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Canada Quebec government to stay out of monarchy succession challenge

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II waves after officially opening the headquarters of the British Broadcasting Corporation's new Broadcasting House in central London, Friday June 7, 2013.

Alastair Grant/AP

The Quebec government has no plans to intervene in a case challenging Canada's approval of changes to the succession to the Crown recently adopted by the British Parliament.

A motion filed in Quebec Superior Court on Friday by two University of Laval law professors argued that the federal law was unconstitutional and violated the Canadian Charter of Rights.

The professors claimed that the federal government was required to obtain the approval of the provinces as required by the amending formula under section 41 of the 1982 Canadian Constitution. "We take it very seriously but we are not in the mood to get involved in Quebec in reforming the monarchy. We want it abolished … we want our own country" the Parti Québécois Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Alexandre Cloutier said on Friday. "But we aren't surprised that the Harper government didn't comply with the rules."

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British Parliament changed the rules of succession earlier this year to allow for the firstborn regardless of gender to succeed to the throne and asked for consent of Commonwealth countries that still hold the Queen as head of state.

Professors Geneviève Motard and Patrick Taillon stated that they weren't out to challenge the new rules but rather the way the federal government proceeded to approve them.

"The aim of the motion is not to contest the political decision to amend the rules regarding the designation of the head of state but rather to ensure that such amendments are made in compliance with the Constitution," the professors argued in the motion filed in court.

Their argument will likely trigger a debate among constitutional experts who don't necessarily agree with the legal interpretation to the federal law given by the two Laval University professors.

One of Canada's most distinguished constitutional law experts, Peter Hogg, stated that an amendment to the "office of the Queen" does require the unanimous approval of the provinces. Mr. Hogg stated that the Constitution implicitly provides for the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom to become Queen or King of Canada as well.

He added that only if Canada wanted a different Queen or King from that of the United Kingdom, would it require a Canadian law of succession and an amendment to the office of the Queen, which would require the consent of the provinces.

"But if Canada is content to preserve the present symmetry with the U.K. and the other Commonwealth realms, then no change in Canada's constitution is needed," Mr. Hogg stated in an e-mail. "That is why the Canadian Act makes no change to Canadian law or to the Constitution of Canada, and simply gives Canada's 'assent' to the changes adopted by the U.K."

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Canada's consent to changes to the succession rules "is not necessary as a matter of strict law but it follows a convention, recited in the preamble to the Statute of Westminster, 1931, that the U.K. would only change its rules of succession with the assent of the Parliaments of the Dominions," Mr. Hogg stated.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that an amendment to the "office of the Queen does not require the unanimous approval if the provinces. This has been corrected.

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