Monarchy in the Canadian provinces

Monarchy in the Canadian provinces

Monarchy in Newfoundland and Labrador
Monarchy in Prince Edward Island
Monarchy in Nova Scotia
Monarchy in New Brunswick
Monarchy in Quebec
Monarchy in Ontario
Monarchy in Manitoba
Monarchy in Saskatchewan
Monarchy in Alberta
Monarchy in British Columbia

In the Canadian federation, the provinces are each a separate jurisdiction of the Canadian Crown, wherein a hereditary monarch is the sovereign and head of state of each province, forming the core of its Westminster style parliamentary democracy. As the institution from which the power of the state flows, the terms The Crown in Right of [Province], Her Majesty in Right of [Province], and The Queen in Right of [Province] may also be used to refer to the entire executive of the government in each jurisdiction. As the pinnacle of governance, the authority of the Crown in the province is symbolised through elements included in various government institutions' insignia, as well as their names, such as Court of Queen's Bench and Queen's Printer.

The present monarch of Canada is Elizabeth II officially styled, by federal law, Queen of Canada (French: Reine du Canada) who has reigned since February 6, 1952. She, her consort, and other members of the Canadian Royal Family, undertake various public ceremonial functions throughout the provinces. However, the Queen is the only member of the Royal Family with any constitutional role, holding ultimate executive authority over the governments, legislative structures, and courts of the provinces, though her Royal Prerogative remains bound by laws enacted by her in her provincial parliaments, and by conventions and precedents, leaving the day-to-day exercise of executive power to her cabinets. All of the royal constitutional, and some of the ceremonial duties in the provinces are carried out by the Queen's representatives, the lieutenant governors. The territories are not sovereign, and thus do not have a viceroy.

Federal and provincial aspects

Across the country, the Canadian Crown is unitary; the headship of state is not a part of either the federal or provincial jurisdictions; the monarch reigns impartially over the country as a whole, meaning the sovereignty of the provinces is passed on not by either the Governor General or Parliament of Canada, but through the overreaching Crown itself. The Crown, however, does opereate distinctly within each sphere, provinding authority to the federal and ten provincial realms. The monarch, thus, forms a part of the provincial governments, as established by William Watson, Baron Watson, of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, in the case of Maritime Bank vs. Receiver-General of New Brunswick. This arrangement is demonstrated in the fact that the same monarch takes on two or more different legal personas when a provincial government files a lawsuit against the federal and/or another provincial government. Jacques Monet stated in his book The Canadian Crown: "The adaptation of the Crown to a federal system was a unique and daring experiment. But it works. The sovereignty of the same Crown is exercised by different representatives in different jurisdictions. Thus, diversity has been reconciled to unity." Or, as David Smith notes in his book The Invisible Crown, the provinces became a "constitutional amalgam... called compound monarchy." This means the status of the provincial viceroys is crucial to provincial co-sovereignty and federalism. To facilitate this relationship, since 1970 the 10 provincial viceroys (and now the three territorial commissioners as well) have held a triennial meeting, hosted each time by a different Lieutenant Governor in their province, though the chairperson is the Governor General.

In an attempt to explain this situation, the Canadian Crown has been called a divided crown; however, the Crown over Canada is technically not broken into smaller crowns. Eugene Forsey wrote in Crown and Cabinet: "The first thing to get clear is that the provinces are not themselves 'monarchies.' They are a part of a constitutional monarchy, Canada. The Queen is Queen of Canada, not Queen of Ontario, Queen of Quebec, Queen of British Columbia, etc. She is, of course, queen in all these provinces. But she is 'Queen of Canada,' and it is as such that she is queen in each of the provinces." The Fathers of Confederation chose this system as they saw constitutional monarchy to be a bulkwark against any fracturing of the Canadian federation. Sir Shuldham Redfern, then Secretary to the Governor General, said in 1939 that without a common allegiance to the Crown the regions of Canada might break up. Also, Smith opined that the separation of the Canadian monarch from the people by two levels of vice-regal representation has made them more accepting of the role of the Crown in determining who will govern in a minority parliament situation. Because the Crown is so central to Confederation, any constitutional amendment that affects it, including in the provinces, requires the unanimous consent of all the provincial legislatures, along with the federal parliament, rather than the two-thirds majority necessary for most other amendments.

