Should Canada get rid of the Royal Family? It’s the debate that, like the 95-year-old Queen herself, just keeps on going. Now, after the tiny country of Barbados kicked the monarchy to the curb, Canadians are asking whether we should do the same. According to a recent Angus Reid poll, more than half of us think our status as a constitutional monarchy needs to change at some point, while 25 per cent are happy staying tied to British royalty.

That’s a 15-point drop from 2016, which shouldn’t come as a surprise given how the last few years have gone for the royals. Never mind the damage the Netflix series The Crown has done to their reputation, or the resurgence of interest in Princess Diana and her mistreatment by the House of Windsor. There’s also the racism that ultimately caused Meghan Markle and Prince Harry to abandon their royal duties and move west to California, not to mention the ugly revelations about Prince Andrew and his friendship with the world’s most (in)famous sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein. At this point, the only useful function the royals perform is serving as a very visible reminder of what a dysfunctional family really looks like.

That dysfunction will only become more obvious, and more manifest, when the era of Queen Elizabeth II ends. Her enduring personal popularity has helped distract from just how irrelevant and inconsequential the Royal Family is to modern Canadian life, but that distraction won’t last forever. Aside from the small and shrinking clutch of monarchists in Canada, who still pine for the red ensign nearly 60 years after it was replaced with the maple leaf, there won’t be many people left who are loyal to the institution or willing to fight very hard for its preservation.

I can hear those remaining monarchists practically shouting: what about the role the Queen and Crown play in Canada’s political system? Well, it’s basically the political equivalent of an appendix, a once-useful organ that has outlived its purpose and role. Yes, they theoretically possess emergency powers that can be used to refuse royal assent to a piece of legislation or dismiss a government, but the odds of that actually happening are about the same as Barack Obama and Donald Trump teaming up to fight the spread of online misinformation. For all practical intents and purposes, our politics are independent of the Royal Family’s influence, malign or otherwise, and Queen Elizabeth effectively signed off on that when she put her name on the Constitution Act in 1982.

It’s one thing to oppose the monarchy in a survey, though, and a much different one to actually remove it from Canada’s constitutional architecture. As University of Waterloo political science professor Emmett Macfarlane has been telling journalists for years, the cost-benefit analysis on this for Canada’s politicians just doesn’t add up. Removing the monarchy and replacing it with a new system — most likely, a republic — would require the unanimous consent of all 10 provinces, the House of Commons and the Senate, and Canada has never been able to pass a major reform with the so-called 7/50” rule (seven provinces representing 50 per cent of the population).

It would also open the door to other constitutional grievances, from Alberta’s long-standing (and ill-informed) complaints about the equalization program to Quebec’s endless demands for more provincial autonomy. “Politicians are enormously reluctant, even unwilling to touch the Constitution because it’s automatically seen as a national unity issue,” Macfarlane told Global earlier this year. “It would be an enormously difficult undertaking, especially in the case of full abolition.”

Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing, though. Repatriating the Constitution was seen in a similar light before Pierre Trudeau finally found a way to hammer out a deal with the provinces. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which was a centrepiece of that deal, has transformed both Canadian jurisprudence and our shared identity as Canadians in ways that even its supporters could scarcely have imagined at the time. Removing the last vestiges of colonial rule from Canada’s political system — and placing Canada’s Indigenous Peoples at the heart of any potential replacement — could have a similarly transformative influence on our own future. If nothing else, it would spark an important conversation about who we are, and who we want to become, as a country.

Replacing our constitutional monarchy and the Royal Family with a republic isn’t without risk, as the increasingly dysfunctional republic to our south reminds us almost every day. All political systems have their strengths and weaknesses, and we need to be sure that we’re not trading a weakness we can live with — embarrassment, mostly — for one we can’t. But given the monarchy’s declining popularity and relevance, it’s probably time for a more serious exploration of something new. One of Canada’s great strengths has been its ability to adapt and evolve, and we may need to do both again.

