And I was complaining about two days of debate in the UK Commons! The Canadian House of Commons has passed a motion to ‘deem’ that the bill has been read, committed, reported, concurred in and passed. I’m not very familiar with that kind of motion – even in the UK’s fast tracking, each stage is read out one after the other and no one rises to speak to the bill. Either way, total debate in the Commons: perhaps a minute? Perhaps the Senate will be slightly more thorough, especially given the ruckus the bill has managed to cause.
As you can see from the text, this bill is based on the Statute of Westminster concept of ‘assenting’ to legislation used in the 1937 Abdication Act. The bill’s sponsor, James Moore MP, suggested that Canada’s Crown is British and that only the Brits have the right to change the line of succession.
Well, now that’s a constitutional wasps nest well and truly kicked. This isn’t my area, so I can only summarise the much more detailed stuff I’m linking to (which I encourage everyone to read). The traditional constitutional interpretation in Canada since the end of empire seems to have been that the Realms each have their own head of state – Queen of Canada, Queen of Australia, Queen of New South Wales* – but that they are all vested in the same person, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary. The government’s interpretation is that the Queen of Canada is the same legal personality as the Queen of the United Kingdom. However, some scholars are sceptical of the reasoning. Others are even saying that this represents a declaration that Canada’s constitution is being de-patriated, and means that Canada is no longer (or perhaps never was) fully independent. Of course, not all scholars agree.
Whatever the consequences of this bill, it still has the Senate to get through. On the face of it, this would seem like an occasion where the ‘sober second thought’ of the Senate would be useful. Also, on the UK front, it has passed the House and I will update the information on it next week.