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Most Canadians Want to See the British Monarchy Come to an End


OTTAWA — When Queen Elizabeth II of Britain first took the throne, symbols of the crown and royal coat of arms appeared seemingly everywhere in Canada, which remains part of the Commonwealth, including on mundane objects like mailboxes.

In the decades since, most of those symbols have disappeared — a diminished presence that is reflected as Canada celebrates the queen’s Platinum Jubilee not with an extended weekend or grand tribute, but with a series of low-key, mostly local events.

There will be tree plantings by air cadets in Calgary, Alberta; a geocaching walk in, perhaps appropriately, Cache Creek, British Columbia; plus military parades, garden parties, artistic performances, a photo exhibition and a sound and light show on the nation’s Parliament buildings.

All 325 examples of the Canadian dollar pure-platinum Platinum Jubilee coin are sold out at the Royal Canadian Mint, but Canada Post has plenty of commemorative stamps available.

Queen Elizabeth still commands wide support and respect among Canadians. In an April survey conducted by the Angus Reid Institute, a nonprofit public opinion agency, 62 percent of respondents expressed a favorable view of the queen.

The following month, Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, made a three-day whirlwind royal tour across the vastness of Canada to mark his mother’s reign.

Yet there is growing national ambivalence in Canada over the monarchy as a whole.

Sixty-seven percent of respondents in the April poll said they opposed the idea of Charles succeeding his mother as Canada’s king. As has been the case in Canada since the end of his marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales, crowds at the few open public events that Charles attended last month were comparatively small.

For many in Canada’s increasingly multicultural and diverse population, the monarchy either represents historical oppression or is bafflingly irrelevant.

“There may well be a point at which Canadians say, ‘Huh, who’s this dude on my money?’” said Shachi Kurl, the president of Angus Reid.

Still, to prevent Charles from automatically becoming king of Canada when the queen dies would require amending Canada’s Constitution, which makes the British monarch the head of state. Such an effort would need the unanimous approval of Parliament and the governments of all 10 provinces, said Philippe Lagassé, an associate professor at Carleton University and an expert on the monarchy’s role in Canada.

In a country that is often divided on regional lines, getting that sort of agreement is the kind of a monumental task that no politician might wish to take on.

Even as head of state, the queen has even less authority in Canada than she wields in Britain. Nearly all of her powers have long been held on her behalf by the governor general — the queen’s representative, but one selected by Canada’s cabinet. The current officeholder is Mary Simon, an Inuk from northern Quebec who is Canada’s first Indigenous governor general.

When Charles becomes king, the disappearance of symbols of the crown and the royal coat of arms in Canada’s public spaces may accelerate. And the monarchy itself may just slowly fade out.


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