Sixty Joyless De-Britished Uncrowned Commonpoor Years (1949-2009)

Elizabeth II Vice-Regal Saint: Remembering Paul Comtois (1895–1966), Lt.-Governor of Québec
Britannic Inheritance: Britain's proud legacy. What legacy will America leave?
English Debate: Daniel Hannan revels in making mince meat of Gordon Brown
Crazy Canucks: British MP banned from Canada on national security grounds
Happy St. Patrick's: Will Ireland ever return to the Commonwealth?
Voyage Through the Commonwealth: World cruise around the faded bits of pink.
No Queen for the Green: The Green Party of Canada votes to dispense with monarchy.
"Sir Edward Kennedy": The Queen has awarded the senator an honorary Knighthood.
President Obama: Hates Britain, but is keen to meet the Queen?
The Princess Royal: Princess Anne "outstanding" in Australia.
H.M.S. Victory: In 1744, 1000 sailors went down with a cargo of gold.
Queen's Commonwealth: Britain is letting the Commonwealth die.
Justice Kirby: His support for monarchy almost lost him appointment to High Court
Royal Military Academy: Sandhurst abolishes the Apostles' Creed.
Air Marshal Alec Maisner, R.I.P. Half Polish, half German and 100% British.
Cherie Blair: Not a vain, self regarding, shallow thinking viper after all.
Harry Potter: Celebrated rich kid thinks the Royals should not be celebrated
The Royal Jelly: A new king has been coronated, and his subjects are in a merry mood
Victoria Cross: Australian TROOPER MARK DONALDSON awarded the VC
Godless Buses: Royal Navy veteran, Ron Heather, refuses to drive his bus
Labour's Class War: To expunge those with the slightest pretensions to gentility
100 Top English Novels of All Time: The Essential Fictional Library
BIG BEN: Celebrating 150 Years of the Clock Tower

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Why Canada must take on Britain over the 1701 Act of Settlement


Published in today's Globe and Mail, August 30, 2007
Reprinted at The Monarchist with the express permission of the author

For a Canadian monarchist, the joyous news this summer came by way of an announcement that Peter Phillips, the only son of Princess Anne, was engaged to Autumn Kelly of Montreal. The not-so-happy news came a few days later in The Daily Telegraph, which reported that Mr. Phillips will have to renounce his claim to the throne if he proceeds with the marriage.

Ms. Kelly, it turns out, is a Roman Catholic -- as are the plurality of Canadians. That marriage to any Canadian would disqualify the Queen's grandson from becoming Canada's head of state is absurd. Though renunciation in these circumstances is not without precedent in Britain, the prospect of Mr. Phillips being subjected to religious bigotry is so repugnant to Canadian values that Prime Minister Stephen Harper cannot allow it to stand.

The situation in which we find ourselves is the result of the 1701 Act of Settlement, by which the Parliament of England settled the question of succession. Under its terms, the throne passed to Sophia of Hanover, the granddaughter of James I of England/VI of Scotland. Catholics and any royal who married a Catholic were ineligible from ascending the throne "for ever."

Other than the fact that we're discussing Canada's head of state, all this history is very foreign to the Canadian experience. For example, in 1774, the Parliament at Westminster gave Catholics the then-unprecedented right to sit in the legislature of Quebec. And nearly a century after that, the British North America Act, Canada's first constitution, contained explicit provisions protecting the education rights of Protestants in Quebec and Catholics in Ontario.

As Ontarians are now rediscovering, some forms of religious discrimination may be inconsistent with Canadian values but, as part of the Constitution, are not subject to the Charter of Rights. On the question of religious discrimination as it relates to the British monarchy, which is entrenched in the Constitution as Canada's head of state, our courts similarly dismissed a Charter challenge launched by former Toronto alderman Tony O'Donohue.

As in the case of Ontario's education system, therefore, the remedy must be through political action. Fortunately for Mr. Harper (in contrast to the current Ontario debate over education), there would be little downside for a Conservative - whose party has been on its back foot with Catholic voters since the hanging of Louis Riel - in taking on this religious discrimination frontally with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Unlike Canada, the United Kingdom has no written constitution, and thus no complicated amending formula to traverse. All that would be required to end this anachronistic discrimination is a legislative amendment at Westminster.

In the 2005 British election campaign, then-Conservative leader Michael Howard promised to eliminate the prohibition against Catholics if his party were elected. While Mr. Brown may not welcome a Canadian request as he ponders an early election, Mr. Harper should not shy away from standing up for Canadian values even if it means a dust-up with his British counterpart.

To prepare the ground, it would be wise for Mr. Harper to signal informally to Mr. Brown that such a request will be forthcoming. At the same time, Canadian diplomats should be mobilized to seek the support of other Commonwealth countries for an amendment to the Act of Settlement. With enough pressure, there is every prospect to believe that Mr. Harper would succeed in his demand.

As a fine strategist, Mr. Harper will no doubt want to think through his fallback position should the request be rejected. In this situation, Mr. Harper would have the option of appointing Mr. Phillips or, better yet, Ms. Kelly to be Governor-General, Canada's de facto head of state.

