, for example, China, where the Empress Lü Zhi ruled over 2,000 years ago as regent. William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke, is the better example because he was selected to rule, as regent, by the council, when the young (nine year old) king was deemed unfit. Regencies are neither new nor rare; they are good solutions when the monarch is, for whatever reason, unsuited to the task.

But how would, say, Charles, Prince of Wales or Prince William be be “unsuited” for the task of being King of Canada?

Maybe because, as we were in 1917, we are no longer “comfortable” with British customs or with the British royal succession.

Why 1917?

Recall, please, that in 1917 the House of Commons in Canada passed a Resolution, introduced by Conservative MP William Folger Nickle who “felt that the granting of hereditary honours was itself inconsistent with democratic values. Nickle successfully moved a resolution through the House in 1917 asking the king to halt the granting of hereditary peerages and knighthoods. The resolution was never advanced to the Senate and no request was ever made to the king.” Today many Canadians may feel that an idiosyncratic system in which only a select few people, none of who may be a Roman Catholic, just as one example of the peculiarities of the system, may reign over us is also “inconsistent with democratic values.” Canadians would not be blamed for deciding, for themselves, that the current system of succession does not meet their needs and that while they remain loyal to Queen Elizabeth and happy with their Constitution, they cannot accept the system of succession as being legitimate or in their best interests.

The resolution need only be passed by the House of Commons, it need never be, formally, addressed to the Queen, to have the desired effect. It is a statement of our values and the British monarchy would take note and, after a phone call or two, would decide not to pass the the throne of Canada on to her successors. The crown is obliged, constitutionally, to take the advice of the prime minister who has the confidence of the House of Commons. If a prime minister presented the crown with a Resolution asking the crown not to, automatically, take the throne of Canada I am 99.99% certain the crown would comply.

Who would be the Regent of Canada?

Obviously: the Governor General, who already has the Letters Paten of 1947, issued by King George VI in the wake of the Danish experience of World War II when Iceland needed a regent. Those letters patent allow the governor general to carry out nearly all of the sovereign’s duties in case of incapacity, and “incapacity” could be read as being unsuited for the task … in the opinions of the Canadian people.

How would we select new Governors General?

Much as we do now … the prime minister would, using whatever mechanism (s)he chooses, select a suitable candidate and recommend her or him to the current Governor General who, like a monarch, would be, generally,  bound to accept the advice of her/his serving prime minister.

No need to amend the Constitution?

I think this, done properly, which is to say publicly and in consultation with Queen Elizabeth, would preserve Canada as a constitutional monarchy, “united under the crown … [and] … with a Constitution similar … to that of the United Kingdom.” We would be a monarchy that did not recognize the legitimacy of the existing succession, that’s all; a constitutional monarchy, in other words, without a monarch, but with a Canadian head of state, a Governor General and Regent of Canada.

One thought on “Time to change?”

  1. The GG can “hold” the crown of a vacated monarchy, allowing us to keep the trappings of our traditional system (lord knows the Army needs another rank change). Let convention evolve the system to something similar to that of India’s President, where the GG can be elected for a long term (7 years? 10 years?) by all sitting members of Parliament and the Provincial and Territorial legistlatures.

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