The death of Queen Elizabeth, the reigning monarch of the British Empire, the Commonwealth, and therefore Canada, does not create a constitutional crisis in our system of government. This automatically caused the ascension of King Charles.
Canada, supposedly an independent country since 1867, now has its first new monarch since 1952. But a lot has changed since then.
In 1982 Canada adopted a new constitution which included the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, recognized aboriginal treaty rights and the homegrown way of amending the constitution in Canada without the involvement of the British Parliament.
Canada also retired the old red flag, which included the Union Jack and in 1965, a red and white flag with the image of a maple leaf was raised. However, Canada remains a constitutional monarchy, not a constitutional republic, despite these American-style moves toward independence.
Loyal to the British monarchy
Canada’s evolution as a modern nation centered on it loyalty to the British crowna clear alternative to the American experiment as a democratic republic almost a century ago.
The American Revolution was based on an obvious, violent denial Crown for the presidential form of government. Whatever the problems and flaws, it was a great moment of human innovation.
But despite remaining loyal to the Crown, Canada would begin to move away from the old British model in 100 years.
2022 is a possible tipping point as the long-reigning and popular Queen Elizabeth is succeeded by her less popular eldest son.
For Americans, it may be primarily a celebrity story. But for Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders and other Commonwealth citizens, the monarchy is linked to their system of government, symbolic representation and identity.
Severing ties in the Caribbean
A recent decision by the Caribbean island of Barbados to abandon the monarchy and become a republic is likely to portend similar results in the Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda and elsewhere in the region.
Even in the UK support for the monarchy has waned over the decades, although the majority still support it. According to some sources, especially young Britons loss of faith in the monarchy and inclination towards republicanism.
Some commentators rightly suggest that abandoning the monarchy in Canada would be virtually impossible as a constitutional matter, although all bets would obviously be off if Britain abandoned the monarchy first.
As the United States begins to grapple with its authoritarian tendencies and the rise of white nationalism, Canada and other Commonwealth countries increasingly focus on race relations, particularly the role of the Crown in relation to transatlantic slave tradeimperialism and attitude towards indigenous peoples.
All these questions concern the historical role of the crown and the British monarch in the fundamental legitimacy of our states and legal orders. Although Canada did not wage a revolutionary war for a republican form of government as the United States did, it has moved closer to the American, republican model of government and away from the British over the course of its legal, political, and constitutional history.
Detaches from the Crown
Canada’s first break with the Crown came in 1867, when it became an independent dominion and adopted the distribution of powers between the founding provinces and the federal parliament in Ottawa. The second major break occurred nearly 100 years later, when he was buried Constitution in 1982.
While it is true that Canada retained a British hereditary monarch as head of state in both 1867 and 1982, that does not mean it should do the same in the 21st century.
However, a referendum on the transition to a constitutional republic was not held in Canada Australia did it in 1999 when citizens chose to maintain ties with the Crown. But Barbados’ recent decision to abandon its monarchy suggests that the global process of decolonization continues and that anti-imperial ideology has teeth throughout the region.
Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders who are descendants of slaves or indigenous peoples were probably inspired by these events. These moods now it will only increase that the popular queen is dead.
Canada’s particular attitude to the role of the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church and the Crown itself in boarding schools and colonial genocide makes the Royal Family’s trappings of continuity and tradition seem like odd reasons to keep them around.
Time to think about Canada’s future
The death of Queen Elizabeth and the ascension of King Charles should be a moment of reflection for Canada, especially as Caribbean countries begin to move away from monarchy.
The world admired the queen. But whatever her personal qualities, the time has come to determine how the monarchy fits into Canada’s current situation as an independent country and its future aspirations, especially if it wants to take itself seriously as a modern, 21st-century nation focused on reconciliation with indigenous peoples.
Under constitutional law, removing the monarchy from its place at the center of our formal and symbolic constitutional order would require the unanimity of all provincial legislatures and both houses of the federal parliament.
It would also likely require a referendum in each province before any of the provincial legislatures or parliament would take such a vote.
It would be difficult and might not work on the first or even second try, but it is hardly impossible. This is evidenced by public opinion polls while most Canadians admire the Queen, only about half are committed to the monarchy as an institution anyway.
Younger, more diverse and indigenous citizens can begin to claim a country in their own image, a country that belongs not only to those who settled in it, but also to those who were there long before – and to those who choose to make it their home today .
Author: Jeffrey B. Myers – Lecturer, Criminology, Kwantlen Polytechnic University