Oath of citizenship (Canada)

Oath of citizenship (Canada)

The Oath of Citizenship, as established by the Citizenship Act (R.S. 1985), is a statement recited and signed by candidates who wish to become citizens of Canada; upon signing the oath, citizenship is granted. [ [http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/manuals/cp/cp15e.pdf Citizenship and Immigration Canada: CP 15: Guide to Citizenship Ceremonies; p. 6] ]


The Oath of Citizenship is a legally binding verbal and written contract, similar to the Oath of Allegiance, intended to ensure that new Canadian citizens pledge their loyalty to the Canadian sovereign - as the personification of the state and the personal symbol of allegiance [ [http://www.pch.gc.ca/special/royalvisit/ENGLISH.pdf Heritage Canada: The Crown in Canada] ] - and promise to observe the laws and customs of their new country, but not necessarily to support or advance them if their conscience tells them otherwise. [http://www.monarchist.ca/new/oath.html Queen or Country? Does it Matter? Understanding a Crucial Issue] ] Swearing allegiance to the Queen has been described as the expression of "a solemn intention to adhere to the symbolic keystone of the Canadian Constitution as it has been and is, thus pledging an acceptance of the whole of our Constitution and national life." [http://cas-ncr-nter03.cas-satj.gc.ca/rss/T180906Decision.pdf T-1809-06 IN THE MATTER OF ARALT MAC GIOLLA CHAINNIGH v. THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL OF CANADA; January 21, 2008] ]

The relationship between the oath taker and the monarch is a complex one with roots reaching back to historical periods when a monarch ruled and accepted an oath of fealty. The modern oath is still reciprocal, but now the oath taker places their allegiance to the continuing state, its laws, etc., as embodied by the king or queen. As the legal personality of the state, the monarch has obligations to the oath taker; the sovereign's acceptance of these responsibilities is symbolised by the Coronation Oath, wherein the newly crowned monarch promises "to govern the Peoples of... Canada... according to their respective laws and customs." [ [http://www.oremus.org/liturgy/coronation/cor1953b.html The Form and Order of Service that is to be performed and the Ceremonies that are to be observed in the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the Abbey Church of St. Peter, Westminster, on Tuesday, the second day of June, 1953] ]

The oath is as follows:The equally valid French language version of the oath of citizenship or "serment de citoyenneté" is as follows:The oath must be recited by all citizenship recipients in Canada, [ [http://www.parl.gc.ca/common/Bills_ls.asp?lang=E&Parl=37&Ses=2&ls=C18&source=Bills_House_Government#jthetx Bill C-18: The Citizenship of Canada Act; Prepared by: Benjamin Dolin, Margaret Young; Law and Government Division; 1 November 2002: "Taking the oath of citizenship is a mandatory part of the citizenship process."] ] save for those with disabilities of speech and minors. However all must sign the oath, with parents signing on behalf of any of their children under the age of fourteen. [ [http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/manuals/cp/cp15e.pdf Citizenship and Immigration Canada: CP 15: Guide to Citizenship Ceremonies; p. 6] ] [ [http://www.rsscanadaimmigration.com/en/citizenship/citizenshipoath.php Robinson Sheppard Shapiro: Canadian Citizenship Oath] ]

A citizenship ceremony surrounds the taking of the oath, a function that is normally presided over by a citizenship judge; members of the Order of Canada, the Governor General, or the Lieutenants-Governor may also preside at a ceremony if no judge is available. Ceremonies also include the participation of a clerk of the court, and, when available, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer. The Canadian flag must be displayed, and other national symbols, including a portrait of the Queen, may also be included. [ [http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/manuals/cp/cp15e.pdf Citizenship and Immigration Canada: CP 15: Guide to Citizenship Ceremonies; p. 22] ] The RCMP officer will open the ceremony, followed by the clerk introducing to the judge the citizenship recipients, stating: "Your Honour, these people assembled here have qualified for Canadian citizenship and appear before you to take the Oath of Citizenship." The judge will then address the crowd with a short speech outlining the duties and responsibilities of being a Canadian citizen, after which the clerk will then instruct the participants to stand, raise their right hand, and recite the Oath of Citizenship as read by the judge. Following this, the judge hands each new citizen their Certificate of Citizenship; the ceremony is concluded with a singing of "O Canada." [ [http://www12.statcan.ca/english/census01/teacher's_kit/ten.pdf 2001 Census Results Teacher's Kit] ]

