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Queen of Canada

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Portraits of the Queen can be found in most Canadian government buildings

Canada is a Constitutional Monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as its reigning monarch and head of state.

The most notable features of the Canadian constitutional monarchy are:

  • Although Queen Elizabeth II is also monarch of the United Kingdom, this does not mean that the United Kingdom has any sovereignty over Canada (nor that Canada has any sovereignty over the United Kingdom).

  • In all matters of state, Queen Elizabeth II as Queen of Canada is advised exclusively by her governments in Canada. No British government can advise the Canadian monarch on Canadian matters.

  • All executive power theoretically reposes in the Queen, who is represented in Canada by the Governor-General of Canada, the lieutenant governors of the provinces, and the territorial commissioners. Royal Assent is required on all acts of Parliament and the legislatures, which sit at her pleasure. Persons swearing allegiance to Canada, such as immigrants, soldiers, parliamentarians and the like, swear allegiance to Her Majesty as Queen of Canada and as the legal embodiment of Canadian sovereignty.

  • Nevertheless, as in the UK, the Queen's role is nearly entirely symbolic and cultural, and the powers that are theoretically hers are exercised wholly upon the "advice" of the elected government. In practice, the monarchy is a rubber stamp and a ceremonial symbol of executive authority. It is often explained that the Queen reigns but does not rule. For more explanation of the Queen's role, see Governor-General of Canada.

History

Canada has been independent of the United Kingdom since a combination of the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act, 1927 (which replaced the concept of a singular crown throughout the British Empire with multiple crowns with each dominion as a separate kingdom, all worn by the common shared monarch) and the Statute of Westminster 1931, which granted the dominions of the Commonwealth independence from the British parliament and equality with the United Kingdom. Canada's constitution was repatriated under Prime Minister Trudeau in 1982, becoming a Canadian law rather than an act of the British parliament which required amendment in both jurisdictions.

However the repatriation of the constitution did not have any impact on the position of Queen Elizabeth as Queen of Canada, though the rules of succession are still laid down in British, not Canadian law.

Occasionally, the Queen's authority is appealed to by Canada's partisan political leaders.

In 1992, Brian Mulroney, then Prime Minister of Canada, appealed to the Queen (through the Governor-General) to temporarily add eight seats to the Senate (a right reserved for the queen). Senators are appointed until the age of 75 in Canada, and it is generally believed that Mulroney made this move in order to secure passage of the controversial Goods and Services Tax[?], which faced widespread opposition in Canada, and would not have passed there without the votes of the newly appointed Senators.

This was an occasion on which the Queen played a significant role in Canadian government, though as the monarch's advisors made clear, the monarch felt bound to do as advised by Her Prime Minister, who was answerable to cabinet, parliament and the Canadian electorate for whatever advice he gave. They argued that to in effect overrule prime ministerial advice would have involved the Queen directly in controversy; by automatically accepting advice she placed the responsibility on the person giving the advice.

Debate

Throughout Canada's history there has rarely been much discussion or debate on the continued existance of the "Canadian monarchy." Historically, the monarchy has often been touted by Canadians as one of the key differences between the United States and Canada.

In recent years however, some Canadians, such as Deputy Prime Minister John Manley have advocated the abolishment of the Canadian monarchy, and the establishment of a republic with head of state as a fully Canadian office. In contrast to Australian republicanism, there is not much public interest in turning Canada into a republic.

Arguments against the monarchy claim that its abolition would be a blow for democracy and remove an unnecessary expense for the Canadian taxpayer. Many Canadian republicans also say it would remove Canada's last political connection to her colonial past, and thus improve her image as a soverign nation.

On the other hand, some of the monarchy's defenders have argued that having a Canadian monarchy, with a Queen of Canada and a governor-general, allows Canada to highlight its difference from the United States, whereas a republican president might be seen just another president on the American continent where the most prominent president is the President of the United States.

It is also noted that whereas Canada currently has a female head of state and female governor-general, no woman has ever been president or vice-president in the United States. They also argue that a republican head of state would cost more, not less, than the current monarchy, with additional costs involving in updating the governor-general's residences to full head of state presidential palace level, the costs of state visit, political advisors, increased ceremonial functions, etc, functions that in many cases do not exist for a governor-general, given that they are not a full head of state, but which would be required for a Canadian president. At any rate, at this time the issue is in general not before the public eye.

See also



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