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Both stalwart Canadian monarchists and anti-monarchists (republicans with a very small r?) had reasons to complain about the federal government’s approach to the recent May 17-19 Canadian visit of Prince Charles and Camilla.

Monarchists could say that Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government had planned a short and  low-profile royal itinerary, not likely to boost popular support for a future King of Canada.

At the same time, those ardent democrats who want to see the end of the monarchy in Canada could equally object to Prime Minister Trudeau’s personal attitude to the royal visit.

Two recent polls from the Angus Reid Institute — in November 2021 and April 2022 — have suggested that Queen Elizabeth II remains widely admired in Canada.

But they also suggest a full two-thirds majority of Canadians do not support carrying on with the monarchy under King Charles, after his 96-year-old mother unhappily passes on.

Even so, as explained by Newsweek magazine in the USA : “Despite these polling numbers, Trudeau has announced that he believes the issue is not something that Canadians are ‘preoccupied’ with.”

Newsweek went on: “In order for the country to remove the queen or successive monarchs from Canada’s governance structure, it is believed the process would require a series of alterations to the country’s constitution.”

And PM Trudeau has “told reporters: ‘When I hear from Canadians about the things they’re preoccupied about, and the things they want their governments to work on, it’s not about constitutional change.’”

(Note also that PM Trudeau II first met Queen Elizabeth II when he was five years old — something both he and the Queen seem to remember warmly.)

So the Canadian federal government will not be looking into the future of the monarchy any time soon. Many who work in and around Ottawa also seem understandably happy to leave things as they are.

Yet if the past few decades are any guide the current two-thirds of Canadians who don’t believe in the monarchy’s future after Elizabeth II’s reign will only grow larger.

And if Canada is going to have any real future as what the Constitution Act, 1982 alludes to as a “free and democratic” country in its own right, it cannot forever continue its crypto-colonial relationship with a monarch across the seas.

In the gentle wake of Prince Charles and Camilla’s 2022 visit, some non-government actors concerned for the long Canadian future should start publicly debating the “series of alterations to the country’s constitution” that the end of the monarchy in Canada will finally require.

The trouble starts with the Constitution Act, 1982 (itself the result of a federal-provincial political process, and still not formally agreed to by the Government of Quebec).

This requires that any constitutional amendment in relation to “the office of the Queen, the Governor General and the Lieutenant Governor of a province” must be “authorized by resolutions of the Senate and House of Commons and of the legislative assembly of each province.”

The federal government and the governments if not exactly the legislative assemblies of all 10 provinces (and leaders of several Indigenous organizations) did agree to the proposed constitutional amendments in the Charlottetown Accord of 1992.

This Accord was finally defeated in popular referendums, not by any failure of provincial governments to agree on the future of the country. But of course getting all 10 provinces to agree on anything is bound to be a challenge.

Then just what replaces the present “constitutional monarchy” that what we now call the Constitution Act, 1867 places at the “dignified” as opposed to “efficient” heart of the Canadian confederation created in 1867?

This ought to be far less trouble than often claimed. The path ahead has already been blazed by such other former self-governing British dominions as Ireland and India.

The biggest trouble in the “series of alterations to the country’s constitution” may involve the extent to which the Constitution Act, 1867 — a document tailor-made for the now vanished first self-governing dominion of the global British empire —  needs to be changed.

In any case there is no doubt a long journey ahead. It makes sense to begin with something more manageable.

The present Canadian citizenship oath, for example, includes swearing allegiance to the Queen and “Her Heirs and Successors.” Australia has had a citizenship oath that makes no reference to the monarchy since 1994. We could have something similar in Canada with an ordinary act of the federal parliament.

That could also start some democratically elected Members of Parliament thinking about the long journey to ending the monarchy in Canada, as the present two-thirds of Canadians who do not want to carry on with the institution after the reign of Queen Elizabeth II continues to grow.

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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Quebec premier François Legault’s government is proposing a unilateral amendment to the Constitution Act, 1867 to entrench the idea that “Quebeckers form a nation,” and that the official language of the province – and of the Quebec nation – is French. There is a lot of debate on whether the provincial legislature can in fact do so under the rules of our constitutional amending formulas – including apparent agreement from Department of Justice lawyers in spite of clear evidence to the contrary when it comes to changes to a province’s official languages – but I find myself a bit more interested in the “nation” part of the proposal, for a couple of different reasons.

One of those is that this is seems to be a culmination of the whole wrenching process of trying to enshrine Quebec as a “distinct society” as part of the Constitutional wrangling of the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords, which helped give rise to the Reform Party in the early 1990s. The fact that the current federal government seems to be shrugging this off seems to be curious given the history in this country, especially given the constitutional wrangling of the 1980s. (There is a whole added dimension about Justin Trudeau and his father’s battles against this particular notion, but this is not the column to delve into that).

Others will point to the motion that Stephen Harper moved in the House of Commons in 2006, which moved that the House recognize that “The Québécois form a nation within a united Canada,” hoping to both try and one-up the Bloc Québécois and divide the Liberals, which was largely uncontentious in the broader scheme (though his intergovernmental affairs minister, Michael Chong, resigned as a point of principle over it given that he was not consulted in the process). The counterpoint, however, is that this was essentially a symbolic, non-binding motion and not an addition to the constitution. As well, Harper refused to qualify just who “Québécois” described in the motion, nor did the ministers he sent out to the media to explain the motion give any indication of just who it included – Harper himself indicating that it was a personal decision as to who chose to self-identify. This makes for some uncomfortable notions around both the anglophone minority within Quebec, more recent immigrant populations, as well as the First Nations on whose land the province rests, great portions of which remain unceded. And then there is the whole notion about it sounds uncomfortably like ethnic nationalism.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t a case for considering Quebec to be a nation – they have a distinct language, culture, legal tradition and history within what we think of as Canada today, which is a federation of different nations and national identities – it’s just that constitutionalizing it becomes tricky. But where I suspect it will get even trickier will be an impetus for copycat notions from other parts of the country – most especially Alberta.