At the same time, the Prime Minister could declare that it would be his intention to make this appointment a recurring one, in order to create a Canadian line of succession. If the graft takes and the opportunity presented itself, the link to the British monarchy could eventually be severed by a constitutional amendment. By domesticating the monarchy, we could remove a major bone in the throats of many of our French-speaking compatriots, without the downside of having to transform Canada into a republic.

Norman Spector is a fellow monarchist, a former chief of staff to the Prime Minister of Canada and a former Canadian ambassador to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, as well as High Commissioner to Cyprus. He is currently a columnist with the Globe and Mail and blogs at Norman's Spectator. His full BIO can be found here.


Brian said...

The Act is not simple to repeal, unlike the article makes it out to be. It has to be repealed in all the Commonwealth Realms Parliaments, and of cause, it would bring up the debate, do ditch the Monarchy all together.

James said...

Exactly. I don't know why Spector thinks that if the Act is repealed in the UK it will automatically have effect in any other country; the Statute of Westminster makes sure of that.

For Canada, an amendment to the Act of Settlement - as it stands as a part of the constitution - would require the consent of all eleven parliaments.

I'm also not sure about his suggestion that PMs from now on recommend the appointment of Mr. or Mrs. Phillips as Governor General, thereby setting up a Canadian line of succession. This would change nothing constitutionally, and who's to say the Queen wouldn't simply refuse to keep appointing her grandson or granddaughter-in-law as vice-regal?

Neil Welton said...

I have just been in touch with a
friend who actually works inside Ten Downing Street. I shouldn't really tell you this but Gordon Brown knows my friend really well. I've also met Gordon myself on a couple of occasions. He is such a hoot. When he laughs out - you nearly go deaf.

Gordon is a monarchist. So he isn't all bad. He will also be attending the service for Diana tomorrow. He liked Diana. Why am I telling you all this - because I've got an exclusive. Here's my "exclusive" which I've been given permission (by Ten Downing Street itself) to tell you about. The Government might be making a statement about The Act of Settlement early on in the New Year.

Would you like a copy of said statement when available?

Just send me your contact details via the usual means.

However, I can give you all a big clue about what to do between now and then - don't go holding your breath.

Neil Welton said...

Oh, one more thing. This will have to be my last comment for a while. I've got a busy few weeks ahead - so just e-mail me your contact details if you are interested.

Greg Benton said...

Mr. Spector's fantasies notwithstanding, this is undoubtedly a priority for the 'Way Ahead Group'.

It also presents difficulties with the relationship of the monarch with the Churches of England and Scotland; a matter of little concern to Canada, but a 'landmine' in Britain.

James is quite right that the entrenchment of the monarchy in Canada and the constitutional provisions for change are formidable and requires the unanimous consent of all those legislatures.

Nevertheless, it is undoubtedly true that following the reign of our gracious Queen, long may she live, there will be much consternation in the land about more than the antiquated religious
requirements for succession and I think that in this respect Mr. Spector does have a 'feel' for what is to come.

However, Mr. Spector's repeated mantra of 'Canadian Values' (an empty phrase used by politicians) is not all that appealing either. After all, most of the fundamental 'values' I learned as a Canadian citizen and British Subject with respect to this country's principles have been tossed and replaced; making one's saving and personal allegiance to the Crown, for many, more precious than ever.

Perhaps that is what Mr. Spector wishes to do with the monarchy itself. It seems to be implied in his proposed appointment of Miss Kelly to the office of Governor-General.

The 'face' of the monarchy in Canada has been dramatically weakened because of such indifference to the credentials of the person representing the Crown where years of distinguished loyal service to one's sovereign and country has been largely discarded as a requirement.

There have been suggestions before about 'Princes' being appointed Governor-General as a means of re-inforcing the Royal Family's place in certain of HM realms following the Royal Family's decision to have the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York go to school in Australia and Canada respectively. The notion of a somewhat more permanent appointment was dismissed at the time for reasons 'unknown'.

Nevertheless, if this issue of 'religion' and the Act of Settlement, acts as a catalyst for exploring ways in which the monarchy not only survives the next generation in Canada but even thrives, it is a worthwhile conversation.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

The Act of Settlement must not be repealed.

Britain is a Protestant country. Our monarchy is a Protestant one.

It is simply not acceptable for the Papacy to secure the loyalty of our monarch.

Kyle said...

For all his pomposity, Mr. Spector makes a rather stupid error- refering to "Commonwealth countries" instead of Commonwealth realms. India, Ghana, et all have no role in our monarchical affairs, and to state otherwise misrepresents the sacred nature of our bond with Her Majesty.

Scott said...

Philips should just suck it up and do his duty - renounce his right to the Crown. To do otherwise is to embroil the very institution and nations that he loves in intractable, useless wrangling over irrelevancies.

Bernie Quigley said...

In 1701 Britain needed to bond with Germany. Today Quebec needs to bond with Canada. Nothing would bind Quebec to Canada (and England and the Anglosphere)more than a royal marriage: Forwarded to Premier Charest.