Dissolution By Demise of the Crown in Canada


Three Ways of Dissolving Parliament

In his famous treatise Commentaries on the Laws of England, Blackstone identified that dissolution can occur through one of three ways:

“1. By the king’s will […];
2. By a demise of the crown […];
3. By length of time.”[1]

Under Responsible Government, where Ministers of the Crown take responsibility for all acts of the Crown and the Crown acts on ministerial advice, dissolution by “the king’s will” now means dissolution by the prime minister’s or premier’s will. All dissolutions of the Parliament of Canada since 1867 have occurred under this method, and based on what I’ve seen in the last ten years of researching this field, the premiers have effected all dissolutions of the provincial legislatures since 1867 as well. (But if someone can find a contrary example, please do let me know – because that would prove most interesting). The first minister advises the governor to issue a proclamation dissolving the legislature, the cabinet advises the governor-in-council to issue writs of election, and the first minister advises the governor to issue a proclamation summoning the next legislature for despatch of business. This method of dissolution requires a series of proclamations and decisions from ministers of the Crown.

But the other two methods of dissolution happen automatically.

Dissolution “by length of time” means dissolution by efflux of time, which occurs automatically when a parliament has reached its maximum lifespan under the Constitution of Canada or a statute law, depending upon which requirement sets the shorter timespan. Section 4(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982 sets the maximum life of all legislatures in Canada at 5 years, but the fixed-date election laws (which every jurisdiction except Yukon and Nova Scotia adopted in the first decade of this century) of Canada, nine provinces, and two territories have lowered the maximum lifespan to somewhere between four and five years. Under dissolution by efflux of time, a legislature dissolves in accordance with either section 4(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982 or in accordance with the statutory provision for fixed-date elections, whichever comes first, instead of in accordance with a proclamation issued by the governor on ministerial advice. The 7th Parliament of Canada almost dissolved automatically by efflux of time in 1896, but Prime Minister Bowell advised Governor General Lord Aberdeen to dissolve it by proclamation one day beforehand.[2]

Dissolution by Demise of the Crown in England and the United Kingdom

This brings us to the third category. Dissolution “by a demise of the crown” meant that a sitting Parliament used to dissolve automatically upon the death of the reigning Sovereign who had originally issued its writs of election and summoned it, or in whose name a governor had summoned a colonial legislature. Unlike dissolution by the Crown’s will, which happens by an executive instrument, or dissolution by efflux of time, which happens pursuant to the Constitution or a statute, dissolution by demise of crown flows from the Common Law and the premise that the Sovereign summons a parliament in her personal capacity and that therefore a parliament must die along with the individual King or Queen who sent for it. Even today, annual statutes bear the regnal number and name of the sovereign followed by a chapter number, like “69 Elizabeth II, chapter 1,” which refers to the first statute passed in the sixty-ninth year of the reign of Elizabeth II. This principle at Common Law reflects an older medieval status of the Crown, and it might not holds true today. There are, at least, many reasons why it should not, if only because it is impractical and disruptive. A sudden and automatic dissolution by demise of the Crown could cut short vital parliamentary proceedings and wipe vital bills from the Order Paper, which could force Cabinet to delve into the Governor General’s Special Warrants during the resulting election. An unplanned election would force an incumbent government to go into caretaker mode and could coincide with a natural disaster in some parts of the country, like flood and fire – or a viral pandemic. That election could then lead to an abrupt transition of power, or it could cause a hung parliament and, in turn, generate more confusion. In an age of Responsible Government, where Ministers of the Crown take responsibility for all acts of the Crown, dissolution by demise of the Crown is, by definition, irresponsible, because it occurs automatically and independently of ministerial advice.

The statutory elimination of what Blackstone lists as the second method of dissolution fits a general legislative pattern over the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries whereby the Westminster Parliament has passed statutes which modify common law principles so that overall English and British law reconciles with the fact that the Crown is a corporation sole: an office that consists of only one person and his successors which gives them a perpetual legal capacity.[3] But the Sovereign can still act in either a corporate capacity, which carries over automatically from one king or queen to the next, or in a personal capacity, which is limited by the natural life of the individual king or queen.[4] The question of whether a parliament dissolves automatically upon the demise of the Crown (the death of one king or queen and the accession of another) depends upon whether the Queen summons, prorogues, and dissolves a parliament in her corporate capacity, or, alternatively, in her personal capacity. The evolution of our system of government, especially since the emergence of Responsible Government in the 19th century, has made this question less clear under Common Law than it was in the days of yore, and the trend has gone from the personal toward the corporate. But no court in Canada has ever had to adjudicate on this question, so no precedents or caselaw exist.

