A newspaper is blown by the wind after it is placed on a railing by a television crew outside Buckingham Palace in London, Monday, March 8, 2021. Britain’s royal family is absorbing the tremors from a sensational television interview by Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex, in which the couple said they encountered racist attitudes and a lack of support that drove Meghan to thoughts of suicide. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Kirsty Wigglesworth

A newspaper is blown by the wind after it is placed on a railing by a television crew outside Buckingham Palace in London, Monday, March 8, 2021. Britain’s royal family is absorbing the tremors from a sensational television interview by Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex, in which the couple said they encountered racist attitudes and a lack of support that drove Meghan to thoughts of suicide. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Kirsty Wigglesworth

Harry and Meghan interview invites fresh scrutiny over Canada’s royal ties

Meghan and Harry’s televised interview with Oprah Winfrey has roiled royal watchers

Meghan and Harry’s bombshell revelations about the British monarchy have invited fresh scrutiny over Canada’s ties to the institution, but royal watchers say it is unlikely to spark much change.

Constitutional expert Emmett Macfarlane says the couple’s “explosive” portrayal of their royal experience adds fire to brewing sentiment the Crown holds increasingly less relevance to many Canadians.

But he notes public allegiance remains divided and that getting rid of the monarchy would lead to a complicated constitutional debate that would almost certainly plunge the country into political turmoil.

Meghan and Harry’s televised interview with Oprah Winfrey has roiled royal watchers with revelations Meghan had suicidal thoughts after joining the family and that there were palace conversations about the skin colour of the couple’s future children.

It comes on the heels of a scandal surrounding Canada’s former governor general Julie Payette, who resigned in January following reports of workplace harassment, as well as an ensuing Leger poll that suggested Canadians’ attachment to the monarchy had weakened.

Royal historian and author Carolyn Harris notes Meghan and Harry spoke warmly of the Queen in their interview, but less so of Harry’s father and heir apparent, Prince Charles, and older brother, Prince William.

WATCH: Revealing Harry, Meghan interview reverberates across U.K.

She said that unflattering portrayal “emphasized the divisions” in the family and ran starkly counter to the monarchy’s concerted efforts to project “continuity and stability.”

With the Queen at the advanced age of 94, that does little to inspire confidence in the future of the institution, Harris suggested.

“It’s a difficult time to have critical scrutiny directed towards Charles and William when there’s already some public skepticism about whether they will be able to rise to the occasion,” said Harris, an instructor at the University of Toronto’s school of continuing studies.

Macfarlane called Sunday’s broadcast “a bad night” for the Royal Family and expected it to “push the needle on public opinion” about the monarchy, generally.

“It was incredibly, incredibly damning to the Royal Family. I don’t know how you come out of that interview not at least sympathizing with Harry and Meghan, and it really did emphasize the archaic nature of that institution,” said Macfarlane, an associate professor of political science at the University of Waterloo.

Still, he found it unlikely Canada would pursue efforts to formally cut ties with the monarchy since that would require all 10 provinces to agree, a tall order even with large grassroots support.

Macfarlane noted politicians are scared of constitutional reform talks, pointing to past turmoil surrounding the Meech Lake Accord in 1987 and the Charlottetown Accord in 1992.

“Those events led to the Quebec secession referendum of ‘95 and the country almost broke up,” he said.

“Quebec is not going to agree to a constitutional amendment without other things being on the table, like more powers for Quebec or recognition of Quebec’s distinct society in the Constitution. And once you start adding other things to the negotiating table, the other provinces will start piling on as well.

“Suddenly you’re not talking about getting rid of the monarchy — you’re talking about huge, other changes to the Constitution, and it becomes much more fraught and much more unpopular.”

While other Commonwealth nations have similarly mused on leaving the Crown, the prospect of reform, as well as coming up with an alternative, is daunting, Harris agreed.

She noted Barbados has announced plans to cut ties later this year, but said the process there is far less complicated.

“It can be reassuring to stick with a familiar system that works regardless of the personal reputations of individual members of the Royal Family at any given time,” she suggested.

A Leger poll commissioned earlier this year by Journal de Montréal found just six per cent of respondents in Atlantic Canada and Quebec said they “feel attached to the British monarchy,” with attachment reaching as high as 29 per cent in British Columbia.

Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Royal family

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health nurses administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
69 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The total number of cases in the region is now at 9,840 since the pandemic began

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
Interior Health hospitals not strained by rising COVID case counts

While provincial hospitalizations rise, health care systems in the B.C. Interior remain robust, say officials

BC CDC data showing the geographic distribution of COVID cases in the province. (BC CDC photo)
One new case of COVID-19 in Golden

Cases continue to surge in surrounding areas

The Golden Golf Club will open for a new season on the links beginning April 24. (Claire Palmer photo)
Golden Golf club eyes April 24 start

The golf course is supporting local businesses with the driving range and mini-golf

An Interior Health nurse administers Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
105 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

Just over 8,000 new vaccine doses administered in the region for a total of 158,000 to date

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

The plane blasted through an airport fence and down a hill, before stopping before a cement barrier on Highway 5A, right in front of a school bus. Photo submitted.
Student pilot crashes plane onto Highway 5A in Princeton

Aircraft hit pavement right in front of school bus

Vernon Fire Rescue Services responded to a truck fire on Dallas Road in Vernon April 15, 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Vernon Morning Star)
WATCH: Vernon firefighters quick to douse fully involved truck fire

The fire was near multiple structures and spreading along the ground upon crews’ arrival

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

The corner of 96th Avenue and Glover Road in Fort Langley now has traffic signals, and new “touchless” signal activation buttons. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Busy Fort Langley intersection gets ‘touchless’ crosswalk signals

The new traffic light started operation in April

Fire crews tend to a collision that is causing severe traffic delays on the William R. Bennett bridge headed east into Kelowna. (Aaron Hemens - Kelowna Capital News)
7 vehicle collision on WR Bennett Bridge under investigation

The collision backed up traffic on the William R. Bennett bridge for much of the morning

Kelowna company celebrates milestone of producing 46 million masks in under a year.
46 million masks and counting: Kelowna company reaches 1 year milstone

In under a year, Breathe Manufacturing Ltd. in Kelowna has hit production of 46 million masks for front-line workers

The organizer of a Kelowna protest against COVID-19 restrictions was fined by the RCMP for the third time Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. (File photo)
Kelowna RCMP investigating hit and run involving 11-year-old

Police said the boy suffered minor injuries

Most Read