It’s the television series everyone is talking about — and no, I’m not referring to White Lotus. With the first three episodes of Harry & Meghan out on Netflix and the other three set to drop next week, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have succeeded in attracting enormous amounts of attention on both sides of the Atlantic.

In the process, they’re raising renewed questions about the relevance of the monarchy and whether it’s fit for purpose in the 21st century — questions that deserve an answer here in Canada as well.

That’s not what British tabloids, which come under particularly intense scrutiny in the documentary, are focused on right now. Instead, they’re busy accusing the couple of everything from attacking the late Queen’s legacy to trying to bring down the monarchy itself — just about anything, it seems, in order to feed the insatiable demand in Great Britain for royal gossip and commentary. As The Guardian’s media editor Jim Waterson noted: “Within two hours of the release of the first episodes, the top 12 stories on MailOnline were all about the couple, complete with pictures, gifs, and screengrabs. The Sun managed seven stories about the couple online within the first two hours.”

Mercifully, the interest in the once-royal couple is far less intense here in Canada. But while it might be tempting for most of us to dismiss this as yet more drama from an institution that seems to specialize in it, the future of the monarchy is something in which we have a vested interest. And Quebec, whether anyone likes it or not, is forcing the question.

At the outset of the recent sitting of the National Assembly, 14 elected members — 11 from the opposition Québec solidaire party and three from the Parti Québécois — refused to swear the oath to King Charles. Eventually, the Québec solidaire MNAs agreed to stand down, but only so they could advance a bill making the oath optional. "It is, I think, a relic from the past," Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, a co-spokesperson for Québec solidaire, said in early December. "There is strong support in Quebec to modernize our institutions, to make sure that the representatives of the people are not forced in 2022 to swear an oath to a foreign king."

He was right. Just a few days later, the Quebec National Assembly passed a bill that allows MNAs to opt out of swearing an oath to the King, and while constitutional scholars aren’t clear about whether that will actually pass legal muster the issue seems all but settled in Quebec’s court of public opinion. According to an Ipsos poll conducted after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, 79 per cent of Quebecers think it’s time for their country to cut ties with the Crown.

The real question is whether the rest of Canada is willing to follow Quebec down this path. Removing the oath from the Constitution or abolishing the monarchy outright would require unanimous support from all 10 provinces, and Canadian politicians have become understandably wary of any talk of constitutional change after the twin fiascos of Meech Lake and Charlottetown. With our politics more polarized than ever, it’s hard to imagine we could achieve the kind of consensus required to do something on this front — or that our elected officials would have the appetite for it.

As Leyland Cecco and Betty Ann Adam wrote in The Guardian back in September, “Any political leader looking to abolish the monarchy would need to stomach significant disorder and confusion, as well as a wave of competing visions for a reformed constitution.”

They would also have to initiate new negotiations with Indigenous Peoples, who signed their original treaties with the Crown. New treaties would almost certainly have to be signed, ones that would compel Canada to honour its commitments to reconciliation and reckon with the cost of its past failures on that front.

Netflix's 'Harry & Meghan' is raising renewed questions about the relevance of the monarchy and whether it’s fit for purpose in the 21st century — questions that deserve an answer here in Canada as well, writes columnist @maxfawcett. #opinion

This is pretty clearly not a job for the current prime minister, whose reserves of political capital are vanishingly thin right now. Instead, it would require a different voice, one with a new perspective and an undrawn account. Yes, it would be risky, and yes, it could distract from more pressing economic and social concerns of the day.

But in a country where we seem more alienated and distant from each other than ever, maybe this is exactly the sort of national exercise we need. Our ability to address economic and social concerns is informed, at least in part, by a sense of collective will and well-being, and those have both been badly eroded in recent years. Taking a hard look at who we are and how we want to present ourselves to the world would help us redefine our identity, re-establish our shared priorities and redetermine the course we want to chart in the years and decades ahead. Just like Harry and Meghan, in other words.