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Every time this topic comes up, my Anglophile bone aches, hard.

Entirely aside from that, why?
What are the pros to divorcing the royalty, for a start? Certainly not while the Queen is still above ground. We'll see about Chuck. But as an institution, why get rid of it? especially considering the clutter and cost.
What are the pros to becoming a republic? Especially considering the clutter and cost.

As a long-time feminist, I never lose sight of the fact that it was not OUR country who finally declared that women were not in the same boat as criminals and idiots and similar "refuse" in terms of human status--it was the British government of the day. That was then and this is now, but again, why lose that connection?

We are a very diverse country now, and people from all kinds of nations hold/may hold allegiance in their hearts and minds to other nations. So what?

The royalty are one of the few grace notes in this degrading world. I don't want to lose that. That's emotional. For the rational, go back to the pros and cons, above.

So, no. A resounding No.

Do you think that the the Gitxsan and Wetʼsuwetʼen should get rid of their hereditary chiefs, too?

Yes to both.
I emigrated from the UK thinking I could get away from hereditary and ruling class systems and it was quite a shock when I found out I had to swear allegiance to the Queen to get my citizenship. But knowing a good deal when I saw it, I gritted my teeth and jumped through that particular hoop. Fifty years on, I have no regrets.
But Charlie? and Andrew? The only good thing you can say about them is "they're not as bad as Trump"; and hereditary rulers in general are just as bad deal for ordinary folks as trust kids like, the Rodgers clan, the Olands, Westons or the Koch brothers.

Since you obviously know nothing about Wet'suwet'en Heriditary Chief Na’Moks (a.k.a. John Ridsdale), here's an article you can read:

I completely agree with Max's recommendation that Canada move past the UK monarchy for all the reasons cited. It also doesn't have to be so hard: initially, just de-link the federal governor-general + provincial lieutenant generals from UK royalty and drop the 'royal' from all other government titles ('Royal Navy' for example). Could this be done after a popular referendum? It's heartening to see increasing popular support for this separation: a critical step forward in finally acknowledging what indigenous peoples and Quebecois have always experienced as oppressive. As for the diminishing percentage of anglo descendants in the country, they will just have to get over their nostalgia for empire and more fully embrace being Canadian!

We are fully Canadian. Britain has no influence on our sovereignty. The Queen is Canadian in her capacity as our head of state.

Anyway, can you spell C-O-N-S-T-I-T-U-T-I-O-N-A-L——A-M-E-N-D-M-E-N-T ?

OK, leaving because of Meghan Markle would be idiotic. The royals are far more sinned against than sinning there. Markle can't seem to live without attention, but I don't see why that's a good reason to give her unlimited amounts of it.
Meanwhile, that one sleazy guy is, yeah, sleazy . . . but mainly because he's an arms dealer for the British government, and you end up spending your time with sleazebuckets and turning into a sleazebucket if that's your career. He hangs with people like Mohammed Bone Sawman too. They shoulda left the royals out of that business.

The monarchy has two basic advantages. One is, it gives us the Loyal Opposition, via the head of government who is not head of state. The point is, in the US if you are disloyal to the President, you are arguably disloyal to the country--they're the head of state, the personification of the country, so being against them is arguably being against the US itself. W Bush used that idea extensively, and Trump would certainly have liked to. If the US does end up a dictatorship, that symbolism will be more important than the actual juridical power of the president in getting them there. In Canada, the Prime Minister runs things, and in a majority government probably has more power over the country than the US president does. But, the Prime Minister is not head of state--they're loyal to the Crown, which in turn has only symbolic power. And, the members of parliament are also loyal to the Crown. So, you can't accuse the opposition of being traitors--they're not supposed to be loyal to the government of the day but to the crown. They're the Loyal Opposition, serving the Crown by ensuring that the government of the day is held to account. It's an important distinction.