Until the Tudor period, English parliaments typically lasted, at most, one year, and “parliament” did not sit permanently and regularly as they do today. Instead, the Sovereign summoned “a parliament” only when necessary. Parliament’s transition from count noun to a mass noun (from “a parliament” to simply “parliament”) reflected its growing importance. Not until Thomas Cromwell and the Henrician Reformation of the 1530s did the civil service emerge as a separate entity from the king’s household and parliament emerge as a policy-making body beyond obtaining supplies.[5] Henceforth, parliament would play a regular, ongoing, and active role in the modern State as opposed to its sporadic and ad hoc function in the medieval State. In the Middle Ages, a parliament could dissolve automatically upon the demise of the Crown without causing disruption to the Realm. If anything, this principle gave the new Sovereign more room to manoeuvre and pursue his own aims. Parliament fully emerged as the permanent institution that we know today after the Glorious Revolution of 1689 and the Triennial Act of 1694 under the reign of William III and Mary II. Around the time of the union between Scotland and England into the United Kingdom of Great Britain under the reign of Queen Anne, the Westminster Parliament enacted the first statute limiting and restricting dissolution by demise of the crown. The Succession to the Crown Act, 1707 abolished automatic dissolution by demise of the crown and instead allowed an existing parliament to continue sitting for up to six months thereafter.[6] The United Kingdom limped along under that system until 1867, when the Westminster Parliament abolished dissolution by demise of the crown altogether through the Representation of the People Act, sometimes referred to as the Second Reform Act.[7]

Other Considerations Relating to Dissolution by Demise of the Crown

Oaths of allegiance also touch upon this question of the Crown in its personal capacity versus its corporate capacity. Historically, oaths of allegiance have also been given to the Sovereign in his or her personal capacity instead of the Crown in its corporate capacity, which means that Crown servants – from peace officers to civil servants to judges to Privy Councillors – would have retaken oaths upon the accession of a new king or queen. These oaths do not mention “heirs and successors.” But newer oaths of allegiance which Parliament has created since the mid-20th century reflect the increasing importance of the corporate capacity of the Crown by including the phrase “heirs and successors” in addition to the regnal name of the Sovereign, which means that the oath applies to the Crown in its perpetual corporate capacity and does not need to be renewed upon the accession of a new King or Queen. The oath of allegiance which parliamentarians in Canada swear or affirm exemplifies the old style of professing loyalty to the Queen in her personal capacity. The Fifth Schedule of the British North America Act, 1867 prescribes the form of the parliamentarians’ oath of allegiance as:

I  A.B. do swear, That I will be faithful and bear true Allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Victoria.

Note.—The Name of the King or Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland for the Time being is to be substituted from Time to Time, with proper Terms of Reference thereto.  

The oath now reads, “I, A.B., do swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true Allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.”[8] In contrast, Parliament enacted an oath of allegiance for naturalized citizens in the new form, which mentions both the reigning sovereign and her heirs and successors and thereby constitutes an oath to the Crown in its perpetual corporate capacity:

I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.[9]

Sometimes statutes relating to the demise of the Crown also mention the administration of oaths of other Crown servants, and a parliament will affirm that these oaths carry over from one sovereign to the next. For example, the Parliament of Canada passed two (probably unnecessary) remedial statutes in 1901 a few months after the death of Queen Victoria and the accession of King Edward VII affirming that all federal and provincial judges would remain in office and another that all legal proceedings would continue uninterrupted.[10] Long reigns seem to set off panic that defunct doctrines at Common Law will re-assert themselves. Adding the phrase “heirs and successors” to the wording of these older oaths would provide a far more efficient and permanent means of removing any doubt that Crown servants swear their oaths to the Queen of Canada in her perpetual corporate capacity rather than her mortal personal capacity. The current federal Canadian Oaths of Allegiance Act now recognises the form “allegiance to the Queen of Canada, her Heirs and Successors.”[11] Furthermore, the definitions section of the federal Interpretation Act clarifies that “King”, “Queen,” and “Crown,” and “His Majesty” and “Her Majesty” are equivalent, which shows that laws and judicial proceedings depend upon the Crown’s corporate capacity and carry over from one reign to the next.[12] These measures recognise the continuity of all executive, legislative, and judicial functions of the State through the continuity of the Crown of Canada. 