Following immediately on Confederation in 1867, the provincial governments were seen by their Dominion counterpart in Ottawa and the Foreign Affairs office in London to be subordinate to the federal Crown. Sir John A. Macdonald structured the British North America Act with just such a situation in mind: the lieutenant governors were to be agents of Ottawa, appointed by the Govenror General and not by the Queen herself, as is done with the governors of the Australian states, and was suggested be integrated in Canada by the 1979 Task Force on National Unity. Though the lieutenant governors each held an official great seal for the province, summoned and prorogued parliament in the Queen's stead, and granted Royal Assent to bills that bore the Queen's name, it was still expected that the latter be given to provincial legislation in the name of the Governor General. However, this last rule was never followed in Ontario and Quebec, with the other provinces soon following suit. In 1882, the legitimacy of the lieutenant governors as direct representatives of the monarch was set down by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which stated: "the Lieutenant Governor... is as much a representative of Her Majesty, for all purposes of Provincial Government as the Governor General himself is, for all purposes of Dominion Government." This discovery of a provincial guise of the Crown further empowered the provinces. Today, though they continue to be appointed by the Governor General, the lieutenant governors are now considered to be direct representatives of the sovereign, which has accorded them the right to receive audience with the Queen; a practice begun by the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta in 1956. They are, however, still only accorded the style of His/Her Honour, which is inferior to the Governor General's style of His/Her Excellency.

Constitutional role

Canada's constitution is made up of a variety of statutes and conventions that are either British or Canadian in origin, which gives the Canadian provinces a similar parliamentary system of government to the country and the other Commonwealth realms, wherein the role of the Queen and the lieutenant governors is both legal and practical. The Crown is regarded as a corporation, in which several parts share the authority of the whole, with the Queen as the person at the centre of the constitutional construct, meaning all powers of state are constitutionally reposed in the monarch, who is represented by a lieutenant governor in each province appointed by the Governor General of Canada upon the advice of the Prime Minister of Canada, usually in consultation with the relevant provincial premier, and the monarch is informed of the Prime Minister's decision before the Governor General gives Royal Assent. Unlike in the federal sphere, all of the constitutional duties in the provincial jurisdictions are carried out only by the Queen's representatives. The Commissioners of Canada's territories of Nunavut, Yukon, and Northwest Territories are appointed by the Governor-in-Council, at the recommendation of the federal Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. But as the territories are not sovereign entities, the commissioners are not representatives of the Sovereign. They receive instruction from the said Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

All institutions of provincial government are said to act under the sovereign's authority; the vast powers that belong to the Crown are collectively known as the Royal Prerogative. Parliamentary approval is not required for the exercise of the Royal Prerogative; moreover, the consent of the Crown must be obtained before either of the houses of parliament may even debate a bill affecting the sovereign's prerogatives or interests. While the Royal Prerogative is extensive, it is not unlimited; for example, the monarch does not have the prerogative to impose and collect new taxes such an action requires the authorization of an Act of Parliament. Further, the constitution instructs that any change to the position of the monarch, or the monarch's representatives in Canada, requires the consent of the Senate, the House of Commons, and the legislative assemblies of all the provinces.

Executive (Queen-in-Council)

In Canada's constitutional system, one of the main duties of the Crown is to appoint a premier, who thereafter heads the Cabinet and advises the lieutenant governor on how to execute his or her executive powers over all aspects of government operations. Though the monarch's power is still a part of the executive process the operation of the Cabinet is technically known as the Queen-in-Council (or Governor-in-Council) the advice tendered is typically binding. Since the death of Queen Anne in 1714, the last monarch to head the British Cabinet (when almost all of Canada was still French colonial territory), the monarch reigns but does not rule; in Canada, this has been true since the Treaty of Paris ended the reign of Canada's last absolute monarch, King Louis XV. This means that the monarch's role, and thereby the viceroys' role, is almost entirely symbolic and cultural, acting as a symbol of the legal authority under which all governments and agencies operate, while the Cabinet directs the use of the Royal Prerogative, which includes the privilege to maintain the Queen's peace, as well as to summon and prorogue parliament, and call elections. However, it is important to note that the Royal Prerogative belongs to the Crown, and not to any of the ministers, though it may sometimes appear that way, and the royal figures may unilaterally use these powers in exceptional constitutional crisis situations, such as when Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, John C. Bowen, in 1937 refused to grant Royal Assent to three bills passed by William Aberhart's Social Credit government on the grounds that they were unconstitutional, and Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan Frank Lindsay Bastedo reserved Royal Assent to a bill in 1961, passing it on, instead, to the Governor General for consideration.