It has been stated by Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, of the Islamic Institute of Toronto, that muslims may take the Oath of Citizenship "as long as you are clear in your mind that you are doing so without contravening the sovereignty of Allah"; reciting it should not be viewed as a form of "shirk". [ [http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?cid=1131347579632&pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar%2FFatwaE%2FPrintFatwaE Islam Online: Oath of Citizenship: Prohibited for Muslims?] ]


Prior to the enactment of the Citizenship Act in 1947, Canadians were simply considered subjects of the King, and anyone immigrating to Canada from a non-Commonwealth country would take only the Oath of Allegiance. After 1947, immigrants, to become Canadian citizens, took the Oath of Allegiance for Purposes of Citizenship (an adaptation of the original Oath of Allegiance) as outlined in the Citizenship Act. It was: "I swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King George the Sixth, His Heirs and Successors, according to law, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen." Prime Minister Mackenzie King was the first person to take this oath. [ [http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20070216/citizenship_070216/20070216?hub=Canada CTV News: "Ottawa marks 60th anniversary of Cdn. citizenship"; February 16, 2007] ] Though new citizens of Canada were required by law to recite the oath, 359,000 Newfoundlanders became Canadian citizens on April 1, 1949, without doing so, when the Crown colony joined Canadian Confederation. [ [http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/about/citizenship/60/retro.asp Citizenship and Immigration Canada: Citizenship: A Canadian Story: 60 Years of Canadian Citizenship] ]

By the mid-1970s, some were opining that, because Canada has a shared monarchy, the Oath of Citizenship should clarify for new citizens that the fealty they were swearing was specifically to the Queen of Canada, and not to the Queen of Jamaica, the Queen of New Zealand, or the Queen of the United Kingdom; thus, the words "Queen of Canada" were inserted after the Queen's name, with the oath also officially being named the Canadian Citizenship Oath at that time. This new format maintained the traditional assertion of allegiance to the monarch, while also acknowledging the character of Canada as a constitutional monarchy. The insertion of the name of the country three times was done in a way consistent with Canada's status as a monarchy - i.e. in a monarchy the state is personified, not treated as an abstraction or a corporation.

The present Oath of Citizenship was introduced by the government of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1976, coming into effect in 1977.

Proposed changes

The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration of the House of Commons examined, in 1995, changes to the Citizenship Act. After holding hearings, the Committee recommended a new citizenship oath: "I pledge full allegiance to Canada and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, and swear to faithfully obey the laws and fulfil my duties as a citizen." Sergio Marchi, then Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, proposed a further step of eliminating the monarch altogether from a new "declaration" of citizenship, commissioning ten Canadian writers to compose a pledge with the explicit instruction to not refer to the monarchy. The declaration proposed was: "I am a citizen of Canada, and I make this commitment: to uphold our laws and freedoms; to respect our people in their diversity; to work for our common well-being, and to safeguard and honour this ancient northern land."

Three years later, Bill C-63, the proposed Citizenship of Canada Act, was introduced by the Liberal government of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. This bill proposed (among other measures) that the Oath of Citizenship be changed to:

:"From this day forward, I pledge my loyalty and allegiance to Canada and Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada. I promise to respect our country's rights and freedoms, to defend our democratic values, to faithfully observe our laws and fulfil my duties and obligations as a Canadian citizen."

In French, this would be:

:"Dorénavant, je promets fidélité et allégeance au Canada et à Sa Majesté Elizabeth Deux, Reine du Canada. Je m'engage à respecter les droits et libertés de notre pays, à défendre nos valeurs démocratiques, à observer fidèlement nos lois et à remplir mes devoirs et obligations de citoyen(ne) canadien(ne)."

The bill did not receive Royal Assent; after approval by the House of Commons and a second reading in the Senate, the bill was under consideration by the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs when a federal election was called, resulting in the bill's demise on the Order Paper. Subsequent Bills C-16 (2000) and C-18 (2002) also proposed the same changes to the Oath of Citizenship; the former also died on the Order Paper due to the prorogation of parliament, while the latter never made it past second reading in the House of Commons.