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"They would also have to initiate new negotiations with Indigenous Peoples, who signed their original treaties with the Crown."

Why? The federal government would become the Crown's successor, would it not?

And what mechanism would provide that "sober second look" ... and how would that body be formed.

Don't get me wrong: I've for a long, long time been in favor of getting the British monarchy completely out of our governance, and in favor of foreign dignitaries paying their own way when they visit. But while we've got right-wing extremists seeded throughout power and enforcement structures, it's not the time for massive changes in governance.

It's utterly pointless to propose destroying something, even something that's historically never been to Canada's advantage, without any consideration of what should or could follow. And frankly, Canada's got a big enough job, cleaning up policing and the military -- not to mention the judicial system, before anything else is slated for huge change.

Good grief: it's not the King of England, and wasn't before him the Queen of England, making a mockery of our own democracy and riding a path of utter non-compliance with climate change targets required to help anything at all.

If you think Trudeau is problematic, consider the alternatives at the moment. My own regard for Trudeau is ... well ... let's just say "not high."

In answer to the question the headline poses: No.

In general, I think the reasons I've had for many years for preferring to keep the monarch and stay in the commonwealth remain sound. First, I like having a symbolic head of state distinct from the head of government, allowing for the concept of the "loyal opposition". In Canada, opposition parties in parliament are considered loyal to the crown, and through the crown to the country/people in general. In systems, such as many presidential systems, where the head of government is also the symbolic head of state, opposing them has a whiff of treason. When the government is strong, that tends to result in crackdowns or at least chilling of ideas opposed to the government; when the government is not so strong, it means that those opposed to the government often start to think in terms of "civil war". We've seen both of those things in the US within the last 15-20 years--the first during the "war on terror", the second right now. In theory, we could set up some other symbolic head of state, but a new invented symbol would be weak unless maybe it was accompanied by some political project so major as to warrant a sort of re-launching of the Canadian state. I've seen no signs of any vision of that scale on the Canadian political scene. Symbols with some tradition behind them are stronger.

Second, with the US as such a massive, and in my opinion largely negative, influence on us, any counterweight differentiating Canada from them is, all else being equal, a Good Thing.

And there's no real downside to having the Royals. We don't have to pay for them--oh, now and then a bit when they come here, just like with visiting diplomats and stuff, but nothing remotely significant. And they have exactly zero power over us. There's really nothing that's a problem. So with upsides that are perhaps not massive but still significant, and no real downside, why would we mess with a good thing?

As to Harry and Meghan, whatever. He's a fool and a wimp, she's a massive narcissist and I don't believe much she says; her own family doesn't seem to like her much, and she ditched them long ago; why are we even paying attention as she ditches her new one too for publicity? Some parts of the US establishment seem to have decided they want to dump on the royals, and Meghan gets to ride on the wave of that decision and drag Harry along, and why should I care?

I agree that under the current political circumstances we need to shore up the parliamentary democracy system that differentiates us from the Americans, and the monarchy is the symbol of that. So do let's swear allegiance to that symbol since symbols are FAR less fractious and problematic than people, especially those of the conservative persuasion who have had sufficient stores of truly evil, destructive energy to both initiate AND orchestrate the "polarization." Could we at least stop talking about it as if it's some sort of random wind that blew in for gods' sake, since it's one of those "conspiracies" that's actually true?
And on Harry and Meghan, it's like you've followed the tabloid version of the whole thing. I challenge you to watch the documentary (and I'm not a "royalist," couldn't care less) because it's a searing and well-deserved indictment of the tabloid British press with its paparazzi who are indirectly responsible for Harry's mother's death, have plagued him his entire life, and then viciously targeted her. No one does nasty like the British and this entire perspective is both the origin story of Fox "News" and the current right wing.
Harry and Meghan of course belong to the generation that they come from, and also have a unique platform which they're definitely making use of, but it's not just crass opportunism by any means. They have a timely, valid perspective well presented; they're not what you think.

