Canada revamping royal succession before baby's arrival

Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are pictured on July 3, 2011 in Quebec, Canada, on their first joint overseas tour.

Story highlights

  • Canada working to change royal succession rules before arrival of William and Catherine's baby
  • Rules would allow an older girl to ascend to the throne before a younger boy
  • Rules would also allow royal heirs to marry Catholics, which had been forbidden

Canada is nearly ready for Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge's bundle of joy as a new bill governing royal succession rules passed in Canada's House of Commons on Monday with no debate.

Any newborn would eventually become Canada's monarch and head of state, taking on the so-called Maple Crown, but a male heir would no longer jump the queue over older sisters.

The bill must now be passed in the Canadian Senate, which is expected to occur in the coming weeks.

The proposed law was not without controversy, but not for the reasons one might think.

Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore said in parliament that the main goal of the proposed law is to modernize the monarchy, adding that a constitutional amendment was not necessary.

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Some commentators and constitutional experts in Canada have argued otherwise, writing in editorials that even though it is widely accepted, the proposed law does constitute a constitutional amendment. Attempting to amend the constitution would inadvertently aggravate an open wound in Canada, which is still at constitutional odds with its French-speaking province of Quebec.

But Moore argued that no constitutional amendment is needed and that Canadian provinces do not have to be individually consulted.

"Provinces have been free over a year to signal their opposition to ending this barrier to Catholics being part of the Crown and ending the idea that if Will and Kate's first child is a girl, that she shouldn't be able to ascend to the throne. The idea that ending that practice is opposed by any provinces has not been signaled by any of Canada's provinces," Moore said in a press briefing on Friday.

Bill C-53, as it is known in parliament, provides for changes to the laws governing succession to the throne by 'the governments of Her Majesty's Realms.'

There was no debate and little fanfare as the motion passed Monday. The proposed new law won swift approval in a matter of minutes.

The proposed changes follow an agreement hammered out last fall among Commonwealth countries ending the centuries-old tradition that gave precedence to male heirs and forbade royal heirs from marrying Catholics.

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