Your Canada, Your Constitution Denies the Statute of Westminster and Patriation


Your Canada, Your Constitution (YCYC) has published the second of what may become a series of installments derived from the unscientific, inaccurate push poll that Harris-Decima conducted on its behalf between May 10th and May 20th. The constitutional sophists at YCYC devised survey questions that contain numerous factual errors, and then erroneously concluded that “52% of Canadians agree Canada’s Constitution should be changed to make Canada fully independent from Britain – 43% disagree.”[1]

The Unscientific Methodology of the Push Poll Invalidates Its Results

YCYC asked respondents whether “Canada [should become] a fully independent country by retiring the British monarchy as the head of governments in Canada.” The question itself contains at least three main errors.

To what extent do you agree or disagree that Canada’s Constitution should be changed to make Canada a fully independent country by retiring the British Monarchy as Head of Canada’s federal and provincial governments?

  1. Strongly agree
  2. Agree
  3. Disagree
  4. Strongly disagree
  5. [Do not read] Don’t know/refused

First, Canada became independent upon the passage of the Statute of Westminster in December 1931. Second, the Patriation of the written constitution in 1982 finally put into effect what the Statute of Westminster had made possible since the 1930s and ensured that only the Parliament of Canada and the provincial legislatures could amend the constitution of Canada. The Statute of Westminster, 1931 marked the formal and legal independence of the Dominion of Canada, but our written constitution remained an act of the British Parliament until Patriation; as such, the British Parliament had to amend Canada’s constitution on the advice of the Canadian Parliament. Canada could have patriated as early as December 1931, but our federal and provincial governments and parliaments could not agree on a suitable amending formula. We decided to leave the amendment of our written constitution to the British Parliament by default, as a neutral position until devising a new indigenous amending formula. Peter Russell offers an excellent history of constitutional reform in 20th-century Canada in Constitutional Odyssey: Can Canadians Become a Sovereign People?

The Statute of Westminster created the personal monarchical union of the Commonwealth Realms and thus established the Crown of Canada and the King or Queen of Canada as a separate legal-constitutional entity relative to the Crown of the United Kingdom and the King or Queen of the United Kingdom. The “British monarch” has not been Canada’s head of state since 1931. There are currently 16 Commonwealth Realms, and this doctrine applies to all of them. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II therefore wears 16 Crowns (in the legal sense) and is separately the Queen of the United Kingdom, the Queen of Canada, the Queen of Australia, the Queen of New Zealand, and the Queen of 12 other Realms. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom advises the Queen in Right of the United Kingdom, while the Prime Minister of Canada advises the Queen in Right of Canada.

This diagram shows how the British Empire gave way to the Commonwealth and made the Dominions independent countries (Tidridge 2011, 47).

The Royal Proclamation that Queen Elizabeth II of Canada signed at the ceremony in Ottawa in recognition of Patriation even declared in the preamble, “Whereas it is in accord with the status of Canada as an independent state that Canadians be able to amend their Constitution in Canada in all respects.”[2] The Queen of Canada thus recognized that Canada had already attained the status of independent state before 1982. The Right Honourable Jean Chretien (then the Attorney General of Canada) and the Right Honourable Pierre Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, counter-signed the proclamation.

Her Majesty the Queen of Canada, Prime Minister Trudeau, and Attorney General Jean Chretien signed this proclamation of patriation.

Third, the Prime Minister and the Premiers are the heads of government of the federal and provincial governments. The Queen of Canada is Canada’s head of state, and the Governor General represents her and carries out most of her functions in right of Canada. The Governor General of Canada appoints the provincial Lieutenant Governors on and in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister. The Crown of Canada thus includes the “compound monarchy”: the Crown in Right of Canada, and the Crown in right of each individual province.

This diagram illustrates David E. Smith’s doctrine of the “compound monarchy” of the Crown of Canada (Tidrigde 2011, 79).


YCYC ought not to operate under the guise of an “educational charity” and simply acknowledge that it seeks to promote, through political activism, the abolition of the Crown of Canada and the creation of the Federal Republic of Canada. By asking the erroneous question of whether Canada should become independent of the United Kingdom, YCYC means, “Should Canada become a republic?” Instead of clearly stating its intentions openly and honestly, YCYC has decided to conceal its anti-monarchism under a veneer of mendacity and constitutional sophistry. This organization does not educate the public; it seeks to sow cynicism toward Canada’s existing institutions in order to make its activism look more credible.

Similar Posts:

[1] Your Canada, Your Constitution, “52% of Canadians agree Canada’s Constitution should be changed to make Canada fully independent from Britain – 43% disagree,” 26 June 2012.
Canada, The Canada Gazette, Part II Constitution Act, 1982: Proclaimed in Force April 17th, 1982” 116, no. 9 (Ottawa: Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada), 12 May 1982.


About J.W.J. Bowden

My area of academic expertise lies in Canadian political institutions, especially the Crown, political executive, and conventions of Responsible Government; since 2011, I have made a valuable contribution to the scholarship by having been published and cited extensively. I’m also a contributing editor to the Dorchester Review and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law.
This entry was posted in Articles and Books, Constitution (Written), Crown (Powers and Office), Monarchism v Republicanism, Reviews, The Personal Union and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Your Canada, Your Constitution Denies the Statute of Westminster and Patriation

  1. Maureen says:

    I am genuinely interested in finding information on a constitutional amendment that occurred in 1968. The legislative council of Quebec was abolished and replaced with the Quebec National Assembly ACT. Why was this amendment allowed, if at the time we were referring to the British to act as a neutral participant in all amendments. Where was this debated and what documentation exists to justify that amendment? Is there anyone who might point me in the right direction?


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  5. Npinkpanther says:

    Republicans are often dangerously (or wilfully) ignorant of the facts, they tend to argue on emotion and sentiment rather than substance. This reminds me of when Kevin Rudd summoned the “2020 Summit” in Australia to discuss where Australia would be at in the year 2020, and of course being a collection of the great and good of Australian society (read: out-of-touch inner city elites) they voted 99% that Australia should be a republic by 2020 and set out a resolution that said something along the lines of “hold a referendum to make Australia fully independent from the United Kingdom”. Of course soon they were humiliated when it was pointed out to them that Australia had been fully independent for quite some years, and they hastily changed the wording of that resolution to cover a vital error not one of them seemed to have picked up on.


    • HA! Can you send me a link for that hilarious mistake from the Australian republicans?

      Here in Canada, I also find that republicanism is not “popular”, in that it tends to be an elite concern. Most Canadians are apathetic, but I’m confident that they’d want to keep the status quo because it doesn’t offend them in any way. That said, republicanism has always been much weaker in Canada than in Australia, where it is a true threat.


      • Npinkpanther says:

        Here’s a piece I found about it on the ACM website …

        Republicanism has been on the decline here, though, pretty much continuously and steadily since the referendum, especially since the Royal Wedding and the Jubilee; the latest polls indicate that if a referendum were held today, the republic vote would probably be in the 20%-30% range, so I’m quite confident there’s no immediate threat to the monarchy. Even the Age – the premier press mouthpiece of republicanism – was forced to reluctantly admit recently that they thought Australia would still be a Commonwealth Realm during the reign of King William’s successor!


    • The threat in Canada comes from mendacious republicans who refuse to acknowledge their republicanism, like those of YCYC.


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