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State & Ceremonial

Royal succession law faces challenge in Quebec court

Two law professors in Canada are challenging the change to royal succession rules which now mean that a girl can succeed ahead of a younger born brother. They are arguing that the alterations this made to Canadian law are ‘unconstitutional’ and ‘colonialist’. The legal case begins in Quebec today.


The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their 2011 tour of Canada – now two professors in that country are challenging laws brought in to ensure equality for their descendants

The Succession to the Crown Act 2013 replaced male preference primogeniture with absolute primogeniture and when it was brought into force it swept away gender inequality in the line to the throne. It also allowed members of the Royal Family who married Catholics to keep their place in the succession. It means that even if Princess Charlotte gets a baby brother in the future he would never leapfrog her in the line to the Crown.

Genevieve Motard and Patrick Tallon, professors of constitutional law at the Laval University in Quebec, argue that the Canadian Parliament assented the changes brought about by the Succession to the Crown Act but didn’t alter Canada’s laws in the proper manner to bring about the changes and that is unconstitutional.

The alterations to succession laws in Canada were made by the country’s parliament assenting to an Act, which agreed to change the way the line of succession works. But Genevieve Motard and Patrick Tallon argue that the 1982 Canada Act severed all legal ties between the UK and Canada. That means that a law adopted by the UK government can’t just be assented to by the Canadian Parliament. This new set of succession laws to take effect, they claim, the actual laws of Canada must be changed. And that means obtaining the consent of all ten of its provinces. They have the backing of the government of Quebec and the Canadian Royal Heritage Trust.

The two people bringing the case say they have nothing against the actual substance of the changes with one of their legal team, Andre Binette, saying that ‘everybody agrees with gender equality’. What they want to know is how far the federal government can go on in making changes without obtaining the consent of the provinces first.

And Andre Binette added ‘The position seems to be that…The British law applies automatically in Canada which we consider to be a colonial position…a throwback to ancient times’.

Of course, the Succession to the Crown Act had little impact as the firstborn child of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge was a boy. However, it has made subtle differences to the line of succession with Prince Michael of Kent as regained his right. Of course, Princess Charlotte is the spare until her brother has a family of his own.

The court case is expected to take around ten days to complete. If it is successful the Canadian Parliament is required to gain the assent of all the provinces before adopting the law that could take around three years. And this debate about the way the Crown is passed through generations is sure to excite interest around the world.


Photo credit: appaloosa via Flickr