“But Alberta doesn’t have a distinct language, culture, legal tradition, or history,” you might say, and you would be correct – and yet, if you recall the Buffalo Declaration, the ridiculous farce of a manifesto put out by a number of Western MPs to lay out the Alberta and Saskatchewan’s – but mostly Alberta’s – grievances, and one of those was the insistence that “Alberta is a culturally distinct region, but this has not been recognized.” The logic around it was fairly dubious – claiming that their history contained several “distinct cultural themes.”

“A struggle against a colonial government, a desire for individual freedom, a willingness and drive to achieve personal economic liberty; a deep connection and respect for our land; and an economy unique to other areas of Canada,” the document reads, and goes into some of the immigration patterns to the province (having paid lip service to the Indigenous populations in the region without quite acknowledging how they were displaced). But much of this self-congratulatory back-patting likes to paint themselves as a bastion of tolerance in pushing back against the “redneck” stereotype, and yet, having grown up there, I can tell you that much of this tolerance is surface-level.

Sure, if you make a lot of money – and much of “Alberta culture” seems to be very much centred on how much money you make, in places where keeping up with the Joneses is a competitive sport – you can move in more social circles in the province, but there is a lot of deep-seated intolerance, racism, white supremacy, and homophobic bigotry. There are pervasive attitudes around First Nations as somehow being interlopers rather than the actual owners of the land. And then there is the religiosity that infects a lot of the politics and makes the “tolerance” harder to believe. Hell, in the mid-90s, my new-agey mother was accused of witchcraft by our rural neighbours, who began targeting us with threats up to and including killing our dog to send a message.  You’ll forgive me if these protestations of tolerance ring hollow.

Nevertheless, if Quebec goes ahead and attempts to enshrine its “nation” status unilaterally, you can bet there will be calls to open up the constitution to address issues like equalization – which have already started in Alberta – but I’m certain that we’ll start to see more calls for Alberta to demand some kind of recognition for its special cultural status, if not from the Buffalo Declaration crew, then by other opportunists who will try to use it to leverage some other kinds of concessions from the federal government. No doubt Quebec’s attempt to make these changes will be headed to the courts – likely not at the behest of any federal party as each are too craven to stand up to Legault and his apparently popularity, each of them hoping to get his magic glow upon them in the next election – and it may yet be struck down. But before that happens, I wouldn’t be surprised if proposals to unilaterally amend either the Constitution Act, 1867 or the Alberta Act, 1905 start being floated, creating even more problems for the rest of Confederation in the meantime.

Photo Credit: CBC News

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 government official isn’t in uniform, but his authority can’t be questioned. He extends a hand.

As your boss stands at the door to your office, looking away, you slowly hand over your cell phone to the grim-faced government official.

The official repeats the words of the legislation that brought him to your office. He has the power to take your cell phone, he repeats.

“Verify, examine, process, copy or print out data,” he says, quoting directly from the statute. He turns to your boss, and asks if there are any other computers that haven’t been accessed yet. Your boss nods, slowly, and he and the government official leave.

When the government official arrived at your workplace, word spread fast. Someone had called a snitch line. The wording on the door to the office was unacceptable, apparently, and someone had complained.

So the unsmiling plain-clothes officials showed up. That was all the pretext they needed.

Along with going through documents and data on computers in the office, the officials had taken some cell phones from those they suspected were not obeying the rules. Like you.

The night before, you had heard from the mother of that nice immigrant family who moved in down the street. Her son had registered for some courses at the college your kids had gone to, but his registration was rejected. By the same government officials.

“They’re giving us six months to do what they want us to do,” said the mother, upset. “And if we don’t do it, we will be cut off.”

The rumours had been flying at work and at home for weeks. Everything was going to be affected: schools, businesses, courts, municipal governments. Businesses that were headquartered somewhere else: those had been caught by the powerful new law, too.

Because your boss has more than 25 employees working for him, he was going to have to set up a “special committee” at work. The committee would have to ensure that everyone is obeying the law, he said.

Contracts all had to adhere to the new rules. Same with any communications with government. Those had to be acceptable, too, or the government would simply stop responding.

Businesses with fewer employees were also hit, you had heard. If they didn’t satisfy the dour officials, they were going to have “special services” imposed on them by the government.

Permits would be revoked if someone breaks the rules. Even retroactively.

Contracts, real estate purchases, all of that: all would need to carefully reflect the government’s wishes. If they didn’t, they would be torn up, and new conditions imposed. Big fines for wrongdoers.

No exceptions.

A new government agency had been created to enforce the changes, and given vast powers. Including police-like powers, to enter any place and demand answers. And take peoples’ property.

As the nameless government official had done with your cell phone. The phone containing pictures of your kids, and love texts to your wife, and innocuous emails to and from your office colleagues.

He didn’t really care what you were saying, the official said.

He cared how you were saying it.

***

The above is a story, of sorts. It hasn’t happened just yet. But it will.

It’s coming.

The story is about the Canadian province of Quebec, and the changes that are coming in the Quebec government’s recently-tabled Bill 96. The Bill will change the Constitution of Canada, and render Quebec “a nation.” The Bill will impose the changes described above to “protect” the French language, too.

And Justin Trudeau has approved it.  And none of the federal Opposition parties oppose it.

Bill 96 is more damaging, more far-reaching, than the Meech Lake or Charlottetown accords.  It will actually ruin lives in Quebec – and radically change Canada in the process.

Photo Credit: CBC News

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.