Canadians do not feel as much affection for King Charles as they did for his mother, Queen Elizabeth, so he has work to do in order for the country to get to know him better, Governor-General Mary Simon says.
In an interview with The Globe and Mail ahead of Saturday’s coronation, Ms. Simon, who is the King’s representative in Canada, said “while Canadians may never have felt great affection for Charles, they did embrace his mother right up until the end of her life, so I think King Charles needs to develop his relationship further with Canada.”
Ms. Simon also said she can foresee a day when Canada will have a “conversation” about its future as a constitutional monarchy, but now is not the right time.
“Over time, as we discuss difficult issues together, maybe those conversations will happen,” she said. “But I think Canada first of all has to have a plan and an alternative as to what it is we want as a country.”
“It has to be a very big conversation about how we would do it and what kind of government we’re looking for – and all those things take time, and sometimes they take years.”
The King is Canada’s head of state and Ms. Simon, as his representative, gives royal assent to bills that pass through Parliament. She will attend the coronation with her husband Whit Fraser, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other prominent Canadians, including a delegation of Indigenous leaders – RoseAnne Archibald of the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit leader Natan Obed and Cassidy Caron of the Métis National Council.
In the interview, Ms. Simon acknowledged that polling suggests there is “less connection” between Canadians and the monarchy than when Queen Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1952.
A poll last month for the Angus Reid Institute found 52 per cent of Canadians do not want the country to continue as a constitutional monarchy for generations to come. The survey of 1,607 Canadian adults, members of the Angus Reid Forum, was conducted from April 5-7, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Mr. Trudeau said last week that this is not the time for “diving into constitutional negotiations” about Canada’s ties with the British Crown.
Asked about whether she thought this was a conversation worth having, and whether now is the time for it, Ms. Simon responded that “there’s always a time for every conversation and the timing is important.”
“At the time when the Queen ascended to the throne and became monarch, Canada was a country with extremely close, both culturally and familial, ties to the kingdom. Today Canada’s demographics are vastly different,” she said.
“I think right now isn’t really the timing for [the conversation].”
Ms. Simon, who is Canada’s first Indigenous Governor-General, grew up in Kuujjuaq, a village in northeastern Quebec, and spoke Inuktitut at home. For the coronation, she plans to wear an emerald green Inuit parka, with her coat of arms embroidered and beaded on the front.
The traditional outfit was crafted by Inuk singer-songwriter Beatrice Deer, who is from the same part of Nunavik as the Governor-General.
Ms. Simon said having an Indigenous presence at the coronation is “very important,” adding she has already had talks with the King about “renewing the relationship with Indigenous peoples in Canada.”
Although the monarchy doesn’t get involved in the governance of Canada, “its overarching support” is really important, Ms. Simon said. “The constitutional monarchy is robust” and the system creates stability, she added.
The Queen, during her 70 years on the throne, came to Canada many times and travelled across the country and to the North “and her relationship evolved over many years,” she said. “I think the King needs that kind of opportunity as well as so that Canadians can get to know him more.”
Ms. Simons said that despite polling showing a difference of opinion about the monarchy, it is important for Canadians to be at the coronation and show that Canada is proud to be part of the Commonwealth and a “diverse and strong country.”