In accordance with convention, the Lieutenant Govenror, to maintain the stability of government, must appoint as premier the individual most likely to maintain the support of the legislative assembly: usually the leader of the politial party with a majority in that house, but also when no party or coalition holds a majority (referred to as a minority government situation), or other scenarios in which the Lieutenant Governor's judgement about the most suitable candidate for prime minister has to be brought into play. In 1952, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia Clarence Wallace had to exercise his personal discretion in choosing his premier after a near tie in the general election that year.

The Lieutenant Governor also appointes to Cabinet the other ministers of the Crown who are, in turn, accountable to the democratically elected legislature, and through it, to the people as well as members of various executive agencies, and other officials. The appointment of judges to the Courts of Probate in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick is the responsibility of the lieutenant governors of those provinces, and all the lieutenant governors are specifically delegated to appoint, under the Great Seal of the Province, the Attorney General, the Secretary and Registrar of the Province, the Treasurer of the Province, the Commissioner of Crown Lands, and the Commissioner of Agriculture and Public Works, and, in the Case of Quebec, the Solicitor General. Public inquiries are also commissioned by the Crown through a Royal Warrant, and are called Royal Commissions.

Parliament (Queen-in-Parliament)

The Crown, along with the legislature, is one of the two components of parliament in each of the provinces, called the Queen-in-Parliament. The authority of the Crown therein is embodied in the mace for each province's house, which all bear a crown at their apex. The viceroy does not, however, participate in the legislative process save for the granting of Royal Assent. Further, the Constitution Act, 1867, outlines that the lieutenant govenrors alone are responsible for summoning, proroguing, and dissolving the legislature, after which the writs for a general election are usually dropped by the lieutenant governor at Government House. The new parliamentary session is marked by the State Opening of Parliament, during which the lieutenant governor reads the Speech from the Throne. Even this role cannot be performed by the monarch in the provincial legislatures; in 1959, the request by Premier of British Columbia W. A. C. Bennett, to have Queen Elizabeth II read the speech from the throne at the opening of the parliamentary session, was turned down on the grounds that it was constitutionally impossible for her to do so. Unlike in the Parliament of Canada, where the monarch and viceroy cannot enter the House of Commons, the reading of the Speech From the Throne, as well as the bestowing of Royal Assent, takes place in the legislative chamber.

All laws in the provinces are enacted with the viceroy's granting of Royal Assent, and impression of the pertinent Great Seal, to a bill passed by the legislature. The lieutenant govenror may deny Royal Assent to a bill, or reserve a bill for the Govenror General's decision, though the federal viceroy may further defer the bill to the monarch, who can disallow the bill within a time limit specified by the constitution; this latter ability has not been used since 1961. For example, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta John C. Bowen denied Royal Assent to two unconstitutional bills put forward by the Social Credit Party government of William Aberhart (which resulted in Aberhart cutting power and heat to the viceregal residence and denying Bowen an official car).

Whether or not the monarch may personally grant Royal Assent to a bill in a provincial legislature came into question in the lead-up to the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Alberta in 2005, when the Cabinet of Premier Ralph Klein wanted the Queen to grant her assent to a bill passed by the Alberta legislature. The Office of the Governor General at Rideau Hall objected to this proposal, stating that the move would be unconstitutional and go against the "Canadianization" of the Crown. Kenneth Munro, a professor at the University of Alberta and former member of the Household at Rideau Hall, felt that the thinking at Government House in Ottawa was both politically and legally unfounded seeing it as an attempt by the federal government and Rideau Hall to elevate the position of Governor General while Richard Toporoski, a professor at the University of Toronto, saw the denial of the sovereign's granting of Royal Assent as correct going against the 1882 ruling of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and stating that, by the Constitution Act, 1867, the Queen does not form a part of the provincial legislatures. Regardless, as all provincial laws are the monarch's laws, the enacting formula in most provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and New Brunswick) being: "Therefore, Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of [Province], enacts as follows...

