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The Queen’s funeral is just behind us. It is still too early for any deep debate on the long journey ahead to a Canadian republic.

The Globe and Mail editorial board has nonetheless already opined that “Canada is stuck with the monarchy. We should thank our lucky stars for that.”

Some who for excellent patriotic, democratic, multicultural, and even economic reasons altogether disagree with this sentiment may already have their own thoughts.

Those who share the Globe and Mail’s opinion, for instance, often profess scepticism about related opinion polls. Canadian politicians themselves have so far largely ignored the growing evidence of Canadian “republicanism” or “anti-monarchism” in the polls of the past few decades.

Yet very soon after the Queen’s unhappy death our federal and provincial leaders were proclaiming Charles III the new King of Canada. And as this happened some voters may have remembered two recent surveys by the Vancouver-based Angus Reid Institute.

Both polls suggested that a two-thirds majority of Canadians (66%-67%) “oppose recognizing … Prince Charles as King and Canada’s official head of state.”

Polls on the monarchy in Canada can depend a lot on the exact questions asked. A very recent Leger poll taken just after the Queen’s death asked whether respondents “thought the accession of King Charles to the throne was good or bad news.” In this case 15% said good, 16% said bad,  and 61% were “indifferent.”

The Leger and two Angus Reid polls do point in similar broad directions for Canada. Leger found that a three-quarters majority (77%) “felt no attachment to the British monarchy.”

Another very recent poll from Pollara Strategic Insights reported that: “Only one third of Canadians believe the country should remain a constitutional monarchy.”

The second Angus Reid poll, published April 21, 2022, was headlined “The Queen at 96: Canadians support growing monarchy abolition movement, would pursue after Elizabeth II dies.”

The Leger poll points this way as well. But its questions also elicit a parallel note of apathy on the issue, which has its own history and logic.

Early reactions to Queen Elizabeth II’s unhappy passing were similarly nuanced. The online blogTO in Toronto reported that “People think Canada should … become a republic.”

The left-wing rabble.ca concluded: “Fully abolishing the monarchy would be a tall order and would require amending Canada’s Constitution, getting the provinces on board, and likely settling other Constitution issues, such as the status of Quebec.”

Whatever else, none of this means that the Canadian people are “stuck with the monarchy.”

Getting the legislatures of all 10 provinces on board will be challenging, especially when it almost certainly means settling a few other nagging constitutional issues at the same time.

In the end, however, such things must finally depend on what the great majority of  the Canadian people want. That is a key part of  the “free and democratic society” noted at the start of the Constitution Act, 1982, which finally “patriated” Canada’s Constitution from the United Kingdom.

Growing popular support for an end to the monarchy in Canada in the new age of King Charles III could ultimately be the driving force behind an at last successful cut at the still haunting  constitutional issues that eluded the failed Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords 30 years ago.

And this could help build a stronger Canada for the global storms ahead.

On closer examination, abolishing the monarchy in a parliamentary democracy like we have in Canada today, while politically awkward in several respects, is not  difficult in principle or unprecedented in practice. It has already been pioneered by our fellow former British dominions in Ireland and India.

Very quickly, there is an important enough practical role for a head of state (monarch) separate from the head of government (prime minister) in our kind of parliamentary democracy.

But in Canada this role  is now played by the governor general — in theory a representative of the British monarch, but in practice  a Canadian appointed by the Canadian prime minister since the early 1950s.

All we have to do to politely wave goodbye to the monarchy is change our official head of state from the British monarch to the Canadian governor general (under whatever new name and selection method … or not??).

It will take a long journey to politically dot all the “i”s and cross all the “t”s in even such a common-sense process. But if this is what the great majority of the Canadian people who vote in elections finally want (in our less indifferent moments), it is not a difficult thing to do.

And if we are even half as democratic as we like to imagine, our free and democratic society in the Constitution Act, 1982 is almost certainly bound to finally arrive at a Canadian republic, even at some point not too much further down the road.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

The province-wide results will not be officially announced until October 26.

But it was clear from municipal reports that on October 18, 2021 a majority of Alberta voters said yes to the question : “Should section 36(2) of the Constitution Act, 1982 — Parliament and the government of Canada’s commitment to the principle of making equalization payments — be removed from the constitution?”

According to the Alberta government website: “A ‘yes’ vote means that Albertans are calling upon the federal government and other provinces to enter into discussions on a potential amendment to the Constitution of Canada in respect of equalization.”

Meanwhile, not long before the Alberta vote, on October 7, 2021 a committee of the Quebec National Assembly finished nine days of public hearings on the provincial government’s Bill 96.

This proposes that the government of Quebec unilaterally amend the Constitution of Canada to declare Quebec a nation, with French as its sole official language.

Back when Bill 96 was introduced this past spring, Liberal PM Justin Trudeau noted how the Canadian House of Commons had already recognized that “the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada,” in a late 2006 motion tabled by Conservative PM Stephen Harper.

Yet former prime minister Jean Chrétien’s chief of staff, Eddie Goldenberg, has expressed grave concerns about Bill 96. In a late May 2021 opinion piece he argued: “By allowing Quebec to change the Constitution, Trudeau is opening up a Pandora’s box.”

The box has now been opened wider by the Albertans who voted against federal equalization payments to some provinces, to ensure Canada-wide minimum standards of public services.

Canadian politics today involves still more issues with strong constitutional implications. One example is Indigenous policy — in the current limelight through the first Truth and Reconciliation Day this past September 30.

Another broad constitutional issue cluster looming quietly in the Canadian air as the autumn leaves of 2021 start to fall could be called “Democratic reform and the Monarchy.”

The same October 18 elections in which Alberta voters pronounced on the current federal constitutional commitment to provincial equalization also offered an opportunity for voters to “select 3 Senate nominees who may be summoned to the Senate of Canada, to fill a vacancy or vacancies relating to Alberta.”

This raises the ancient constitutional question of the still unreformed Senate of Canada (notwithstanding the recent related tinkering of both PM Harper and PM Trudeau).

At this point Canadian political leaders addicted to Eddie Goldenberg’s advice against opening up the Pandora’s box of the Constitution of Canada really start to raise their eyebrows.

They especially remember the late 1980s and early 1990s, when federal and provincial (and ultimately even Indigenous) leaders actually managed to agree on a diverse constitutional reform package, only to have their hard work rejected in a popular referendum in the fall of 1992.

In the fall of 2021, almost 30 years later, the Alberta equalization referendum and Bill 96 in Quebec at least quietly raise the prospect that it is time to reassess the Canadian constitutional lessons of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The deeper long-term message may not be that constitutional change of any serious sort is all but impossible in Canada, and constitutional debate is best avoided.

In fact there remain a number of serious Canadian constitutional issues. Ultimately doing something sensible about them is important for the country’s long-term future.

What happened in 1992 is that hard-won agreement among federal and provincial governments (and Indigenous leaders) was defeated by the Canadian people. In retrospect it is highly arguable that this had a lot to do with the “top down” process of “executive federalism” involved.

The fact that the process failed as a result of a popular referendum similarly suggests that some more “bottom up” approach could stand a much better chance of success.

In any case, in 2021 two provincial governments are arguably pointing to a growing need for some new constitutional debate in Canada.

Other governments may not want to wade into this problematic pond any time soon. But a debate from below or the “bottom up” — somehow involving the Canadian people from the beginning — could get the ball rolling more constructively than 30 years ago.

A few big questions do remain. Is this kind of debate possible in Canada today? And if it is, just what would it involve, and how might it unfold in a new digital age?

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.