Changing the Rules of Succession to the Throne for Canada
The Canadian Royal Heritage Trust
Statement on Changing the Rules of Succession
Issued 4 February, 2013
Bill C-53 is a good development but it will not change the rules of Succession to the Throne for Canada if and when enacted.
The Canadian Royal Heritage Trust supports the intent behind Bill C-53, “An Act to assent to alterations in the law touching the Succession to the Throne” tabled in the House of Commons by the Government of Canada on Thursday, 31 January, 2013, which would give the assent of the Parliament of Canada to a bill currently before the Parliament of the United Kingdom that, if enacted, will remove in British law elements of discrimination concerning female Succession to the Throne and the marriage of members of the Royal Family to Catholics.
This proposed Canadian Act is in accord with the requirements of paragraph 2 of the preamble to the Statute of Westminster, 1931 concerning the assent of the Dominion Parliaments and is within the competence of the Parliament of Canada to pass.
However, the assent of the Parliament of Canada to the British Bill (and subsequent Act) is, in itself, insufficient to change the rules of Succession for Canada. A second action is legally required, and if it is not taken then the current rules of Succession will remain the law for Canada after the rules have been changed for the United Kingdom.
1) Since passage of the Statute of Westminster, 1931, assent by the Parliament of Canada to legislation passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom has been insufficient for that legislation to extend to Canada.
2) From 1931 to 1982 paragraph 3 of the preamble and Section 4 of the Statute of Westminster, 1931 provided that such legislation would extend to Canada only with the explicit “request and consent” of Canada that it do so. In December 1936 the U.K. legislation providing for the Abdication of King Edward VIII and the Accession of King George VI was extended to Canada through Canada invoking Section 4 (“request and consent”) by an order-in-council and not through the assent of the Parliament of Canada, which was not in fact provided until March 1937, several months after the Accession of King George VI.
3) The Constitution Act, 1982 repealed Section 4 (“request and consent”) of the Statute of Westminster, 1931 insofar as it applied to Canada. Section 2 of the Canada Act, 1982 further specified that: “No Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom passed after the Constitution Act, 1982 comes into force shall extend to Canada as part of its law”.
4) Therefore, no Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed after 1982 can extend to Canada, with or without the assent of the Parliament of Canada, and the rules of Succession for Canada cannot be amended by post-1982 British legislation. They must be amended by a fully domestic Canadian procedure subsequent to Canadian assent to the British legislation.
A more detailed explanation of the status and history of amendments to the rules of Succession is provided in the accompanying background papers.