There may soon be a debate on whether Canadians have out-grown the monarchy.

Reports on Friday suggest senior officials in the Prime Minister's Office are promoting the idea. They would like to end the Queen's role as head of state to mark the millennium.

Chretien is said to be open to a public debate but is concerned about divisions it might cause. Peter Donolo, the prime minister's communications director, confirmed discussions about a non-monarchical system in Canada had occurred, but says there are no plans to currently move ahead.

The plan would be to introduce the idea to test public opinion, without actively promoting it.

John Manley, the Minister of Industry is in favour of the idea: "I think many Canadians feel a lot of affection for Queen Elizabeth and feel the tradition is important. However, I think it's also time for us to consider evolving the next stage of our constitutional development."

The change may not come easily. It would take a constitutional amendment to remove the Queen as Canada's monarch and all ten provinces have to agree. That could mean a lot of negotiating over a long time, and likely not before the start of the millennium in just over a year.

As well, the initiative may not find the support of all Canadians. When Canada's immigration minister considered removing the Queen's name from the Oath of Allegiance, she found that Canadians are divided. In the end, the name stayed in the new version of the oath.