Democracy in the 21st century: the future of the crown in Canada.

Author:McWhinney, Edward
Position:Guest Editorial

In 1936 British Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, actively consulted with the Prime Ministers of the older Dominions and was able, in the result, to cite the very strong objections of Mackenzie King as grounds for his own refusal to sanction a marriage between King Edward VIII and a twice divorced U.S. citizen, thereby inducing the King to abdicate. In 2005 the civil marriage of the heir to the British throne to his long-time companion--both parties having been divorced from previous spouses--was apparently not discussed by the British government with the Canadian government, nor did the Canadian government offer any advice, this notwithstanding that constitutional doubts involving the succession to the British throne and allegedly requiring British and Commonwealth legislation to "correct" had been raised by some British jurists. Why the difference between 1936 and today?

Community attitudes towards divorce for persons holding public office have changed dramatically and that is clearly relevant. But more importantly for Canadians today, fundamental changes in the constitutional balance between Great Britain and her former Dominions, occurring through developing custom and Convention, have rendered the constitutional precedents applied in 1936 essentially out-of-date and irrelevant in contemporary terms. In the case of the Prince of Wales' remarriage, the Governor General of Canada, accepting the invitation of the British Lord Chamberlain, attended the religious blessing service conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Royal Chapel in Windsor Castle, immediately after the civil marriage ceremony in a civil registry office. She also attended the reception offered by the Queen, and presented a wedding gift on behalf of the Canadian people--a pewter bowl designed and made by a contemporary Newfoundland artist. The Governor General did not attend the civil marriage ceremonies, not having been invited. It was all done gracefully and in accord with diplomatic protocol requirements and formalities applying between two sovereign states entertaining close, friendly relations,--this apart from past Imperial constitutional ties.

The constitutional reality today is that, with the transformation--really, transmogrification--of the old British Empire and British Commonwealth into a plain, un-prefixed, multi-cultural Commonwealth of Nations,--symbolized in the 1949 Declaration of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers and in Indian Prime Minister Nehru's...

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