If you’ve never been to Canada, or perhaps you simply just aren’t that familiar with their political system, then you might be surprised to know that they do in fact have a monarchy, albeit one that has very little activity in the operational affairs of the country. Does Canada’s status as a member of the Commonwealth realms give Elizabeth II any control there?
Queen Elizabeth II has very little control over Canada, with most of her duties being ceremonial or symbolic in nature. There are a few powers that she retains there, however, such as being able to pardon criminals.
Canada’s retention of British royalty as their monarchy and head of state is based on the long and complicated history of the formation of dominions and realms in the 19th-century colonies.
The ancient traditions that determine these political positions are still largely misunderstood today, due to how little the Queen actually has any effect on local politics.
The Canadian Colony
Today, the power of the monarch in Canada is extremely limited, and as previously stated is a largely ceremonial role that has no real effect or weight in mainstream Canadian politics.
That’s a different story from a few centuries ago, where not only did the monarch possess far more sway over the country, but was also ruled by an entirely different set of royals.
When Canada was first colonized by Europe, the two nations that made the most significant effort towards expanding their influence there were France and England.
The first monarch to have any sort of control over Canada, or at least a small piece of it, was the king of France, King Francis I.
To say that he was Canada’s first monarch would be exaggerating a little, as at that time the French colony was just a smaller territory within what we now understand the country of Canada to be.
Without getting too dragged into the rabbit hole of history, the constant wars between European nations and the American Revolution that followed led to the various different provinces within Canada uniting, becoming a Commonwealth dominion.
How Recognised is Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State?
The history and understanding of Queen Elizabeth II’s position as head of state are muddied. This is largely thanks to any public consideration of the concept that Canada is a “Realm of the Commonwealth,” being largely ignored both by the majority of citizens, and the removal of the term from Canadian statutes.
The ignorance surrounding the topic is interesting, especially considering the fact that even though it is a symbolic position, there is still a lot of mention of the Queen in Canada.
An associate professor at the University of Ottawa points out that so many important components of Canadian politics, like executive and legislative power, all apparently “flows from the Crown.”
Even though that might not technically be true, as Canada is entirely independent and autonomous, with the head of government still creating and executing any democratically agreed upon laws, the Queen still serves an important role as the head of state.
Instead of actually giving any power to the laws or actions of the government, the Queen gives them royal assent, which is essentially the crown’s seal of approval on whichever subject is in question.
Which Other Countries Are In The Commonwealth Realm?
Canada isn’t the only ex-colony that counts itself amongst the commonwealth realm, there is actually a long list of other countries that still hold the Queen as their head of state.
Although the nature of the Queen’s civic duties is largely forgotten in somewhere like Canada, not all Commonwealth realms have forgotten their history with Britain.
Barbados, for example, made plans to move away from their history as a colony, hoping to move on to a new era of their history, one that leaves colonization in the history books.
There are no political changes that come as a direct result of shedding your status as a Commonwealth realm, in the case of Barbados the main change came from the fact that they wished to change their political system to that of a Republic.
For the time being, however, it seems that Canada is happy to continue with the Queen.