Dissolution by Demise of the Crown in British North America, 1791-1867

By rights, the Doctrine of Reception should have applied the Succession to the Crown Act, 1707 to all British North American colonies in what is now Canada when the Crown established the colonial legislatures of Nova Scotia in 1756, Prince Edward Island in 1773, and New Brunswick in 1784, and when the Imperial Parliament established the Parliaments of Upper Canada and Lower Canada in 1791 because statutes and common law rules which determine the maximum lifespan of a legislature clearly remain “suitable to the circumstances of the colony.”[13] Logically, a statutory provision which overrides a medieval common law principle that a sitting parliament dissolves automatically on the demise of the crown affects every legislature throughout the British Empire. But for whatever reason, the Colonial Office and colonial governors did not act as if the Succession to the Crown Act, 1707 applied in Lower Canada and Upper Canada. As such, the Parliament of Upper Canada and the Parliament of Lower Canada both dissolved by demise of the crown upon the death of George III in 1820 and once more upon the death of itinerant son George IV in 1830 – but with strange timing.[14] Dissolution by demise of the crown presented a curious metaphysical quandary and absurdity for colonial parliaments in the days before the Trans-Atlantic Cable and the telegraph made instantaneous communication possible, because they could continue sitting for weeks genuinely without knowing that one king had died and that his heir and successor had ascended the throne automatically thereafter. It raises the question of when dissolution by demise of the crown should occur: upon the date on which the king died – which would have to apply retroactively and potentially invalidate numerous statutes – or, alternatively, upon the date where the governor and speakers of the legislative council and legislative assembly learned of the king’s death. In practice, the latter method seems to have prevailed in Canada, for practical purposes.

For instance, George III died on 29 January 1820, but the 1st session of the 10th Parliament of Lower Canada began on 11 April, and the Governor prorogued the session and dissolved the parliament on 24 April 1820. Curiously, however, George III’s death had been proclaimed in Lower Canada on 18 March, and this did not prevent the 1st session of the 10th Parliament from convening.[15] The 5th session of the 7th Parliament of Upper Canada began on 21 February and was prorogued on 7 March; it was dissolved on 3 May when the death of George III was proclaimed in Upper Canada, which means that the demise of the crown did not interrupt any parliamentary business in Upper Canada. It is difficult to believe that news of George III’s death took an extra six weeks to travel between Lower Canada and Upper Canada, and this chain of events could indicate that both Governors refused to apply dissolution by demise of the crown immediately. A decade later, George IV died on 26 June 1830, which proved opportune and convenient for both the Canadas: the 3rd session of the 13th Parliament of Lower Canada had already been prorogued on 26 March, and the 10th Parliament of Upper Canada had likewise already completed its 2nd session on 6 March.[16] The parliaments of Upper Canada usually met for annual sessions lasting 30 days, while those of Lower Canada held slightly longer sessions averaging 40 days per year.

The Parliaments of Lower Canada and Upper Canada both abolished dissolution by demise of the crown altogether some thirty years before the Westminster Parliament abolished it in the United Kingdom. Lower Canada’s legislation followed a more convoluted path; it should have entered into force in 1829 and prevented the dissolution upon the demise of George IV, but did not enter into force until 1831.[17] The Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council of Lower Canada had, in fact, rather presciently passed their bill on 14 March 1829, but the Governor reserved the bill for the King-in-Council, which did not give it Royal Assent until 1 November 1830. Furthermore, Lower Canada did not learn that London had finally given it Royal Assent until 18 January 1830![18] Lower Canada retroactively classified its statute as dating from 1829. It also included a non-derogation clause similar to those used today.

This Provincial Parliament, or any other Provincial Parliament of this Province, which shall have been summoned and called by Our present Sovereign Lord King George the Fourth, or His Heirs and Successors, shall not determine or be dissolved by the death or demise of His said Majesty, His Heirs and Successors; but such Provincial Parliament, shall, and it is hereby enacted, to continue, and may meet, convene and sit, proceed and act notwithstanding such death or demise, in the same manner as if such death or demise had not happened.[19]

Provided always and it is hereby enacted that nothing in this Act contained shall extend or be construed to extend to alter or abridge the Power of the King, His Heirs and Successors, to prorogue or dissolve the Provincial Parliament of this Province.