We could get a separate head of state . . . but if they were elected they'd gain democratic legitimacy and power, so we'd have a presidential system. If they ended up with most of the power we'd have the problems of the US. If they only had some power we'd have gridlock and unclear lines of responsibility. Alternatively, we could have a symbolic, unelected head of state that would remain powerless because they had no democratic mandate. Wait, hang on a moment . . . we already have one. Everything would change so everything could remain the same . . . only with symbolism that would be weaker because it would have no weight of tradition. Worse than pointless.

The second thing that's handy about continuing to have the monarchy is, we can use everything we can get that makes us distinct from the US. Just giving a source of difference away for free seems like a really dumb move.

Nicely reasoned - reminds me of the cliched Churchill quote - its a horrible system, but it's better than all the alternatives.
A superbly typical Canadian solution.

"We could get a separate head of state . . . "

Some time ago Don Cherry was proposed for a similar role. The polls exploded in support. Be careful what you suggest -- and understand the possible consequences.

Prince Charles' main sin was, people thought he was a wingnut for being right about the environment and climate change and agriculture before you were allowed to be right about those things. I think that wouldn't be such a bad monarch to have.

Agreed, and with everyone else saying NO. Because it IS increasingly important to continue to distinguish ourselves from the Americans in that their essential identity is derived from "revolution" while ours has come from "evolution."
The monarchy is an important and basically harmless example of that and so should be maintained. Despite the less than genteel behaviour of the people involved, the institution itself serves us well.

Right by coincidence - based on how wingnut he is about other things, e.g. architecture, or modern agriculture.

Dunno, I saw his show about architecture. He might not have known a ton about architecture, but the buildings he was calling out as ugly and grotesque were in fact ugly and grotesque, so I'm thinking the British architectural establishment didn't know much more.

"... placing Canada’s Indigenous Peoples at the heart of any potential replacement."
This would be worse than 'first past the post' in terms of representation - first on board gets to be captain? And practically, from which of the 500-odd First Nations would you pick the Chief? The democratically elected (but only 'indians' can vote) Federation of Indians? And Parliament, that represents the other 38 million Canadians, gets to be loyal to them? Hardly.
Now, if you wanted to give the First Nations more political clout by giving them 50% of the Senate seats, I could go along with that.

I’m not sure I agree, but at least it’s possible. Constitutional amendments are hardly that.

King Chuck. I rest my case. Best thing Chuck could do is run the Monarchy into the ground. Eventually, Canada has to put the Big Boy pants on and become a real country. Remember that the Monarchists had floated the idea of getting Andrew as King for Canada, we dodged a Bullitt there.

The question is this "Would an GG or LG refuse to sign legislation that was clearly undemocratic?"

Canada is a real country, totally and completely independent and sovereign. If you believe otherwise, you are misinformed.

"... the political equivalent of an appendix, a once-useful organ that has outlived its purpose" is probably a poor choice of metaphor, given that it's recently been found to be a long-lasting reservoire of (good) gut bacteria that survive GI tract illness ... and even antibiotics.

Aside from that, it's interesting that no one suggests the Royal Family being required to pay their own way.

And sad that the only other model contemplated in all the replies is that of the broken nation to the south of us.

Where do you get the idea the Royal Family doesn’t pay its own way? And, anyway, that’s an entirely British matter. We totally independent, sovereign Canadians don’t pay the Royal Family anything or have anything to do with British policy.

It’s true that retiring the Queen would require a new head of state, but also true that we needn’t change our parliamentary system to a congressional one like the US. The problem is how a president is selected, whether elected or appointed. Once elected, it establishes the legitimacy for one person to interfere with the popularly elected parliament. With a multiparty parliament like ours, federally, a partisan president becomes arbiter about which party or alliance will govern if voters return a hung result. That’s true for elected president in any parliamentary system.

"Quitting the royal family won't be easy."

Low priority. And a distraction. It would be better for the nation and world to see our various governments fully engaged in developing and enacting a detailed National Climate Plan first.