Courts (Queen-on-the-Bench)

The sovereign is deemed the fount of justice, and is responsible for rendering justice for all subjects, known in this role as the Queen on the Bench; the superior courts of a number of provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and New Brunswick) being called Her Majesty's Court of Queen's Bench of [province] (to be His Majesty's Court of King's Bench of [Province] during the reign of a male monarch) (summarised as Queen's Bench or King's Bench), and each will display the arms of Her Majesty in right of the relevant province, save for British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador, where the sovereign's arms in right of the United Kingdom are used instead. However, neither the monarch nor the governor personally rules in judicial cases; instead, judicial functions are performed in the sovereign's name. Hence, the common law holds that the sovereign "can do no wrong"; the monarch cannot be prosecuted in his or her own courts for criminal offences. Civil lawsuits against the Crown in its public capacity (that is, lawsuits against the government) are permitted; however, lawsuits against the monarch personally are not cognizable. The sovereign, and by extension the lieutenant governors, also exercises the prerogative of mercy, and may pardon offences against the Crown, either before, during, or after a trial.

The law in certain provides (in British Columbia, the Queen's Counsel Act; in Manitoba, the Court of Queen's Bench Act; and in Newfoundland and Labrador, the Queen's Counsel Act) allows for the Lieutenant Govenror to appoint prominent lawyers as Queen's Counsel, a predominantly honorary title recognising exceptional merit and contribution to the legal profession.

Legal embodiment of the state

Not only is the sovereign seen as the legal personification of the state for the nation, but he or she performs the same function for the provinces. Executive director of the Canadian Royal Heritage Trust and past Ontario chairman of the Monarchist League of Canada Gary Toffoli stated: "The Queen is the legal embodiment of the state at both the national and the provincial levels. There is no other legal embodiment. That is why the oath is taken to the Queen. It is not taken because she is an admirable person in her own right or because it is a nice tradition to maintain. It is taken to the Queen because she is our sovereign and it is the role of the Queen, recognized by the constitutional law of Canada, to embody the state. As government staff including governors, judges, police officers, and parliamentarians are employed by the monarch, as affirmed by the Supreme Court in the 1980 case of Attorney General of Quebec v. Labreque, which found that civil servants are not contracted by an abstraction called "the state," but rather are employed by the monarch, who "enjoys a general capacity to contract in accordance with the rule of ordinary law, most of these persons must take the oath of allegiance, in one form or another, before taking their posts, in reciprocation to the sovereign's Coronation Oath, wherein he or she promises "to govern the Peoples of ... Canada ... according to their respective laws and customs.

Thus, the legal personality of the state in each province is referred to as Her Majesty the Queen in Right of [Province] (French: Sa Majesté la Reine du chef du [Provence]). For example, if a lawsuit is filed against a provincial government, the respondent is formally described as Her Majesty the Queen in Right of [Province], or simply Regina. Likewise, in a case in which a party sues both the province of Saskatchewan and the federal government, the respondents would formally be called Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Saskatchewan and Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada. The monarch is also the owner of all state lands (called Crown land), buildings and equipment (called Crown held property), the copyright for all government publications (called Crown copyright) usually created and distributed by the Queen's Printer and is charged with the guardianship of foster children (called Crown wards), all as Queen in Right of a relevant province, though this in his or her position as sovereign and not as an individual.

After the members of the separatist Parti Québécois refused to recite the Oath of Allegiance before taking their seats in the National Assembly of Quebec in 1970, the Act Respecting the National Assembly of Quebec was granted Royal Assent in 1982, which added a supplementary oath of loyalty to the people of Quebec, The Members' Manual of the National Assembly outlines that this additional oath is to the people and constitution of Quebec, while the other is to the country via the Queen, though some saw the Queen as representative of the Quebec state and not of Canada, in that context.

Cultural role

Royal presence and duties

The Queen, other members of the Canadian Royal Family, and/or the Lieutenant Govenror attend numerous functions, either official or working, and either as a host or guest of honour. In 2004, the Canadian viceregal office holders participated in over 4,100 engagements, and, though the monarch and the rest of the Royal Family live predominantly in the United Kingdom, members visit the provinces regularly. Usually important milestones, anniversaries, or cultural celebrations will warrant the presence of the monarch, while other royals will be asked to participate in lesser occasions. In these instances, the royals will carry out either official or unofficial duties, the former being at the direction of the government, and the latter focusing on organizations such as charities and military regiments. Shorter, province-specific tours, organized by the relevant provincial government in conjunction with the Department of Canadian Heritage, have become more popular into the 21st century.

