TORONTO — Despite his status as Canada’s head of state, only modest festivities have been planned this weekend for the coronation of King Charles III in the country’s capital, Ottawa, and turnout is predicted to be much lower than is typical for other Canadian public celebrations.
Last May, Charles’s most recent visit to the country drew scant news media attention and crowds by the hundreds rather than thousands.
When he became king upon the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, five months later, his ascension to the throne was greeted with such a shrug in the country that Mary Simon, the king’s representative in Canada, commented on it in a recent interview with the national broadcaster. She also cited public opinion polls in which respondents viewed Charles unfavorably.
“We need to give him a chance to show us that he is a good leader,” said Ms. Simon, Canada’s governor general. This weekend, she is part of a delegation from Canada, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and several Indigenous leaders, attending the coronation ceremony in London.
At a time when some other Commonwealth countries have been considering severing ties, Canada’s relationship to the British crown is the subject of recurring public debates. But that angst has never ripened into rebellion — in part because replacing the monarchy would require a gargantuan effort to amend Canada’s Constitution and, in doing so, raise complicated issues regarding the validity of the crown’s treaties with Indigenous peoples.
Quebec, originally a French-speaking colony that Britain conquered in 1763, has taken some steps to diminish the crown’s presence. In December, the province made it optional for elected officials to swear an oath of allegiance to the king. But Quebec was once also a bastion of loyalism to the monarchy, one with a 200-year history of staunch attachment to the crown, said Damien-Claude Bélanger, a history professor at the University of Ottawa who is writing a book on the subject.
Historically, the province’s upper class rallied around the monarchy as a civic, neutral institution that represented stability, he said.
“We’ve had nothing but monarchical continuity in our political system since the early 17th century,” he said, “and that stability, it means something to some people.”