Would-be citizens fight oath to the Queen
Published Friday, July 12, 2013 6:17AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, July 12, 2013 6:40PM EDT
Three permanent residents of Canada were in Ontario Superior Court as part of their ongoing case to fight the requirement that they must swear an oath to Queen Elizabeth to become a Canadian citizen.
“They say their reasons are either based on religion or their conscience,” CTV’s Merella Fernandez reported Friday. “They don’t feel it’s right to take the oath.”
The three argue that the requirement that they swear an oath to the Queen violates their constitutional rights, and say they should be allowed to pledge allegiance to Canada instead. They also note that Canadian-born citizens never swear an oath to the Queen.
However, lawyers for the federal government argue that the oath has been around since Confederation and that, as permanent residents, the three applicants’ constitutional rights are already protected.
In court Friday, Justice Edward Morgan said the oath was a symbol that did not prevent anyone from later speaking out against the Queen.
"If you swear an oath to the monarch, it doesn't stop you from speaking against the monarch in the next moment," he said.
Morgan reserved his decision.
Conservative MP Peter Goldring said earlier Friday that the oath should remain as it is.
"I'm weary of a lot of these stories of people who come to a country seeking a fresh start (and) a fresh life and then not really wanting to subscribe into the type of society that the country is," Goldring told The Canadian Press on Friday from Ottawa.
The part of the oath in question calls on would-be citizens to swear that they will be, “faithful and bear true allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors.”
One of the applicants, Michael McAteer, has been in Canada for 50 years. The 79-year-old said he does not want to take the oath because his father was persecuted back in Ireland for fighting for Irish independence.
“Because his father had these issues back home, he doesn’t feel it’s right for him to have to pledge allegiance to the Queen,” Fernandez said.
Simone Topey, who was born in Jamaica but has lived in Canada for 35 years, said she cannot pledge an oath to the Queen on religious grounds: she is Rastafarian.
Twenty years ago, then-prime minister Jean Chretien and his citizenship minister, Sergio Marchi, were ready to change the citizenship oath to remove the pledge to the Queen.
However, Chretien scrapped the idea at the last minute, fearing a battle with Canadian monarchists just as he was facing a fight with separatists ahead of an imminent referendum.
Marchi told CP on Friday that a team of writers developed a few options for new oaths, and he drew up a document to submit to a cabinet committee.
“I was very much of the belief that while we're a constitutional monarchy, we should be swearing an oath of allegiance to Canada," Marchi said.
"We were very close to doing this."
In the end, Chretien told him to stand down, and his government did not revisit the issue.