The Parliament of Upper Canada encountered no such obstacles, and its legislation received Royal Assent and entered into force on 4 March 1837 – just in time to save it from dissolution upon the demise of William IV on 20 June 1837.[20] Upper Canada did not include a non-derogation clause saving the Crown’s authority over prorogation and dissolution.

That the Parliament of this Province shall not in any case be deemed to be determined or dissolved by the Death or Demise of His Majesty, his Heirs or Successors; nor shall any Session of the Parliament of this Province be deemed to be determined, or the proceedings therein pending in any manner abated, interrupted or affected, by the Demise of His Majesty, his Heirs or Successors; but notwithstanding such Death or Demise the Parliament of this Province shall continue, and if sitting, shall proceed to act until dissolved or prorogued in the usual manner, or until the legal expiration of the term of such Parliament.[21]

The parliaments of both provinces therefore survived the death of William IV and accession of Victoria.

The preambles of both Lower Canada’s and Upper Canada’s statutes acknowledge that a sudden dissolution by demise of the Crown could cause significant disruption. The preamble of Lower Canada’s statute says:

“Whereas the peace, welfare and security of this province might be exposed to great dangers if this Provincial Parliament of this Province should be dissolved by the death or demise of the King, Our Sovereign Lord (whom God long preserve) or by the death or demise of any of His Majesty’s Heirs and Successors […].”

The preamble of Upper Canada’s law comes in a bit shorter and sounds a tad less dramatic:

“WHEREAS it is expedient to provide against the great inconvenience which might ensue from the inevitable dissolution of the Provincial Parliament upon a Demise of the Crown, on any future occasion […].”

The Province of Canada re-enacted a statute abolishing dissolution by demise of the crown in 1843, and the Parliament of Canada did the same in its first session in 1867.[22] The Province of Canada chose to replicate Lower Canada’s legislation, including its preamble and non-derogation clause. However, the 1st Parliament of the Province of Canada, then in its 3rd session, decided not to apply this provision to itself, but only to subsequent parliaments.

After this Provincial Parliament, no Provincial Parliament of this Province, which shall have been summoned or called by Our Sovereign Lady Queen Victoria, or Her Heirs and Successors, shall determine or be dissolved by the demise of the Crown, but such Provincial Parliament shall continue, and may meet, convene, sit, proceed and act, notwithstanding such demise of the Crown, in the same manner as if such demise had not happened.

Provided always, and it is hereby enacted, that nothing in this Act contained shall extend or be construed to extend, to alter or abridge the power of Her Majesty the Queen, Her Heirs and Successors, to prorogue or dissolve the Provincial Parliament of this Province.[23]

The 1st session of the 1st Parliament of Canada then swiftly enacted a similar statute for the Dominion of Canada but applied it to itself and all subsequent Dominion parliaments. It also copied the preamble from the statutes of Lower Canada and the Province of Canada and enacted similar operative provisions as well.

No Parliament of Canada, heretofore or hereafter summoned, or called by our Sovereign Lady the Queen, or Her Heirs and Successors, shall determine or be dissolved by the the demise of the Crown, but such Parliament shall continue, and may meet, convene and sit, proceed and act, notwithstanding such demise of the Crown, in the same manner as if such demise had not happened.

Nothing in the next preceding section shall alter or abridge the power of the Crown to prorogue or dissolve the Parliament of Canada.[24]

Dissolution by Demise of the Crown in Canada Today

Sections 2 and 3 of the consolidated Parliament of Canada Actnow contain the provisions abolishing dissolution by the demise of the Crown which the Dominion Parliament first enacted in 1868.

Demise of the Crown 

2 Parliament shall not determine or be dissolved by the demise of the Crown and, notwithstanding the demise, shall continue, and may meet, convene and sit, proceed and act, in the same manner as if that demise had not happened.

Prerogative saved

3 Nothing in section 2 alters or abridges the power of the Crown to prorogue or dissolve Parliament.[25]

In addition, all provinces later enacted similar provinces in their Legislative Assembly Acts or equivalent foundational provincial statutes precluding the possibility of dissolution by demise of the Crown. British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador have all retained these statutory provisions.[26] Alberta in the 1980s transferred the provision from its Legislative Assembly Act to its Judicature Act instead.[27] But Quebec took the unusual step of repealing the provision which abolished dissolution by demise of the crown directly in 1982 as part of a general effort to expunge references to the “crown” from its statutes. Quebec reworked its old Legislature Act into a National Assembly Act, as historian Gaston Deschênes explains:

