Feds introduce legislation to change centuries-old royal succession laws
Published Thursday, January 31, 2013 9:49AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 31, 2013 10:47PM EST
If Prince William and his wife, Catherine, have a daughter as their first child, there should be no barriers preventing her from one day ascending to the throne and becoming queen.
At least that's the intent of legislation introduced by the federal government today in Ottawa, which provides Canada’s assent to change an antiquated U.K. law which favours royal sons over their older sisters.
All Commonwealth countries which have the Queen as head of state agreed in 2011 to change the 300-year-old Act of Settlement of 1701 that gives precedence to male heirs -- a move legislators hope to accomplish before the royal couple’s baby is born in July.
"This is a modernization that I think makes perfect sense," said Heritage Minister James Moore while introducing the legislation Thursday. "The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, if they were to have a daughter, the barrier to her someday becoming queen is a barrier that should not exist."
The current laws also stipulate that no monarch or direct heir to the thrown can marry a Roman Catholic without forfeiting their claim to the crown -- another provision the government hopes will be changed.
Moore said legislation will be tabled in the House of Commons Thursday to amend and "modernize" both laws. All 16 sovereign Commonwealth countries must pass similar bills in order for the U.K. to adopt the changes.
"What this means is that if the Duke and Duchess' first child is a girl, she will be heir to the throne and she will be able to marry someone of any faith," Moore said.
The move came about at the direct request of the Queen, who hoped to see the changes take place before the end of her Diamond Jubilee year, which comes to an end on Feb. 6.
The law would be retroactive, meaning it will apply to William and Kate's child even if he or she is born before the law is in place.
Moore was asked why the provinces were not consulted on the legislation before it was introduced. He said the government signalled its intention over a year ago to act on the issue, and has received no opposition to what he said are "common sense changes."
And since the legislation relates to a change to British laws, and doesn't require changes to Canada's Constitution, there was no need to extend consultations to the provinces.
According to sources, Prime Minister Stephen Harper expects speedy passage of the bill, and has asked opposition leaders for their support.