Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Only 35% Canadians support its constitutional monarchy, but it won't be changing soon


Canada was one of 15 Commonwealth countries where Queen Elizabeth was head of state. A recent poll found that only a third of Canadians want their country to remain a constitutional monarchy, yet it seems unlikely that there will be a Canadian republic anytime soon, as Crispin Thorold reports for NPR.


CRISPIN THOROLD, BYLINE: With a fanfare of trumpets and to the sound of a 21-gun salute, the chief herald of Canada proclaimed the accession of a new king last Saturday. Although this was a low-key event, it was steeped in symbolism.


THOROLD: Queen Elizabeth came to Canada 22 times on state visits, including to Toronto City Hall in 1984 as the city was celebrating its 150th birthday. Now this municipal center is welcoming a steady stream of locals who are signing a condolences book.

SHARON MCGUIGAN-BAKIE: My name is Sharon McGuigan-Bakie. I have always admired the monarchy, and I just feel very passionately about the connection with the motherland. Times have changed, but traditions need to be carried on.

THOROLD: Just five minutes away is Toronto Metropolitan University, the place where a statue of Egerton Ryerson was ripped down by protesters angry at his role in the establishment of residential schools where Indigenous children who'd been torn away from their families were forcibly integrated into Canadian society. This place has been at the epicenter of a rethinking of what it means to be Canadian in the 2020s. Here are students Sidra Musheer and Emma Shenouda.

EMMA SHENOUDA: I didn't really think it was very relevant for, like, my generation or Canadians. Like, it was obviously a loss, and I'm sure people are mourning, but I didn't think it had any effect on our government.

SIDRA MUSHEER: This generation is rising against the injustices we faced. People are finally talking about the racism and the plundering and the looting that Britain did to all its colonies, and I feel the queen was kind of a headpiece.

THOROLD: For King Charles to have relevance, he must be known to the population, especially to young and new Canadians. Michael Valpy, senior fellow at the Munk Centre at the University of Toronto, argues that right now, young Canadians like those we've just heard from are more likely to know about Charles from the widely watched Netflix show "The Crown" than from civics classes.


THOROLD: And that's potentially bad news for the popularity of the constitutional monarchy here - a system that only enjoys 35% support. But that doesn't mean a Canadian republic is imminent.

MICHAEL VALPY: The monarchy would be very difficult, legally, to get rid of in Canada. Secondly, what are you going to replace it with? There's no agreement.

THOROLD: So how would you assess the prospects for Charles as king of Canada?

VALPY: It might work. It likely can work, if he makes himself visible. Charles cannot come to Canada unless he's invited by the federal government. The political elites in Canada are not strongly pro-monarchist.

THOROLD: But not sufficiently anti-it to end it?

VALPY: Oh, no - but sufficiently anti to deprive it of oxygen.

THOROLD: So for now, the monarchy will endure in Canada, but less because of any groundswell of popular or political support and more because of the absence of an easy alternative. For NPR News, I'm Crispin Thorold in Toronto. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Crispin Thorold