Jusqu’en 1982,  l’article 3 de la Loi de la Législature prévoyait ceci: « Aucune législature de la province n’est dissoute par le décès du souverain; mais elle continue, et peut se réunir, s’assembler et siéger, procéder et agir de la même manière que si ce décès n’avait pas eu lieu ». Or,  quand cette loi a été remplacée par  la Loi de l’Assemblée nationale en 1982, cette disposition n’a pas été conservée.[28]

Quebec probably repealed that provision due to the over-zealous application of secessionist (and thus, by extension, anti-monarchist) ideology, which, whether one agrees with it or not, at least offers a coherent rationale for the decision. Alberta repealed the provision in its Legislative Assembly Act abolishing dissolution by demise of the Crown in 1955 and transferred it to the Judicature Act instead.[29] Alberta’s original Legislative Assembly Act from 1909, as well as its next iterations in 1922 and 1942, all contained that province’s law abolishing automatic dissolution by demise of the Crown. The original statute said:

3.No Legislative Assembly summoned or called in and for this province shall determine or be dissolved by the demise of the Crown, but the Assembly shall continue, and may meet, convene and sit, proceed and act, notwithstanding the demise of the Crown, in the same manner as if such demise had not happened.

(2) Nothing in this section shall alter or abridge the power of the Crown to prorogue or dissolve the Assembly.[30]

The statutes from 1922 and 1942 changed the language slightly:

4.—(1) Any Legislative Assembly summoned or called in and for this Province shall not determine or be dissolved Crown by the demise of the Crown, but shall continue, and may meet, convene and sit, proceed and act, notwithstanding the demise of the Crown, in the same manner as if such demise had not happened.

(2) Nothing in this section shall alter or abridge the power to prorogue or dissolve the Assembly.[31]

According to CanLii, Alberta also repealed its Demise of the Crown Act relating to the administration of oaths and holding of offices of Crown servants in 1982,[32]and these provisions have also gone toward the Judicature Act, which contains a broader set of provisions guarding against the demise of the Crown with respect to the legislature, the judiciary, the executive, and the administration of oaths.[33]In 2018, the legislature amended the Judicature Act to grant the Lieutenant Governor-in-Council additional regulatory authority to fill in any gaps, if need be. 

Demise of the Crown

56(1)  The holding of an office under the Crown in right of Alberta is not affected by nor is a fresh appointment to it necessary on the demise of the Crown.

(2)  The right or capacity of a person in Alberta to practise, engage in or pursue a profession, occupation or calling is not affected by the demise of the Crown.

(3)  On the demise of the Crown, it is not necessary for a person again to take an oath of allegiance or an oath of office in respect of an office, profession, occupation or calling.

(4)  The Legislature is not dissolved by the demise of the Crown and continues as if the demise had not occurred.

Regulations regarding the demise of the Crown

56.1(1)  The Lieutenant Governor in Council may, by regulation, amend any Act or regulation to make any necessary changes as a result of the demise of the Crown.

(2)  The regulations authorized by this section may be made notwithstanding that a regulation being amended was made by a member of the Executive Council or some other person or body.

Conclusion

The last demise of the Crown which dissolved a legislature in what is now the Province of Quebec (Lower Canada and the Province of Canada are antecedents of Quebec) occurred in 1830, so we lack any relevant precedent which reveals the practical consequences of that decision. However, in Quebec’s case, section 6 of the National Assembly Act should still preclude automatic dissolution by demise of the crown: “Seul le lieutenant-gouverneur peut dissoudre l’Assemblée nationale avant l’expiration d’une législature.”[34] In English, it translates to, “Only the Lieutenant Governor can dissolve the National Assembly before the expiration of a legislature.” In other words, the National Assembly can only be dissolved in two ways: automatically by efflux of time, or discretionarily if the Lieutenant Governor dissolves it earlier on the advice of the Premier. This statutory provision therefore precludes dissolution by demise of the crown by necessary implication: logically, if only the Lieutenant Governor can dissolve the National Assembly before it reaches its maximum lifespan under the Elections Act and National Assembly Act, then the demise of the crown cannot dissolve the National Assembly. The Legault government apparently disagrees. On 11 March 2021, Minister LeBel tabled Bill 86, which would reaffirm that “La dévolution de la couronne n’a pas pour effet de mettre un terme aux activités du Parlement du Québec, du gouvernement et des tribunaux, ni de les interrompre de quelque manière que ce soit.”[35]The English translation, retaining the erroneous acute accent, says: “The demise of the Crown does not terminate the activities of the Parliament of Québec, the Government or the courts, nor does it in any manner interrupt those activities.” The bill also ventures into oaths of allegiance and affirms that they shall carry over upon the demise of the crown and in that respect bears a strong resemblance to Alberta’s law more so than those of the other provinces. As of 27 April 2021, the bill has passed 1st Reading unanimously but has not advanced further.[36]

