Succeeding to the Canadian Throne

By James W.J. Bowden and Philippe Lagassé

The full article was published in the Ottawa Citizen, December 4, 2012

We learned this week that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their first child. The news was greeted with the usual mix of republican derision, monarchist fawning and celebrity gossiping. In governments across the Commonwealth, a more serious discussion has been taking place. News of the “royal baby” has highlighted the importance of changing the rules of succession.

At the 2011 meeting of the Commonwealth heads of government, member states agreed the rules of succession should be amended to repeal the penalty of marriage to a Catholic and replace the principle of male primogeniture with equal (i.e. gender-neutral) primogeniture. This will ensure that if the royal couple’s first child is female, she will be third in line for the succession, regardless of whether they have a son in the future.

Since the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the English Parliament — rather than the monarch — has controlled the line of succession to the throne through legislation, such as the Act of Settlement, 1701. There is therefore no question that the British Parliament must enact a law to amend the rules of succession. But what of Canada? Must we do the same? Indeed, we must, a reality that dispels any notion that the Crown is a mere symbol of Canada’s history as a British colony, and that highlights how deeply entrenched the Crown is in the Canadian constitution….


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