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Court dismisses case claiming royal law discriminates against Catholics

TORONTO - Ontario's top court says a Roman Catholic man can't challenge a royal succession law that he says discriminates against his religion.

Bryan Teskey tried to ask the courts to strike down a rule prohibiting Catholics from ascending to the throne, arguing it violates the charter.

But the Court of Appeal for Ontario upheld a lower-court decision, ruling that the succession rules are not subject to charter scrutiny and that Teskey had no standing to bring the challenge.

Canada joined 16 other Commonwealth countries, following a British request, to fast track a change to royal succession laws.

The revamped succession laws eliminate the outdated tradition that favoured male heirs over their older sisters, giving females equal status, and end a 300-year-old rule that bans the monarch from marriage to a Roman Catholic.

Teskey tried to argue that the changes did not go far enough because they still mean a Roman Catholic person cannot succeed to the throne.

But the Appeal Court dismissed Teskey's appeal, agreeing with the lower court that being a Catholic appears to be his only interest in the case.

"The rules of succession are a part of the fabric of the constitution of Canada and incorporated into it and therefore cannot be trumped or amended by the charter, and Mr. Teskey does not have any personal interest in the issue raised (other than being a member of the Roman Catholic faith) and does not meet the test for public interest standing," the Appeal Court wrote in its decision.

He has no connection to the Royal Family, Superior Court Judge Charles Hackland noted in his decision last year.

"He raises a purely hypothetical issue which may never occur, namely a Roman Catholic Canadian in line for succession to the throne being passed over because of his or her religion," Hackland wrote.

"Should this ever occur a proper factual matrix would be available to the court to deal with a matter of this importance."

Andre Binette represents two Quebec law professors who launched a constitutional challenge of Canada's royal succession law in Quebec Superior Court.

The Quebec challenge, launched in 2013, argues the law is invalid because the provinces were not consulted.

Binette said while written procedures and expert reports have been filed on both sides, the case won't be heard until June 2015 in Quebec City.

The federal government has previously vowed to defend the Succession to the Throne Act in court.

The legal posturing erupted last year as Prince William's wife, Kate, gave birth to a boy, now third in line to the British throne.

The revamped succession laws would have had more application had the royal baby been a girl because they modernize the previous rule of succession that allowed younger boys to leapfrog over their older sisters.

— With files from Sidhartha Banerjee

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