Sunday, June 23, 2024

Canada is still a sub-tenant of the Queen of England

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Alan Binder
Alan Binder
"Alcohol scholar. Twitter lover. Zombieaholic. Hipster-friendly coffee fanatic."

Canada may be around 155 years old, but she is still under the care of her guardian, the Queen of England. In the name of His Majesty the King, he buys and rents all his embassies and missions abroad. Because the Canadian government has never changed this ancient tradition inherited from the British monarchy to acquire its own legal identity as a nation. The situation that the Trudeau government could change, if it had the will, experts explain.

And this is surprising: when diplomats or visitors to the Canadian Consulate in New York are called, it means “Her Majesty the Queen’s visit.”

New York Mission isn’t the only one to lease its buildings in the name of Queen Elizabeth II. “The Government of Canada has no legal personality. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained in an email to He should.

This is also the case for federal buildings on Canadian soil and all federal government contracts, which he also signs on behalf of Her Majesty.

On the other hand, Quebec is freed from this English tradition stemming from Public Law.

Carleton University professor of international affairs and expert on the Westminster system, Philip Legacy, explains that in this British tradition, “the crown has always been a conception of the state. And it so happens that even in Canada, we have retained the practice. And this is both at home and abroad. All foreign affairs of Canada are done under privilege. Royal. Even the passport belongs to the Queen,” notes Mr. Lagasse, citing the first page of a Canadian travel document.

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One of the few loyal countries

Among the seven Canadian Commonwealth partners I have contacted dutyNew Zealand only asserts that its government has no legal identity and that it signs leases in the name of “sovereignty in New Zealand law”.

Australia, South Africa, India, Pakistan, the Bahamas and Rwanda all have their own legal personality. Australia signs contracts or buys or leases property on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Andrew Heard, a professor of political science at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia and an expert on monarchy, explains that there are more organized and assertive republican movements in these countries than in Canada, which has led their governments to clarify their laws.

Quebec itself gradually rewrote its laws, starting in the 1960s, to abandon the royal terminology of “crown” and clearly define “state”.

No need to open the constitution

The Canadian government could do the same, although the exercise would be exhaustive, as each of the statutes referring to the Crown would have to be amended. Patrick Tellon, a constitutionalist at Laval University, agrees that “it doesn’t happen overnight.”

However, such a change would already be possible without the need to enter into arduous constitutional negotiations, believe Mr. Taillon and his colleague from the University of Ottawa, Benoît Pelletier. “The existence and essential characteristics of the monarchy are ‘armored’ in the constitution,” explains Mr. Taillon. But not their difference. He insists that “the given clarity to royal terms is a choice made by the federal government”. This requires multiple efforts, but it is all within the reach of the Trudeau government. »

Professors Lagassé and Heard are of the same opinion. Mr. Heard notes, however, that in the absence of case law formally establishing the idea of ​​what constitutes such a constitutionally protected “Queen’s Office” (which the professor is exploring in a soon-to-be-published book), the federal government would likely be reluctant to embark on such a discussion.

Especially since by leaving the idea of ​​the Canadian state in the hands of the Crown, the executive government is free to exercise a series of powers, particularly the power to spend without having to consult Parliament each time once the latter has approved the budget. “There is a reason this tradition has been going on for so long: It is very convenient for government to be flexible, in Public Law To be able to act as a legal entity,” explains Mr. Lagasse.

Popular pressure weight

“The truth is that it is a political and cultural choice,” says Professor Heard, in turn. Until recently, the royal framework and its symbolism were little questioned, except in Quebec. Things are changing, however, the expert notes.

a Angus Reed Poll It published last month that 51% of Canadians believe it is time to sever ties with the British monarchy, compared to 26% who want to keep this connection and 24% who are undecided. However, in 2020, 45% wanted Canada to give up ownership and in 2016, it was 38%. The proportion of property opponents is highest in Quebec (71%), followed by Saskatchewan (59%), but it remains between 40% and 45% in all other provinces.

Almost a third of Canadians have a favorable opinion of the Queen (63%). However, that percentage drops to 29% for Prince Charles – whose ascension to the throne may come close, as Queen Elizabeth II suffers the lingering effects of COVID-19 at the age of 96.

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Although the Trudeau government does not appear ready to separate from the Queen, it can at least revise the tradition that still sees Canada sign on her behalf, Patrick Tellon believes. “Between the abolition of the monarchy and the manifestation of an unnecessary, yet traditional association in all kinds of legal acts, we are perhaps approaching the moment when the superfluous can be justly called to disappear because public opinion begins to move.”

When asked to comment on the place of the monarchy in Canada in 2022, as he prepared to welcome Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla, on the first day of their visit to Canada on Tuesday, Justin Trudeau replied: “Constitutional changes, about which not many people talk to me regularly. “.

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