The small island of Barbados, in the West Indies, will draw a line on the British monarchy to become a republic by November 30, date of 55e anniversary of its independence.
“It’s time to put an end to our colonial past. It is an ultimate declaration of confidence in our national identity, ”Barbadian Governor General Sandra Mason said in her Speech from the Throne on September 15.
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“Barbadians want a Barbadian head of state. This is the ultimate proof of our confidence in who we are and what we are capable of accomplishing, ”she added.
Formerly a hub for the slave trade and sugar for the benefit of the British Empire, Barbados declared its independence in 1966. However, the Queen remained its head of state and is represented there by a governor general, as in Canada.
In 1998, a constitutional review commission recommended that this small island of 285,000 inhabitants become a republic. Two governments then attempted to hold a referendum to this effect in 2005 and 2015, but failed to do so due to lack of funds.
However, such a vote is not obligatory since the constitution of Barbados makes it possible to change status with the agreement of two-thirds of both houses of Parliament.
Most of the former British colonies became republics by simply changing their constitution, like Mauritius, the last to eject the queen, in 1992.
The Canadian constitution does not require a referendum either. On the other hand, it requires the unanimous agreement of all the provinces, not only on the new statute to be adopted, but also on the way of choosing the head of state.
To embark on such constitutional negotiations would amount to opening a veritable “pandora’s box”, warns constitutionalist Patrick Taillon. Like several jurists marked by the failure of the Meech Lake Accord, the professor at Laval University inevitably sees a failure.
But according to the organization Citizens for a Canadian Republic, if the choice of the head of state were delegated to the provinces, they might find the idea of a republic “very attractive”.
This is the option put forward by several Australian constitutional experts who recommend that states and territories each nominate an apolitical candidate, and then that the population vote to choose one of the candidates. The latter would become the representative of the people rather than that of the queen.