Canada is a constitutional monarchy. Every once in a while—like coincidentally when a little Island nation that’s “kicked the Queen to the curb” (I’ll deal with that idiotic statement in a bit)—Canadians need a pointless distraction that’s so moot in reality that they don’t grasp, no popularity or opinion poll is worth two cents. In fact, when it comes to the Sovereign, most Canadians haven’t a clue what they’re talking about, and I suspect that’s where the author here gets his misinformation from.

BTW, Barbados did not “kick the Queen to the curb” and such mischaracterization is truly the sign of a hackneyed finger-painter who thinks he’s a journalist. In fact, Barbadians’ choice to become a republic was democratically their own, is respected by the Crown which wishes the new republic well, it remains in the Commonwealth and the transition was orderly with no hard feelings. Most of what Fawcett says is complete twaddle founded on nothing more than facile, ignorant prejudices he apparently espouses. Fortunately, Canada’s not going to sever its own head of state anytime soon.

The silly notion ranks right up there with Harper’s plans to reform the Senate or amalgamate the Maritimes—both by fiat. But then, during his single majority —the one where significant pieces of of his government’s legislation were stuck down by the SCoC, such was his concept of Canadian sovereignty that he signed ‘trade deals’ with China that potentially offends the Constitution, took down portraits of the Queen (it didn’t take me long to make BC Ferries reinstalls them), and bullied the Queen’s Governor General into saving him from a confidence vote his government would have lost—that is, brought Canada to the brink of a constitutional crisis. But I suppose he knew he could fleece some Canadians—at least until the Constitution was upheld by the courts.

By what mechanism does Fawcett imagine the head of state can be ‘gotten rid of?’ A constitutional amendment would be required —but perhaps he doesn’t remember Meech or Charlottetown. It’s doubtful many Canadians do either—except that they got a bad opinion of politicians wasting time and money on it. But I guess that’s enough to presume popular or political will exists to pursue an amendment. And then what to do when the head of state must be elected? We can’t even change the electoral system, and that’s only a statute which any parliament can amend or repeal forthwith—how much better would we be with a wholesale change of our Constitution?

The tired old canards are always hauled back into service for the inane proposal to fire the Queen, most of them total tommyrot. But the best one to refute is, I think, that the offices she holds (in practice, her Governors, all eleven of them) are somehow “symbolic” or purely “ceremonial.” In fact, the Canadian head of state is guarantor that we have governments which can act at all times and pass bills in a timely fashion else he or she refers to voters to elect a replacement forthwith; Canadian parliaments are frequently hung (when, for some reason, usually electoral, no single party has a majority) and sometimes governments lose parliamentary confidence, requiring some discernment on the governor’s part whether a fallen government can be replaced by another group in the existing parliament that convincingly commits to passing bills: it isn’t always easy to tell but, in any case, the decision must be impartial. When an alliance (as it usually is) presents itself as such a group, the sincerity of the allied parties and the political likelihood they can keep their respective caucuses so committed must be carefully considered, not ‘rubber stamped’ as many mistakenly believe is the only thing governors are good for; further, a newly elected parliament that’s hung sometimes presents a question of which party should form government (eg. King/Byng, WAC Bennett’s Socreds, the 2017 BC Liberal minority’s single-seat superiority, &c); finally, a very rarely needed contingency is required by the guarantor to ensure a provisional government exists in the event some calamity precludes elected parliamentarians from passing bills: the governor or, failing that, the Monarch constitutionally fills this role (appointing minsters to a temporary cabinet until a new parliament can be elected). In short, these contingencies might be infrequent or unlikely, but the guarantor must cover all possibilities no matter the odds.

Compare the US congressional parliament: without the rule of parliamentary confidence, any bill can fail without the government falling (it would be a strange and unpopular thing to see the GG enter the Commons to vote thumbs-up or -down on a government’s fate, as the VP does in the US Senate). Thus, because no Representative or Senator fears losing confidence, a great many bills stall and fall off the order paper AFTER they’re tabled, and so much horse trading and amendments mangle the initial bill that, if it passes at all, it is unrecognizable. Our Sovereign guarantees that doesn’t happen by dissolving parliament when it can’t pass (money-)bills.

