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

Surrey Fire Service at a garage fire in the 14400-block of 82A Ave on March 22, 2021. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
‘Perfect storm’ of variants, increasing COVID cases are concerning for Surrey fire chief

Between police and fire, Larry Thomas said there are 8 confirmed cases, 18 others isolating

Surrey Fire Service is on scene of a fire in the 12300-block of 72A Avenue Saturday morning (April 10). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Surrey crews on scene of house fire

It happened in the 12300-block of 72A Avenue

Emergency crews on scene after a small plane crashed in a grassy area on the northeast side of Boundary Bay Airport Saturday morning (April 10). A freelancer said the plane caught fire and one person was transported to hospital by BC Emergency Health Services. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Small plane crashes at Delta’s Boundary Bay Airport

Plane appears to have suffered ‘significant’ damage

Signage on a South Surrey sidewalk reminds pedestrians to respect social-distancing guidelines. (Photo: Tracy Holmes)
Surrey records 4,400 COVID-19 cases in March

New cases almost doubled between February, March

Surrey RCMP are looking for these two men after a bank in the 12800-block of 96th Avenue was robbed on March 12. (Images: Surrey RCMP)
Police release images of two men suspected of robbing Surrey bank

Robbery happened on March 12 at bank in 12800-block of 96th Avenue

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, was filming near Prospect Lake in Saanich last month. (Photo courtesy Fred Haynes)
Province announces $150,000 towards film studio, fulfilling B.C. NDP promise

Investment to fund movie studio feasibility study at Camosun College

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

People stroll through rows of tulips in bloom during the Tulips of the Valley Festival on May 2, 2017. The colourful spring event, now called Chilliwack Tulips, opens on Sunday, April 11, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Fraser Valley tulip attraction returns this weekend for 1 month

More than 6.5 million bulbs in all at this year’s colourful Chilliwack Tulips event

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
UVic, women’s rowing coach deny former athlete’s allegation of verbal abuse

Lily Copeland alleges coach Barney Williams would stand close to her and speak aggressively in the sauna

Librarian Katie Burns with the Fraser Valley Regional Libraries poses for a photo in Chilliwack on June 18, 2019. Monday, April 12, 2021 is Library Workers’ Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 11 to 17

Library Workers Day, That Sucks! Day, and Wear Your Pyjamas to Work Day are all coming up this week

Most Read