Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he won’t be drawn into a debate about Canada’s ties to the monarchy but on Tuesday suggested institutions built on racism should be reformed rather than tossed.
“I wish all the members of the Royal Family the very best but my focus, as we’ve said, is getting through this pandemic,” Mr. Trudeau said at a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday. “If people want to later talk about constitutional change and shifting our system of government, that’s fine. They can have those conversations. But right now, I’m not having those conversations.”
“We have been very clear as a government that we will always stand up against systemic racism and intolerance,” Mr. Trudeau added. But he declined to comment on the allegations of racism within the Royal Family that were revealed by Meghan Markle and Prince Harry on the weekend.
In their televised interview with Oprah Winfrey, which aired on Sunday, Ms. Markle said an unnamed relative expressed concern with Prince Harry about how dark their baby’s skin would be. She said there were “several conversations” about that with Harry. He later clarified that the comments had not come from the Queen or her husband, Prince Philip.
On Tuesday, Mr. Trudeau was asked how he reconciled his support for the monarchy with his pledge to decolonize Canadian laws and policies.
The Prime Minister said Canada’s institutions, including Parliament, are built on systems of colonialism, discrimination and systemic racism. “But the answer ... is not to suddenly toss out all the institutions and start over. The answer is to look very carefully at those systems.”
The revelations from Prince Harry and Ms. Markle sparked a furor in Britain and prompted calls for an investigation into racism at Buckingham Palace. Barbados last year said it would remove the Queen as its head of state by this coming November and become a republic. In Australia, the couple’s interview with Ms. Winfrey reignited a debate about whether that country should shed its ties to the Royal Family.
In Canada, both the NDP and Bloc Québécois said the allegations are further proof the monarchy should be abolished.
“I don’t see the benefit of the monarchy in Canadians’ lives and now even more so with concerns about racism in the institution,” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said on Tuesday.
“This interview just really exposes the pain and the impact of racism on someone.”
In a statement, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole defended the Royal Family’s place in Canada.
“Conservatives have always had a strong belief in our constitutional monarchy, the institutions of Parliament, and our democratic process,” he said.
In the televised interview, both Ms. Markle and Prince Harry said they’d received minimal support from the palace and Prince Harry spoke about the fractured relationship with his father, Prince Charles, and feeling confined by the royal household. Ms. Markle also talked about having suicidal thoughts.
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said he didn’t watch the interview. He said the federal government will soon reveal the process it will use to select the next representative for the Queen in Canada.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Richard Wagner, is serving as the administrator of the Government of Canada until a new governor-general is appointed.
Noting the dual role Mr. Wagner is playing, Mr. LeBlanc said: “We feel some obligation for the process to generate the appropriate recommendation in an expeditious time.”
With reports from Paul Waldie in London and The Canadian Press.
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