Does Canada have a queen? Short answer: yes. Long answer: still yes. For those that grew up in Canada, this is probably really obvious. Personally, it took me a while to wrap my head around what exactly the monarchy represented in Canada. 

On a technical level, Canada is actually a kingdom because it is a monarchy that is separate from the crown of the United Kingdom. This is sort of confusing, because the Queen of Canada is also the Queen of the United Kingdom. In case you’re wondering, she’s also the queen of a bunch of other realms (Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis).

In 1931, the Statute of Westminster allowed all dominions and territories of the United Kingdom to make their own laws separate from the laws of the UK, except in areas that they wished to remain connected. For Canada, this did not mean an immediate severance to all ties to the UK. Instead, it was more of a gradual shift away, culminating with the passage of the Constitution Act of 1982, which gave Canada the right to modify the constitution without the approval of Britain.

Canada is a constitutional monarchy, parliamentary democracy, and independent nation. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is the head of government. The Queen is represented in Canada by Governor General David Johnson who acts as the commander-in-chief of Canada. The Governor General is chosen by the Queen, typically at the advice of the Prime Minister, holds no fixed term, and primarily acts under the advice of the PM and the government for a term of 5 years (though that term can be extended). The Governor General then selects Lieutenant Governors for each province. Today, the people holding these roles function as advisors that provide counsel to the Canadian government and also represent the country at home and abroad. Just like the role of the monarchy, the roles of the Governor General and Lieutenant Governors have evolved over time and is now more symbolic than in the past. However, the Queen and her representative are not simply powerless figureheads. While they do not make political decisions themselves, they do act to ensure that all the elected representatives in parliament are able to make and carry out those very decisions as promised in the constitution, essentially ensuring democracy.

For a long time after Canada was established as a self-governing confederation with the passage of the British North America Act in 1867, it was known formally as the Dominion of Canada. The Dominion title has mostly fallen out of use by the government and the monarchy since the middle of the 20th century. Independent nations formally known as dominions are now referred to as commonwealth realms.

Arguments can be made for either side about whether or not Dominion of Canada is the formal name of Canada today. The Constitution Act of 1967 does not actually refer to the Dominion of Canada, instead stating that the new nation would be “One Dominion under the Name of Canada.” From this, it’s logical to interpret the formal name as simply “Canada.” However, the term “Dominion of Canada” has been used in other official records. One longstanding issue with Dominion is that it does not have a direct translation in French, Canada’s second official language.

Apparently it was almost the “Kingdom of Canada,” but leaders in the UK decided that such an obvious nod to the monarchy would be a bit too provocative to its American neighbors still sensitive about the American Revolution. There are some misconceptions about how they came up with Dominion, with plenty of historical accounts claiming that it was inspired by biblical verses such as Psalm 72:8, “he shall have dominion also from sea to sea.” However, the term Dominion had been applied to overseas British holdings for literal centuries. For example, the Dominion and Colony of Virginia was established in 1584 as the first British colony in North America.

So, what exactly is a Dominion? Well, that’s sort of complicated. The things that make a dominion a dominion have changed a lot over time, so it’s hard to define it with a single answer. Basically it means that the country is a sovereign state with its own constitution, governing body, and judicial system but still swears allegiance to the monarchy is a dominion.

understanding the monarchy in canada

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