If Canada’s stuck with the monarchy, let’s push for some positive changes

Every day, I log in and take a look at the stats concerning this blog to get a sense of what people are looking at and where they’re coming from. Most of the traffic is local, and many new posts get a bit of activity for a few days followed by nothing more than the occasional visit by someone doing a Google search.

There is the odd post, however, that will get a flurry of hits from out of town, which usually means that it’s touched a nerve with someone.

One of those posts was the one I wrote last July about downtown Winnipeg’s big problem not being a lack of parking, but the huge amount of dead space.  In that post, I made some comments about the huge parking lots that dot downtown Des Moines, Iowa.

I noticed a surge in traffic from Des Moines recently, and though to myself: “Uh oh… I peed someone off.”

It wasn’t as bad as I feared. Obviously, some Des Moines residents on Absolute DSM were unimpressed by my comments. “Ahh, glorious ‘Winterpeg'”, one commentator wrote. “Living there is rather like living in Novosibirsk, I would imagine.”

The next time the wind chill dips below minus 30 here in The ‘Peg, I’ll probably find myself agreeing with that.

In any case, the good people of Des Moines weren’t as hard on me as I initially feared. The Upper Midwest is, after all, the heart of America in more ways than one. Their discussion among themselves about the past and future of Des Moines’ inner city proved to be both civil and enlightening.

Shortly after the traffic surge from Iowa, another one came in from across the Atlantic. The Kate Middleton Report — named after the girlfriend and probable future wife of Britain’s Prince William — picked up on what this blog wrote on New Years’ Eve about the possibility of a little constitutional crisis if Prince William were to have a daughter first and a son later.

British law forbids princesses from inheriting the throne unless they have no brothers. Thus, if Prince William and Kate Middleton (or whoever his wife turns out to be) were to have a daughter first and a son later, the daughter would be stripped of her position as heir to the throne at the moment of her younger brother’s birth.

This hasn’t been an issue in recent history, as no British monarch or heir to the throne has had his or her children in the “wrong” order since Queen Victoria.

Every British monarch and heir to the throne since then has had sons first, assuring that the throne would be passed without controversy from one generation to the next. The only exceptions were Edward VIII, who quit the throne in 1936 to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson without having ever had children of his own; and Queen Elizabeth’s father, George VI, who had no sons, leaving the path clear for his elder daughter to inherit the throne when he died in 1952.

Thus, no young princess has been bumped out of her position as heir to the throne since the one-year-old Princess Victoria (not to be confused with her mother, Queen Victoria) was forced in 1841 to yield to her little brother, who later became Edward VII.

Fast-forward from 1841 to 2018. The 92-year-old Queen Elizabeth II is still on the throne, but her age and declining health have forced her to reduce her workload. Prince Charles, aged 70, is first in line to the throne, but much of the spotlight is on Prince William, 36, William’s wife Kate, and their three-year-old daughter, Princess Olivia, third in line to the throne.

Just before Christmas, William and Kate have a second child — a son, Prince James.

All of a sudden, because of an ancient law, James is the heir to the throne and Olivia is out.

Sorry, Olivia. Too bad, so sad, sucks to be you.

Suddenly, British women are protesting an archaic law that effectively says that a royal offspring’s right to inherit the throne depends on what they’ve got between their legs. Challenges to the old laws are filed in British and European courts, arguing that the laws on which the succession to the throne are based are discriminatory and should be overturned. In the British parliament, MPs from all parties call for the law to be changed, and anti-monarchist sentiment is being stirred up in other Commonwealth countries.

Why wait for a controversy to happen if you can head it off first?

The laws that govern who will inherit the British throne — and thus become Canada’s official head of state — are indeed discriminatory.

The requirement that male heirs be given preference over females runs afoul of Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination… based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”)

The British law forbidding Catholics from inheriting the throne and disqualifying any member of the Royal Family who marries a Catholic from inheriting the throne is also contrary to the spirit of the Charter.

Since it would be difficult for Canada to get rid of the monarchy — a change that would require a major re-write of the Constitution and the unanimous approval of Parliament and all 10 provincial legislatures — then why shouldn’t we agitate for positive change by uniting with other governments in which the Queen is head of state, like Australia and New Zealand and even British sympathizers, to push for reforms that would reflect our shared egalitarian values?

Failing that, then why not have our own made-in-Canada succession law? It might mean that Canada and Britain might eventually have different monarchs from the same family — a cumbersome arrangement, perhaps, but one that would leave the door open to a future King or Queen of Canada who, for the first time in history, actually lives in Canada.

Canadians widely disapprove of discrimination based on a person’s gender or religion, and rightfully so. If the monarchy is the “Canadian institution” that some claim it to be, then we have every right to push for changes to that institution so that it reflects our values.