According to an Angus Reid Survey for Citizenship and Immigration Canada conducted in January, 1996, 51% of respondents felt that a new oath of allegiance should remove any reference to the Queen, and 38% felt that allegiance should be pledged to both Canada and the sovereign. Only 5% favoured swearing allegiance only to the monarch. ["Toronto Star": Drop Oath to Queen, 51% Tell Poll; August 16, 1996, p. A2] though, at the same time, only 5% of Canadians were aware the Queen was their head of state. [ [http://www.ekos.com/admin/articles/31may2001.pdf Ekos poll] ] Press reaction to the proposed oath was muted. The "Globe and Mail" editorial of December 12, 1998 stated: "The language is being drained dry, killed by a thousand smiley-faced cuts," while the "Ottawa Citizen" was more critical on December 11: "The new citizenship oath... leaves us cold... It would strengthen the political argument for abolishing the monarchy on the death of Queen Elizabeth; and it would test monarchist support by seeing how many Canadians even notice or holler. We noticed. Consider this a holler."

The Monarchist League of Canada (MLC), too, did not support any amended version of the oath, objecting to what they saw as being Americanized and vague terminology, as well as the separation of the sovereign from the country (contradicting the inherent notion that the monarch personifies the state), and placed second to it. Like the "Ottawa Citizen", the league also questioned the legality of the elimination of the words "her heirs and successors according to law" - the commitment new citizens make to the succession to the Canadian Crown. [http://www.monarchist.ca/new/oath04.html Citizenship Oath: Victory on Retaining the Queen!] ] Bill C-18 inserted a clause stating: "It should be noted that removing the words 'Her Heirs and Successors' does not imply that pledging allegiance to the... Crown ends with the death of the current Queen. Section 35 of the Interpretation Act states that, in every enactment, the phrases 'Her Majesty,' 'His Majesty,' 'the Queen,' 'the King,' or 'the Crown' mean the Sovereign of the United Kingdom, Canada and Her other Realms and Territories, and Head of the Commonwealth. Thus, upon her death, the reference to Queen Elizabeth will automatically be read as a reference to the succeeding monarch." [http://www.parl.gc.ca/common/bills_ls.asp?Parl=37&Ses=2&ls=c18#jthetx Library of Parliament - Parliamentary and Information Research Services: Bill C-18: The Citizenship of Canada Act] ]

Opposition to the oath

Lawyer Charles Roach, a resident in Canada who has refused to swear the Oath of Citizenship, has been active in having the requirement to take the oath struck down, claiming offence at the obligation to profess allegiance to a monarchy he alleges has attachments to slavery, comparing Queen Elizabeth II to Adolf Hitler. [http://www.nationalpost.com/opinion/story.html?id=319825 Editorial; "National Post": The Queen is Canadian; February 20, 2008] ] [ [http://www.westernstandard.ca/website/article.php?id=2551 Steyn, Mark; "Western Standard": Windsor Hassle; June 4, 2007] ] After Federal Court judges decided the oath did not violate sections 2(b), 2(d) and 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, with Justice McGuigan upholding the idea that a monarch personifies a constitutional provision in the context of citizenship oaths, [Roach v. Canada (Minister of State for Multiculturalism and Citizenship); 1994, 2 FC 406 (CA)] Roach's request for appeal to the Supreme Court was denied. [http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2007/05/18/oath-queen.html CBC News: "Lawyer allowed to challenge citizenship oath"; May 18, 2007] ] On December 7, 2005, Roach, along with sixteen others, filed a class action lawsuit in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, claiming the requirement to swear allegiance to the monarch of Canada, as a part of the Oath of Citizenship, violated the freedom of conscience clauses of the Charter. [ [http://www.canadian-republic.ca/media_release_12_10_05.html Citizens for a Canadian Republic: "Canada's Citizenship Act target of class action lawsuit"; December 10, 2005] ] [ [http://www.canadian-republic.ca/roach_classaction.html Ontario Superior Court of Justice: Charles C. Roach vs. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II] ] The Monarchist League of Canada (MLC) opposed Roach's actions; Vice-Chairman Gavin Guthrie said Roach misunderstood both the legal nature of the oath and why allegiance is given to the Queen. [ [http://www.thestar.com/opinion/article/213462 Guthrie, Gavin; "Toronto Star": Don't forget who signed our Charter; May 14, 2007] ] Media reaction was also negative, with a number of op-ed pieces denouncing Roach's moves; [ [http://www.winnipegsun.com/Comment/2007/05/12/4174018-sun.html Corbella, Lisa; "Winnipeg Sun": Oath challenge an insult; May 12, 2007] ] [ [http://winnipegsun.com/News/Columnists/Quesnel_Joseph/2007/05/12/4173926.html Quesnel, Joseph; "Winnipeg Sun": Honour our traditions; May 12, 2007] ] the editorial board of the "National Post", before pointing out that the United Kingdom was the first state to abolish slavery throughout its empire and what it saw as irony in Roach using a charter given force by the Queen's own signature to have the Queen removed from the oath, opined: "It is the height of hubris... to demand that this country's courts remake our citizenship requirements to suit the quirky political dogmas of a handful of republican-minded immigrants." [ [http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/story.html?id=897deb2d-e1b5-4825-976c-7f10a602dd2c National Post: "Protect the oath"; May 10, 2007] ] Mark Steyn also wrote: "Mr. Roach is in an oddly profound way the apotheosis of a Canadian value system that values the absence of values as proof of one's moral superiority... For an immigrant to say he's prepared to accept citizenship only if in doing so he can reject the constitutional order is, even by the standards of our postmodern multiculti identity, almost too exquisite a parody." [ [http://www.westernstandard.ca/website/article.php?id=2551 Steyn, Mark; "Western Standard": Windsor Hassle; June 4, 2007] ]

