Harper Government Introduces Legislation to Give Canadian Assent to Changes to the Laws Governing the Royal Line of Succession

OTTAWA, Jan. 31, 2013 /CNW/ - The Harper Government today introduced legislation that will provide Canada's assent to changes that will enshrine gender equality and freedom to marry an individual of another faith in the laws governing the Royal line of succession. The announcement was made by The Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages.

"Since the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2011, Canada has been working with the other 15 Realms to amend the rules governing the line of succession to the Throne," said Minister Moore. "This new legislation will ensure that the Canadian Crown remains a vital and modern institution that reflects Canadian ideals."

At the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), the 16 Realms for which Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of State agreed to change the rules governing the line of succession to the Throne.  Pursuant to this agreement, the government of the United Kingdom introduced legislation in December 2012 that will:

  • end the practice of placing male heirs before their elder sisters in the line of succession; and
  • remove legal provisions that render heirs who marry Roman Catholics ineligible to succeed to the Throne.

No constitutional amendment is required for Canada to give its assent to this U.K. legislation. The legislation introduced today is in keeping with the Preamble to the Statute of Westminster, 1931, which provides that any changes to the laws governing succession require the assent of Dominion Parliaments.  The Government of Canada is working in collaboration with all parties to ensure swift passage of the bill.

Backgrounder: Introduction of Line of Succession Legislation

Backgrounder

INTRODUCTION OF LINE OF SUCCESSION LEGISLATION

The Government of Canada supports initiatives that ensure that the Crown remain a vital, modern and equal institution that reflects Canadian ideals. To this end, on January 31, 2013, the Government of Canada introduced legislation to provide Parliament's assent to the changes to the rules governing the line of succession to the Throne.

At the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia, the 16 Realms of which Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of State agreed to work together on a coordinated approach to amend the rules governing the line of succession to the Throne.

Pursuant to this agreement, the government of the United Kingdom introduced legislation on December 13, 2012, that will end the practice of placing male heirs before their elder sisters in the line of succession, applicable to any child born after October 28, 2011. The legislation will also remove legal provisions that heirs marrying Roman Catholics would be ineligible to succeed to the Throne, applicable to the marriages of living heirs made prior to the bill's coming into force as well as to all future marriages.

The changes to the laws of succession do not require a constitutional amendment.  The laws governing succession are UK law and are not part of Canada's constitution. Specifically, they are not enumerated in the schedule to our Constitution Act, 1982 as part of the Constitution of Canada.  Furthermore, the changes to the laws of succession do not constitute a change to the "office of The Queen", as contemplated in the Constitution Act, 1982.  The "office of The Queen" includes the Sovereign's constitutional status, powers and rights in Canada.  Neither the ban on the marriages of heirs to Roman Catholics, nor the common law governing male preference primogeniture, can properly be said to be royal powers or prerogatives in Canada.  As the line of succession is therefore determined by UK law and not by the Sovereign, The Queen's powers and rights have not been altered by the changes to the laws governing succession in Canada.

The legislation introduced today is in keeping with the Preamble to the Statute of Westminster, 1931, which provides that any changes to the laws governing succession require the assent of Dominion Parliaments. The Government of Canada is working in collaboration with all parties to ensure swift passage of the bill.

While British legislation would amend the rules, the UK Government is seeking the agreement of the Realms for the proposed changes. The 16 Realms are the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada, Belize, St Christopher and Nevis, St Lucia, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Papua New Guinea.

SOURCE: Canadian Heritage

For further information:

For more information (media only), please contact:

Sébastien Gariépy
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages
819-997-7788

Media Relations
Canadian Heritage
819-994-9101
1-866-569-6155
media@pch.gc.ca