Of course, certain Quebecois DON'T want to swear allegiance to the crown for precisely the same reason most of the country is best served if they DO. They don't want to be the "loyal opposition", they want to break up the country, which is kind of . . . DISloyal. It's understandable--if you're a separatist, you don't want to swear allegiance to the crown, duh. But should we care? They're separatists, the rest of us (including many Quebecois) aren't; they want to break the country up, we want to keep it together; they don't want swearing allegiance (whether to the king, any other symbol of the country, or the country itself), we do want swearing allegiance. I don't think that raises any big issues about what the rest of us should be wanting; we can disagree about this.

It's true that the English connection of the crown is specifically problematic for Quebec. But are there any non-separatists who care very much about the swearing allegiance thing?

Max, this is the second time you've posted an article like this.
Go back and re-read the comments on the first one. The answer was "no" then, and it's still "no".

A country needs a Head of State. We currently have a symbolic head of state (the King, represented by the Governor General). So, if the monarchy was abolished in Canada, how would we select a Head of State? Some countries with Parliamentary Systems have an elected head of state. If a head of state were elected, that person would NOT be a symbolic, ceremonial person, but would actually have power. They could be at odds with Parliament or they could be in cahoots with them. In my opinion, this is an unnecessary layer of government and could have bad consequences (as we see regularly with the US government, where it is almost impossible to get anything done because Congress and the President are always at odds! Maybe we could have a symbolic head of state selected as Supreme Court judges are? Would it be any better? Or are we not better off with a head of state that we can mostly forget about! Anyway, to get the Provinces and the First Nations to agree on any kind of constitutional changes would take a miracle...and I don't believe in miracles!

Yes, if we had an elected head of state (this is usually called a president), there would be an election campaign. All of the candidates would be called upon to make promises about what they would do if they got elected. After the election was over, the winner would be expected to keep those promises.
The end result of all this would be the gradual movement of power from Parliament to the president. This would be a Bad Thing.

You're absolutely spot on. Everyone flailing away within the confines of "the system" allows venting of perennial, unavoidable differences, and the important encompassing of such conflict lies in the phrase, "Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition." This is what the conservatives simply cannot tolerate, this fair-mindedness, probably because it's essentially a liberal concept. They want systemic change where all the power lies with elected representatives alone (remember them yammering on about an elected senate and picking fights with the Supreme Court?) It explains their tinkering with the "Fair Elections Act," (headed by their current leader who apparently went into politics at a very young age because he couldn't play hockey for some reason?!) and their aggressive tactics to suppress the vote by various methods which Republicans have been so successful at since Newt Gingrich declared an intention to "break" government. Progressives are naturally the majority there and here, so the right wing has become desperate.
What the convoy and the Jan. 6th insurrection reveal is that the current psycho conservatives actually want more of a "cage match." Proud boys all.

We can at least quit Harry and Meghan. I am up for quitting the Royals but thats way harder. Please National Observer, don't make me quit you. I am not giving you my money for Harry and Meghan headlines.

I agree with the last two sentences. If I wanted to read about Harry and Meghan, I could just pick up one of those tabloids while standing in line at the supermarket checkout. I support a considerable amount of online media, but I'm unwilling to pay for clickbait.

The issue of the not abolishing the non-resident alien monarchy demonstrates the essential laziness of too many federal and provincial politicians. They appear happy to use an outdated colonial system to their anti-democratic benefit - See Doug Ford or Danielle Smith - while wringing their hands about how hard it would be to amend the constitution or accept collective responsibility for treaties with First Nations. Do. Your. Job.

But this "non-resident alien monarchy" that you dismissively label "anti-democratic" also happens to be the steeped, historical underpinnings of our parliamentary democracy, the sustaining royal jelly you could say, and THE feature that happily distinguishes us from Americans. Ever more theocratic, their fanatical exceptionalism derives from considering their precious constitution, THEIR underpinnings (notably revolutionary where Canada's are evolutionary) to be literally on a par with the Holy Bible! What could go wrong? I'll take evolution thanks.