Quebec’s challenge against Canadian royal succession laws more pressing if royal baby was a girl

Matthew Coutts
Daily Brew
Quebec’s challenge against Canadian royal succession laws more pressing if royal baby was a girl

You’ve got to hand it to Quebec; it sure knows how to make an entrance. Hours after Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, went into labour on Monday, the province that is least enthralled with the Royal Family announced it would join a constitutional challenge against changes to Canada’s succession laws.

Those laws, enacted earlier this year and recently challenged by two constitutional experts, mean that William and Kate’s child would be treated equally when it came to becoming head of the British monarchy, regardless of whether it was a boy or a girl. (Spoiler alert, it’s a boy.)

According to the Canadian Press, the Canadian government will defend its new royal succession laws against the legal challenge, supported yesterday by the Quebec government.

Here are the details of the challenge. But in short, Canada and 16 other members of the Commonwealth updated their succession rules earlier this year. One key change was to allow a first-born daughter to ascend to the throne, rather than be leapfrogged by younger brother.

[ Related: Ottawa will defend new royal baby law from Quebec challenge ]

The constitutional challenge rises from the government's decision not to ask provinces to support the Succession to the Throne Act. The government says the change did not need a constitutional amendment, while its opponents say it did.

This is all pretty heavy stuff to be parsing through the day after the birth of a tiny royal baby successor. If the challenge derails Canada's new succession laws, we could someday see Canada hold a male prince as its head of state while the rest of the Commonwealth worships his older sister.

That is somewhat speculative, and Canadian republicans say it should never get to that point, anyway.

In a message released by the Citizens for a Canadian Republic on Tuesday, the group congratulates William and Kate on the birth of their new child, but says the arrival underlines the need for Canada to seek independence from the Royal Family.

The statement reads:

There will be hundreds of Canadians and future citizens born the same day as this royal baby, yet regardless of how smart, selfless, hard working and proudly Canadian that child may one day become, because they were not born into the right entitled family, he or she is constitutionally barred from ever becoming Canada's head of state.

[ More Brew: Canada celebrates birth of new prince to William and Kate ]

And that, more likely, is the focus of this constitutional challenge. In this day and age, few if any would argue against gender equality in the line of succession. Arguing against royal succession entirely, however, is another story.

Follow the constitutional challenge down the rabbit hole and it isn't difficult to see a way that it ends by questioning Canada's ties to the Queen.

Of course, securing changes to Canada's succession rules would be more pressing had William and Kate had a daughter on Monday. It would have had a direct impact on where she would fall in the line to the throne.

Now, as the U.K.'s Mirror points out, the succession debate has been pushed back a generation - to whether this newborn's first-born daughter would someday take the throne.

But there are just far too many ifs and buts in that calculation to fret about at this time. As Canadian royal historian Carolyn Harris told the Canadian Press earlier this week, royal succession rarely runs so smoothly downhill.

Premature deaths, abdications and various other upheavals are littered through British (err, and therefore Canadian) history.

Queen Elizabeth II's father, for example, became King only after his eldest brother abdicated the throne to marry a divorced woman.

"There are only a few instances of the crown passing smoothly from grandfather to father to eldest son," Harris told the newsgroup. "If we look at the wider list of monarchs, it's a web rather than a direct line."

Here in Canada, we will continue to debate the legitimacy of the new succession laws (while others heckle from the sidelines about what a waste our relationship with Royal Family is).

And someday, Kate's little boy will grow up and sire a child. And, just maybe, this debate will matter again.

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