The small-minded usually trot out opinion, popular or merely sensational, about the personalities of the Royal Family as some kind of lame rationale to de-monarchize Canada, but only one member of the family is constitutionally relevant to our country, our Sovereign (who is Canadian for the purpose of head of state) or her representatives (who, nowadays, are unambiguously Canadian—that is, they are not the sovereign of any other jurisdictions like the Commonwealth Sovereign is). In any event, the position is assiduously apolitical, nonbiased, nonpartisan and impartial. The personalities of the Royals who are not our head of state have no influence on Canada—except, perhaps, to gin animosity towards the Queen, animosity that hasn’t a clue what her office is for or what to do to replace the system we have. Churlish, thoughtless, spiteful, and nasty.

And it is a system, not an ornament: in order to keep the office apolitical and nonpartisan such as an impartial guarantor must be, Canada avails the rules of Royal succession which meet that criterion, and the other—guaranteed government that can act at all times which is made good by the instantaneous and fail-safe transition of sovereignty (eg. the heir apparent to the Queen is her son, Prince Charles: when she dies, he becomes our Sovereign that very instant. The line of succession to the throne is virtually inexhaustible, thus it is impossible that we do not have a head of state and guarantor that we always have an active, timely government).

Canada is completely sovereign and independent, so the notion that it must sever the Crown in order to “decolonize” for the sake of reconciliation with indigenous nations is wrongheaded, if often bandied about these days. Canada is simply not a colony of Britain and the Queen has no colonial authority here. She is simply the Sovereign of eleven federated Canadian sovereignties and the head of state for the federation.

Of course typically apolitical Canadians (‘partisan’ doesn’t compensate for the usually profound ignorance most Canadians citizens have of their county’s government, treaties, alliances and history) never think their rash demands through: how would we acquire or determine a head of state if we don’t avail a non-political system like Royal succession? We’ve seen how Harper’s bullying to influence the GG about a partisan matter nearly precipitated a constitutional crisis. Do we really want to elect a president who’d have the power and unabashed inclination to interfere with parliament? (BTW, the drafters of the US Constitution did not envision a politically active president, but electing the office made it inevitable). Why would we want that?

“Why not” doesn’t cut it. And any rationale that aims to make Canada more American (by electing a head of state) is, I think, a nonstarter. Lots of citizens and provinces have complaints about the federal government, and all sovereign Canadian governments have considerable sins to atone for.; how does amending our Constitution And electing a president make accomplishing that task easier? Does Quebec want to join or have a president like the the USA? Do First Nations? How would past injustices get remedied if the nation fragments? Oh yeah, there’s lots of hyperbole out there, as befits a democracy, but put to the demographic test, no jurisdiction has seceded from the federation yet—even in Albetar whose premier threatens a veiled Wexiteerism, separatism is only supported by low single-digits. All of this would have to be sorted before a constitutional amendment could have a chance of passing muster. As we know, Quebec separatism was responded to negatively by indigenous nations in the province, and they cited their preference to maintain their relationship with the Crown. Remember, it was the Crown—then colonial—which made the Royal Proclamation 1763 upon which indigenous nations have made considerable recent advances in court, which was subsequently incorporated into the BNA ACT 1867 and Constitution Act 1982, and it’s the Crown which guarantees the Proclamation (it’s governments which have breached duties of trust, not the Sovereign), as well as the addition of Aboriginal Rights in the ‘repatriated’ Act.

Again, the popularity of the Royal Family is what’s irrelevant. But, for ginning sensationalism, everybody loves to slag the Royals. It is intellectually bereft, the sport of dullards.

So, not only would retiring the Canadian Monarch be difficult —and it surely would be—but it is definitely not worth doing.


"A hackneyed finger-painter who thinks he’s a journalist" Thanks for point this out. Unfortunately, there are a lot of these around nowadays.