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With Queen Elizabeth’s death, Canada prepares for an official mourning period

The death of Queen Elizabeth has triggered Operation London Bridge — the step-by-step plan for how the British government deals with her passing — and Operation Unicorn, the plan created in case the monarch died while in Scotland. 

But the Canadian government is also following a detailed set of protocols and procedures.

Ottawa kept its plan for the death of the Queen under wraps. But it’s likely that the government, to some extent, will be relying on the Manual of Official Procedure of the Government of Canada, which was produced by the Privy Council Office in 1968. 

However, much is left to the discretion of the prime minister as to how some events over the next few days will unfold.

How is the death officially announced in Canada?

The Governor General announces the Queen’s death and the accession of a new sovereign in a proclamation that is published in the Canada Gazette, the official newspaper of the government, according to Nathan Tidridge, who wrote a backgrounder about the death of the reigning monarch for the Institute for the Study of the Crown in Canada.

Governor General Mary Simon paid tribute in an address Thursday evening from Rideau Hall, calling it a profound honour to have met the Queen when she was appointed to be her representative.

“She cared about Canada and all the unique stories that make up our beautiful country,” Simon said.

with queen elizabeths death canada prepares for an official mourning period

Queen taught us ‘to lead with understanding and respect’: Governor General

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Gov. Gen. Mary Simon paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth on Thursday, saying Canada’s monarch for more than 70 years “celebrated our achievements, reassured us in difficult times and inspired us with her steadfast dedication to service.”

In accordance with protocol, after the death of the Queen, the Governor General and lieutenant-governors made statements of condolence Thursday. The prime minister and other members of the federal, provincial and territorial governments then followed with their own statements. 

The House of Commons is currently adjourned for the summer and it is not scheduled to reconvene until Sept. 19. However, protocol states the prime minister should reconvene Parliament and move a joint address of loyalty and sympathy, and any message of condolence. The prime minister will also arrange for the motions to be seconded by the Leader of the Opposition.

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Queen Elizabeth is pictured in Saskatoon on Oct. 18, 1987, during a royal tour of Canada. Following the news of her death, Canada’s government began following a set of protocols and procedures around mourning her death, as well as beginning the transition to the reign of her son, King Charles. (Ron Poling/The Canadian Press)

The prime minister may also move to adjourn the House as “a gesture of respect,” according to the Manual of Official Procedure of the Government of Canada.

By contrast, Parliament had been prorogued when King George VI died on Feb. 6, 1952, and tributes were offered when Parliament returned on Feb. 28.

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Meanwhile, the Governor General and the prime minister will send personal messages to King Charles and members of the royal family. 

With the death of the Queen, what’s the status of the monarchy in Canada? 

The death of Queen Elizabeth means that Prince Charles automatically becomes King of Canada. That is officially announced through an accession proclamation issued by the Governor General on the advice of the federal Privy Council Office, according to Canada’s Deep Crown, co-authored by David E. Smith, Christopher McCreery and Jonathan Shanks.

Two men on ladders hang a black cloth on a portrait of a woman wearing a long robe and a crown on her hand.
Workers at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton drape a black cloth on top of a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on Sept. 8 following the monarch’s death. (Janet French/CBC)

The new monarch will be known as King Charles III, Clarence House confirmed in a statement released Thursday following the Queen’s death.

How does the Queen’s death affect the Canadian government? Do new oaths to the new King have to be taken in Canada?

The succession of King Charles is instantaneous and automatic and does not require any special action by the Canadian government, Tidridge wrote.

Historically, the death of the monarch would have several effects on the operations of the Canadian government, according to Canada’s Deep Crown. Parliament would dissolve, while any legal proceedings involving the Crown would terminate. But legislation has changed all that. 

For example, the 1985 Parliament of Canada Act provides that Parliament shall carry on “in the same manner as if that demise had not happened,” according to Canada’s Deep Crown

As well, the 1985 federal Interpretation Act provides that “the demise does not affect the holding of any office under the Crown in right of Canada” and that all legal proceedings involving the Crown continue “as though there had been no such demise,” the book’s authors wrote.

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King Charles automatically became Britain’s monarch and Canada’s head of state upon the death of his mother. He is pictured during the State Opening of Parliament in London on Dec. 19, 2019. (Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

Federal parliamentarians in both the House of Commons and the Senate and members of provincial and territorial legislative assemblies do not need to take a new oath, Tidridge wrote. 

Officers of the Crown, such as civil servants and judges, are not required in most cases to swear the oath of allegiance again or to be reappointed, but there are exceptions in some offices in the provinces of Ontario and Prince Edward Island, he wrote. 

Future new citizens will have to swear allegiance to King Charles instead of the Queen during their citizenship ceremonies. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada did not immediately respond to questions about how quickly the oath would be changed following the Queen’s death.

Was there a potential issue with Quebec’s status in the event of the Queen’s death?

