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

Sports broadcaster and 30-year high school football coach Farhan Lalji. (Image via farhanlalji.com)
Farhan Lalji chats about the new B.C. high school sports governance proposal

Lalji, a 30-year high school football coach, thinks the new proposal will be bad for student athletes

Delta character - and former White Rock resident - Pansy May Stuttard inspects a loaded revolver in the cover photo for Jim Dwight and Gary Cullen’s fascinating biography, Lord don’t want me Devil won’t take me. Contributed photo
West Coast’s ‘Pistol-packin’ Pansy’ lives on in colourful biography

Infamous Delta character ended her days in White Rock and South Surrey

Surrey city Councillor Brenda Locke. (File photo)
Surrey councillor trying to get policing referendum on the table, again

‘I’m sending it back for clarification,’ mayor decides

(Photo: MOSAIC/Facebook)
Organization receives $10K from B.C. government to tackle racism in Surrey, White Rock

Funding to go toward forum for International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

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

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. carpenter builds fort inspired by TV’s ‘Treehouse Masters’

The whimsical structure features a wooden walking path, a loft, kitchen – and is now listed on Airbnb

The Attorney General’s Ministry says certain disputes may now be resolved through either a tribunal or the court system, pending its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that reduced the tribunal’s jurisdiction. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Court of Appeal grants partial stay in ruling on B.C. auto injuries

B.C. trial lawyers challenged legislation brought in to cap minor injury awards and move smaller court disputes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal

An Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island (XRVI) climate change event in 2019 saw a large crowd occupy the Johnson Street bridge. Black Press File Photo
‘In grief for our dying world’: B.C. climate activists embark on 4-day protest

Demonstrators will walk through Vancouver for the first two days before boarding a ferry Sunday morning

Most Read