Do Canadians want to remain under British rule?

Do Canadians want to remain under British rule?

"The monarchy is outdated and has no relevance in our government. I think it's time we just stood on our own."

Great Britain colonized Canada beginning in the late 1500s, and the country remained formally part of the British Empire until 1982. It is now a member of the Commonwealth of Former Imperial Countries, where the head of state is the British monarch.

The Angus Reid Institute conducted a survey showing that 51% of Canadians do not want the monarchy to remain its ceremonial nominal head (6% more than in January 2020). Only 26% of respondents said it was necessary, while 24% were unsure. A growing number of Canadians do not want a foreign monarch to represent them, despite deep historical ties to Britain and affection for the queen.

Some representatives of big business in Canada have spoken out on the matter, confirming the results of the surveys. Flavio Volpe, president of the Canadian Automotive Parts Association, wonders why Canada is the only G7 country whose head of state is a citizen of another country, and, referring to a small town in the south of the country, adds:

"I would rather have someone from Windsor as head of state than someone from the House of Windsor."

Members of the older generation support the idea of self-sufficiency. John Nielsen, 61, an Ottawa contractor, said:

"The monarchy is outdated and has no relevance in our government. I think it's time we just stood on our own."


In Quebec, the queen's death raised a flurry of questions about the future of the monarchy in Canada, which once again highlighted the province's complicated relationship with the monarchy.

Gérard Bouchard, historian and sociologist who teaches at the Université du Québec à Chiquitimi, says that most Quebecers dislike the monarchy for historical reasons as well as for their support for democracy. In a recent interview, he explains:

"In Quebec, it seems to be a relic of a colonial era that we thought was gone. Most people would say, 'We don't know why it continues in Canada, and we don't know why it was imposed on us in Quebec.

While provincial residents may respect the late queen as a person, the monarchy evokes memories of

the British conquest of New France and British colonial rule over Francophone Canada.

Bouchard says the idea that the head of state is a European monarch is also at odds with Quebecers' ideas of democracy and adds that opposition to the monarchy is stronger among Quebec federalists and Anglophones than in other parts of Canada.


The reason for the debate was the decision of Premier Legault to lower the provincial flag on the death of Elizabeth II. The leader of the Quebec party, Paul Saint-Pierre Plamondon, criticized it, stressing the difficult history of relations with Britain: the monarchy was imposed on the people of Quebec by conquest, he said, and the provincial flag, known as the Fleurdelais, represents the democracy of the province and the right of Quebecers to exist as a people. He mentioned that the deportation of the academicians, the execution of the leaders of the Patriotic Revolt in 1839 and, more recently, the repatriation of the constitution without the consent of Quebec, were done in the name of the British crown and spoke rather harshly about the monarchy:

"We cannot lose sight of the fact that she represented an institution, the British Crown, which has done considerable harm to Quebecers and Indigenous peoples."

Benoît Pelletier, professor of constitutional law at the University of Ottawa and former cabinet member in the Liberal government of Québec Jean Charest, believes that the English-speaking part of Canada is inexorably following Québec and that support for the monarchy is declining year by year. He says bluntly that a referendum could eventually take place and it's only a matter of time:

"I think there will be a debate in the coming months about the future of the constitutional monarchy."

Pelletier said that changing the Canadian constitution to abolish the monarchy is possible, as long as the negotiations do not focus on any other constitutional issues. However, he personally supports the monarchy, believing that at the moment the democratic system is functioning well and that it is not worth breaking what has been built over the years.

Polls show that Quebecers disagree with him: 71% in an Angus Reid poll said they no longer see the need for a monarchy, and 87% said they have no attachment to the royal family in the Leger Poll.


On the side of the First Nations, things were also complicated: while many mourned Queen Elizabeth's death, some indigenous people expressed ambivalence or hostility toward the monarchy that colonized North America. Some of them were not shy in their expressions. Chance Papanekis, a resident of the territory in northern Manitoba, sees the queen as part of a sinister institution that perpetuates harm to Indigenous peoples. Upon learning of her death, Paupanekis thought of the long life that the 96-year-old monarchy lived, "unlike many people she harmed."

"... [the Queen] and her predecessors are responsible for a huge aspect of the genocide of indigenous peoples throughout the world.

Indigenous peoples have a relationship with Great Britain dating back to their first contact with Europeans. By signing treaties, the Crown and First Nations established terms of peaceful coexistence between the two sovereign societies in sharing the land. Papanekis acknowledges that this happened long before Queen Elizabeth became monarch, but it does not change his attitude toward the monarchy as a whole:

"The permanent colonial agenda of the settlers will continue regardless of which monarch is in power."

Realizing that the process of leaving the monarchy cannot be a matter of a couple of months, Papanekis hopes that King Charles III will begin the process of making amends not only to indigenous people, but to all the people in the world who have suffered from British influence.

Niigaan Sinclair, professor of Indigenous Studies at the University of Manitoba and acting department head, explains why dialogue with Britain is so important: Indigenous peoples "share a relationship with the Crown, not with the Canadian government.

At one time the treaties were between Native leaders and the Crown, not the then government, which effectively means that without a second party, all Canadian land would go to the First Nations.

He acknowledges the harm done, including during Queen Elizabeth's 70-year reign. Repressive colonial policies have tainted Canadian history for centuries, most recently with the boarding school system, the forced sterilization of Indigenous women, and the forced relocation of Inuit to the north, all during the Queen's reign.

Belinda Vandenbroek has attended a boarding school in Dauphin, Maine, for 10 years. On Canada Day last year, she was on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature to give a speech in response to the discovery of what are considered unmarked graves on boarding school grounds. That day, statues of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria on the Legislative Assembly grounds were toppled in response to the discovery. As a boarding school survivor, she wonders why Queen Elizabeth did not intervene when children like her were taken from their families.

Witnesses to the terrible events that took place within the walls of the schools continue to be found to this day. The last of them did not close until 1997, and the memories of the witnesses are still so painful that even the Pope's apology has had no effect.

In May, Charles and his wife Camilla visited Yellowknife and the Detta Dene settlement on the final leg of their Canadian Queen's Platinum Jubilee tour. Their visit focused on reconciliation and climate change. During the visit, the Assembly of Indigenous Peoples and the National Métis Council demanded an apology from the monarchy. In a speech before leaving Yellowknife, Charles said he wanted to meet with the survivors of the boarding school, and acknowledged their pain and suffering — but he did not apologize. So for the First Nations, the role he would assume as Charles III in the prism of interacting with them is not obvious.

For Sinclair, however, other developments are more important, such as the historic appointment of Mary Simon, an Inuk who last year became Canada's first aboriginal governor-general. He believes that such precedents show Britain's interest in maintaining the relationship and working on it:

"There is still hope that the Crown will develop this relationship."

National Chief Rose Ann Archibald of the Assembly of Indigenous Peoples says her next step with Britain is for the Crown to adopt the Royal Proclamation of Reconciliation, part of a call to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She urges those involved not to forget the need to move forward:

"As many mourn the end of the Elizabethan era, let us remember that grief and responsibility can exist in the same space at the same time."

Asked if she was troubled by renewed talk of British withdrawal and the impact of constitutional changes on treaties, she replied unequivocally that First Nations will always maintain a relationship with the Crown, regardless of what Canada does, and added:

Source, Source, Source, Source, Source
  • #Queen Elizabeth
  • #death of Elizabeth the Second
  • #Charles the Third
  • #Commonwealth of former imperial countries
  • #British monarchs
  • #Canada-Great Britain
  • #Canada boarding schools
  • #First Nations of Canada
  • #Indigenous Peoples of Canada
  • #Canadian history