With the Queen advancing in years, there had been concerns that Quebec could find itself in kind of a legal limbo following her death. In 1982, the government of Premier René Lévesque removed a section of the law governing the National Assembly that dealt with the monarchy. 

But that section also noted that the legislature could not be dissolved in the event of the death of the sovereign. There was concern from provincial government lawyers that that would mean the death of the Queen could trigger the provincial government to be dissolved, and that any laws passed after her death could be challenged. In June 2021, a new bill was passed to ensure the government will continue to run in the event of the Queen’s death.

Is there an official mourning period in Canada?

Yes. In the United Kingdom, the Queen’s death will trigger an official 12-day period of national mourning. However, Canada isn’t likely to officially mourn for the same length of time. Much of how Canada officially mourns the Queen will be up to the current government.

At some point, according to the Manual of Official Procedure of the Government of Canada, the government will issue a declaration regarding the period of official mourning.

Portraits of the Queen, as well as flags displayed indoors, could be draped with black ribbon, while Canadian flags across the country will be flown at half-mast, Tidridge wrote.

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New citizens, like these pictured in Calgary on July 1, 2019, will swear allegiance to King Charles during their citizenship ceremonies. (Stephen Lubig/CBC)

Those working in the vice-regal, military and parliamentary world will be issued with some combination of black ties and black armbands for use during the mourning period, according to Canada’s Deep Crown.

Condolence books may be made available for Canadians to sign across the country, including at vice-regal residences and offices. There may also be online condolence books, Tidridge wrote.

Will there be a national memorial in Canada? If so, is it a national holiday?

The federal government will mark the Queen’s death with a 10-day period of mourning, during which the flags on all federal buildings will be flown at half-mast until sunset on the day of her funeral. The exception will be on the day the new monarch is proclaimed. 

A national commemorative ceremony will take place at the Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa, which will include government officials, dignitaries and representatives from organizations — such as charities and military regiments — with which the Queen had “a close connection,” according to a statement. 

The ceremony will begin with a memorial parade in the capital, with members of the Armed Forces and the RCMP taking part, and gun salute with one round fired for each year of her life. 

with queen elizabeths death canada prepares for an official mourning period 5
The Canadian flag flies behind a banner of Queen Elizabeth celebrating the Platinum Jubilee in Ottawa on Thursday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Any memorial services will likely also include Indigenous elements “such as smudging, drumming and throat singing,” according to the Canada’s Deep Crown authors, in light of the “enhanced connection” between the Crown and Indigenous peoples. 

It’s also likely that memorial services will be held in provinces and territories across the country.

Does the Queen’s name and image have to be replaced in Canada? 

The image and name of King Charles will gradually be incorporated into Canadian society, but currency, passports or any other government documents that contain the Queen’s image will not be invalidated, Tidridge wrote.

But eventually, the effigy on coins and bank notes will change, as will the text in the front of passports, on citizenship certificates, civil and military commissions and the oath of allegiance. All that will be updated to reflect the transition to a new sovereign, according to Canada’s Deep Crown.

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The Queen’s Personal Canadian flag is seen ahead of a flag raising ceremony on Parliament Hill during her Diamond Jubilee, on Feb. 6, 2012. King Charles will have a new personal flag. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

In the near future, there will be the adoption of a new formal title for the King in Canada, along with a new Great Seal of Canada, which is imprinted on important Canadian documents. Also, there will be a new personal Canadian flag for the King. 

Other changes will include replacing the word Queen with the word King in such instances as the Queen’s Council for Canada, the Court of the Queen’s Bench or the singing of God Save the Queen.

However, overall, the legal changes in Canada will be minimal, Tidridge wrote. Under provisions of federal and provincial Interpretation Acts, any statutory references to “the Queen” and “Her Majesty” can be construed as or changed to “the King” and “His Majesty” in the course of future legislation, he wrote.

Does this mean the image of King Charles will be on the $20 bill and other Canadian coins? 

Not necessarily, said Phillipe Lagassé, an associate professor and expert in the Westminster parliamentary system at Carleton University in Ottawa.

As Lagassé points out, there’s no legal requirement that a monarch’s image be embedded on Canada’s stamps or currency.

“I’m not at all convinced that they’re going to keep the monarch on the [$20 bill],” he said.”

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Queen Elizabeth’s image is shown on Canadian coins. Eventually, it will be replaced by an image of King Charles, as will the text in the front of passports, on citizenship certificates, civil and military commissions and the oath of allegiance. (Royal Canadian Mint/CBC)

Officials may not automatically decide to put a “70-something British man on the money,” he said, in light of broader discussions on equity and diversity.

“I would find it tough to think that [they] would just go ahead full bore saying ‘Charles it is, we’re not even going to talk about this, we’re just going to do it,'” he said.

“I don’t think it’s as automatic as some of the monarchists think and hope it will be,” he said.

But Lagassé did say officials may decide to stick with the sovereign’s image for all the coins, as “it becomes tough as to who do you pick to replace it.”

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