Opinions & Features Workshop (Oct 26th)

Photo courtesy Annie Spratt // Unsplash

The time is coming for the Canadian Crown to modernize and revitalize itself

By Luis Armando Sanchez Diaz, December 14 2021—

The political composition of the Canadian state has been based on the principles of a constitutional monarchy, and it is one that has adopted the governing procedures of a parliamentary democracy since Confederation. It has been a system that has cemented itself for more than a century — resulting in the democratic country we know today. And it is one that has slowly continued to reform itself in order to guarantee its functionality and thus its continuity.

This distinct form that the state has adopted is constitutionally enshrined and is one that has distinguished Canada from other countries, particularly, the federal republic system in the United States. Also, it has consolidated strong, democratic institutions ensuring that Canada maintains a unique position on the world stage, as it has consistently outranked the US and many western nations in issues such as education, equality, freedom and security, among many others.

The greatness that this nation holds is the result of not only the work performed by various governments that have governed Canada — which have focused on ensuring the prosperity of the country — but on the contributions, perseverance, talent and intelligence of every Canadian throughout its history. No matter if there is a Conservative or Liberal government, the interests of this nation have always been pursued and their loyalty to Canada cannot be questioned.

However, the importance of keeping each government accountable will always play a significant role in guaranteeing this prosperity and greatness. It has also served as a strong mechanism that prevents politicians from vying for overreaching authority, power and influence. This accountability makes sure that people’s voices are heard and represented in the enactment of laws and in the process of implementing policies that seek to address the issues that Canadians face every day. Those actions led by the Canadians — inside and out of government — have allowed Canada to become a progressive nation that has positioned itself as a role model for other nations to aspire to become.

Canada’s constitutional monarchy system states that the head-of-state’s powers and responsibilities are bestowed in a monarch — the Queen or King of Canada. Currently, Queen Elizabeth II has presided over the Canadian crown since 1953, when the Royal Styles and Titles Act was passed and officially proclaimed her as the Queen of Canada. On the other hand, a parliamentary democracy refers to the way the government is elected and formed, as well as how it functions and is held accountable. The government of Canada is led by  the Prime Minister who is the head-of-government and their Cabinet Ministers — each responsible for a particular portfolio.

Over the course of 154 years Canada has been ruled by six monarchs, including Queen Victoria, “The Mother of Confederation”, who was the first sovereign of the Dominion of Canada. In addition, King George V became the first monarch to head the Canadian monarchy after the passage of the Statute of Westminster in 1931, which decreed the British and Canadian monarchies as separate entities. However, it wasn’t until 1953 during the start of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign that she was crowned as the first sovereign of Canada.

The Canadian monarch resides in Britain, the position is represented by a Governor General who performs the sovereign’s constitutional duties and responsibilities among which is the opening, dissolving, or proroguing of Parliament, appointing the prime minister and serving as the Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces. This dynamic has had many peoples across the nation wondering about the relevance of having a head-of-state that lives across the pond — one that has never lived on Canadian soil.

A recent poll conducted by the Angus Reid Institute showed that the majority of Canadians would not like to continue having a constitutional monarchy system in the future, while only a quarter stated the opposite. The study also noted that 27 per cent of Canadians would favour transferring the responsibilities of the governor general to the prime minister. Albeit 20 per cent of respondents support the idea of Canada transitioning to a republican system — like in the United States — where the president heads both the government and the state.

From my vantage point, it would neither be polite nor respectful to begin the conversation about the future of the Canadian monarchy while Queen Elizabeth II continues to reign — as noted in the poll, 55 per cent of people support the idea of her being the head-of-state for as long as she reigns. For respect to her service to Canada and the Commonwealth we must wait for Prince Charles to ascend to the British throne and recognize him as our head-of-state but not coronate him as King of Canada. Just as Queen Elizabeth’s predecessors who presided over the Canadian Crown but were not officially crowned as Canada’s sovereigns. 

Only then can the whole country start the conversation about transitioning, potentially, to a new system. That is something that I find to be the most practical and pragmatic next step since it is more than anticipated that Prince Charles will not be popular in Canada, as more than two-thirds of respondents are opposed to the idea of recognizing him as king.

Any changes to the Canadian Crown which could lead to a new system will be a constitutionally difficult process and will require a lot of political will and capital to achieve — one that will only be put on the table if Canadians, in great numbers, support the measure. Since the Constitution Act states in section 41(a) that any motion that seeks to alter the composition of the Office of the Queen needs to be unanimously  “authorized by resolutions of the Senate and House of Commons and of the legislative assembly of each province.” It seems like a complicated process but so have been other issues that this country has faced in the past and one and half century later Canada still stands “Strong and Free.”

The right move would be to establish a modern version of the Canadian monarchy, where an individual holds the position by appointment, not anointment or by inheriting the throne. This official must be appointed by the Senate of Canada in recommendation by a special committee of multiple individuals of different backgrounds, unlike the current process where the Queen appoints the nominee in recommendation of the prime minister.

If no Canadian has the chance of choosing the person that can dismiss or extend their job, neither should the prime minister. The new Queen or King should be a Canadian individual with high merits and credentials that can serve for a five-year constitutionally-fixed term during which they would fulfill the current duties and obligations the governor general serves.

For many, the process may appear to be more bureaucratic and political, and it certainly would end up being way more complex than what I’m presenting, as a lot more constitutional input by real experts must be put into the development of this new system to make it viable. This idea of changing the way we get our monarch has the sole purpose of protecting Canada’s democracy at all costs with as many steps and barriers as possible to prevent an authoritarian leader from posing a danger to the Canadian state, its integrity as well as the wellbeing of every citizen. Given the tumultuous times the United States is going through, Canada must stand firm in order to protect its democratic values and ideas.

We must wait for Queen Elizabeth II’s reign to come to its closure to really discuss where we think Canada should be headed next. Canadians of all backgrounds must come together to assemble a comprehensive, responsible and efficient system for the Canadian state — in the case Canadians decide so.

The process will also serve as a unique opportunity to address the inequalities and discriminatory state structures that have oppressed multiple groups throughout history and finally establish a system of government that favours everyone. 

I strongly encourage Canadians to observe the benefits that a constitutional monarchy has over any other system, particularly, the balancing of power that the system represents — which from my opinion has cemented the democratic bedrock of this country. 

The time is coming for the Canadian Crown to revitalise and renew itself to fit, serve and represent the values and ideas of the Canadian society of the 21st century. By doing this, Canada will ensure the protection of democracy and the continuity of its progressive and diverse identity — which is unique worldwide. Sooner or later this conversation and subsequent changes will happen. 

For the good of the country and the future of Canada, we must address the issue just as Canadians have in past circumstances — with resilience, unity and determination.  

This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.


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