Historian Gaston Deschenes first raised this possibility in January 2019 that repealing the provision in the National Assembly Act in 1982 might have inadvertently revived dissolution by demise of the crown two years ago.[37] However, the Legault government did not decide to table this bill until two years later, during a pandemic, and only after two controversies had lowered the esteem of the Crown of Canada: Julie Payette went supernova and resigned the Office of Governor General in disgrace in January 2021, and Harry Windsor and Meghan Markle dropped a series of accusations against the Royal House of Windsor in an American television interview in March 2021. The death of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh on 9 April 2021 has also brought the demise of the crown to the forefront. Nationalists and secessionists could claim that they had no choice but to table this legislation, because otherwise the death of the “Queen of England” – as they would say, erroneously but deliberately – would have caused the machinery of the Quebec State to grind to a halt, forcing a dissolution of the legislature and preventing all courts and Crown servants, from cabinet ministers to civil servants, from continuing their work. They will pretend to have tabled this legislation reluctantly, and they will solemnly declare that they had no other choice. Nationalism relies on resentment of an Other above all, and this legislation will manufacture a visceral resentment over an eventuality that section 6 of the National Assembly Act already precludes and focus it squarely on the Crown. Nationalists and secessionists in Quebec will use this legislation as a testcase, gauge public reaction, and revise their strategies accordingly. For instance, on 11 March 2021, La Presse concluded its article on Bill 86 by saying: “Ce projet de loi relancera assurément le débat sur la place de la monarchie et le rôle du lieutenant-gouverneur à Québec.”[38]In English, “This bill will assuredly relaunch a debate on the place of the monarchy and the role of the Lieutenant Governor in Quebec.” However, that does not seem to have happened yet, given that the National Assembly passed the bill at 1st Reading unanimously on 11 March 2021. Perhaps more pointed debate could follow when the legislation wends its way though Second Reading and at Committee.[39]

Corrections: In the original version from 27 April, I asserted that Alberta no longer possesses a law protecting against dissolution by demise of the Crown. However, while Alberta’s legislature did repeal the original provision from its Legislative Assembly Act in 1955, it also transferred said provision to the Judicature Act instead. I missed this detail because all the other provinces kept this provision in their Legislative Assembly Acts or equivalents and didn’t look elsewhere. So Alberta does not need to worry after all!

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Notes

[1]Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England in Four Books. Notes selected from the editions of Archibold, Christian, Coleridge, Chitty, Stewart, Kerr, and others, Barron Field’s Analysis, and Additional Notes, and a Life of the Author by George Sharswood. In Two Volumes, Volume 1, Books I & II, edited by George Sharswood (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1893) at 187.

[2]James W.J. Bowden, “1896: ‘Tu Perds’: How Governor General Lord Aberdeen Dismissed Prime Minister Sir Charles TupperThe Dorchester Review 9, no. 2 (Winter 2019): 31-42.

[3]Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England in Four Books. Notes selected from the editions of Archibold, Christian, Coleridge, Chitty, Stewart, Kerr, and others, Barron Field’s Analysis, and Additional Notes, and a Life of the Author by George Sharswood. In Two Volumes, Volume 1, Books I & II, edited by George Sharswood (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1893) at 469.

[4]Philippe Lagasse and James W.J. Bowden, “The Crown as Corporation Sole and the Royal Succession: A Critique of Canada’s Succession to the Throne Act, 2013,Constitutional Forum 23, no. 1 (April 2014): 17-26.

[5]Geoffrey Elton, The Tudor Revolution in Government: Administrative Changes in the Reign of Henry VIII (Cambridge University Press, 1953).

[6]J. Patrick Boyer, Election Law in Canada: The Law and Procedure of Federal, Provincial and Territorial Elections, Volume 1(Toronto: Buttersworth, 1987), 238; James W.J. Bowden, “When the Bell Tolls for Parliament: Dissolution by Efflux of Time,” Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law 11, no. 1 (2017): 130.

[7]J. Patrick Boyer, Election Law in Canada: The Law and Procedure of Federal, Provincial and Territorial Elections, Volume 1(Toronto: Buttersworth, 1987), 238.