The federal Crown tried, unsuccessfully, to halt Roach's action through legal challenge. However, in a ruling made on May 17, 2007, Judge Edward Belobaba concluded that Roach's case is "neither frivolous nor vexatious," and found that "there is plausible argument that this requirement [to swear the oath] violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms... I'm not suggesting that many of these arguments will necessarily succeed, when the application is heard on the merits, only there is a "chance" that it may succeed." It was announced on February 20, 2008, that the Ontario Court of Appeal had given approval for the case to proceed to the Ontario Superior Court. [ [http://www.nationalpost.com/news/canada/story.html?id=319811 Brean, Joseph; "National Post": Queen's role to be put to trial; February 20, 2008] ]

Citizens for a Canadian Republic (CCR) opposes the present wording of the oath, arguing that new Canadians should not be made to swear an oath to a monarch who is not a Canadian citizen and who may, in some cases, represent aspects of what prospective citizens want to leave behind. [ [http://www.canadian-republic.ca/goals.html Citizens for a Canadian Republic / Goals] ] CCR supported Roach (himself a CCR member) in his lawsuit.Fact|date=February 2008 Charles also submitted to the Department of Citizenship and Immigration a notarized document informing the Department of his recantation. [ [http://www.canadian-republic.ca/speech_ac_5_24_04.html 2004 Victoria Day Recantation of the Citizenship Oath of Allegiance to the Queen] ] The Department informed Charles that his citizenship status had not been affected by his actions, as the recantation was not official or legal in any way. [ [http://www.canadian-republic.ca/media_release_05_13_05.html Citizens for a Canadian Republic: Citizenship oath should be to Canada not Queen] ]

The MLC has defended the oath in interviews, stating: "We don't take oath to an abstraction or a symbol such as a flag, because those can be changed." [ [http://www.canadian-republic.ca/edmonton_journal_5_22_04.htm Mollins, Julie; "Edmonton Journal": Give Victoria Day another name, group says; May 22, 2004] ] The league has also highlighted the reciprocal relationship between monarch and citizen in terms of oaths, stating: "Except through the person of the Queen, Canada cannot take an oath to Canadians in return. It doesn't exist in the sense that it can take an oath. It is fundamental to our tradition of law and freedom that the commitments made by the people are reciprocated by the state. Reciprocal oaths are essential to our Canadian concept of government." [ [http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/committee-proceedings/committee_transcripts_details.do;jsessionid=c72d607930d600b4e9b4ead54d5496d1d6b94ab16cbc.e3eRb3iNcheNe34OaN4La3yRa3j0n6jAmljGr5XDqQLvpAe?locale=en&Date=1996-04-10&ParlCommID=45&BillID=&Business=Bill+22%2C+Legislative+Assembly+Oath+of+Allegiance+Act%2C+1995#P58_3463 Committee Transcripts: Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly - April 10, 1996 - Bill 22, Legislative Assembly Oath of Allegiance Act, 1995] ]

ee also

* Canadian nationality law
* Immigration to Canada
* Oath of Allegiance (Canada)
* Monarchy of Canada
* Oath of citizenship


* [http://www.parl.gc.ca/36/2/parlbus/chambus/house/bills/summaries/c16-e.htm Bill C-16 Legislative History]
* [http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/press/98/9864-pre.html Citizenship and Immigration Canada: News Release 98-64]


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