The Harper government’s Bill C-53, the supposed quick-fix modernization of the controversial 1701 Act of Settlement, has now been officially denounced as unconstitutional by both republicans and monarchists, as well as a number of leading Canadian constitutional scholars on royal matters.
It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Canada’s constitutional relationship with the monarchy is governed by almost entirely incoherent realm of law that survives only because it’s rarely contested. The controversies that have arisen so quickly from a small change to the Act of Settlement have proven that it doesn’t take much to get the whole mess unraveling.
Last Friday, the federal government submitted six questions about the Senate — another notoriously ambiguous Canadian institution — to the Supreme Court of Canada on the hope that its judges would clarify exactly how the government can or cannot go about modifying parliament’s upper chamber in a legal, constitutional manner. If I was in charge, I’d also send along the following five questions about the monarchy:
1) Is there such a thing as a “Canadian monarchy” that exists as a completely separate entity from the monarchy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?
2) Is Britain’s 1701 Act of Settlement part of the Constitution of Canada?
3) Will the government’s imminent passage of Bill C-53 modify the Act of Settlement in regards to the order of succession for the “Canadian monarchy,” or merely the UK monarchy?
4) The Constitution Act says that only a constitutional amendment passed with unanimous provincial consent can alter “the office of the Queen.” Does “the office of the Queen” refer to the institution of monarchy as a whole, or merely the powers and duties of the incumbent monarch?
5) If the United Kingdom became a republic, would Canada automatically become a republic as well?
EDIT: Alert tweeter @gillespk123 says the following question is relevant too:
6) If Canada does not change the Act of Settlement correctly, is it possible a different member of the Windsor family could wind up as monarch of Canada than monarch of the United Kingdom?
Obviously some of these questions are contradictory, and some answers will eliminate multiple questions. But right now we don’t have satisfactory answers to any of them.