The lieutenant govenrors also perform the task of bestowing provincial honours upon deserving citizens (save for the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec). On occasion, members of the Royal Family will bestow awards in person, such as when Anne, Princess Royal, presented the Saskatchewan Protective Services Medal to 25 recipients, in Saskatoon in 2004. This marked the first time a member of the Royal Family had presented a provincial honour in Canada.


Most royal symbols visible in the provinces are those of the national crown (i.e. the Royal Standard or stamps); however, each province does have unique symbols related to the monarchy. The Canadian coats of arms, for example, which are the arms of the Queen in right of each province, used by the governments and courts, usually bear a rendition of the St. Edward's Crown at the crest, symbolising from where authority in the province stems. The Viceregal Salute, played for the lieutenant governors, consists of the first six bars of Canada's Royal Anthem, "God Save the Queen", along with the first and last four bars of "O Canada". Each lieutenant governor also has a personal flag, consisting of a blue field bearing the shield of the relevant provincial arms surrounded by ten gold maple leaves, symbolising each of the ten provinces, surmounted by a St. Edward's Crown. The same crown can also be seen atop, or as part of, the crests and badges of a number of provincial and municipal police forces.

Honours and awards

The provinces each have their own honours system, the first being British Columbia, with the creation of the Dogwood Medallion for the province's centennial in 1957. As provincial ministers do not have the right to advise the sovereign directly, however, unlike the federal honours and decorations, the provincial awards were not established with the consent of the Queen. Instead, they were established through legislation or and Order-in-Council, meaning that they derive their existence from the Crown within its provincial sphere. The viceroys themselves also offer awards, such as the Lieutenant Governor's Award for Outstanding Service to Rural Saskatchewan, the Lieutenant Governor's Nova Scotia Talent Trust Award, and the Lieutenant Governor's Award for Excellence in Architecture (awarded in New Brunswick).

The Department of Canadian Heritage, a federal ministry, also presents a provincial viceregal award in the form of the Lieutenant Governor's Award, presented to an individual or group who has achieved an outstanding result in heritage conservation in the province in which the Heritage Canada Foundation's annual conference is held. Further, in 1999 Queen Elizabeth II approved the design and issuance of the Viceregal Badge of Service, which features a diamond shape framing a red circle bearing a maple leaf; the lieutenant governors' badge is gold in appearance and the one for their spouse is silver. On January 1, 2000, all living current and former lieutenant governors and their spouses were presented with the badge.

Organizations with royal association

Main article: Organizations with royal association


Funding of the crown's operation in the provinces is splite between the federal and provincial governments. These monies only go towards the sovereign and/or other members of the Royal Family when they are in the province, and only to support them in the performance of their duties; the province may pay for accommodation and/or transport, while the federal government will supply funds for Royal Canadian Mounted Police security. Residents of the provinces do not pay any money to the royals, either as personal income or to support royal residences outside of the province.

As the provincial viceroy is a federal appointee, his or her salary is paid by the federal government (and, unlike the Governor General, is fully taxed), as well as some of the other associated costs of the office. The federal government also puts forward money for the exercise of the lieutenant governors' duties, in two parts: In Capital City Expenses and Out of Capital City Expenses. Retired lieutenant governors receive a superannuation, paid through the Department of Canadian Heritage, though these funds are actually garnished off of the viceroy's salary during his or her time in office. The provinces also fund the lieutenant governor; however, there is no uniform way in which each distributes the money. The amounts also vary, depending on the facilities available to the viceroy, how they are used, which departments support them, and how the expenditures are listed in the provincial estimates.

See also



  • Munro, Kenneth; The Maple Crown in Alberta: The Office of Lieutenant Govenror; Trafford, Victoria; 2005 (ISBN 141205317X)
  • Ivie, Opal L.; Palace to prairie; Regina: Tucker's Printing Co, 1993 (ASIN B0006S6J7O)
  • Jackson, Michael; The Canadian Monarchy in Saskatchewan; Regina: Government of Saskatchewan, 1990 (ASIN B0006EY308)


  • From palace to prairie: the Crown and responsible government in Saskatchewan; Executive Producer: Jack Tunnicliffe; Producer/Director: Frank Halbert; Writer: Bruce Edwards; Recording Protax Production Group; Regina: Saskatchewan Intergovernmental Affairs, 1997 (51 min.) (AMICUS 17452571)

See also: Monarchy of Canada: Bibliography


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