The Constitution Unit


VIDEO: Succession to the Crown of Canada - The Court Challenge and the Consequences

8 October 2014

Speaker: Professor Anne Twomey

18th September 2014

Changing the rules of succession in a federation with an entrenched Constitution is difficult. Not only must formal requirements for constitutional change be met, but the Provinces or States also have a fundamental constitutional interest in such a change and must therefore be involved. In Australia the federal and State Governments negotiated an agreement, resulting in each State enacting legislation requesting federal legislation, pursuant to the formal constitutional procedure. In Canada, the Government sought to avoid dealing with the Provinces and the formal method of constitutional change by adopting the view that it is the United Kingdom's law that determines who is the Queen of Canada. The Canadian Parliament enacted a law that simply gave assent to the United Kingdom law but did not implement the change as part of Canadian law. This reversion to a pre-1936 position has proved controversial and is currently under constitutional challenge in Canada. In an unusual marriage of interests, both monarchists and the Quebec Government have joined the challenge against the Canadian law. The monarchists are concerned that Canada's failure to implement the changes domestically will destroy the personal unity of the Crown, as the old rules of succession will continue to apply in Canada but none of the other Realms. This lecture will discuss the constitutional arguments raised by both sides in this litigation and the potential ramifications for both Canada and Crown.

Anne Twomey is a Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Sydney. She has written extensively about the Crown and its continuing role in the different Realms. She is currently completing a book for Cambridge University Press on the exercise of reserve powers in the Realms and former British colonies. She has given expert evidence in the court proceedings concerning the challenge to the Canadian Succession to the Throne Act 2013.