Would-be citizens want to give oath to Canada, not Queen
Published Tuesday, April 8, 2014 6:06AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, April 8, 2014 5:57PM EDT
A group of permanent Canadian residents want to give their citizenship oath to Canada, not the Queen, and have taken their fight to Ontario’s top court.
The trio is calling for the citizenship oath, which asks newcomers to promise to be "faithful and bear true allegiance to Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors," to be struck down because it violates their religious and conscientious beliefs.
"I can't do something that I don't believe in," Simone Topey, one of the three individuals involved in the constitutional challenge, told reporters outside a Toronto court on Tuesday. "I want to be real to Canada, I want to be loyal to the country. I'm trying to become a citizen not a subject."
Topey, 47, is a Rastafarian and Dror Bar-Natan, 48, is Jewish. The two say their religion forbids them from taking an oath to any person.
"Do you really want to make a silly criteria a major consideration on whether to grant citizenship to someone or not," Bar-Natan said. "I'm not objecting Canada. I love Canada," he said.
Michael McAteer, 80, is also involved in the case. As a staunch republican from Ireland, he says the oath is unnecessary and would violate his conscience.
Their lawyer Peter Rosenthal said it's not fair to ask new Canadians to make an oath they don't believe in.
"We say making a public proclamation like that, if you're somebody who doesn't believe in the monarchy it's obviously something that's going to harm your conscience," he said. "We don't want new Canadians … to make an oath like that when they don't believe it."
Native-born Canadians do not have to take any oath, which has led opponents to argue that permanent residents are discriminated against on the basis of nationality or origin.
Rosenthal told the Court of Appeal on Tuesday that allowing would-be citizens to opt out of the oath doesn't cause any harm.
"Someone who wants to be a citizen is being forced to say, 'I support the constitutional monarchy,'" he said. "How repugnant must that be to someone who's a staunch anti-monarchist?"
The judges hearing the case noted that Canada is a constitutional monarchy in which freedom to express dissenting views is guaranteed.
Australia, also a constitutional monarchy, did away with its pledge to the Queen 20 years ago, the court heard.
Justice Peter Lauwers said the appellants seemed to have an "unsophisticated" view of the citizenship oath in maintaining it speaks to their integrity.
Speaking for the government, lawyer Kristina Dragaitis argued the Queen is at the apex of the Constitution and symbolizes the rule of law.
"The Queen and the Constitution protects their rights to dissent," Dragaitis said.
The appellants, she said, are taking a "literal approach" to the oath.
The trio could be in for an uphill battle in their fight against the citizenship oath.
Ottawa has pointed out that nothing forces permanent residents to become citizens, and the federal government has already made it clear it will take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada if it loses before the Ontario Court of Appeal.
With a report from CTV Toronto's John Musselman and files from The Canadian Press