Quebec ruler urges Canada to break with British monarchy

The symbolic parliamentary motion has little chance of success but renews the debate around the role of the British crown in Canada.

Quebec's rulers have asked Canada to break with the British monarchy, which the head of the Quebec Bloc party has described as an expensive and "old-fashioned" symbol.

The party's symbolic gesture, which was debated in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Tuesday, comes amid renewed debate in the Commonwealth around the role of the British crown following the recent death of Queen Elizabeth II. Canada is a constitutional monarchy and its ceremonial "head of state" is now King Charles III.

“We thought we needed to let go [of relations with the British monarchy] easily, quickly, without making a fuss. This is an anachronism. It's a coat of paint in the living room that's starting to fade in the corners," Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet told a press conference before the debate. A vote is expected on Wednesday on the measure, which is unlikely to pass.

Canada also needs more to sever ties with the British crown; such a decision requires approval from both houses of parliament, as well as approval from all Canadian provinces, CBC News reports.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected Bloc's efforts on Tuesday, telling the House of Commons that political parties are ignoring more pressing issues, including inflation and rising costs of living.

“Canadians are concerned about the problems they face, whether it's climate change, global instability or the cost of living. And that's what we chose to discuss," Trudeau said. “They [Block] want to reopen the constitution; we will remain focused on the concerns of Canadians."

The death of Queen Elizabeth II last month sparked an outpouring of condolences, including from Trudeau, who described the longtime monarch - and Canada's longest-serving ruler - as a "constant presence" in Canadian lives.

“Today, a page has not only been turned, but a chapter in our shared history has come to an end. I know Your Majesty's service to Canada and Canada will forever be an important part of our nation's history," Trudeau said in a statement on Sept. 8.

An Ipsos poll released just days later showed Canadians were divided over the role of the future monarchy in the country, however, with 58 percent saying they wanted Trudeau to hold a referendum on the issue - up five percentage points since Queen Elizabeth II's death.

More than half of respondents (54 per cent) said they agreed that Canada should "end its formal relationship with the British monarchy" after his death, compared with 46 per cent who disagreed.

Quebec, a mostly French-speaking province, has the highest percentage of people agreeing to break with the crown, at 79 percent, the poll found Meanwhile, more than a dozen legislators in Quebec, which is holding elections in early October, have refused to take the oath of King Charles III required to enter the provincial legislature, local media reported. “I am very uncomfortable with pledging allegiance to a foreign king,” said Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, leader of the Parti Quebecois province, recently.

While some Commonwealth regions have said they have no immediate plans to remove Britain's crown as head of state following the queen's death, others have seen increased debate about whether to leave the monarchy, especially in the Caribbean. The prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda said in September that the island nation plans to hold a referendum on the issue within the next three years. It followed in the footsteps of Barbados, which in November left the queen to become a republic.

Brooke Newman, a professor of history at Virginia Commonwealth University, told Al Jazeera last month that she believed Queen Elizabeth II's death would hasten that push.

"Now that he's gone, sentimental attachment to the institution of the monarchy has become much less, and even more so to the person of Charles III," Newman said.

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