The answer to this question may come as a surprise but Canada is indeed a constitutional monarchy and currently Queen Elizabeth II is the head of the state. Monarchy is at the very core of Canada’s parliamentary democracy. The monarch, the reigning sovereign, is vested with all powers of the state and the government institutions act in the name of the Monarch and under the sovereign’s authority.
The British King or Queen is also the Canadian Monarch and the sovereign of 14 other nations of the world.
Since European explorers landed in Canada, British and French monarchs have claimed bits and pieces of the land as their own. In 1867, when the government of Canada started to take shape it was modeled on the Westminster system and the British monarch was deemed the head of the government. The country voted to retain the monarchy again in 1931 with the statute of Westminster declaring Canada as a sovereign nation.
To understand this better, let us take a look at the legislative and executive processes. The Parliament of Canada is based in Ottawa and consists of the Monarch and two houses – the Senate and the House of Commons.
The Monarch appoints a Canadian as the Governor General to represent him/her in the country and to exercise the Royal Prerogative. The Governor General is usually appointed on the advice of the Canadian Prime Minister.
While the members of the House of Commons are directly elected by the Canadian electorate, the Senators are appointed by the Governor General upon the advice of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister enjoys office so long as he/she enjoys the confidence of the majority of the members of parliament.
The Governor General’s assent is required to pass bills, summon and dissolve the parliament, call for elections, ratify treaties, international alliances and agreements, and declare war. All executive decisions made by the Prime Minister and his council are made in the name of the Monarch.
One of the greatest dichotomies of the Canadian Monarchy is that the King/Queen (through the Governor General) is responsible for ensuring that a democratically elected government is always in office.
The Governor General also serves as the Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces.
In recent years, however, the role of the Monarch has been sharply criticized in the country. Critics argue that the role of Queen Elizabeth II as the head of state is merely symbolic. But it represents an institution built on class division and conquests – an identity Canada cannot afford to carry. At a time when Canada is keen on establishing its position as a leading liberal nation firmly grounded in its democratic principles, swearing allegiance to the Queen in citizenship ceremonies and issuing postal stamps and currency notes bearing the Queen’s image comes as a major contradiction, critics allege.
While the strength of the criticism is something that the people of Canada must judge, the fact that three year old Prince George refused to return Canadian PM Justin Trudeau’s high five still amuses the world.
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