“Canada is a monarchist exception in the middle of a republican continent,” recalls Marc Chevrier, a professor of political science at the University of Quebec in Montreal.
In a few weeks, after a period of mourning, “the debate around the relevance of remaining monarchy will resume, Pandora’s box is open”, the latter adds.
To honor the man who was “queen for almost half of Canada’s existence”, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recalled, the country entered a ten-day mourning period on Thursday.
Flags have been lowered across the country and a national memorial ceremony is planned in the capital Ottawa on the day of the funeral in London.
But behind the official fanfare, the country has an increasingly bilateral relationship with the monarchy. “Even in English-speaking Canada, respect for the monarchy has been declining over the years,” explains Philip Lagasse, a professor at Carleton University in Ottawa and an expert on the role of the monarchy in Canada.
According to a survey last April, a small majority of citizens – a percentage reaching 71% in Quebec – even want to abolish royalties, a role that remains largely ceremonial today.
And they were 67% of Canadians, to say they were opposed to Charles becoming King of Canada. His visit to the country last May went almost unnoticed.
As head of state, the monarch in Canada has less authority than in Britain. It is the Governor General, who is the representative of the sovereign in the country, who has the powers.
But he is appointed by the prime minister – Marie Simon, an Inuk from northern Quebec, currently holds the position. She is the first Indigenous Governor General of Canada.
sever ties with the monarchy
However, to follow the example of Barbados, which decided to secede from the British Crown in 2021 to become a republic, Canada should consider a major reform of institutions and constitutional law.
The argument established at the birth of Canada in 1867, “the monarchy is the key to all constitutional laws” emphasizes Mark Shaver. For example, he continues, “the office of prime minister does not even exist in the Canadian Constitution, which only mentions the monarch”.
Amending the constitution and abolishing the monarchy represents a titanic effort and potentially years of political negotiations as it requires the unanimous approval of the parliament and the governments of ten Canadian provinces.
And the debate could be heating up in an increasingly politically divided Canada.
All symbols associated with royalty will be discussed and possibly reviewed over time in order to continue eroding ties with the British monarchy, believes Philippe Lagasse.
Like the presence of an effigy of the emperor on the currency. Today, Queen Elizabeth II is depicted on $20 coins and banknotes.
Certain ceremonies may also develop: notably the oath of citizenship. Any new Canadian citizen so far had to lend, during a ceremony, “sincere allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II of Canada, her heirs and successors”.
A provision of the citizenship law was challenged in court by the permanent residents only a few years back.
In an increasingly diverse and multicultural Canadian population, in full reflection on the role of the colony, the relationship with the monarchy seems less and less relevant.
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