[8]Canada. Library of Parliament, Oaths of Allegiance and the Canadian House of Commons, James R. Robertson, revised by Michel Bedard. (Ottawa: Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, October 2008): 5.

[9]Citizenship Act (Canada), R.S.C. 1985, c. C-29, Schedule (section 24).

[10]An Act to remove Doubts concerning the Continuance in office of Judges of Dominion and Provincial Courts upon the Demise of the Crown (Canada) 1 Edward VII, Chapter 38; An Act to make certain provisions necessitated by the Demise of the Crown (Canada) 1 Edward VII, Chapter 37. Both were given Royal Assent on 23 May 1901, though Queen Victoria died on 22 January 1901.

[11]Oaths of Allegiance Act (Canada), R.S.C. 1985, c, O-1, s. 2(1) & 2(2).

[12]Interpretation Act (Canada), R.S.C. 1985, c. I-21, s. 35(1).

[13]Peter Hogg, Constitutional Law of Canada, 2nd Edition (Toronto: Carswell, 1985), 23-26.

[14]Frederick H. Armstrong, Handbook of Upper Canadian Chronology, 2nd Edition (Toronto: Dundurn, 1985), 49-50; Quebec, L’Assemblée national, “Chronologie parlamentaire depuis 1791: 1820, 1830,” 17 June 2009.

[15]Frederick H. Armstrong, Handbook of Upper Canadian Chronology, 2nd Edition (Toronto: Dundurn, 1985), 29; Quebec, L’Assemblée national, “Chronologie parlamentaire depuis 1791: 1820,” 17 June 2009.

[16]Frederick H. Armstrong, Handbook of Upper Canadian Chronology, 2nd Edition (Toronto: Dundurn, 1985), 50; Quebec, L’Assemblée national, “Chronologie parlamentaire depuis 1791: 1830,” 17 June 2009.

[17]An Act for continuing the Provincial Parliament in case of the death of demise of His Majesty, His Heirs and Successors, 1829 (Lower Canada) 9-10 George IV, chapter 74.

[18]The front matter before the preamble shows the timeline of reservation by the Governor, Royal Assent by the King-in-Council, and the proclamation of that Royal Assent by the Administrator of the Government of Lower Canada.

[19]An Act for continuing the Provincial Parliament in case of the death of demise of His Majesty, His Heirs and Successors, 1829 (Lower Canada) 9-10 George IV, chapter 74, section 1.

[20]An Act to prevent the Dissolution of the Parliament of this Province in the event of a Demise of the Crown, 1837 (Upper Canada) 7 William IV, chapter 17; Frederick H. Armstrong, Handbook of Upper Canadian Chronology, 2nd Edition (Toronto: Dundurn, 1985), 29.

[21]An Act to prevent the Dissolution of the Parliament of this Province in the event of a Demise of the Crown, 1837 (Upper Canada) 7 William IV, chapter 17, section 1.

[22]An Act for continuing the Provincial Parliament in case of the demise of the Crown, 1843 (Province of Canada) 7 Victoria, Chapter 3; An Act for continuing the Parliament of Canada in case of the demise of the Crown, 1868 (Canada) 31 Victoria, Chapter 22; Audrey O’Brien and Marc Bosc,House of Commons Procedure and Practice,2nd Ed.(Ottawa: House of Commons and Editions Yvon Blais, 2009), 386.

[23]An Act for continuing the Provincial Parliament in case of the demise of the Crown, 1843 (Province of Canada) 7 Victoria, Chapter 3, sections 1-2.

[24]An Act for continuing the Parliament of Canada in case of the demise of the Crown, 1868 (Canada) 31 Victoria, Chapter 22, sections 1-2.

[25]Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. P-1, sections 2-3.

[26]Constitution Act (British Columbia) [RSBC 1996], chapter 66, section 20; Legislative Assembly Act(Saskatchewan), Chapter L-11.3, section 8; Legislative Assembly Act (Manitoba) C.C.S.M. c.L110, section 6; Legislative Assembly Act (Ontario), R.S.O. 1990, c. L.10, section 2; Legislative Assembly Act, RSNB 2014, c 116, section 3(1); House of Assembly ActRS 1992, chapter 1, section 9; Legislative Assembly ActR.S.P.E.I. 1988, chapter L-7.1, section 6(1); House of Assembly ActRSNL 1990, chapter H-10, section 3.2.

