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Ottawa tables bill supporting end to gender bias in royal succession

Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge is presented with a bouquet of flowers by Jamie Andrew, age seven, during a visit to the City Hospital in Peterborough in central England November 28, 2012.

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The federal government tabled a bill on Thursday to accept changes to the rules on royal succession, part of a bid to end the practice of favouring sons over daughters as heirs to the throne.

If passed, the bill would provide assent to changes already proposed by the United Kingdom. Britain introduced legislation last month seeking to end the practice of putting a male heir ahead of his elder sister in the line of succession and to allow any heir to marry a Roman Catholic without becoming ineligible for the throne.

Heritage Minister James Moore called the British reforms "common sense" and "principled" changes that would help keep the Crown relevant.

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The rules governing succession have come up for debate in the past, but the recent marriage of Prince William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge – and their announcement that the duchess, formerly Kate Middleton, is pregnant – brought the issue to the fore again.

"What this means is that if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's first child is a girl, she will be heir to the throne and she will be able to marry someone of any faith," Mr. Moore said. "The legislation will ensure that the Crown remains an institution that can evolve to reflect 21st-century values."

The British proposal was discussed at a Commonwealth meeting in October, 2011, where all members indicated that they agreed in principle with the changes. The Conservative government did not consult with the provinces before tabling the bill, Mr. Moore said, adding there was no need to do so because the legislative change does not require an amendment to Canada's Constitution.

The 1982 Constitution Act indicates that the Senate, House of Commons and the legislative assemblies of each province must authorize any changes to the office of the Queen, the Governor-General and the lieutenant-governor of a province. But a government official said the Conservative bill should have no bearing on the "office of the Queen" because it doesn't affect her powers, duties or functions in Canada.

Mr. Moore said he is not aware of any opposition to the proposed changes from the provinces. "They're free to speak," he said. "In over a year none of them have spoken."

Daniel Paillé, leader of the Bloc Québécois, said he wants the federal government to consult with Quebec and other provinces on the bill. "We're not sure if it's a modification [of the Constitution] or not," he said. "… but at least they have to consult the province." He added that, while he considers the monarchy to be an outdated institution, he has no problem with the substance of the bill.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Kim Mackrael has been a reporter for The Globe and Mail since 2011. She joined the Ottawa bureau Sept. 2012. More

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