A newspaper is blown by the wind after it is placed on a railing by a television crew outside Buckingham Palace in London, Monday, March 8, 2021. Britain’s royal family is absorbing the tremors from a sensational television interview by Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex, in which the couple said they encountered racist attitudes and a lack of support that drove Meghan to thoughts of suicide. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Kirsty Wigglesworth

A newspaper is blown by the wind after it is placed on a railing by a television crew outside Buckingham Palace in London, Monday, March 8, 2021. Britain’s royal family is absorbing the tremors from a sensational television interview by Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex, in which the couple said they encountered racist attitudes and a lack of support that drove Meghan to thoughts of suicide. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Kirsty Wigglesworth

Harry and Meghan interview invites fresh scrutiny over Canada’s royal ties

Meghan and Harry’s televised interview with Oprah Winfrey has roiled royal watchers

Meghan and Harry’s bombshell revelations about the British monarchy have invited fresh scrutiny over Canada’s ties to the institution, but royal watchers say it is unlikely to spark much change.

Constitutional expert Emmett Macfarlane says the couple’s “explosive” portrayal of their royal experience adds fire to brewing sentiment the Crown holds increasingly less relevance to many Canadians.

But he notes public allegiance remains divided and that getting rid of the monarchy would lead to a complicated constitutional debate that would almost certainly plunge the country into political turmoil.

Meghan and Harry’s televised interview with Oprah Winfrey has roiled royal watchers with revelations Meghan had suicidal thoughts after joining the family and that there were palace conversations about the skin colour of the couple’s future children.

It comes on the heels of a scandal surrounding Canada’s former governor general Julie Payette, who resigned in January following reports of workplace harassment, as well as an ensuing Leger poll that suggested Canadians’ attachment to the monarchy had weakened.

Royal historian and author Carolyn Harris notes Meghan and Harry spoke warmly of the Queen in their interview, but less so of Harry’s father and heir apparent, Prince Charles, and older brother, Prince William.

WATCH: Revealing Harry, Meghan interview reverberates across U.K.

She said that unflattering portrayal “emphasized the divisions” in the family and ran starkly counter to the monarchy’s concerted efforts to project “continuity and stability.”

With the Queen at the advanced age of 94, that does little to inspire confidence in the future of the institution, Harris suggested.

“It’s a difficult time to have critical scrutiny directed towards Charles and William when there’s already some public skepticism about whether they will be able to rise to the occasion,” said Harris, an instructor at the University of Toronto’s school of continuing studies.

Macfarlane called Sunday’s broadcast “a bad night” for the Royal Family and expected it to “push the needle on public opinion” about the monarchy, generally.

“It was incredibly, incredibly damning to the Royal Family. I don’t know how you come out of that interview not at least sympathizing with Harry and Meghan, and it really did emphasize the archaic nature of that institution,” said Macfarlane, an associate professor of political science at the University of Waterloo.

Still, he found it unlikely Canada would pursue efforts to formally cut ties with the monarchy since that would require all 10 provinces to agree, a tall order even with large grassroots support.

Macfarlane noted politicians are scared of constitutional reform talks, pointing to past turmoil surrounding the Meech Lake Accord in 1987 and the Charlottetown Accord in 1992.

“Those events led to the Quebec secession referendum of ‘95 and the country almost broke up,” he said.

“Quebec is not going to agree to a constitutional amendment without other things being on the table, like more powers for Quebec or recognition of Quebec’s distinct society in the Constitution. And once you start adding other things to the negotiating table, the other provinces will start piling on as well.

“Suddenly you’re not talking about getting rid of the monarchy — you’re talking about huge, other changes to the Constitution, and it becomes much more fraught and much more unpopular.”

While other Commonwealth nations have similarly mused on leaving the Crown, the prospect of reform, as well as coming up with an alternative, is daunting, Harris agreed.

She noted Barbados has announced plans to cut ties later this year, but said the process there is far less complicated.

“It can be reassuring to stick with a familiar system that works regardless of the personal reputations of individual members of the Royal Family at any given time,” she suggested.

A Leger poll commissioned earlier this year by Journal de Montréal found just six per cent of respondents in Atlantic Canada and Quebec said they “feel attached to the British monarchy,” with attachment reaching as high as 29 per cent in British Columbia.

Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Royal family

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

New figures show Canadian housing prices outpacing those in other developed countries. (Black Press Media file photo)
Canadian housing prices fastest rising in the world

Relative to 2000, housing prices have risen by a factor of more than 2.5

Victoria’s economy is expected to bounce back fairly easily, according to a new report from BMO Capital Markets released April 15. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria in good position to bounce back post-pandemic, says BMO

City’s smaller size, lower COVID-19 caseload and diverse industry base bode well

According to Statistics Canada, the unemployment rate in Greater Victoria rose to 5.7 per cent in March 2021, an increase of 0.8 per cent compared to February 2021. But the local unemployment rate remains the among the lowest in Canada. (Black Press Media File)
Greater Victoria’s unemployment rate rises to 5.7 per cent

The increase marks a reversal from recent months, but local economy among the strongest in Canada

Saanich police officers were one group of dozens that submitted dance clips to the Greater Victoria Festival Society, to help create the Dance Across Victoria video montage. (Youtube/Screenshot)
WATCH: Saanich police, Victoria mayor bust some moves in new Dance Across Victoria video

Montage features submitted dance clips from across Greater Victoria

Saanich’s Malia Brodie competed in the Vancouver qualifiers for the 2020 National Championships. (Photo by BC Sport Karate Snaps)
PHOTOS: Saanich teen awarded $1,800 Karate Canada bursary to pursue officiant certification

Malia Brodie, 18, has black belt, nearly 15 years experience in karate

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Rules against RV living hard on Island residents caught in housing crunch

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Most Read