The royals are nearly here, but over half of Canadians want them gone for good. Here's how that could work
Becoming a republic is a long and complicated road — but another option is within reach
As the next in line as Canada's head of state prepares to begin his brief Canadian tour in Newfoundland and Labrador next week, one lobbying group is asking the country to think about whether he should take on that role at all.
Atlantic Canada has long been a stronghold for monarchists, explains Jamie Bradley, the Atlantic director of Citizens for a Canadian Republic.
"Queen Elizabeth is beloved," Bradley said in an interview from Halifax. "And rightly so."
But as the 96-year-old head of state ages, the question of whether to replace her with Prince Charles looms, even within the royalty-loving East Coast.
"You can love the queen. You can love the Royal Family. It doesn't mean that they have to 'rule' Canada," Bradley says.
An Angus Reid opinion poll in April revealed that 51 per cent of respondents from across the country want to abolish the monarchy, a steep rise from previous years. And Bradley says the popularity of the Royal Family as a whole has plummeted, too.
But if not Charles as the Canadian head of state — then who?
"You can certainly have anybody sit in what's known as the Office of the Queen," says Bradley. "We just automatically have the British monarch as the Canadian monarch because it's the way it's always been done."
Severing ties with the British monarchy doesn't mean ditching the entire constitutional system built around them, he adds: the head of state could be the governor general. It could be an elected person or committee, or someone appointed by the prime minister.
"We don't have to change anything really, because we are de facto a parliamentary republic," he said. "The governor general really does all the work."
The rocky road to republicanism
But what about getting rid of the whole idea altogether, rather than simply replacing the figurehead? That, says Robert Tay-Burroughs, a PhD student at the University of New Brunswick, is where things get tricky.
"It requires the unanimous consent of both houses of Parliament and all the legislatures of all the provinces," Tay-Burroughs explained. "So not an easy feat, by any means."
Then there's the problem of how to replace the institution that gives the federal government its authority: dismantling the Crown, he says, means rebuilding the country from scratch.
"Abolishing the monarchy doesn't automatically get rid of that," he says. Everything from courts to Indigenous land treaties would need to be examined, and essentially rewritten, based on a republican political model.
"It's another thing entirely when we're talking about abolishing the Crown," he said. "What then becomes the source of authority for agents of the Crown, civil servants acting on behalf of Canada or on behalf of the province?"
To complicate things further, he says, some provinces and First Nations may choose not to dissolve the Crown at all, especially when doing so may threaten Indigenous land rights.
"The Canadian anti-monarchy conversation … doesn't really talk about the kind of post-colonial oppression and reparation conversation that we have seen earlier this year across the Caribbean," he said, referring to protests that swept Jamaica during a visit from Prince William and Kate in March, and a move by Barbados to ditch the royals in favour of a Barbadian head of state.
But Bradley thinks, bureaucratically speaking, installing a Canadian as head of state could be fairly simple — and nudge the country a step further along its long journey to independence.
"Until we get that one little thing done fully — a Canadian head of state — we're still kind of a colony. It's snipping away the apron strings of the last vestiges of colonialism," he said.
"The office of the head of state should personify all the things that makes Canada important and individual and unique. And I don't feel that somebody from England does that."