How the royal baby gave us a constitutional crisis

Why the royal succession law matters

The government of Quebec is apparently set to join a legal challenge of the royal succession law that was quickly passed before the royal baby was birthed so as to end the practices of placing male heirs before elder females in the line of succession and rendering heirs who marry Roman Catholics ineligible.

Philippe Lagasse explained the problems with the bill for us in February.

Canada’s most monarchist government in decades has just dealt a serious blow to the Canadian Crown. In an effort to quickly enact changes regarding royal succession, the government has introduced a bill that undermines the concept of a truly independent Canadian Crown, the foundation of Canadian sovereignty. Equally troubling, the government claims that altering succession to the throne does not require a constitutional amendment. In making this argument, the government has overlooked the very nature of the Crown in law and the Canadian constitution. However commonsensical the proposed changes to the law governing succession may be, such a cavalier approach to the Crown, to the foundation of sovereign authority of and in Canada, merits scrutiny.

… it is worth discussing what might happen if we accept the government’s argument that succession is only a matter of British law and that changes to the rules of succession do not require a constitutional amendment. The most obvious consequence of the government’s position is that Canadian republicans will have been proved right: the Crown is an inherently British entity and Canada cannot claim to be an independent state until our ties to the House of Windsor are cut or we become a republic. The government’s view would also mean that Canada would effectively cease to be a constitutional monarchy if the United Kingdom decided to become a republic. The concept that underlies Canada’s entire system of government, the Crown, could be dismantled by another country.

In the summer issue of the Canadian Parliamentary Review, Paul Benoit and Garry Toffoli of the Canadian Royal Heritage Trust argued that the bill was insufficient and a constitutional amendment was required, while Rob Nicholson, justice minister at the time, defended the government’s legislation.

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