Our Monarchy

 - Queen and State
 - Queen and People
 - Canadian Forces
 - First Nations
 - Royal Finances
 - Royal Presence
 - Symbols
Royal Family



Queen and State

All powers of State are constitutionally reposed in the Monarch, who is represented at the federal level by the Governor General of Canada and at the provincial level by Lieutenant-Governors. The Governor General is appointed by the Monarch upon the advice of the Prime Minister of Canada.

The Monarch's role is almost entirely symbolic and cultural, acting as a symbol of the legal authority under which all governments operate, and the powers that are constitutionally hers are exercised wholly upon the advice of the elected government.

In exceptional circumstances, however, the Monarch or vice-regal has acted against such advice based upon his or her reserve powers as when Governor General Byng refused a request by Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King for a dissolution of Parliament and call for new elections. Also, Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta, John C. Bowen, in 1937 refused to grant Royal Assent to three bills passed by William Aberhart's Social Credit government on the grounds that they were unconstitutional.

Royal Assent

Royal Assent and proclamation are required for all acts of Parliament and of the provincial legislatures, usually granted or withheld by the Governor General or Lieutenant-Governor, with the Great Seal of Canada, or the appropriate provincial seal. The Vice-Regals may reserve a bill for the Monarch's pleasure, that is to say, allow the Monarch to make a personal decision on the bill. A Lieutenant-Governor of a province may similarly defer to the Governor General (who may in turn defer to the Monarch).

The Monarch has the power to disallow a bill (within a time limit specified by the constitution). Recently activists opposed to Bill C-38 lobbied Queen Elizabeth II to disallow the legislation after it was passed by parliament. However it received Royal Assent from the Governor General on July 19, 2005. Territorial legislatures, unlike their provincial counterparts, are subject to the oversight of the Government of Canada.

Representation of the State

At one time the Monarchy was considered a purely British institution, when most Canadians still continued to be both legally, and by personal view, British subjects. However, paralleling the changes in constitutional law, and the evolution of Canadian nationalism, the cultural role of the Monarchy in Canada altered. Today the Sovereign is regarded as the personification of the State, and is the "personal symbol of allegiance, unity and authority for all Canadians. The federal and provincial governments now recognize and promote the Queen's role as Monarch of Canada as separate to her position as Queen of the United Kingdom.

Fount of Justice

The Sovereign is deemed the "fount of justice," and is responsible for rendering justice for all subjects. The Sovereign does not personally rule in judicial cases; instead, judicial functions are performed in his or her name. The common law holds that the Sovereign "can do no wrong"; the monarch cannot be prosecuted in his or her own courts for criminal offences. Civil lawsuits against the Crown in its public capacity (that is, lawsuits against the government) are permitted; however, lawsuits against the Monarch personally are not cognizable. The Sovereign, and by extention the Governor General, also exercises the "prerogative of mercy," and may pardon offences against the Crown. Pardons may be awarded before, during, or after a trial.

In Canada the legal personality of the State is referred to as "Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada", and likewise for the provinces and territories (i.e., "in Right of Ontario," etc.). For example, if a lawsuit is filed against the federal government, the respondent is formally described as Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada. The monarch as an individual takes no more role in such an affair than in any other business of government. For example, a case in which a province sues the federal government would formally be called Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Prince Edward Island v. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada. In addition, the Monarch also serves as a symbol of the legitimacy of Courts of Justice, and of their judicial authority.

    Updated: 2010-06-27