Has the time come to amend the Act of Settlement 1701, the law that outlines the rules of succession to the thrones of Canada and the other Realms of Queen Elizabeth II? I believe the answer is, Yes.
A quick background. The Act of Settlement includes provisions that bar Roman Catholics from inheriting the throne and prevent the Sovereign from marrying a Catholic. It was passed by the Parliament of England in the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution, which saw King James II of England (a Catholic) overthrown in favour of his son-in-law William of Orange (a Protestant). William reigned jointly with his wife Mary as William III and Mary II. To ensure a Protestant line of succession (and to prevent any of possible claims by the deposed James II), the Act of Settlement was thus passed.
Flash forward to the 21st century, and the same provisions that bar Catholics from sitting on the throne and prevent Sovereigns from marrying a Catholic are still in effect. A leftover that is controversial at best and discriminatory at worst from a bygone era.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is leading a charge to update the Act of Settlement. The Sovereign and heirs to the throne would no longer be forbidden to marry a Catholic or convert to Catholicism themselves. Also, the rule of primogeniture where men take precedence over women would also be scrapped.
The League supports these changes for a number of reasons.
First, we recognise the discriminatory nature of the provisions that exclude Catholics from becoming King or Queen of Canada. And, we recognise the discriminatory nature of favouring men over women.
Second, removing the provisions that exclude Catholics and favour men effectively eliminate two arguments republicans consistently make against the Crown.
Third, perhaps the most important from a Canadian monarchist perspective, amending the Act of Settlement provides solid proof that the Canadian Crown is completely separate and independent vis-à-vis the British Crown (and the Crowns of the other Realms where the Queen is head of state). After all, without Canada's approval, these changes can't happen. Another republican argument eliminated!
Of course, there are plenty of details that would need to be addressed. But, I believe that making these changes can only increase support for the Crown here in Canada and abroad.
Until next time,
Robert / The D.C.