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How Canada's legal system will need to adapt to the Queen's death

The Supreme Court of Canada is pictured in Ottawa on Tuesday Sept. 6, 2022. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick) The Supreme Court of Canada is pictured in Ottawa on Tuesday Sept. 6, 2022. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)

Like Canadian stamps and currency, Canada's legal system will need to adapt to the death of Queen Elizabeth II, and King Charles III's ascension to the British throne.

Those changes will affect how criminal cases are named, as well as the oaths or affirmations of allegiance new lawmakers, court justices and others are required to make to the Canadian monarch.

"It really is a series of formalities," Allan Hutchinson, a legal theorist and law professor at York University, told "But it's going to be necessary to make some very small changes in terms of wording in court documents, of oaths, things like that."


The prosecuting party in Canadian criminal proceedings is "Her Majesty the Queen," or the Crown. In case titles, "Her Majesty the Queen" has been shortened to "The Queen" or just the letter "R" which represents the Latin word for queen, regina; for example, R. v. Smith.

Following the Queen's death, court cases involving the Canadian government will now need to refer to "His Majesty the King." The "R" however can stay, as the Latin word for king is rex.

"Criminal prosecutions are undertaken in the name of the Crown, the head of state," David Schneiderman, a professor of law and political science at the University of Toronto, told "So that's all that that means; it's just a symbolic placeholder for us."


Oaths or affirmations of allegiance to the monarchy are legally required for lawmakers like senators and members of Parliament, federal and provincial justices, lawyers in many provinces and territories, and others like new citizens and members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Canada's Oath of Allegiances Act clearly states that if "there is a demise of the Crown, there shall be substituted in the oath of allegiance the name of the Sovereign for the time being." That means Canada's Oath of Allegiance will now begin with the words: "I, [NAME], do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King Charles the Third."

"The wording will have to change," Hutchinson explained. "But those who did swear allegiance to Queen Elizabeth are not going to have to all redo it again."


There will also be name changes on government documents and legal contracts. Manitoba Courts has already announced that the Court of Queen's Bench of Manitoba will now be the Court of King's Bench of Manitoba.

Both Hutchinson and Schneiderman expect these wording changes to be simple and seamless.

"The Government of Canada, and probably provincial governments, will take steps pretty soon to do that," Schneiderman said. "But, you know, those are changes that aren't absolutely necessary, because the Queen and her heirs serve as Crown in Canada, and the Crown is the head of state and the Crown continues to live, whoever occupies the office."

"Those are all very much formalities, superficial," Hutchinson added. "The personification of the Crown has changed, but the nature of the Crown has not changed at all." Top Stories



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