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Canadian government considering eliminating historic royal liaison role

Created in 1959, the position of Canadian Secretary to the Queen (CSQ) is now under review as Canadian government officials assess the future of the role. When the role of CSQ was first created, the ceremonial duties it consisted of – including acting as Canadian adviser to the monarch and coordinator for royal visits – were handled by people such as the Sergeant-at-Arms in the House of Commons or the Usher of the Black Rod in the Senate, in addition to their regular responsibilities.

From 2012, however, the position was made a full-time job and was granted to Kevin MacLeod, retired Usher of the Black Rod. Reporting directly to the Prime Minister, the CSQ’s responsibilities expanded to include chairing a new advisory committee on vice-regal appointments (such as governors general and lieutenant-governors).

In 2015 the role changed again following the election of a new Liberal government, with the CSQ reporting to the minister of Canadian Heritage instead of the PM and the advisory committee being disbanded. Following MacLeod’s retirement in May 2017, a new CSQ has not been instituted and officials are now considering the future of the position.

Stephane Shank, spokesperson for the Privy Council Office has said: “The Government is currently examining the role and function of the office…[in the meantime] the roles and responsibilities have been assumed by the Department of Canadian Heritage.”

Robert Finch, spokesperson for the Monarchist League of Canada has spoken out about the lack of information about the role’s future, saying: “There’s a mystery surrounding this one. It’s as clear as mud.” Finch added that the CSQ role is “good from both a ceremonial and a functional point of view. … I think it’s very important from a symbolic point of view.”

Under the Access to Information Act CBC News obtained a briefing note for Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly which notes “here appears to be no other similar positions in other Commonwealth countries.” Financial implications no doubt play a crucial role in current discussions about the issue with the briefing note highlighting that the “cost of salaries, benefits and operating expenditures for a Governor in Council appointed CSQ is between $200,000 and $300,000 annually, for which no source of funds is identified within the Department as the CSQ was transferred … without resources.” (This refers to the 2015 transfer.)

As no firm decision has been made at this point royal visits, such as the one made by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall this past summer, were organised by members of the Canadian Heritage Department.