About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

3 Responses to If Canada’s stuck with the monarchy, let’s push for some positive changes

  1. Rob Wolvin says:

    Democracy can only work if a public is informed, engaged & active in the democratic process. Constitutional monarchy can only work if a monarch is resident in and seen to be a part of the national daily life. When the Fathers of Confederation created Canada’s unique version of constitutional monarchy, most Canadians felt a part of the greater British Empire and therefore recognized the legitimacy of a British monarch. That is not true today because of immigration from around the world and because of the efforts of successive Prime Ministers to remove the monarch from the Canadian consciousness. They have been successful by playing two cards, legitimacy based entirely on being elected & appeals to nationalism. Dependance on the ballot, as the only for of legimacy, leaves us open to what I would call ‘tyranny of the majority’. We have a senate that is supposed to represent regions equally & a monarch who is supposed to represent ALL of us with equal regard. Legitimacy is based on the consent of the people, regardless of the form of selection. Voting, particularly first past the post, or 50% + one does not, in itself represent the will of the people, only that small number who voted for the elected members. I agree that in a modern Canada the British sovereign has become very foreign and has little involvement in Canadian daily life.

    Canada’s constitution is a reflection of the British North America Act of 1867. That document was negotiated by prominent Canadians for Canadians and was presented whole and approved whole by the British parliament to create our nation. It was written to include checks and balances on power to the various branches of government. The sovereign has executive power but must work through the House of Commons & Senate to exercise that power. The judiciary is supposed to interpret & enforce the laws of the land, independent of the government of the day. Anti-monarchy activism has been successful in the name of democracy & nationalism. The erosion of the legitimacy of the crown & the crown’s representative, the Governor-General, has created a vacuum in executive authority. That has certainly been the intention of successive Prime Ministers! How can judges, senators & Governors be seen to act independently if they are dependant on the good graces of the Prime Minister’s Office, who appointed them? This office is completely unelected, unconstitutionally sanctioned and operates with one purpose, to keep their boss, the Prime Minister, in power! This concentration of power in the PMO is DEFINITELY, NOT in the interest of Canadian democracy!

    I believe that we need our own, resident royal family. It would make sense for that monarch to be a branch of our current sovereign’s house. After all they inherited the authority of every sovereign house that has been associated with this land since before Europeans arrived. Even the First Nations and French Canadians have expressed loyalty to this same royal family at various times in our nation’s history.

    There is plenty of precedent for this evolution. For instance, Brazil gained it’s independence and 80 years of economic & social progress when they took the heir to the Portuguese throne as their own Emperor in the early 19th century.

    Of course Canadians would have to be more aware of the system we have and why it was designed that way. They would have to at least be aware that we currently ARE a constitutional monarchy & who the Queen of Canada is!

    I recommend that Canadians, in defense of our heritage & our democracy lobby for the appointment of HRH Prince Andrew to the post of Governor-General of Canada. He’s someone with an international reputation, experience and contacts that can help Canadian diplomacy & industry as well as a true representative of the Queen! After our royal heritage is reflected in our daily life for 5 years… Let’s see then if Canadians want to reform or get rid of the monarchial system we have. We need someone who will defend the constitution from Prime Ministers who try to close parliament instead of facing criticism!


    What if, when the current sovereign passes away, the new monarch was selected through a partially elective process. What if the only requirement to run for the office was to be a descendant of Canada’s first Queen, Queen Victoria and be a resident of Canada? To keep the candidates above the frey, they could be required to have a group advocate on their behalf, in the election, rather than running actively themselves? The post would be for life unless resignation is requested. If the post becomes vacant then the same process could be followed or some other succession law could be enacted, with the consent of Canadians, after we have our own resident family.

    This way Canada could get it’s own monarch and that person or family would have the legitimacy of election as well as ancestral heritage.

  2. theviewfromseven says:

    Thanks, Rob, for the comments. A few quick notes:

    a.) More important than the preferences of the prime ministers, I think, was the decline in British emigration for many years in removing the monarchy from the Canadian conscience. Immigrants and their children tend to maintain close ties to the “old country” simply because they have friends and family there. The immigrants’ grandchildren, however, have only distant relatives in the “old country” and are usually thoroughly assimilated into the Canadian way of life. When British emigration dropped way off following WWII — after being a major source of new Canadians for most of Canada’s existence to that point — attachment to the monarchy was bound to decline as well.

    (With British emigration to Canada increasing again in recent years, due to a widening quality-of-life gap that once again makes moving to Canada an attractive proposition for young British professionals and the fact that it’s cheaper than ever to fly back and forth across the Atlantic, it will be interesting to see what effect this new wave of immigrants has on the Canadian way of life.)

    b.) I doubt that there will be any significant constitutional changes until a crisis breaks.

    c.) The announcement of a new GG appears to be imminent, but I’d be very surprised if it were a member of the British royal family. The precedent of only appointing resident Canadians is well established.

  3. Gladaman says:

    My advocacy for Constitutional Monarchy is not based on any nostalgia for Canada’s period of subjugation under the British colonial office. I am not an Anglophile. I am a patriotic Canadian. I recognize our own country’s monarchical heritage, dating back through antiquity. I also think many, raised on American republican propaganda would be surprised at the number of peoples in the world, who are not British, who have lived in a monarchy. Monarchy is not alien to the many immigrant populations who have joined the fabric of Canada in the 20th century any more than it was to our 1st peoples or earliest French settlers.

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