[27]Judicature Act, RSA 2000, c J-2, s. 56.

[28]Gaston Deschênes, “’…Long Live Our Noble Queen…’ (air connu),” Blog of Gaston Deschênes, 20 January 2019.

[29]Legislative Assembly Act (Alberta), RSA 2000, c L-9.

[30]An Act respecting the Legislative Assembly of Alberta,SA 1909, chapter 2, section 3.

[31]The Legislative Assembly Act, RSA 1922, c 3, s. 4; Legislative Assembly Act, RSA 1942, c 4, s.4.

[32]The Demise of the Crown Act,RSA 1970, chapter 89.

[33]Judicature Act, RSA 2000, c J-2, s. 56.

[34]La loi sur l’Assemblée national (Quebec), chapitre A-23.1., s. 6.

[35]Quebec, National Assembly, 42nd Legislature, 1st Session, Bill 86, An Act Respecting the Demise of the Crown, 11 March 2021.

[36]Quebec, National Assembly, 42nd Legislature, 1st Session, Journal des debats de l’Assemblée nationale, volume 145, no. 167, 11 March 2021,

[37]Gaston Deschênes, “’…Long Live Our Noble Queen…’ (air connu),” Blog of Gaston Deschênes, 20 January 2019.

[38]Tommy Chouinard, “Une loi pour éviter des élections générales anticipées a la mort d’Élisabeth II,” La Presse, 11 March 2021.

[39]Quebec, Assemblée nationale du Québec, Journal des debats de l’Assemblée nationale, 42nd Legislature, 1st Session, volume 45, no. 167 (11 March 2021).

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 in my field. 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 Dissolution, History of British North America. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Dissolution By Demise of the Crown in Canada

  1. wilfredday says:

    You say “The premiers have effected all dissolutions of the provincial legislatures since 1867 as well. (But if someone can find a contrary example, please do let me know – because that would prove most interesting).”
    I have no contrary example since 1867. But I am curious whether 1858 in PEI might be one. “Andrew Heard gives two examples of new elections being called before provincial assemblies formally met after an election: Prince Edward Island in 1859 and Newfoundland in 1909. In each case, the legislature was unable even to choose a speaker.” In PEI the 1858 election produced the deadlocked house. Who dissolved the Legislature in 1859?

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    • That’s good question. I’ve mentioned these cases before, and Lyle Skinner and I have an article coming out in a few weeks where we discuss the case from Newfoundland in 1909. When an assembly fails to elect a speaker and therefore cannot conduct any other business, the premier has no choice but to advise the governor to dissolve it. But this dissolution does not happen automatically pursuant to a statute or principle at common law — the premier still has to provide constitutional advice. So that’s why I would still put these dissolutions under that primary category of “by the king’s will.”

      Granted, the circumstances are strange, almost unique since we only have two such precedents in British North America, but the reason necessitating the dissolution (deadlocked assembly) does not change the way in which the dissolution happens (by the governor on the advice of the premier). So these two dissolutions still did not happen automatically; they happened by necessity, which obliges the premier and governor to act, but still in the normal way with the normal executive instruments.

      We have a few examples of automatic dissolution by demise of the Crown pre-1830, but we no examples of dissolution by efflux of time in Canada of which I am aware, and certainly none federally since 1867. However, the British Parliament did dissolve by efflux of time in 2015, and my article from the JPPL “When the Bell Tolls for Parliament: Dissolution by Efflux of Time” goes into the details of the executive instruments that accompanied this dissolution.

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      • wilfredday says:

        Not just pre-1830. The parliament of Upper Canada was dissolved 8 September 1830 on the announcement of the death of King George IV.

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      • wilfredday says:

        Sometimes a premier lacking a majority does not feel obliged to act in the normal way with the normal instruments.
        On October 6, 2011, Dalton McGuinty’s Ontario Liberals were reelected for a third term in government, though they lost their majority in the Legislature. Only winning 53 of the 107 legislative seats, the Liberals were one seat short of a majority. They postponed calling the legislature and postponed setting up the normal standing committees, which would have had opposition minorities, and refused to negotiate anything with the NDP. They kept stalling until, on April 27, 2012, seven months after the election, they finally induced PC MPP Elizabeth Witmer to accept an appointment to head the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board. And kept on stalling until, on September 6, 2012, the NDP won the by-election in Elizabeth Witmer’s riding. The Liberals finally accepted their fate, and McGuinty announced his retirement October 15, 2012.

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